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Friday, February 11, 2011

Table etiquette -

So before you raise your eyebrows, scorn and grimace... let me say that I set the table the way I want with what I have at hand for a balanced photo. But since I've gotten questions on proper etiquette when setting a table, I thought I'd throw this out there for the dish crowd, and anyone else that wants a reminder.
 Preface that I was born and raised in Europe. Things are might be different across the pond. Dish sets come in 6's in Germany - yeah I know what are they thinking???. But mainly salad forks are inside the dinner fork. So I had to find out why... and now you get this ;-).

Mom gave me Emily Post's Book of Etiquette when I was 16. What a gift for a 16 year old!!! But now I truly have appreciated having the book as reference. When in doubt, proper etiquette never fails.
I don't want you to think I'm a snob, hold a higher ground (oh just look at the bloopers on the tables since January 1 of this year), or think there is only one way to do things. I never even notice things you think are blooper worthy.

1. I have no problems with paper plates
2. I have no problems with plastic silverware
3. However, I cannot drink out of plastic - I know quirky!
4. Rules were made to be broken. That is my motto and I live by it.

Basic Table setting:
From left to right: Napkin, fork, plate, knife (blade towards the plate always) spoon.
Glass over knife, butter knife and plate optional. Napkin is either to the left of the fork or on the plate.

Informal Table Setting:
This table setting is set for an informal dinner with a soup course.
The plate would go under the napkin in the center.
a) Dinner plate
b) Forks to the left of the plate, the salad or appetizer fork on the far left - there is an outside in order.
If you serve your salad after the main course, the salad fork would be inside the dinner fork.(Wow, here's the answer for which I was looking!!!)
c) Napkin
d) Dinner knife, to right of the plate, cutting blade towards the plate.
e) Spoons go to the right of the knife. Soup is first course so it's on the far right. The teaspoon or dessert spoon goes to the right of the knife.
f) Drinking glasses above the knives and spoons to the right of the plate
g) Salad plate is placed to the left of the forks.
h) Bread plate with butter knife; above the forks with the knife on a diagonal across the edge of the plate, handle on the right side and blade facing down.
i) Dessert Spoon and Fork; these can be either horizontally above the dinner plate (spoon on top, handle to the right, fork on bottom, handle to the left) or beside the plate. If beside the plate, the forks goes on the left side, closest to the plate (the last one used) and spoon on the right of the plate to the right of the dinner knife and left of the soupspoon.
j) Coffee cup and saucer, to the right of the glasses above the knives and spoons.

Formal Table Setting:
This table is set for a shellfish appetizer, a first course of soup or fruit, fish course, an entree and a salad
a) Service plate or charger upon which the dinner plate is placed
b) Butter plate above the forks
c) Dinner Fork (place fork) left of fork - other forks arranged as how they will be used
d) Fish Fork - furthest to the left, first fork used
e) Salad Fork - Salad is being served after the entree (see note below). If however you serve the salad first, then the salad fork would be furthest left and the salad fork next and the dinner fork next to the plate.
f) Dinner knife to the right of plate
g) Fish knife, to the right of dinner knife
h) Salad knife -(not in the picture above) if used it would go to the left of the dinner knife, next to the plate.
i) Soup or Fruit Spoon-  if soup or fruit are served first, the spoon goes to the right of the knives.
j) Oyster Fork - If shellfish are served, the oyster fork goes to the right of the spoons. It is the only fork ever placed on the right.
k) Butter knife, small spreader placed diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on right, blade down
l) Glasses can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are up front. Water goblet directly above the knives. To the right is the champagne flute; in front of these are the red, white and sherry glasses
m) The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.

Taken from the Replacements website, they have pages of pictures of different utensils. Click HERE to go visit.

