Being a good host for guests at your home is no simple chore, and it often requires a good deal of research to avoid making a complete fool of one’s self. From merely trying to show your friends a good time to attempting to put on a major event for a horde of people (many of whom you may not even know, thus increasing the formality factor), playing the part of the good host requires lots of detailed and carefully coordinated knowledge. One area of prime importance in being a good host, especially in the common circumstance of a dinner party, is being able to set the dining table properly-and beautifully!
Before you even make your first move in this regard, take a minute to stop and think about how you want your dinner event to be: are you aiming for something highly formal, or are you trying to shoot for a more casual affair? These considerations will weight in on the final appearance of the dining table in significant ways, so make sure you’ve got this clear before starting to set the table.
The first consideration is what sort of a tablecloth to use, a decision that will be influenced by the formality of the occasion. Next, a charming dining table requires a brilliant centerpiece: this object, whatever it is, will be the center of attention at the dinner, and furthermore will give you a starting point around which all subsequent decisions revolve. Traditional centerpieces can be flower bouquets in classy vases, aesthetic fruit arrangements, or depending on what you’re dinner will involve it might be a dish itself.
Next comes the placement of plates and silverware: place a dinner plate directly in front of each seat that is to be occupied for the occasion. Keep it neat, and make sure that plates are evenly spaced to avoid people feeling cramped on one side and too distant on the other. The arrangement of cutlery is key, and needs to adhere to the following scheme: to the right of the plate, first there should be the knife (with blade facing inwards) and then, if applicable, a soup spoon; to the left of the plate should be the dinner fork followed successively by tinier forks for salads and appetizers (in this way, the outermost fork will be used first, and the innermost fork used last…makes sense, doesn’t it?). Make sure that the items of silverware line up nicely, with their bases straddling an imaginary line about four inches in from the edge of the table. Glasses should be placed above the knife/spoon on the top-right corner of the plate, and a salad/bread plate placed at the top-left corner. The dessert spoon and/or fork will come last, and they need to be placed between the two previous elements, which is to say at the top of the plate in the center.
Lastly, you will want to arrange the napkins in some sort of way as to catch the eye and create a pleasant effect: there are many options here, with some people preferring to place the napkin directly on the plate in some sort of flowery folded arrangement, while others opt for a neat tuck underneath the silverware to the left of the plate. It’s your house, so you get to choose!
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