Stylish place settings are an important part of the dining experience, but are often overlooked because of uncertainty about proper placement of items. In the hurried moments before guests arrive, you don’t want to be the hostess who is rushing to set the table while trying to recall proper placement of dishes and utensils. Save yourself the stress and read on for quick tips about how to create an enviable tablescape.
- Table décor. Think of your dining table as the blank canvas which sets the stage for your dining experience. Using flowers as a focal point is always a good idea, but be sure to place arrangements strategically so that they’re not blocking any guests’ sight lines. Sit in each seat to be sure you’ve placed them perfectly. If you’re going to incorporate candles, either have them lit or light them briefly before extinguishing. Using unburned candles is a style faux pas. Finally, choose between a tablecloth or placemats (you shouldn’t use both), and remember that placemats are generally used for less formal dining.
- Place setting. I used to have trouble remembering which utensils go where, until I read a great tip from Emily Post. She uses the acronym FORKS to help remember where to place each piece of silverware. Work from left to right: F stands for fork, O stands for the shape of the plate, R is disregarded, K is for knife (the blade always faces inward toward the plate) and S for spoon. For drink glasses, a champagne flute goes on the far right (as it will be used at the beginning of the meal for toasts) and wine glass to the left of the champagne flute, though still on the right side of the setting. Napkins belong on the left side of the fork, or on the plate.
- Clearing the table. When one is finished eating, the proper protocol is to align & rest utensils diagonally across the plate. As a hostess, you should remove dishes two at a time and they are never to be stacked. If guests offer to assist, you can kindly decline and assure them it is easier to do it yourself (unless of course you don’t mind guests shuffling around while you’re trying to tidy up). All condiments and seasoning should be removed from the table after main courses have been served. As you return to the table after dropping off dirty dishes, bring items for the next course or dessert in order to conserve trips.
It’s always a good idea to plan well when hosting a group of friends or family in your home. If you’ve worked out details ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to avoid last minute panic. Also consider enlisting a designated assistant who can help with table décor details which will allow you to be free to cook or welcome guests during an event. Happy hosting!