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Laying The Perfect Formal Table

Posted on Aug 24, 2016 by

When you’re planning the perfect party or event, it’s all about the smallest detail. You may have laid a thousand tables or more at home in your lifetime, and consider yourself quite the expert. However, when it comes to formal dining, it pays to go back to school. The most important thing to remember is to give yourself sufficient time, especially if you have a number of tables to arrange. The result will be spectacular, and when you step back to survey your work, you’ll feel the pride swelling up inside you and know that you did a great job. What’s more, your guests will also be in awe of the time and care you took.

So, let’s take a look into the art of table laying, and how to create a setting that is fit for royalty, or at the very least your discerning guests.

It’s All About The Linen

Linens such as tablecloths, napkins and table runners create the perfect blank canvas for your formal setting. Crisp, freshly laundered and pressed linens are the only option here, and will create a great backdrop for the items to follow. It can be a good idea to lay felt or fleece under the tablecloth as this will not only prevent stains such as red wine soaking through to the surface underneath, but it can also help to soften the sound of plates and cutlery being placed back on the table - perfect when you want a quiet, formal setting. An underlayer like this can also prevent the tablecloth from becoming wrinkled.

Tip: The tablecloth should fall at least a foot below the tabletop. Sometimes tablecloths can fall lower than this, and a general rule is to ensure that it falls no less than 6 inches above the floor so as not to inconvenience your guests. The last thing you want is a guest tripping on a rogue tablecloth.

Everything In Its Place

If you’re stressing about the correct order of cutlery, or where to place glasses, never fear. There are some very basic rules that are easy to master, and you’ll be laying a table like the professionals in no time.

Plates And Glasses

Plates need to be placed 1 to 2 inches from the edge of the table, and only one plate should be present when guests first arrive. There is one exception to this rule, and that is if you are serving a starter or soup, in which case this plate or bowl can be placed on top of the main course plate.

Glasses are placed above the cutlery and plates, and at a diagonal angle to the place setting, or just above and to the right. If you are using more than one glass, order them by size. For example, from right to left you could have a white wine glass, a red wine glass and a water glass. If you are also planning a champagne toast, this glass will usually be placed behind the glasses on its own row. You’ll get the hang of it, and we’ve also included a handy diagram below to illustrate where everything needs to be.

The Cutlery

If you’ve ever found yourself in a position like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, you’ll know how daunting a formerly laid table can appear to the uninitiated. Once you know the rules of cutlery, you’ll never be confused by a formal place setting again, and you won’t confuse your guests either.

  • Spoons and knives always go on the right of the place setting. Always place the knife so that the blade is facing towards the place setting or plate.
  • Forks are always placed on the left, no matter how many forks are required.
  • Cutlery is always arranged in the order it is to be used from the outside in. For example, a soup spoon will be the first piece of cutlery to hand if there is to be a soup course as a starter.
  • The dessert spoon or fork will usually be laid above the place setting, although sometimes these spoons will be laid just before dessert is served, and the rest of the cutlery has been cleared.

Relax, We Have Your Table Linens Covered

If all that talk of formal table laying has you breaking into a cold sweat, don’t worry. Once you’ve completed a few place settings it will become second nature. What’s more, we’re here to help with the linens, and so that’s one thing ticked off of your list before you even get started. We have everything you need to create the perfect blank canvas for your formal settings, and we would be delighted to assist you with laying the perfect table.