Here are some quick overarching table-setting tips and guidelines I’ve run across.
- Space things evenly and line them up (bottoms of the vertical flatware all along the same line, for instance).
- All knife blades face towards the plate.
- Be consistent in your style. There are different types of settings (like North American versus European); stick to one.
- Use as few disposables as possible to increase class. Cloth napkins, real dishes. Have them match, and make sure they’re spotless.
- Napkins can go either to the left of the fork or on the charger (in less spacious settings). Under the fork is also an informal option.
- Big centerpieces might look pretty in isolation; on the table, they mean you can’t see the person across from you. Think smaller, or get creative on placement. Real or fake candles or flowers; consider string lights. Learn basic flower arranging.
- Certain types of plates, bowls, and glassware can be chilled for serving things cold or heated for serving things warm. Adds a touch of luxury.
- Remember drinks and condiments; arrange attractively (try serving butter in balls, curls, or piped shapes).
- Remember lighting and music/atmosphere, but keep it conversation focused: soft, instrumental music (or background noise—rain sounds, so on), and practical, but intimate lighting.
- Place cards make seating and identification easy; they’re very handy if not everyone is eating quite the same thing. Learn some lettering and do them yourself for an extra nice touch.
- Be mindful of attractive plating practices. Remember the protein/entree should be closest to the diner. The Clock Plate: (Veggie 12-3, Protein 3-9, Carb 9-12)
- Check what’s in your butler’s book for any special considerations for those who will be dining.
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