A Formal Table Setting Guide

A Formal Table Setting Guide

While formal dinners are slowly becoming a thing of the past, you will find that they still have a place in today’s society. They are often held to celebrate events such as graduations and other big life milestones. If you would like to host a classy dinner, setting up a proper table is not as difficult as it may seem.

Over the course of this guide, we will give instructions on setting up a formal table, but we will mainly emphasize the positions of knives, both steak knives and otherwise. We will also give some advice on setting up other aspects of the table, but the primary focus will be on knives.

This piece goes hand in hand with our article on steak knife etiquette, so we would also recommend reading that, given a chance, so that you may refresh yourself on the rules of the table. Now, let's jump into the proper way to set the table.

Knife Placement

The knives in a formal table setting will mostly be arranged on the right side of the plate, but there is one notable exception. This exception is the bread/butter knife. The bread or butter knife will be positioned diagonally over your bread plate, with the tip pointing towards the top left of the plate.

Formal Dining

When it comes to the knives on the right side of your plate, you will find that there is a particular order to follow. First, closest to the plate comes the salad knife, which is used for, you guessed it, salad. Next, comes the steak knife, which is positioned in the middle of the three commonly used knives.

Following the steak knife, furthest to the right is placed the fish knife. This may or may not be present depending on whether a fish course will be served at the dinner. Fish knives often feature a hooked tip, used for removing bones from fish.

Forks And Spoons

To the right of your fish knife, you will place the soup spoon, which is wide and deep enough for practical use with soup. After the soup spoon comes to the teaspoon, which is used for mixing your tea. To the right of your teaspoon, you must position the seafood fork, which is used for other types of seafood besides fish.

To the left of the plate, over your serviette, you will place the following forks in order of right to left: dinner fork, fish fork, and salad fork. This layout ensures that you can easily remember which utensil is which, even if you do not recognize the physical differences.


We hope that this guide has made it easier for you to set up your table for a formal dinner. It is not as complicated as it may at first seem, and there is a certain logic to the manner in which the utensils are positioned.

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