72-Hour Sale •  UP TO 70% OFF* •   •  Shop Now ›
How To Guides at Overstock.com

How to Set the Dinner Table

by C.D. Crowder

Dinnerware table setting

Dinner tables are set differently depending on the type of dinnerware and what food is served. Casual dinner table settings provide each person with the three basic pieces of silverware while formal dinner table settings provide guests with a separate piece of silverware for each course served. Plates, bowls, silverware, napkins and glasses are all part of the necessary dinnerware for setting the table. Having separate dinnerware sets for both formal and casual dining events is very helpful for setting the table appropriately.

Casual Dinnerware:

  1. Plates: Place a dinner plate on the table in front of each chair. If you choose, you can set placemats or a table cloth on the table before setting the plates.

  2. Forks: Place the dinner fork to the left of the plate. You can fold a napkin and place it underneath each fork or on top of each plate.

  3. Salad plates: If you will be serving salad, position a salad plate next to the dinner fork.

  4. Knives and spoons: Place the dinner knife and spoon to the right of the plate with the knife closest to the plate.

  5. Glasses: Place a glass or goblet to the top right of the plate just above the knife.

Formal Dinnerware:

  1. Tablecloth and centerpiece: Cover the table with a clean, pressed tablecloth. Place an appropriate centerpiece in the middle of the table.

  2. Chargers and dinner plates: Set a charger on the table in front of guest's chair and place a dinner plate on top of of each charger.

  3. Soup bowls and salad plates: Stack a soup bowl or salad plate or both on top of the dinner plate as appropriate for the courses you will be serving.

  4. Bread plate: Place a bread plate to the top left of the dinner plate along with a butter spreader. For some settings, the butter plate and butter spreader may be placed at the center of the table or at each end and the center of the table.

  5. Flatware: Place the dessert fork, dinner fork and salad fork to the left of the dinner plate. The dessert fork is closest to the plate. Place the dinner knife, teaspoon and soup spoon to the right of the dinner plate. The dinner knife is closest to the plate.

  6. Stemware: Place a goblet or drinking glass to the top right of the dinner plate.


  1. If using different silverware than what's listed in the above steps, place the silverware in the order in which it'll be used as dinner progresses, from the outside to the inside.

Buy Dinnerware
Back to Guides Directory