How to set a table for a dinner party | Miummium

How to set a table for a dinner party 

Setting the table is something most of us have been doing since we were kids, it's often one of the first chores your parents give you at home, because it’s such an easy job, right? Well, as we get older, and start hosting dinner parties in our own homes, setting the table can turn into one of the most confusing and draining jobs of the whole evening. There seem to be endless combinations and revisions when it comes to table setting, no one can decide what is the proper table setting.  

Unless you’re the Queen of England, the likelihood of someone calling you out on your soup spoon being on the wrong side of the plate is minimal. However, it’s nice to know that you have put effort into setting your table, and it will no doubt be appreciated by your guests. In order to give you a helping hand with table setting, we’ve compiled this useful guide on how best to set the table for every occasion.

How do you arrange a table for a dinner party? (Casual setting)

Let’s begin with the least daunting of all the dinner party table settings, the casual setting. If you’re hosting a dinner party at home, you do not need to be too over the top with the table setting. However, you can still come across as sophisticated and collected with your dinner table, ensuring your guests are impressed. 

Here is a simple guide to setting up your casual dinner party table:

1. First, put down your placemat. 
2. Place your plate on top of the placemat, as centrally as possible. If you are serving a salad, place a smaller salad plate on top of the main plate, again as centrally as possible. 
3. Next, it’s time for the cutlery. Place your fork to the left of the plate and your knife to the right. If you are serving a salad, place a smaller fork on the inside of the larger fork. Finally, set your spoon to the right of the knife. 
4. Regardless of what your guests are drinking, make sure you always have a water glass. This glass should be placed in the top right-hand corner, just above the knife.
5. In addition to the water glass, make sure you have wine glasses. These should be placed to the right of the water glass.  

6. Finally, you must place your napkin. Its positioning is up to you, you can either lay it on top of the plates or under the forks. 

How do you set a formal dinner table? 

A formal table setting is a significantly bigger feat than our previously relaxed casual dinner party setting, but it is doable if you know how. Setting the table for a formal dinner party involves many different stages, as each course must be laid out in its own specific way, after all, it is a special occasion. Although it is daunting, let’s have a look at how to set the table for a formal dinner.

Starting Placement

Your starting placement isn’t that different from that of a casual dinner party, it simply involves more elements to cater for the extra courses you are likely to serve.

1. First, put down your placemat. 
2. Next, place a napkin, that has been elegantly placed into a napkin ring atop of the placemat.
3. Now for cutlery, on the left, you will have a dinner fork placed adjacent to the placemat, on the inside of this fork should be a salad fork and on the outside should be a fish fork. On the right you should have your fish knife in the middle, with the dinner knife on the inside and the soup spoon on the outside. Finally, set above the placemat, there should be a dessert fork, and above that a dessert spoon.
4. In place of a salad plate, at this point in the dinner, we have a bread plate. The bread plate should be placed in the top left, above the forks. A butter knife should be placed directly on top of the bread plate.
5. Finally, you must set out the drink settings. As it is a formal dinner, you must have a place for a water glass, a white wine and a red wine glass. These are all in the top right, above the forks, with the wine glasses sitting on the outside, and the water glass on the inside. 

Soup Course

Now that the base work has been put in place, there is little you need to do for the soup course. You must simply add a soup bowl to the ensemble. The soup bowl goes on top of the placemat, in the center. Once this course is finished, the soup bowl is taken away along with the soup spoon. 

Fish Course

Similarly to the soup course, you’ll be pleased to know, there is not much that needs to change for the fish course. Everything else remains in place, you are simply responsible for adding the plate. This should be a mid-size plate and again should be placed in the center of the placemat. 

Main Course

Now it’s time for the main event. The bulk of the cutlery will have been taken away now, and you should be left with only your dinner knife and fork, salad fork and dessert cutlery. All that’s left to do for this course is to add the large dinner plate atop the placemat.


This is when the table starts to look bare compared to what you started with. The only thing that needs to be added in this course is a mid-sized plate for salad.


We’ve reached our final course, dessert. Now, all that should be on the table from your initial setup is a dessert plate, dessert cutlery and the water glass. However, at this point, you must add a saucer and teacup to the right-hand side of the plate, and this completes the evening's meal.

