The Right Way to Set a Dinner Table (Hint: There's Isn't One, Anymore)

The Right Way to Set a Dinner Table (Hint: There's Isn't One, Anymore)

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Taryn Williford
Oct 27, 2015
(Image credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Whether you're the type to host a dinner party every weekend, or you're just now brushing up to be ready for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the proper way to set a dinner table... then promptly forget it. These days, there are no hard and fast rules about setting a table, and we have four alternative dinner party place settings for you to consider.

The Proper Place Setting

If you're studying for your debutante ball or trying to impress a dinner party guest who would be impressed by this sort of thing, here's a refresher on the traditional way to set up a place setting:

(Image credit: Vibe Images/Shutterstock)

"Picture the word “FORKS.” The order, left to right, is: F for Fork, O for the Plate (the shape!), K for Knives and S for Spoons. (Okay, you have to forget the R, but you get the idea!) ... Knife blades always face the plate. The napkin goes to the left of the fork, or on the plate."Emily Post

The rules get more complicated for more formal dinners (the kind that demand multiple forks and spoons), but this is the basic place setting form for most of the dinners you'd serve out of your home.

The Alternative Table Settings

Whether motivated by creativity, individuality, laziness or simply a lack of motivation to Google "proper place settings" every time you set the table, here are a few unique ways to stage a dinner party. Rest assured that they're all "right," in these modern times (and much less stuffy).

(Image credit: Chloe Crespi)

Cutlery on the Same Side of the Plate

Make it easy on yourself and your guests. One knife, one fork and sometimes a spoon, all in the same spot, as spotted in this holiday tablescape from Eye Swoon.

(Image credit: A House in the Hills)

Cutlery Above the Plate

This is a little more modern, and gives you more breathing room between place settings if you're trying to fit a few extra guests at a small table. A House in the Hills teamed up with The Hostess Haven to create this modern and feminine tablescape above.

Everything Stacked Up Together

Tuck your cutlery into a folded napkin and place it right in the center of the plate. Or, if you have both a salad and a dinner plate, place the napkin in between and rest the silverware on top. See this and a few more rustic variations on place settings on The Little Lending Company.

(Image credit: Coach House Pictures)
(Image credit: Hostess Haven)

Cutlery in Jars or Folded Napkins at the Center of the Table

It's sort of family style, where everyone helps themselves to what they need. If you're after a more casual dinner party, this easy method is one way to get it. The jars were spotted in Eva Deiberl's Chicago home on The Everygirl, while the napkin idea comes from The Hostess Haven.

Do you stick to a formal place setting for dinner parties, or do you choose one of the alternatives? Does that change for Thanksgiving or the holidays?

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