How To Set A Holiday Table Like A Pro And Never Again Wonder Which Glass Is Yours

The art of how to properly set a table has long been forgotten. I won't complain about it because setting one every single day can be a real pain, but boy do I love a fancy table. With Thanksgiving and the holiday season right around the corner, we all need to step up our game.

As a child, I thought more than one fork at a table was the ultimate sign of fance (that's the noun form of fancy that I just made up because I am sophisticated). I dreamed of one day hosting a party of equal fance, and to finally figure out which water glass is mine, once and for all. Now that I'm grown, I'm mostly just disappointed fance isn't a real word.

Creating a formal table is time consuming and can seem a little pretentious — who are you, a Van der Woodsen? But I think formal tables are just misunderstood. Whether you are throwing a formal party or just having some friends get together, a little table setting can go a long way. Finally, an easy way to impress both your friends and your mom.

Join me in my fight for holiday dinner tables everywhere to be dressed up to the max. Here's what you need to know about how to set the perfect table, and never again wonder which water glass is yours.

The Basic Setting

No, this table is not basic, it's just simple.

The standard rule is that you line up utensils so that the one you plan to use first is on the very outside of the plate, and then you work your way in. For example, if there is a soup course before the main course, the soup spoon is the furthest spoon from the plate.

Now that you've got that down, here are a few other pointers to keep in mind:

  • Forks go on the left, knives and spoons on the right. Picture it in ABC order reading from left to right.
  • The blade of the knife always faces the plate.
  • To remember where to put your drinking glasses, touch your forefinger to the tip of your thumb on each hand until you are make the A-OK symbol. Your left hand should resemble a lowercase B, and your right hand should resemble a lowercase D. The B stands for bread, and the D stands for drink. Now you'll always remember to place the bread plate on the left of the dinner plate, and the cups for drinks on the right.

The Informal Setting

For an informal table (which is still definitely formal by my standards), you'll follow all of the rules of a basic table, except with a few added steps.

  • For this course, a napkin should be placed on top of each dinner plate, ideally with a napkin ring.
  • If there is a salad course, the salad plate will be placed to the left of the forks
  • The dessert spoon and saucer will be placed either horizontally above the dinner plate, or beside the plate.

The Formal Setting

If you want to get really fancy, a formal table is for you. You're following the same utensil rules as the basic table, but with a few more utensils for all of the fancy courses you'll be serving.

  • First, begin with a service plate, or the largest plate that will sit under/give a hug to the plate holding the first course. This is basically just for looks.
  • Then, there will be a butter plate placed above the forks to the left.
  • Formal tables have up to five glasses (to the right of the plate), with the water glass placed directly above the knives. Then come the wine glasses, then a champagne glass for the obvious toast you will have.
  • For the formal table, dessert plates and spoons will not be on the table. They'll be brought out right before dessert is served.

You can read even more about table setting (with handy diagrams!) over on Emily Post.

You can also watch this super short and super helpful How To video from PureWow.

Image: vxla/Flickr; A Beautiful Mess; Coordinately Yours; The Effortless Chic