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The Art of Setting the Table

Setting the table sounds like the fun job to be assigned. You won’t be stressed about the turkey or splattered in mashed potato mayhem. But if this is your main role, make sure to do it right. And if you are the host, doing this along with everything else, don’t do a disservice to the meal that you are about to serve. A beautifully (and correctly) set table always sets the perfect tone.

Using the Wrong Table Linens Be sure your tablecloth actually fits your table properly. Even a beautifully set table will look off if the cloth barely reaches the edges or drapes awkwardly to the floor. The rule of thumb is that for a formal meal, the “drop” should be between 10 and 15 inches on all sides while for an informal meal, it should be around 10.

Having Scented Candles Candles are almost a must at any seated dinner—adding ambiance and guest-flattering light. But no matter how much you love your signature scented candle, leave it for another get-together. Even the loveliest aroma can quickly get overwhelming and interfere with what are sure to be delicious smells coming from your kitchen. If you can’t throw a party without lighting just one scented candle, it’s best left in the bathroom.

Making Tall Flower Arrangements So, you bought a beautiful bouquet of long-stemmed roses and put them in your favorite vase. But now the problem is that your guests can’t see each other—let alone talk. Make sure arrangements are low, or move them off the table when it’s time to sit down.

Crowding the Table Yes, Thanksgiving is an excuse to use that wedding china that you’ve barely touched. But if you aren’t serving rolls, there’s no need to put out the bread plates. Crowding a table with superfluous items quickly becomes a nuisance, especially once the food is on the table and people are looking for more space. Besides, the less you put out, the fewer dishes you’ll have to do at the end of the meal.

Forgetting Crucial Items No, you don’t need to set out every piece of silverware you own—just set out the basics. That said, if you’re starting with a soup, don’t forget to put out a soupspoon, and if you’re serving salad, you might want to opt for both a salad and dinner fork. The same goes with serving ware (salad tongs are often left behind).

Putting the Knife and Fork on the Wrong Sides Forks go on the left. Knives go on the right. To the far right is where you place spoons. A salad fork should go on the outside, left of the dinner fork, whereas the teaspoon goes in between your soupspoon and dinner knife.

Confusing Glass and Napkin Placement A napkin can be folded or rolled and placed on the center of a plate. But if you want it to the side, it should go on the left with the forks. Glasses are always placed on the right side above the knives and spoons. A water glass is closer to the center of the plate, and a wine glass is to its outside left.

If You’re Going Formal . . . Okay, so you knew those last two things. But this is a formal meal and by god yes there will be bread rolls. So don’t choke just when the finish line is in sight. That bread plate and knife go on the top left; the dessertspoon and cake fork go above the plate (with the cake fork pointing right, and the dessertspoon pointing left). A cup and saucer is the last and right-most glass. And the place card should be top and center.