Hosting a seven-course meal gives you the opportunity to set a formal table. The traditional seven-course meal consists of soup, fish, a palette cleanser, the main dish, salad, dessert and coffee. If you have china and silver collections, this is the time to use them. Fine linen tablecloths, napkins and table runners are at home on a formal table, along with a centrepiece that does not obstruct guests' views of one another. A seven-course meal can be comfortable, elegant and easy to serve when you set the table following traditional guidelines.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Place mats
- Bread plates
- Bread knives
- Dinner plates
- Soup bowls
- Fish plates
- Salad plates
- Dessert plates
- Soup spoons
- Fish knives
- Dinner knives
- Fish forks
- Dinner forks
- Salad forks
- Dessert forks
- Dessert spoons
- Water goblets
- White wine goblets
- Red wine goblets
Cover the table with a tablecloth for a formal look. Add place mats to designate each place setting if desired.
Place a charger -- a large plate that often contains a decorative border -- at the centre of each place setting.
Fold a napkin, or insert it into a napkin ring. Place the napkin in the centre of the charger.
Place three forks to the left of the plate. Place the fish fork, a medium-sized fork, on the outside; place the main course fork, the largest fork, in the middle; place the salad fork, the smallest fork, in the position closest to the charger. Keep in mind that guests will use their flatware beginning with the outermost piece; rearrange the order of the forks if your meal involves a spin on the traditional courses.
Place two knives and a soup spoon to the right of the plate. Place the dinner knife closest to the plate, the fish knife next and the soup spoon in the outermost position.
Place a water goblet directly above the dinner knife. Set a white wine glass next to it and a red glass above the white wine glass and slightly to its left, forming a triangle.
Place a bread plate above the forks, to the left of the charger. Place a butter knife across the bread plate.
Place a dessert fork with its tines facing toward the right, directly above the charger. Place a dessert spoon with its bowl facing left, directly above the dessert fork.
Remove the chargers when all the guests have placed their napkin on their lap. Replace them with the dishes for the first course, which is traditionally soup. Serve the soup in the soup bowl on top of a dinner plate. Remove the bowls, plates and soup spoons when everyone completes this course.
Use a mid-sized plate for the fish course. Remove it with the fish fork and knife when everyone is finished. Serve the palette cleanser, normally a sorbet, in a small dish on top of a plate, with a dessert spoon. Remove these when everyone completes the course. Serve the main course on a full-sized dinner plate. Replace the plate and flatware for this course with salad on a small salad plate. Remove the salad plate and utensils along with the bread plate and bread knife and both wine glasses to set the table for dessert.
Serve dessert on a small dessert plate. Place a teacup and saucer to the right of the dessert plate. Place a teaspoon beside the cup and saucer.
Tips and warnings
- Vary the size of plates and your utensil choices depending on what courses you are serving. For instance, if you are preparing an amuse bouche to serve before the soup course, serve it in a small dish and remove it before the soup course.
- Add digestif glasses to the coffee setting if you are serving them with your coffee course. The key is to ensure you have the right dishware and utensils paired with each course for your meal.
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