Setting the Perfect Table: Casual & Formal Meals | Homefix
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How to set a table properly: casual and formal meals

Last updated on May 3, 2023 10:05 am

Setting a proper table for a large number of people used to be standard practice in the glory days of the past, but in our hectic world today, people don’t dine together or host luncheons as much as they used to, so this beautiful art is on its way to extinction, a lot of people don't know how to set a table for a casual or formal dinner with guests.

On the other hand, some people prepare for hosting an event by shopping for new fancy china and crystal glasses, but the truth is, all the fancy decor and expensive items can’t make a messy table elegant. You need to learn how to place everything in the right position to achieve the result you want.

If you want to set basic tables for your family to eat together more often, or have an upcoming gathering and are not sure how to set a table properly we are here to help.

Here are detailed instructions on setting a table properly for all gatherings, whether it be a casual family lunch, a gathering for extended family, or a formal feast. 

How to set a basic table

For family lunch or dinner, or a weekend breakfast, all you really need is a basic table setting. This includes all the essentials like a plate, a cup, and cutlery, all set in a neat and simple way. The basic table setting should include no less than a fork, knife, spoon, and a plate, napkins and glasses are preferable but not a must.

How to set a basic table

This is how to set this simple everyday table: 

  • If you are using placemats, it is highly recommended if you have small children, lay each placemat on the table in front of the chair.
  • Put the plate in the middle of the placemat. If you’re not using placemats then center the plate in front of the chair.
  • To the left of the plate, lay the napkin If you are using individual napkins and the fork on top of the napkin.
  • To the right of the plate, place the knife closest to the plate, the blade pointing in, and the spoon to the right of the knife. (Note: The bottoms of the utensils and the plate should all be level.)
  • The water or juice glass should be placed slightly above the plate, in between the plate and the utensils. However, some people place it right in front of the knife.

How to set a fun casual table

How to set a fun casual table - how to set a table

A casual table is what you set for family and close friends in small gatherings, a group of people that you know well but still want to give a warm welcome to. It’s also nice to set such a table for your family on special occasions, even if no one else is invited. A casual setting is simply a basic setting with a twist, glasses and napkins are a must here, and we can add salad plates and soup bowls if served.

Using colorful pates, placemats, and napkins adds a fun touch to casual dinners, don’t be afraid of using different colors if they complement each other.

This is the table setting for casual meals

  • Start by laying out a placemat if you are not using linens on the table, or colorful table cloth if you are using one.
  • Set the dinner plate in the center of the mat. If you’re serving salad, set the salad plate atop the dinner plate, same if you are serving soup.
  • Just like a basic setting, the fork goes to the left of the dinner plate. The salad fork is set to the left of the dinner fork.
  • Also like the basic setting, the knife is set to the right of the dinner plate and then the spoon to the right of the knife.
  • The water glass is placed in the top right corner, above the knife.
  • The juice glass should be placed to the right of the water glass.
  • The napkin can be placed on the plates or underneath the fork.

How to set a formal table

How to set a formal table

A formal table is what you set when you want to wow your guests, for example, if you have a very special occasion and have invited people for a formal event in your house, or if you are holding a business function.

More than just setting a formal meal requires help, so you need to keep that in mind. Someone should be in charge of serving people and clearing plates between courses.

This is the standard setting for formal meals:

  • Lay an ironed tablecloth on the table, solid color of good quality linen.
  • Set a charger at each seat, a charger is a large plate that holds the spot for the dinner plate, it can be removed after the salad course or you can place the dinner plate on top of the charger after clearing soup and salad plates.
  • Place a soup bowl in the center of the charger.
  • The bread plate should be positioned to the top left of the charger. The butter knife is often placed horizontally on the bread plate, the blade facing inwards with the handle pointing to the right.
  • Neatly fold a linen napkin and place it to the left of the charger, you can also use napkin rings.
  • To the left of the charger, place the salad fork on the outside, and the dinner fork on the inside. You can put the forks on the napkin, or between the napkin and the charger if you have enough space.
  • To the right of the charger, place the knife closest to the charger (blade facing towards the charger) and then the soup spoon. 
  • Place a dessert spoon directly above the charger with the handle pointing to the right.
  • Above the knife, place a water glass. 
  • To the right of the water glass place the juice glass.
  • salt and pepper shakers should be placed near the center of the table, or, if using a long, rectangular table, in the middle of each end.
  • If using a place card, place it above the dessert spoon.

How to set a casual buffet for big home events

How to set a casual buffet for big home events - how to set a table

Sometimes you have a large number of guests, or a mix of adults and kids, and setting a table is not practical. For such occasions it is usually much easier to serve food buffet style for guests, so how do you do that properly?

This is how to set a buffet at home:

  • Set a clear beginning so guests know where the buffet table starts and ends. The easiest way is to keep all plates on one end of the table.
  • If you have limited space and a big group, pull the tables away from the walls so people can move around the table.
  • Coordinate the look, just because it’s a buffet it shouldn’t be messy, match the theme of napkins, plates, and tablecloth for a tidy look.
  • Separate the drinks station from the food station, for easier flow and refill.
  • Keep food groups together, salads, hot food, finger food, desserts, keep each group together for easy navigation.
  • If you are hosting a large event put tags to identify each plate so people know what they are putting in their plates.

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