How to Set a Table: Tips for a Successful Social Reception

You can create a table setting that your guests will remember and appreciate.

Setting the table for a formal dinner or a fancy party can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Knowing the basic table etiquette and presentation rules will help create a beautiful and functional setting for your guests.

First, here are brief thoughts as you begin to involve yourself. When it comes to setting the table, attention to detail is key. By considering the design and placement of each element, you can create an aesthetically pleasing and functional setting that enhances your guests’ experience.

Here are some tips for mastering the art of the table:

The lighting

Ensure the table is well-lit, preferably with soft lighting that creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Candles are always an excellent choice for formal events, adding a touch of elegance and warmth to the table.

The tableware

  • One important factor to consider is the tablecloth or table runner. If you’re using a tablecloth, ensure it hangs evenly on all sides and does not touch the floor. A table runner can be an excellent alternative, adding texture and color to your table setting.
  • Always use a presentation plate and overlay it with the plates for the main dish, starter, and dessert. Only stack up to three plates, and arrange them an inch from the table’s edge with a space of at least a foot between each plate.
  • Remember to consider the centerpiece. A beautiful floral arrangement or a unique decorative piece can be the perfect finishing touch to your table setting. However, be careful not to make it too large or obstructive, as it can interfere with guests’ ability to see and converse with one another.

Consider assigned seating arrangements

If you’re hosting a large event, consider assigning seating arrangements. This will save time and ensure that guests feel comfortable and included. Place cards can be an excellent way to communicate where guests should sit and serve as a lovely decorative touch.

The cutlery

The knife goes to the right, and the forks go to the left. Place the cutlery in the order it will be used, from the outside to the inside, with the knife’s cutting edge directed towards the plate. Dessert spoons and forks can be placed in front of the plate, next to the glasses.

The glasses

Place the glasses on the right in decreasing order of size, with the water glass closest to the plate, followed by the red wine and white wine glasses. If you need to serve a different wine, liquor, or champagne for dessert, bring only the glasses when serving the dessert.


Place the napkin on the plate for lunch and on the left for dinner. Use cloth napkins for elegant dinners, and place the bread in a small plate or basket on the top left of the main plate.

Bread and butter

Put the butter dish on the left above the main plate, and place a small individual plate and a knife next to it. Only put the bread on the table by cutting it.


Remember, these are guidelines; you should feel free to adapt them to suit your preferences and style.

The tips here require some effort, but if you follow them, you can create a table setting your guests will remember and appreciate. So give yourself time. Go ahead, get creative, and have fun!

We’d love to help you with your next social reception. Visit us in our showroom to learn more, and don’t hesitate to call us at (616) 459-4167 or send us a message through our contact form to acquire more information.