Lessons in Etiquette

Q: I will be hosting my new boss and his wife for dinner in my home, but I’ve never set a formal table before.  Please help!

A: Table settings are determined by the meal’s courses.  Let’s assume your dinner will include an appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert.
To begin, your main plate is centered one inch from the table’s edge.  You may place the appetizer dish and soup bowl on it when served.  The salad plate is placed to the left, and the bread plate to the upper left, with a butter knife laid across the top rim.
To the right of the main plate, from the plate out to the right, place the dinner knife, salad knife, soupspoon, and cocktail fork (at an angle with the tines of the fork resting upside down on the bowl of the soup spoon).  Matching on the left side of the plate would be, from the plate out to the left, the dinner fork and salad fork.  Above the plate, the dessert fork sits closest to the plate in a horizontal position, with the tines facing up and right.  Above the dessert fork is the dessertspoon, with the bowl of the spoon facing left.  Silverware is used starting with the pieces farthest from the plate and working your way in to the main plate.
Beverage glasses are to the upper right of the place setting.  The water goblet is placed directly above the dinner knife.  To its right are the red wine glass, white wine glass and sherry glass.  Above and between the water goblet and red wine glass is the champagne flute.
Finally, napkins may be placed on the main plate or to the left of the forks.  If they are folded flat on the main plate, a place card may be set on them, or it may be placed above the dessert fork and spoon.  You may also have a menu card above the dessert fork and spoon.  Provide one salt and peppershaker per couple.  Use nice tableware to serve the rolls, vegetables and dessert, along with silverware serving pieces.  Lit candles in candlesticks, and a centerpiece of fresh flowers at a minimum height would look lovely.  Bon Appetit!

Carolyn Davenport enjoyed a 30-year corporate career working with the top echelon of major companies, providing management support along with meeting and event planning. She was also a member of the Miss America Pageant organization. Drawing on her experience and training, she has developed etiquette classes that will help people be their best in today’s society.