Unless you regularly entertain royalty or presidents and refined gentry, you are unlikely to pay too much attention to setting your table. However, when you want something a little more refined and formal, here are five top tips for setting the best dinner table:

#1.  Start with the Cutlery

The system is simple – once you know how!

  • Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right – this is something people have debated about across the world.
  • Knife blade toward the plate – it is good manners to have the sharp edge of the knife facing away from your fellow dinners.
  • Eat from the outside in – when faced with multiple layers of knives, forks and spoons, it can be easy to panic but fear not. As each course arrives, use the knife and fork outer most at your place setting.

Table Placement In-spire LS Magazine

#2. The Art of ‘b & d’

Knowing where to put the bread and butter plate and drinks can be difficult but the b & d principal is perfect. Put together your index finger (your pointing finger) with your thumb, keeping the remaining fingers straight. Do this with both hands and you will see the left hand makes a ‘b’ and your right hand makes a ‘d’.

Thus, the bread and butter plate (b) is placed to the left of your place setting, above the fork with the butter knife across the centre of the place with the tip pointing left. Drinks (d) go on the right. Place glasses just above the knife.

Bread and Butter

#3. Get the Glasses Right

Again, panic can set in when you see a range of glasses before you.

The water glass should be directly above the dinner knife (the biggest knife if there is more than one present). The white wine glass sits directly next to the water glass. The red wine glass sits above the white wine glass, toward the centre of the table, effectively forming a triangle.

wine in-spire ls magazine

#4. Napkins, not Serviettes

Serviettes are paper tissues and may be suitable for eating a hot dog al fresco, but are not suitable for formal dining. You have three choices when it comes to napkins – cloth rectangles that complement your dinner table – and they are thus:

  • Fold neatly and place in the centre of the dinner plate
  • Again, neatly folded, place it under the forks
  • Or place the folded napkin to the left of the forks.

To give them personality, you can be as fancy with the folding as you like. In use, drape them across your need, within easy reach to dab delicately at your mouth.

Napkins In-spire LS Magazine

#5. Finishing Touches

The best set dinner tables are all about the finer, practical details that answer the whims of all your guests, including creating a pleasant looking table;

  • A centerpiece of candles, flowers or other decorative pieces will add colour and detail to your table.
  • Fill water glass before guests arrive – there is nothing better for a nervous guest than taking a few sips of water.
  • Keep the water jug topped up as if it was wine.
  • Assign seats, either by directing your guests or creating little name plates.
  • Invest in a high-quality dinner service that has everything you need – take a look at well-known ceramic producers at First Ireland or opt for designer inspired pieces.
  • Salt and pepper should be within reach of your guests – include two or three sets if the table is big, with many diners.
  • Serving coffee is a great way to end a meal but in the interests of space, leave the cups and saucers off until you decide to serve it.


And don’t forget, fine dining is just as much about the company as the immaculate place settings.




W| By David Milsont                            @DMilsont 

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