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Decorating & Setting the Table


It all comes down to personal taste when selecting your dinnerware place settings. There isn't as much pressure anymore to get the “safe” floral-pattered china pattern. Don’t be afraid to expand your horizons and choose colors that reflect your style and decor.

Typically, it’s wise to have eight to ten place settings for dinner parties (and even more if you have a big family). The bare bones of a place setting usually include the dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl and cup and saucer. It’s also a good idea to have a nice set of china for special occasions and an everyday set of dinnerware that’s microwave and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup and care. Plus, an extra set will help fill in for broken pieces.


FlatwareStill wondering which fork goes where? If you still can’t remember what goes on the right and left, try this: your flatware is set in alphabetical order — Forks, Knives, Spoons. Remember, your guests work from the outside in, so the first things used should be the farthest things from the plate. The sharp edges of the knives point toward the plate.


Just when you think you've got the silverware settled, you're facing another question: Where do the wineglasses and water glasses go? On the same side? On opposite sides?

Again, think right-handed. Your water glasses and wineglasses always go on the right side of the place setting. Place the larger water glass first, directly above the knife and spoon. The wineglass comes next, to the lower right of the water glass. The coffee cup and saucer go even lower, beneath the wineglass and to the right of the spoon.

Table Linens

Want to spruce up your dining room with an elegant new look, but you’re not quite sure where to start? What size tablecloth would you need to fit your table? How many napkins and placemats should you buy? Do you really need a table pad and runner? All of these questions might be streaming through your mind at the moment, but there’s no need to fear. As you’ll soon discover, it’s actually quite easy to find the perfect table linens and accessories. You just need to know a few pointers first …


First, and most important, is the shape of your table.

Second is the number of people that can sit at your table. Some tablecloth packages base measurements on the number of people that can fit comfortably around your table. However, a more accurate way of deciding the size of your tablecloth is simply to measure your table.

Third, how far do you want the tablecloth to hang over the edge? This is most commonly called the “drop.” A normal drop can be anywhere from 6-12 inches, and for elaborate formal occasions, it can go all the way down to 30 inches.

Calculating Size

It all comes down to one incredibly easy formula.  Determine your desired drop and plug in your numbers.

Table length + (Drop x 2) = Tablecloth length
Table width + (Drop x 2) = Tablecloth width

So, if your table measured 48” x 60” and your desired drop was 8 inches, you would be shopping for a 64" x 72" tablecloth.

Color & Texture

Keep your dinnerware and decor in mind when choosing a tablecloth and accessories. Find a tablecloth that represents your own personal taste, and don’t be afraid to mix and match napkins and placemats with different colors and textures for a vibrant table setting.


Make sure to check the package for appropriate care instructions when you purchase a tablecloth. Most tablecloths are machine washable. Just shake the crumbs off outside (if possible), throw it in the wash and tumble dry on low. Some require the use of a warm iron to smooth out creases and wrinkles leftover from the dryer.

Table Accessories

Table Pad — While the tablecloth is there to provide ambiance to your dining experience, the table pad beneath keeps your table looking gorgeous for years to come. It’s always a good idea to protect your table with a table pad, especially when it’s so easy for drinks to be spilled, food to be dribbled and sauces to be splattered. Get a table pad that fits your table appropriately and place it underneath your table linens, so it’s neatly disguised, yet working its magic!

Placemats — Choose placemats that match or even slightly contrast with your tablecloth, depending on the theme and mood of the dinner.

Napkins — They should be placed to the left of or underneath forks, unless they are decoratively folded or a matching napkin ring is used.

Formal or Casual?

All your table-decorating tactics are driven off one basic distinction: Is your party formal or casual? Settings for formal gatherings usually require linens, special-occasion dishes and much more flatware. On the other hand, settings for casual get-togethers are the opposite end of the spectrum, requiring placemats, everyday dinnerware and only the flatware basics.

Formal Place Setting

Formal place setting
  1. 1. Napkin
  2. 2. Water glass
  3. 3. Wineglass
  4. 4. Bread plate
  5. 5. Bread knife
  6. 6. Soup bowl
  7. 7. Soup spoon
  8. 8. Dinner plate
  9. 9. Salad plate
  10. 10. Salad fork
  11. 11. Dinner fork
  12. 12. Dinner knife
  13. 13. Dessert spoon
  14. 14. Coffee cup
  15. 15. Saucer

Casual Place Setting

Casual place setting
  1. 1. Drinking glass
  2. 2. Spoon
  3. 3. Knife
  4. 4. Dinner plate
  5. 5. Fork
  6. 6. Napkin