4 Different Types of Table Settings

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It can be difficult to remember how to arrange each type of table setting. You don’t want to switch up which side of the setting you’re supposed to put the forks and drinking glasses. Further, you can spruce up your formal table settings with certain types of centerpieces. Follow this guide to the four different types of table settings next time you are planning a party.

Formal Table Setting

Commonly used for fancy dinner parties like holiday meals and special occasions such as weddings and dinner rehearsals, a formal table setting requires that you replace your everyday napkins with top- quality cloth napkins. You’ll use heirloom dishes like delft blue pottery, fine China, or silver. Place a plate at each setting with a napkin at the center. You will place forks to the left and knives and spoons to the right of the plate.

Next, add a bread plate and butter knife above the forks and a salad plate to the left of the forks. The dessert fork and spoon should be placed above the main place setting so that they are out of the way until the end of the meal. You can keep these special items in a curio or a china cabinet, as curio cabinets take up less space and give you a 360-degree view of your exquisite dinnerware so that you can enjoy it year round.

Formal table settings are incomplete without a centerpiece. Begin with a beautiful tablecloth or runner to cover the table. You can create a centerpiece or buy a premade one. The best centerpieces feature:

  • Candles
  • Flowers or other plants
  • A water element
  • Mirrored glass
  • Candy or gifts for guests

Pro Tip: Use stemmed glasses for all drink options from water to champagne for an elegant table design through and through.

Casual Table Setting

Also known as informal, casual table settings are used for semi-casual weddings, banquets, and contemporary fine-dining restaurants. They are ideal for three-course meals. You may see a tablecloth or a simple center piece on a plain table which will typically be made of a fine wood. Like formal dining, the napkin goes on top of the plate and the plate goes in the center of the place setting. You will place forks to the left with knives and spoons on the right. Drinking glasses are placed above the knife.

Basic Table Setting

The simplest table setting is used for home entertaining. Each setting receives a placemat with a plate placed in the center. A folded napkin goes to the left of the plate with the fork placed on top. Place the water glass and any additional drinking glass above the knife.

Buffet Table Setting

If you have too many guests to fit at one table, use the buffet table setting. It is best for potlucks, large family gatherings, and other budget-friendly occasions. You should create separate stations for drinks, finger foods, and desserts. Place food and drink on separate tables to avoid traffic jams. When it comes to the main buffet, you will place plates at the start of the buffet and napkins and cutlery at the end because people often forget these items.

To arrange your buffet, place hot food at the start and use chafing dishes to keep hot food warm and put cold food on ice. You can place food on different levels to save space. Label everything to help inform people who may have allergies and restrictions.

Pro Tip: Allow enough room on the table so that people can put their plates down while they are grabbing food.

Which of the four different types of table settings you decide to use will depend on the type of dinner you are hosting and the number of people expected to arrive. Make sure you know how many place settings you’ll need before you start planning your party.