I was setting the table the other day for a family dinner and was reminded that I learned how to set a proper place setting in Girl Scouts. However, in Girl Scouts we only used the basic table setting so when I was faced with a larger choice of forks, knives and spoons at my first elegant dinner party, I had to improvise. I became very interested in the conversation to my left and to my right so that I could follow my neighbors' leads, which saved the day (or in this case, the night).
In the years since that first dinner party and Girl Scouts, I learned that there is so much more to consider in a place setting than just what fork to use. Setting the table encompasses a whole other set of pieces in addition to the flatware – dinnerware and stemware as well as centerpieces, tablecloths, runners, etc. There is also the question of style. You can have all of your dinnerware pieces match or you can mix and match different patterns and styles. This is true of the dishes, flatware and crystal stemware.
In this blog post, I will discuss the proper placement of all of your flatware pieces, dinnerware and crystal for your next dinner party. Keep in mind that your menu will dictate what pieces you use.
TIP: When determining which piece to use, in most cases, you work from the outside in.
To the left of the plates are the forks, which you will use first for the fish or shellfish course (not shown below), then the salad fork and finally, the dinner fork. On the right, you will use the soup spoon (the larger spoon should be on the outside because it is used before the teaspoon – oops). The dessert fork and/or dessert spoon is placed above the plates and are reserved for dessert so save those for last. You may have a butter knife that is usually located on the bread and butter dish which is the first plate on top of the other plates or to the left of your dinnerware. This is to be used during dinner. You can refer to the diagram below to see the location of each piece.
Here are some other unique flatware pieces that can be used for dining and serving.
|Etched silverplate serving pieces
Silverplate serving pieces
You can have dishes that match or mix and match different styles. The key to different styles is an element that ties them all together. It could be color, style, shape, etc. Check out these two place settings – one that matches and one that is different. What do you think?
|Formal tea place setting with matching china pieces. Royal Doulton Belmont pattern
|Dinner party setting with mix and match china place settings. Royal Albert Old Country Roses with Royal Doulton Belmont, among others.
The first plate you will use is either a bread plate (usually 6″) or a soup bowl (if the dinner starts with soup). The next plate is a salad plate (usually 8″ – 9″). Then you will have the dinner plate (usually 10″). The plate that is closest to the table is a charger plate that is a larger plate (12″ – 14″) that is not used for food, but is for pure decoration.
- bread plate (usually 6″) or soup bowl (usually 7″ – 8″); if there is a soup bowl, the bread plate goes to the left of the dinner plate
- salad plate (usually 8-9″)
- dinner plate (usually 10″)
- charger plate (usually 12″ – 14″)
Details on the mix and match patterns are shown below.
Bread plate – Royal Doulton Belmont
Salad plate – 1882 to 1889 Vintage Bruder Schwalb Czech Fish Plate
Charger plate – Hutschenreuther Bavaria Magnolias Porcelain Charger
You can either mix and match different patterns and pieces as shown above or match pieces as shown below. It is completely up to you and the pieces you have available.
Crystal stemware pieces are to the right of the plates. The water goblet is the largest goblet and is located directly above the dinner knife. However, once again you start from the outside in. The first piece of stemware is a champagne flute if you are starting the dinner with a toast of champagne. If not, this piece can be omitted. The next is the white wine goblet, then the red wine goblet and finally, the water goblet. The diagram below shows you the sizes of each of these pieces. Keep in mind that different makers may be slightly different in size.
Dinner Menu and Place Setting
The most important part of a place setting is to make it fit your menu. If you are not having fish or shrimp at the beginning of your dinner, don't include a fish or shrimp fork in your place setting. If you are not having soup, don't use soup spoons. Is it almost always necessary to have a water goblet, but the other goblets you have will depend on what you are serving and the wines you have to accompany the menu. Don't forget dessert wines if you are having one to accompany the dessert.
Putting together a Place Setting
Having a mismatched place setting works great if the pieces have an element that makes them work together. In the case of the picture above, the pieces all have gold accents and the flatware is gold plated. This ties all the pieces together for a pretty table setting.
Side note: We want to let you know that these pictures were taken using items from our Etsy shop. We have provided links to the different pieces if you would like to get more details or to see what we have available or purchase one of these pieces.
Let your eyes be your guide to putting together a beautiful and elegant place setting for your next dinner party to Make it More Lovely.