How do you set silverware on a dinner table?

We have explained the placing of the silverware on the table, but there are some nuances that must also be taken into consideration. We want your dinner table setting to be as precise as possible.

Bread Knife

We’ve already discussed that the butter knife goes directly on top of the bread plate, but in order to be completely accurate, you should place the handle on the right for easy reach.

Dessert Fork and Spoon

If you find that you are running out of space on your extensive table settings, a nifty and sophisticated way to save space is with your dessert cutlery. You can tuck them into each other in opposite directions, with the fork handle to the left and spoon handle to the right.

Main Utensils

There is little to add about the main utensil placing. The forks go on the left, and the knives and spoons on the right. The extra thing to consider here is that the knives should always be blade facing inwards.

How to decorate your dinner table

Now that you have the formalities under your belt, you can start thinking about the fun parts of preparing a dinner party; the decorations. Decorating your dinner table can really elevate the entire experience for your guests, so let's look at a few ideas to get your table looking fabulous:

The Tablecloth

The tablecloth is an easy way to spruce up your dinner table. The options here are endless, from bright block prints to understated lace details, make sure you pick a tablecloth that represents a bit of your personality and fits in with your home.

Table Runners

Not only are table runners beautiful, they are also practical, and can work as a heat protector, running along the center of the table. You can either choose one that complements your table cloth or works in contrast with it, whichever you choose, it’ll look amazing.

Exotic Ceramics

Using plates, bowls and glasses that are outside the ordinary is a great idea and can add a real flair to your table setting. Something as simple as bold colored ceramic plates that add a pop of color can really lift the mood of a room. Similarly, muted, earthy toned ceramic create a more chilled out, boho vibe. The best part is, you probably have a perfectly beautiful set stored in a cupboard at home.


Candles work well with any centerpiece and help to add to the ambiance of the evening. You can mix things up with sizings, scents and candle sticks, the options are endless.


Flowers are arguably the most traditional table centrepiece. Whether you fill the middle of the table with huge bouquets or opt for some minimal botanical accents, they will make a great addition to your table.

How to create the perfect seating arrangement

All this work for your dinner party is ultimately useless if the conversation isn’t flowing, laughs aren’t being had and the atmosphere is stale. A great way around that is to create a seating arrangement that is sure to breathe some life into the party. You know your guests best, so where you seat them is up to you, but here are some ideas if you want to mix things up.

Head of the table

It is customary for the hosts to sit at the head of the table, after all, this is your home, and I’d consider this a good rule of thumb. This allows you to have full oversight of the evening. In addition, if you are part of a couple, it means there will be someone at each end who knows everyone around them, even if they don’t know each other, allowing you to make introductions and keep conversation flowing. 


Don’t feel the pressure to seat couples next to each other. By splitting them up, you're taking them out their comfort zone and encouraging them to spark up unlikely and entertaining conversations with other people. 


Always take personalities into consideration. It’s common sense, don’t put people with strong opposing political opinions next to each other and obviously don’t put people you know don’t get along next to each other. The idea here is to create the most relaxed and harmonious combinations possible, good luck!

Place Cards

Once you have decided on your seating arrangements, creating place cards is a brilliant way to organize it all. Instead of having to tell each person where they should sit, and all the awkwardness that comes with that, place cards set the tone and get people where they need to be. You can have a bit of fun with these, as you can include a joke, or a conversation starter on each one.

Tips to make your dinner party extra special 

Hire a personal chef

You’ve gone through all the stress of setting the table perfectly, creating the perfect seating plan and decorating the table to perfection, maybe leave the cooking to someone else. When you consider how much stress a dinner party can be to pull off, hiring a personal chef makes a lot of sense. You can enjoy the company of your guests whilst ensuring your meal will be cooked to perfection. You’ll also be enjoying a fine dining experience within the comfort of your own home, it’s a no-brainer.


Hiring entertainment is a great idea to elevate your overall dinner party experience. You could hire a singer or a band to create an unbeatable ambiance. You could aso hire a stand-up comic to do a quick 30 minutes set to break up the main and dessert courses with some laughter. Or, you could be extremely adventurous and hire fire breathers to breathe some adrenaline into your home. The possibilities are really endless!