How to set a table for fine dining

Updated July 16, 2018

Before you set the table for fine dining, you must first consider the table itself. True fine dining necessitates a large table with ample room for the dinnerware that will serve several courses and beverage pairings. Under the most lavish conditions, there will be an expansive table covered with linen or lace, an appropriate centrepiece, candles, china, crystal and sterling cutlery.

Expand your table to its full capacity and cover with pad, cloth and lace covering. Arrange the chairs so that each of your guests has ample room to be comfortable without bumping elbows with his seatmate. Choose a tasteful, fresh arrangement for a centrepiece. Consult the below website for tips to make easy but stunning centrepieces. Place candles at each end of your centrepiece and light them upon your guests' entrance to the dining room.

Set a formal charger (a large round piece that sits below the plate) on the table in front of each chair, being sure that its design is set right-side-up. The place setting should be about two inches from the table's edge.

Place a cloth napkin with napkin ring on each charger. If you are using place setting cards, you can place them at the charger's rim or above it on the table.

Arrange the silverware with the forks on the left. As a general rule of thumb, diners work from the outside to the inside, so the dinner fork should be closest to the plate, with the salad fork next to it and the appetizer fork outside of the salad fork. The dinner knife, with its blade inward, should be placed closest to the plate on the right side. Next to the knife, place the soup spoon.

Use individual bread plates and place them above the dinner fork, with individual butter spreaders angled on each plate. Place the salad plate to the side of the fork arrangement. Following the European style, you may want to consider serving the salad after the main entrée. While this is not an American tradition, there are digestive benefits to consuming roughage and dressing at the close of the meal, and before the dessert. Leaving the plate on the table, as opposed to serving a salad course, gives your guests the option of either method.

Arrange glasses at a negative angle above the dinner knife, with the water glass at the top and wine glasses following, in order of their intended consumption. As an alternative, serve your beverage pairings with each individual course.

Remove the charger and serve each course at the centre. Coffee and dessert cutlery can be placed on the table prior to dining or set out at the end of the meal. The teaspoon would lay between the knife and soup spoon; the dessert fork closest to the plate on the left, or above the charger in front of the place setting card.

Serve dessert at the setting's centre, coffee and tea to the right and after-dinner cordials to the upper right hand corner or adjourn to your parlour for this last part of your meal.


The key to successful entertaining and an enjoyed dining experience is not in the place setting, but rather the meal and your guests. Do not labour the setting at the cost of a relaxing and enjoyable evening.

Things You'll Need

  • Table linens
  • Centrepiece
  • Candles/candle holder
  • Place settings
  • Silverware
  • Stemware
  • Cloth napkins
  • Napkin rings
  • Place setting card
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About the Author

Linda Emma is a long-standing writer and editor. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content manager and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.