What’s on the Table? Table Setting Etiquette

Good morning lovelies!

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Photo Credit: Dish Wish Events

Wedding season is quickly approaching and now is the time to work out the minute details of your day. For those of you getting married in a hotel or venue that comes with everything you need for the top of your guest dining tables (and who aren’t choosing to bring in speciality items to serve your overall design plan), you won’t have to worry about what china, glassware and flatware to include on your rental list and how those items will be displayed on your wedding day. However, for those of you hosting your celebration in a backyard, private estate or blank canvas type venue that comes with nothing (or for those of you who aren’t happy with the “house” items that your venue comes with and you are choosing to bring in table-top rentals for your day), figuring out what you do or don’t need on your table and where they will go can be overwhelming. Just because an item is pretty, doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for your tablescape. We LOVE pretty things and adore a well-stocked tabletop. However it is important that you only get what you need (for both financial and functional reasons). Therefore, today we are looking at options of what to rent and what to leave off of the table, while still keeping the design.

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Photo Credit: Ruth Eileen Photography


The first step in figuring out what you need to rent for your table is to take a good hard look at your menu. You want to make sure you have a utensil, plate and glass for each item that is served while guests are at the table. Therefore, if you are serving a salad course and then the main entree, you will want to make sure you have two forks at each place setting (one smaller, one larger). We encourage you to limit the items you put on the table to those your guests will actually use. For example, if you are serving neither a soup course nor serving coffee at the table, then having a spoon at each place setting is not only a waste of space and money, but it can be confusing to your guests. I know it sounds like common sense, and I know that a spoon completed the look of a place-setting, but having it on the table without a purpose just feels strange for your guests. Long story short, only order the kind of utensils, plates and glasses that will actually serve a purpose. However, for the sake of both tablescape aesthetics and guest experience, make each one of those items visually distinct.

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Photo Credit: Mirelle Carmichael Photography


There are different glasses used for water, champagne, red and white wine, and various cocktails. Typically, each place setting would have three glasses included: a champagne coupe or flute, a water glass and a wine glass. With that being said, if you are not doing a champagne toast, keep the champagne glasses exclusively behind the bar. Although true winos will want their red or white wine in the appropriate shaped glass, don’t feel the pressure of having both a white and red wine glass at each place setting. One good shaped multi-purpose wine glass should do the trick. However, again, if you aren’t offering tableside wine service, although the glass at each setting is pretty, it is both confusing for your guests and a waste of money. At the very minimum, each place setting should have one water glass present.

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Photo Credit: Lukas & Suzy VanDyke Photography

Plates and Chargers

Make sure you order a plate for each course that is served. Adding a charger is not necessary, but it does serve to frame your place setting (which makes your overall-look rather pretty). When a plate gets taken away after each course is done, the charger will stay and keep the design grounded. Choosing to include the charger creates a more formal aesthetic, while ditching it suggests a more casual supper.

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Photo Credit: Joel Serrato

Table, Set, Go

After determining the glasses, china and silverware that you actually need and want to use on your table, you can start designing the layout! Place your flatware so that your guests’ interaction with each item goes from outside to inside. The forks go on the left side of the plate, while knives and spoons go on the right. The salad fork (smaller than the entree fork) should be in the outermost position and be removed by the catering team once the course is completed, so that the larger fork is now readily available for the next course. If there is a soup course, the spoon should go in the outermost position on the right side of the plate (to the right of all knives). The blade of any knives on the table should be facing in towards the plate.  The water glass is placed above the knives and accompanying behind is the champagne flute on the right and the wine glass on the left. If you choose to have a separate bread plate and knife, those go above the charger towards the left (somewhat mirroring the placement of glassware). If dessert and coffee is served at the table, your dessert fork and spoon should be placed directly above the charger, parallel to each other, with the fork closer to the charger and the spoon farther away, and the heads of each facing the opposite direction of the other. The coffee saucer and cups should be placed on the right of the glassware. Therefore, your guests will start the meal with everything they needed throughout the entirety of dinner service present on the table (because it makes for a pretty tablescape for your guests to enjoy and allows your catering team to focus on the bringing of food and bussing of dirty plates) and by the end of the meal, all that should be left on the table is a glass and an optional charger for aesthetic purposes. There is no need to overdo your design, just make sure you keep yours clean, simple and purposeful.

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Photo Credit: Brianna Wilbur Photography

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