Whether your hosting a formal dinner party or just having a casual meal with family or friends it’s always fun to experiment with decorating the dining room table. There’s endless ways to make gussy up your table, when it comes to decorating there are no rules so have fun with it. That being said there are a number of rules when it comes to place settings. I’ve never experienced a formal place setting so I was unaware just how much goes into composing a proper place to eat your grub, I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman minus the great legs. I included a lesson at the bottom of this post on the “how to’s” for formal and casual settings. First let’s get some ideas from some pretty place settings decorated for each season of the year:
Spring and Summer Place Setting
Spring Table Settings
Summer Table Setting
Autumn Table Setting
Winter Table Setting
Brunch Table Setting
Every dinner you host, no matter how fancy, will consist of a few of the same elements. You will always have your cutlery with forks on the left and knives and spoons on the right. As a kid my trick for remembering this was “fork” has four letters just like “left.” Another common constant in most dinner hosting is to provide your guests with a napkin which can be presented under the forks or on the plate. And of course the drinking glasses which vary in numbers depending on your meal format. If you are hosting a dinner party, it’s always a lovely touch to have what’s called a “charger plate.” It frames your dinner plate, gives you a way to add a little pattern and colour and it also serves as a tool to line up your cutlery with.
Let’s see how the different styles of place setting work:
When you are having a casual meal it typically consists of a starter or salad, a main course and dessert. The salad fork is put on the outside of the dinner fork to because it gets used first. The bread and butter plate is put on the top left above the two forks. If you are hosting a breakfast or brunch, the mug for you tea/coffee is placed to the right of the water glass. Keep it in line with the tip of the knife beside your plate. A casual meal usually wont include more than one wine glass and a smaller drinking glass for water. These go on the top right opposite the bread and butter plate. For casual meals dessert utensils can be carried in with the dessert.
When you are having a formal dinner it typically consists of a soup, followed by salad, a main course and then a dessert. The dinner plate is positioned on a decorative charger plate. The charger plate remains on the table until the dessert is ready to be served. The salad plate, soup bowl and dinner plate are also placed on the charger plate. The forks are on the left again in order of use. If you intend on serving salad after your main course, then the salad fork will sit closer to the dinner plate rather than on the outside like we did on the casual place setting. If you require more than a single knife, they will be put outside the dinner knife. The bread and butter plate is to the left of the forks much like the casual place setting however, at a formal dinner, a butter knife lies across the top of the plate with the tip facing left and the blade down. Proper etiquette says that any bread and/or rolls should be broken with your fingers and then buttered in bite-size pieces with the butter knife. It does not go back on the butter dish, which should have its own knife. If soup is your first course for your formal dinner the soup spoon is placed on the outside of the dinner knife. The soup bowl sits on another plate when you present it to your guests so that the spoon can be placed on it for removal. After each course, cutlery should be cleared away. Now for the dessert course lesson. The utensils needed for dessert will sit parallel to each other across the top of the place setting. The dessert spoon is put on the top facing left and the dessert for below facing right. Unlike the casual place setting, mugs (along with a teaspoon) for coffee or tea are only presented to the table when dessert is ready for servings and not before. Formal settings generally require multiple wineglasses which should form a triangle shape above the knife and to the right of the place setting. The water glass should be the tip of the triangle, then the next glass that will get used which is normally there for white wine and finally the third glass beside it which is typically used for red wine.When you change from the main course to the dessert course everything other than the water glass and dessert cutlery is to be removed. Dessert is then ready to be presented to your guests along with coffee or tea.
So that’s how the pros say it’s done. A little bit complicated but structure is usually a good thing so I wont fight it. Have you ever hosted a dinner party? Do you follow the etiquette rules or are you more of a rebel and get spontaneous with your guests?
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