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How to set a formal Thanksgiving dinner table

Red and green formal table setting |

Does the butter plate go on the left or the right? Should the salad fork go on the inside or the outside? And where the heck does the soup spoon go? When you don’t set the table every day, it’s easy to get out of practice.

If you’re preparing a formal Thanksgiving dinner, dust off that fine china and apply these tips as a guide for setting the perfect formal table.

Steps to setting a formal dinner table

  1. Place the charger front and center, about two to three inches from the edge of the table.
  2. Place the dinner plate on top of the charger.
  3. Position the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.
  4. On the far left of the charger, place a neatly folded napkin. An alternative to this step would be using a napkin ring and placing the napkin on top of the salad plate.
  5. On the right side of the napkin, place the salad fork, followed by the dinner fork.
  6. On the right, place the soup spoon farthest out.
  7. Then place the teaspoon, followed by the knife, which now divides the charger and the teaspoon.
  8. At the top left corner just above the charger, place the bread and butter plate with the butter knife resting across the top of the plate, blade pointing to the left. You can also place your butter knife diagonally, with the handle facing down.
  9. Centered above the charger should be the dessert fork, with the dessert spoon placed just above the fork in the opposite direction.
  10. If you’re using place setting cards, center the card directly above the spoon.
  11. Place the white wine or water glass in the top right corner above the charger, and the red wine glass on the outside. If you plan to serve both red and white, place the water glass just above the white wine glass for a total of three closely placed glasses.
  12. Once the dinner and salad plates have been cleared for dinner, the dessert plate goes on top of the charger.
  13. If you’re serving coffee, the cup and saucer should be placed last on the table, to the bottom right of the dessert plate.

Looking for a more casual Thanksgiving dinner setting ideas?

Check out our guide to setting a proper family-friendly Thanksgiving table.

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