How to Set Up Cutlery

The ambiance and aesthetics of the dinner table contribute a large part to the success of a dinner party. Coordinated china, cloth napkins and the correct cutlery play key roles in this success. Arranging the cutlery in the correct order for a multi-course dinner makes it easier for your guests to use the right utensil at the right time. Ensure that you have enough cutlery for all your guests for all the courses, and that it is clean and polished. Set the place mats, napkins, plates and glassware at each place setting and then lay out the cutlery.

Decide on the order of the courses that you will be serving. In a formal dinner, the sequence is usually soup, fish, the main course, salad and dessert, ending with the cheese course. Group all the cutlery for each course together.

Take a soup spoon and place it to the right of the plate, about 2 inches away. The spoon should be pointing toward the middle of the table, eating surface facing up. The bottom of the spoon's handle should be level with the bottom rim of the plate.

Place the fork for the fish to the left of the plate and about 2 inches away. The tines of the fork must point toward the center of the table. Place the matching fish knife between the soup spoon and the plate, 1/2 inch from the spoon. The blade of the knife should face in toward the plate and not toward the diner in the next seat. The bottom of the knife and fork handle should be level with the bottom rim of the plate.

Position the knife and fork for the main course next. If the course is pasta, replace the knife with a spoon. The knife goes between the fish knife and the plate, 1/2 inch from the knife, with the blade turned inward. The fork’s position is to the left of the fish fork, again 1/2 inch away and lined up along the bottom edge of the plate.

Place the salad fork to the left of the main course fork, lining up the bottom of the utensil’s handles. If the salad contains items for which a knife is needed, add one on the right side of the plate, between the plate and the main course knife.

Place the dessert fork and spoon above the plate. The fork should be 2 inches from the plate, with the tines facing to the right. The spoon sits above this, with the bowl facing to the left. Once again, the cutlery pieces should be 1/2 inch apart.

Position the bread plate to the left and slightly above the main plate and place the butter knife horizontally across the middle of the plate. This is for the cheese course. The knife should point to the left, with its blade facing the diner. Place the coffee spoon to the right of the coffee cup.