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3 Ways to Set a Holiday Table

When it comes to gathering around the table, settings are equal parts form and function. There are the everlasting rules of etiquette and placement basics (fork on the left, knife on the right), elements of creativity (your choice of centerpiece), and attending to the needs of your party (is it a big group dinner or a more intimate affair?). However you choose to host this holiday season, we’re giving you a simple refresher for making your place settings polished this holiday season.


To make a formal dinner setting a little more interesting, place the napkin down on the table first. Fold it in thirds with the openings consistently facing the right side. Then set the dinner plate, and on top of it the salad plate, and then follows the soup bowl on top. Place the fork at the left of the plates and a sharp knife at the right, with the blade facing in. Outside of the knife, the soup spoon. Place glasses of water above the knife and fill them halfway, with a carafe or pitcher of water on the table for easy refilling access.

Casual Family Dinner:

For a weeknight dinner with family or close friends, keep it simple, but beautiful. Set each place with a single dinner plate and place the fork and knife on the left and right sides. Make sure to use a sharp steak knife to cut through meat dishes or crunchy vegetables and keep a butter knife near the dish and bread, if you like. Here’s another way to get a helping hand when setting the table—have kids or early guests tie napkins in a knot and place atop each plate.


Tip: If placing the napkin on top of the plate, separate the utensils, with the fork on the left and the knife on the right (facing in).

Communal Table:

We love a buffet table to accommodate larger crowds. Inviting your guests to help themselves encourages mingling, and it’s a great opportunity to introduce friends and mix different people together. Stack plates at one end of the table with napkins and cutlery. If an eager guest arrives while you’re still setting up and inevitably asks how they can help, this is a great opportunity to put them to work by making grab-and-go silverware sets. Simply place a fork and knife side by side on a napkin folded in half and roll. Secure it with a bit of twine and a sprig of something green. 

Tip: Pick your serveware ahead of time and place post-it’s in the empty bowls to map out which dishes go where—that way, you’ll be sure everything fits on one table and you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
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Photos by Nicki Sebastian