How to set a table

We are spending time at home now more than ever!  Living in isolation made us hungry for the good things in life and we now appreciate it even more than ever.  We realise that good company and time spending with loved ones and friends are precious. There is no better reason to invite a few guests or family members and treat them with a feast.

So, clear the dining room table from your laptop and work files. Let’s start with setting the table for what it’s meant…

Purpose of table-setting

Determine first what kind of social gathering it is. Will it be a relaxed brunch, morning tea with friends, a lunch, family gathering or a formal dinner?


Ask yourself:

  • What will you serve? Is it finger-foods; lasagne and salad or a three or five course meal?
  • Will you serve wines and champagne?
  • Will there be appetizer’s (hors d'oeuvre). And will it be served while your guests are mingling or seated?
  • Do check if there are vegetarians, vegans, and diabetics to keep in mind. Same with cultural or religion preferences.
  • How many guests will attend?
  • Where will you host it – inside or outside?
  • What will the weather be like? Is it freezing cold outside or sizzling hot?


By now you should have a good idea of what you need to serve and where.


Follow the basic rules in table setting

  1. Place utensils in order as it will be used. Utensils to be used first – farthest from the plate.  Utensils to be used last – closest to the plate.
  2. Forks usually go to the left of the plate and knives to the right. Apologies to the left handed.
  3. Glassware above the knives
  4. Dessert spoon and knife above the plate
  5. Side plate to the left, next to the dinner plate
  6. Napkin can be placed either on the side plate or dinner plate


Tips on setting a table

  • If your dinner plates are oven proof and it is freezing cold weather, heat it in the oven on the lowest setting. Food will stay warmer for longer.
  • The type of gathering will determine what plates and utensils you will use. Using plates of different colours and designs together will be beautiful on an informal table.
  • A table runner or tablecloth and napkins will add to the mood you want to create. Placemats are for informal gatherings. An underplate however, is for a more formal setting.
  • Flower arrangements on the table should allow guest to still see one another easily.
  • Don’t forget to use light to enhance the mood of your setting as well. Candles for a formal dinner but not for a lunch or breakfast – rather open the curtains and let the sun in.
  • Napkins should be 100% natural cotton or linen. Imagine wiping your mouth with a synthetic “sport shirt”.
  • Enough salt and pepper pots for guests to use without having to wait for it.


Table ambience

Use the season and food you will serve to inspire your table setting. 

Elements from your menu can be used as table décor, such as fruit in season if it is summer or cinnamon sticks tied with raffia or leather to your napkin.  A simple apple or pear in the middle of the plate on a napkin, will look exquisite.

Don’t be afraid to mix different styles.  Be creative and a little daring too.  Your guests should be in awe when they see your table.  They will appreciate your efforts and will feel welcome and special.


Silverware and crystal glass is expensive, but you can dress a table just as elegant without the price tag.

Let nature inspire you.  A few branches from your garden in a vase will be a perfect match with your natural linen tablecloth and napkins.  Don’t bother to iron them – go for the organic look.  Tie your napkin with a rosemary sprig or place it informally on the napkin.

And don’t forget about the background music!

Remember less is more….

And please:

Don’t start clearing the table and washing dishes immediately.  Enjoy the company of your guests rather. Wash it once your guests have left.

Bon Appetit!

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