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Where Does the Fork Go, Again? How to Set a Table

You’ve ordered the turkey, you’ve picked your side dishes and your family has finalized their travel plans. The holidays are almost here! If you’re going to spend the hours (and cash) necessary to cook the perfect holiday meal, why not take a few extra minutes to make sure it looks nice on the table, too? Cranberry sauce eaten on your good china with your real silver tastes at least twenty percent better. We promise.

It’s easier than you think to impress your guests with a proper place setting – just follow these simple rules. And remember, no elbows on the table!

Photo: Cake with Giants

Start with Plates

Use your plates as anchors for the rest of your setting. Make sure they’re far enough apart so your lefties and righties won’t be bumping elbows. A good rule of thumb is to leave about two feet of space between plate centers. If possible, make sure they’re evenly spaced. Note: Salad and bread plates go above and to the left of the dinner plate.

Next Comes Glassware

Drinks may not get the spotlight during the holidays, but they’re still an important part of your feast. Water glasses go to the right of the plate and wine glasses go to the left of the water glass (but still on the right side of the plate). If you’re going to be serving coffee after dinner, don’t break out your coffee cups until it’s time for dessert!

Then Forks, Spoons and Knives

Place your silverware in the order of its use, from the outside in. So your first course fork (probably salad, right?) goes on the outside, and then your main course fork. If you can’t tell the two apart, remember that the salad fork is smaller. Forks should be placed on the left side of the plate, knives and spoons on the right (except for your dessert spoons – those go above the dinner plate). Place all your knives so that the cutting edge faces towards the plate, and make sure the bottoms of your utensil handles all line up.

Now Add Your Flare

By flare, we mean napkins and decorations. All of your napkins should go to the left of the forks. As for the cloth vs. paper napkin debate, we’ll let you pick your own side. The tradeoff? Cloth napkins are greener, but paper napkins make for a much easier clean-up job!

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