Dinner Party Tips | Table Setting Etiquette

Dinner Party Guidelines

A leisurely dinner party is fast becoming a thing of the past. We have so many things calling for our attention that fast food jaunts have reached endemic proportions. When you do reserve time for a celebration with wonderful home cooked meals be mindful of the etiquette that goes with the occasion. This tells your guests that you are really invested in the party. And they soak in the ambience of old world charm to relax and unwind.

Dinner Party Guidelines: The Table Setting
I have already walked you through the details around selecting a delicious menu, sending out the invites, figuring out the seating arrangement and choosing an impressive décor for your dinner party. Today I would like to go ahead and focus on your table setting which includes the flatware, stemware and silverware. This might be a touch fussy, but the end result more than makes up for the elaborateness of the exercise.

Flatware, Stemware and Silverware
The tablecloth, the napkins and the centrepieces leave a visual impact. And I have always considered them a part of the aesthetic value of the evening. The flatware and the stemware placement, however, is more than catering to the ‘setting’ of the table. It is a logical arrangement, and when you have savvy diners who understand the ground rules, it helps put them at ease by ensuring expected items are at the right place.

etiquette wasn’t invented to be tedious. It was enforced to be convenient.

Dinner Party Guidelines

The Charger: A tradition hailing from the middle ages, a service plate or charger serves as a base for your actual flatware. It is a concession to the presentation and has its own etiquettes around use. The shape of the charger and its pattern must reflect that of your tableware. If you have opted to use neo-modern designs, ensure that the service plate complies with the basic structure and material. Always have the service plate removed before dessert comes through and line up the handles of the cutlery with the bottom edge of the charger.

The Bread Plate: The bread plate is accompanied by the butter knife or spatula. It should be in line with the dessert cutlery and directly above the set of forks. The butter knife is generally laid diametrically across.

The Dessert Accoutrements: You may choose to serve either alone dessert spoon or pair it up with a fork. The tines of the fork should face outwards and point to the right. The bowl of the spoon should be concave and be facing to the left. The dessert accoutrements find a place of pride directly above the charger and flatware duo.

The Hot Beverage Set: If you want to serve the coffee right at the table instead of retiring to the den, the cup and saucer go to the right of the knives and is just below the champagne flute. If there isn’t sufficient space, you can place it above the dinner fork.

The Shakers: As a mark of respect for the food that has been prepared so painstakingly, guests should always refrain from seasoning a dish before tasting it! And you as the hostess must make it easy for them to reach the salt and the pepper. Place the pair above the bread plate.

The Stemware: Since most formal events have no more than 4 to 5 courses, you may expect to accommodate up to 4 glasses and flutes for each dinner setting. Start with the water glass. It should be stationed directly above the knives. Remember to leave enough space for the Red Wine glass and the champagne flute though. To the right of the water glass goes the White Wine glass. Ideally, it should be right above the Fish knife. But if that clutters the area, you have some wriggle room since this isn’t an absolute mandate. Right below the White Wineglass, you may place the Champagne flute and beside it, to the left, the wide bottomed Red Wine glass to hold the vintage and swirl the flavours. This particular stemware should crown the meat knife.

The Silverware: Great! We are down to the most essential part of your dinner table setting. Keep in mind that the forks and knives are not placed randomly. Everything is driven by reason. Your guests will start to use the cutlery from the outer edge and thus to the farthest right you need to place the soup spoon with the deep bowl concave. This is the only piece of cutlery after the butter knife that is solitary. Moving inwards, place the fish knife and fork to the right and the left respectively. The remaining two pairs correspond to the silverware for the salad and the meat where the former precedes the latter in service.

Table Setting Etiquette Infographic

If you do feel you can’t keep everything sorted in your mind, refer to the infographic above. If you use a little ‘referencing’ for the execution, no one will fault you!

Placemats, Salad Bites and Everything Else in-between:
I have a lot more to share, but I can’t be too verbose. So I have chosen my top miscellaneous tips for an uber-professional touch to the proceedings.

  • Placemats aren’t indispensable. If they do not go with the décor, by all means, drop them.
  • The cutlery MUST match. There is nothing more embarrassing than etchings and designs that do not go together.
  • Once a course is finished, the cutlery shouldn’t touch the table again. Ensure that your servers are careful of maintaining this etiquette as it also means fewer stains and splotches for you to tend to afterwards.
  • Speaking of stains, keep handy extra towels and a bottle of soda to take emergency action and prevent food from seeping too deep into upholstery or the carpet.
  • Don’t forget the ashtrays! Even if yours is a no-smoking house. Dinner etiquette will prevent your guests from lighting up if that is the case, but you should be prepared to tackle everything.
  • Warm plates are reminiscent of forgotten luxury. Flatware warmer units are quite affordable, and if you do entertain frequently, I absolutely advise investing in one.
  • Salads serve as palate cleansers allowing your guests to savour the protein by suppressing the often salty flavours of the seafood. So do pay attention to your greens and cut them up into tiny bite-sized pieces to facilitate the journey to your guests’ gullet. You may also serve a bowl of sorbet to do the trick.
  • The bread plate must stay on after the soup. It exits with the salad.
  • If you are doing an entrée before the soup, you do need to have appropriate cutlery placed in the right order. Entrees shine in ornate silver dishes that make your dinner party nothing short of royal.
  • Last but not the least, when you serve the dessert, the water glass should be the only stemware left on the table. As each course ends, the cutlery and stemware corresponding to it need to be removed.

So…do you feel exhilarated? Can you envision the splendour of your impeccable table and your decadent dinner party? Great! If you have any questions darlings, I am always here for you. Wisdom in Heels rules! Stay fabulous!

Yours in Style,

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