The Art of Laying a Formal Dinner Table

Throwing a dinner party at home is at once a challenging and intimidating task for most people. Whether it is for close friends or semi-formal work colleagues, or (the most terrifying of them all!) for your boss and his wife, stress levels in the average host or hostess are understandably high. Everything about you – your home, your decor, the food and layout of the dinner table and the mix of guests who make up the dinner party – is under the scanner.

So, it is important to get the basics right if you want your party to be a wildly successful one.

Let’s start with the most crucial part of the proceedings – laying the formal dinner table. Get it right and half the battle is won!

Start with the tablecloth, a must for an aesthetic look. Ideally, place a silencer on the table and lay a clean, crisp and ironed tablecloth over it. Stick to neutral or pastel shades – nothing too bright or offensive. The napkins can be in bright, contrasting shades. If the table is large enough, place a polished silver candle stand in the centre or a crystal vase with fresh flowers.

Depending on the number and type of courses you have planned, set the crockery and cutlery accordingly. Make sure you have the basics – a knife for bread, a knife for food, a food and pudding fork and a spoon for pudding. The rule of the thumb here is to lay the spoons, forks and knives, working them from the outside inwards, following the sequence of the dishes. So, if the first course is soup, then the soup spoon should be at the farthest right corner. Alternatively, if the first course is a starter which calls for a knife and fork, then a smaller fork and knife for this purpose should be placed on the outside, with the fork placed vertically on the far left of the plate and the knife on the far right side.

As far as plates are concerned, the minimum requirement is a small or medium sized plate for starters or a bowl for soup (if that is the first course). Then comes a large plate for the main course and a suitable dish for the dessert. The bread and butter plate (if it features on the menu) is placed on the left hand side of the place setting. You can lay the napkin on this.

Glasses. No matter what the menu, there should be a minimum of three glasses at each place setting. One goblet for water, one large wine glass for red wine and one smaller wine glass for white wine. In addition, there can also be a straight glass for a stronger spirit. These should be placed at the top right hand side of each place setting. To serve the drinks or water, decanters are always a better option than cluttering the table with bottles.

Get it right and sit back and play the perfect, unruffled host or hostess. Let the good times roll!