It is quite often forgotten in this informal day and age that there is still need for correct etiquette to be followed when setting a dining table for a formal meal whether social or business.
The general rule is to use the silverware farthest from your plate first and work from the outside inwards as the meal progresses. If there are three forks, they are usually salad, fish, and meat in order of use from outside in. Usually the largest knife and fork is for the main course. The fish utensils are normally a different shape from the salad utensils.
The dinner fork is placed to the left of the plate.
A salad or fish fork should be placed to the left of the dinner fork.
The dinner knife is placed to the right of the plate. A salad or fish knife should be placed to the right of the dinner knife in order of use from outside in. The knives should mirror the forks at the opposite side of the table
The soup spoon should be placed to the right of the knife that is on the outside.
The edge of the cutlery should be one inch from the edge of the table.
An oyster fork always goes to the right of the soup spoon with the prongs nested in the bowl of the spoon.
The bread plate or side plate should be placed either to the left side of the fork or at the top of the fork. The butter knife should be placed on the bread plate with the blade facing in towards the forks.
The napkin can be placed on the bread plate, with the fold on the left or in the centre of the place setting where the dinner plate would go. It should not be placed in the glass.
The pudding spoon should be placed at the top of the table above where the dinner plate would go, with the handle of the spoon towards the right.
The cake or pudding fork is also placed above the plate under the pudding spoon with the handle running the opposite way from the left.
Glasses and Wine
Glasses are placed in order of use. The water glass can be a flat bottomed glass or a glass with a stem and is placed at the tip of the dinner knife.
The red wine glass is placed to the right of the water glass and held by cupping the bowl. The white wine glass is placed to the right of the red wine glass. A glass of white wine is held on its stem to preserve the chill. It should be served at 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
White wine should be served before red, light before heavy, young before old. The Champagne flute is placed behind the other glasses as it is usually the last glass to be used.
A white damask, linen or cotton table cloth extending 10–15 inches past the edge of the table should be used for formal dinners. Placemats may be used for breakfast, lunch, and informal suppers. At dinner only napkins made of white linen or cotton should be used. The napkin at a formal dinner should be at least 18 inches square.
For more information visit my website at www.etiquetteandmanners.co.uk The courses are also certified for continued professional development (CPD) if required.