Featured — 19 November 2012


By: Jodie Shield, RD

Thanksgiving is only days away. Your menu is set – turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie – but what about your table? Where does the salad fork go? Which way does the knife blade face? In our grab-and-go-meal society, it’s easy to forget how to set the table. Unfortunately since good manners are not genetic, kids need to be educated about the tradition of table etiquette. Years ago I discovered the fine art of delegating table setting to my daughter Jenni. She learned an important social skill; I gained a few extra minutes of socializing before the feast! Here are some of the fundamentals of table setting. Consider it a refresher course for you and a crash course for your kids.

Basic Place Setting


I use this table setting format when we eat family dinners at the kitchen table. Notice the position of the eating utensils: fork, knife, and spoon. According to the Emily Post Institute an easy way to remember where to place eating utensils is to picture the word “FORKS.” The order left to right is: F for Fork, O for Plate Shape, K for Knives and S for Spoons. What happened to the R? Go ahead and forget it, you get the idea.

Always place your drinking glass to the top right of the dinner plate. If you use a bread plate, place it to the top left of the dinner plate, above the fork, with the butter knife resting on the edge.

Semi-Formal Place Setting

semi formal 

I use this table setting format for our Sunday sit-down family dinners in the dining room. It’s recommended by the Emily Post Institute for three-course meals so it would work well for your Thanksgiving table. You’ll notice that the napkin is in the center, but you can also place it to the left of the forks (or under them) as you saw in the Basic Place Setting. You will also notice that there are extra eating utensils. The rule of thumb here: utensils are placed in the order of their use – from the outside in. So assuming the salad is served first, the salad fork would be placed on the outside left in front of the dinner fork. Likewise, the soup spoon would go on the far right in front of the dinner spoon. If you have enough room on your table, place the salad plate to the left of the salad fork. Also, if you want to add a dessert fork or spoon, place them horizontally above the dinner plate. The spoon goes at the top with the handle facing the right; the fork underneath with the handle facing the left.

Fancy-Formal Place Setting



I confess. I have never used this table setting format with my family – too many dishes to wash! But you will want your kids to be familiar with it should they happen to eat out at a fancy restaurant or wedding. Not sure what fork or spoon to use? Again, remember the outside in rule (see the paragraph above) and everyone’s manners will be intact!

Hopefully some of the lessons I’ve learned about teaching my kids how to set the table will de-stress your holiday dinner. If you have any table setting tactics you’d like to share, please let me know. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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(4) Readers Comments

  1. Wow, thanks Mom! haha but anyways I’ll make sure to dazzle all of my friends with my table setting skills 🙂 You’d be suprised how many of them don’t know how to do it the right way!

  2. The settings look great. Am I correct to think that the wine glass sits to the right of the water glass, or vice versa? Please let me know. Thanks.

    Genie Lancaster

    • Jodie

      Hi Genie! Glad you like the table settings. You are correct – the wine glass sits to the right of the water glass which should be placed directly above the knife on the right side of the plate!

  3. Pingback: Dinner: How to Just Do It! Jodie Shield - Champagne Nutrition

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