A properly set table is a beautiful focal point for your reception. You will want to make sure your tables show off your sophistication.
Setting the Stage
Spacing: When setting a dinner table, place settings should be evenly spaced and flatware should be balanced.
Start with Plates: Start by setting out dinner plates. Make sure plates are far enough apart to provide guests sufficient elbowroom—about 2 feet apart from plate center to plate center.
Let Plates be Your Guide: Once your plates are set, you can use them to balance the rest of your place settings. Cups and glasses go on the right side of the plate, butter and salad plates to the left.
Silverware & Napkins
Basic Placement: Place silverware in the order of its use, from the outside in, first course to main course. To simplify the setting, don’t put out utensils that won’t be used.
Forks, Spoons & Knives: Forks should be placed to the left of the plate, knives and spoons to the right. The only exception to this rule is a small cocktail fork, which goes on the outermost right side of the plate. Place knives with their cutting edge towards the plate, and make sure all of the utensil handles line up.
Napkins: All napkins should be cloth and go to the left of the forks. For wedding receptions, napkin placement has a less formal placement as they have become more of a wedding style detail.
Butter Plate & Spreader: When serving bread, place a butter plate above the forks to the left of the plate and include a butter knife or spreader.
Dessert Silverware: If you serve dessert, the silverware should be placed above the plate with the fork handle to the left and the spoon or knife handle to the right (the cutting edge should face down). You can also just bring out dessert silverware with the dessert.
Special Touches: Wedding receptions offer guests with fun special touches at their setting. Most popular special touches are napkin rings, favor boxes or plate charges. Plate charges are quite popular in reception decor. A charger is an elegant tray that is placed under the dinner plate for style rather than function. Sized slightly larger, the finish or color of the charger plate frames the dinnerware and enhances the table setting.
Glass Placement: Glasses should be placed above the knives in a straight row, slanting downward from the upper left, going from biggest to smallest. Make sure smaller glasses aren’t hidden behind larger ones. An example of a proper arrangement would be a water goblet in back, wine glass, then a dessert glass closest to your guest.
Coffee Cup & Saucer: If you plan to serve coffee with the meal, place the cup and saucer to the right of the setting, with the coffee spoon on the right side of the saucer. Otherwise, bring the coffee out with dessert.
The diagram below will help you visualize a proper table setting.
2. Salad fork
3. Dinner fork
4. Dessert fork & spoon
5. Bread and butter plate with spreader
6. Dinner plate
7. Dinner knife
9. Soup spoon
10. Cocktail fork
11. Water glass
12. Wine glass (red wine)
13. Wine glass (white wine)
14. Coffee cup and saucer