How to Set Up Wedding Dinner Tables

Wedding dinner table setting

formal table settingPlanning and organizing your own wedding should not mean that you have to compromise on quality, good taste and luxury.

Making it a memorable day for all the right reasons is a must and attention to every detail will get you there.

As you plan your wedding reception a proper table setting must not be overlooked and that is precisely what we will discuss here today.

We will share some tips and tricks that will provide your guests with a superb dinning experience even when the reception takes place at home.

Your table setting will depend on how many courses you will be serving your guests, for example you could serve a three course meal comprising of an appetizer (such as a soup or salad), a main course and accompaniment plus a delicious dessert to end the meal. However, if you really want to get all fancy, you could offer as much as a ten course meal!

For the sake of simplicity and because it is very common to see, let’s assume that you are serving a five course meal with the first course being the appetizer. It is now customary to have your guests sitting or walking around getting to know the other guests, in a lounge type of setting with an open bar and comfortable sitting areas, so that everyone can socialize while having their appetizers and a glass of wine. If the reception takes place at home, a separate room from your dinning room, such as your living room, should suffice.

Setting your dinner table
Please note that these instructions apply to any basic formal dinning table setting!

Plonk Wine Club
Once seated at the table they will notice your beautiful table setting. First off they will notice the charger plate, that’s the big fancy silver (or whatever color you chose) wide-rimmed plate underneath all of the other plates. On top of the charger plate will follow the main course plate, then the salad plate which is followed by your soup plate.

Plate setting

So, from bottom to top, charger/serving plate, main course plate, salad plate and soup plate. To the right they will notice a soup spoon. Because this will be the first serving that they will have, the spoon will be on the outside. As they eat, they will work their way in with the silverware.

Obviously, in this case they will not see the seafood fork (seen to the right of the soup spoon on the picture above) that is because using our five course meal example you will not be serving fish.

Knives and spoons go to the right and forks to the left. The silverware is placed in the order in which your food courses will be served. For example, if you are serving a salad, the first fork on the outside to the left will be the salad fork and next to it on the inside, closer to the plate, will be the entrée/main course fork.

Since you are serving salad, you can add a salad knife to your setting, this knife should be placed on the inside (or to the left) of the soup spoon. (The salad knife in this case is highly recommended)

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To the right of your dinner plates

To reiterate, to the right of your guests’ dinner plates, working your way from the outside inwards will be a soup spoon, salad knife and dinner knife.

Note: Knives must be placed with the cutting edge inward towards the plate, it is considered very bad manners and of bad taste not to do so.

To the left of your dinner plates

To the left of your dinner plates you will place the forks, on the far left will be the salad fork and next to it, nearest to the plate, will be the entrée/Main course fork.

Napkinstable setting

The napkins should be placed folded under the forks with the folded side ALWAYS on the outside, leaving the edges facing in towards the plates.
It is also permissible to place the napkin on top of the plates.

However, you can always get creative, whimsical and even a bit playful when it comes to the napkins.

Above the forks

To the top left, above the forks will be the small bread plate with the butter knife/spreader sitting on top of it, placed at the 10:20 position as shown on the first picture above.

Au Jus

If serving a sauce or beef Au Jus, you would place the small container to the right, above the bread plate. If the Au Jus container is not a pouring one, such as the ones used for gravy, a proper Au Jus spoon or sauce spoon should be placed inside the small container.

Above the dinner plates

Centered, right above the dinner plates should be a dessert fork and a tea/coffee spoon, if you are serving tea or coffee. The dessert fork and tea/coffee spoon should be placed opposite from each other.

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Aperitif, wine and water

To the far right above the spoons and knives will be the glassware. Again, everything is always placed in the order in which it will be used, namely from the outside in. In this case, in the form of a diamond or triangle and again, it all depends on what it is that you will be serving.

If you are serving an aperitif/digestif, that will be the smallest of the glasses placed first from the outside in, and your guests will drink their aperitif while socializing with the others at the table as they wait for their meal.

Second will be the white wine glass to accompany the soup and or the salad. Third will be the red wine glass which your guests will enjoy with the main course (the red wine glass can be slightly bigger than the white wine glass).

Fourth and farther in, closest to the dessert silverware and slightly bigger than the rest, will be the water goblet and above them all will be the champagne flute ready for your wedding toast.

Formal Table Setting

Best Wedding Dinning Etiquette Tips:

There is a “rule of thumb” that when setting your dinner table, the charger should be aligned with the edge of the table and the silverware should be a vertical thumb-length away (tip to knuckle) from the edge of the table. This way the silverware should align with the center of your serving plates.

If your reception will take place at home or you are the one who will be taking care of all the details, make sure to place your clean silverware in a container with hot water and wipe them with a clean rag right before setting the table. This will make them shine and prevent your guests from seeing any spots on the silverware.

Black tablecloths are great at hiding wine spills as they would not be visible, you would only see a wet spot.

The water should be served and waiting at the dinner table prior to your guests being seated. (A wedge of lemon in the water is permissible and looks great)

If you are creating layers when dressing your reception dinning tables, keep in mind that your napkins must match the underlay of your table. By doing this your setting will look more cohesive and will be more pleasing to the eye.

Guests should be served from the left and when finished, used china and silverware should be picked up from the right of the guest.

When eating bread, do not take a bite directly from the bread as it is bad manners, rather tear a small piece with your hands and then eat.

The silverware on the table will give you clues as to what it is that you will be eating.

Never, ever place used, dirty silverware back on the table, if reaching for wine for example, place them on the plate that you are currently using.

Plates must be removed from the table along with the used silverware, before serving each course.

Make sure to remove all condiments such as salt and pepper, the bread and butter plate with the butter spreader before serving dessert.

Serve the coffee/tea, creamer and sugar with dessert (Red wine could be great with dessert too.

When attending a formal dinner, if confused as to what silverware to use next, you can always follow what the host does, even if their dining etiquette is not up to par such as using the wrong silverware.
It’s a way of honoring and paying homage to the host.

Bookmark this page now so you can come back to it every time you have dinner guests