Now to my favorite commentary:
"Forgive me, but almost all your directions were incorrect according to formal table settings used in Europe and US diplomatic & royal (where applicable) circles. I would assume this would be your template for the finest customs in formal table settings.
1. NO place mat is required. A table cloth is always de riguer at formal meals.
2. The placement of the silverware, correctly defined as 'cutlery': perhaps it would have been useful for you to explain that the setting of the various pieces of cutlery are dependent on the number and type of courses to be served during the meal? A good rule of thumb is to let people know that the diner 'starts from the outside and works in.' So if the first course is soup (which was incorrectly placed at the top of the setting. More later!), the soup spoon should be placed on the outside of the setting to the right side of the place. Then if there is a fish course the fish knife and fork should be placed to the right and left respectively inside the soup spoon. Then the dinner knife and fork inside the previous course. The salad fork should be placed inside the dinner fork on the left hand side. If you are serving wine which I assume would be the case for such a 'formal' dinner, then the salad course should come after the main meat course and before the cheese course. The vinaigrette in salad tends to sour the wine, so should be served at the end where one might appreciate the palate cleansing properties of salad.
If you are serving a cheese course the small knife and fork should be placed at the top of the setting with the knife over the fork, the blade facing the diner & pointing to the left. The dessert spoon and fork should be placed beneath the cheese setting, the spoon above the fork, the bowl pointing left and the fork tines to the right.
3. One should handle glasses by the stem when placing them on the table, not the bowl as the photograph depicts. (Hand & finger prints...!) at the top right of the setting. If you are serving more than one wine with the meal the first wine glass should be placed to the right of the next. The water glass, which is usually the largest glass can be placed between the two (or more) glasses at the top of the setting where it can still be handily reached by the diner.
4. The use of napkin rings is an adopted affectation. The origin of the napkin ring was in Victorian England where each member of the family was given a napkin that would be expected to last more than one meal. The napkin rings were either engraved with the names or initials, or each one in the family was given a recognisably different ring. Napkin rings can certainly be an attractive addition to the table but have no place in formal settings.
If you would like to continue this conversation please do not hesitate to contact me.
Best regards,
Ro Howe
Etiquette Consultant & Owner, Barraud Caterers Ltd"

 Basic Place Setting: http://www.emilypost.com/component/content/article/370
Informal Place Setting: http://www.emilypost.com/component/content/article/371
Formal Place Setting:  http://www.emilypost.com/component/content/article/372

Why the salad fork goes inside the dinner fork: http://aolanswers.com/questions/correct_formal_table_setting_186233304871692

Now with all that said, have fun setting your tables, delighting us with your creativity, and enjoy the process. I've set tables with the utensils in the wrong spot, the glassware in the wrong spots, sans napkins, with silver on the napkins, minus glasses, with soup bowls and no soupspoons, with soupspoons and no bowls... But I've had fun! That is the essence of life - to live life and enjoy the process.


Sharon Haynie said...

Interesting topic-I don't think I set a very correct table, I can never get the napkin right. I like them at the side and on the charger. Our church youth group has an etiquette dinner once a year, so I will keep your suggestions handy. Thanks!

A Hint of Home said...

Thanks for the reminders. Always helpful!

Kuby said...

Marlis, you are so creative and adorable! I don't think you are a snob at all. How wonderful that creating tables brings you joy. They are wonderful!

Jo Ann said...

I'm with you! I do things the way I like them and want to do them. And after all - it was someone like us who came up with all these rules in the first place! Who says they're smarter than we are! I just love having fun with my table settings!

Red Couch Recipes said...

Marlis, what a great reminder to let us know how things should be. I would like to have some butter plates; I don't have a single one. My husband, a lovely logical engineer even has a problem with a salad plate, but I love them. I never set them properly on a table because they look so cute on the plate. Interesting that Europeans sell in 6's -- maybe smaller families? Have a great weekend. Joni

Gloria (The Little Red House with the White Porch) said...

Love posts like this -- great job! I always love to read about etiquette, proper table settings, etc. I think it's so interesting! I know my son would roll his eyes at that comment. LOL!

Martha said...

Thanks for the information -- you need to know how to do it right before you can do it your way -- that's my philosophy!

D said...

Thanks for the great tips on table settings. I know how to do the basic table, but have never known the basics of formal tables.

Sarah @ Modern Country Style said...

I LOVE that cartoon. That's really funny. It made me laugh out loud!!

What great information, Marlis. Thank you!


Millie said...

My mom gave me my copy of Emily Post's Book of Etiquette when I was 16 also. Is that a right of passage? Our mother's way to ensure we would always know how to comport ourselves like a proper lady? Though I rarely set a completely formal table, that is one of my well thumbed reference books. Even if I let inspiration, creativity, time constraints or any other number of factors throw all the 'rules' out the window on occasion. Keep inspiring us with your unique vision and eye for beauty... I seriously doubt any of us will be hosting an ambassador or head of state in the near future...

Pam said...

Well, I could have used this when I posted my first tablescape. I had to google where the forks went. My Mom never taught me that stuff. Thanks for the info.


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