I know that setting a table the proper way can be a confusing and daunting task. That’s why I’m here to help. Read below for my shortcuts on the what’s what of your table setting – from the difference between an escort card and a place card, to a quick trick that helps you remember which is your bread plate, to finding your drinking glass on a crowded table.
1. Menu: Debating on whether or not to do a menu? For a special occasion, it’s a must. Not only do you give your guests an understanding of what they’re about to eat, but menus add to your table decor and ambiance. Not to mention a nice memento to look back on and remember what you served at your fete.
2. Water vs. Wine: Not sure which glass to fill with water and which with wine? Look to your knife. The tip will point most closely to the water glass. The wine glasses will be slightly more outside.
3. Chair: Leave room for the host to walk behind you. To gauge, place your right hand against the table, your fingers pointing to the left, with your pinky resting alongside the table. Your thumb should reach your torso.
4. What’s for dinner?: Count the silverware to guess the number of courses. The main-course fork will be closest to your plate; anything outside indicates dishes which come before. A soup spoon on your right or dessert utensils above the plate are hints, too.
5. Utensils: If your neighbor’s spoon is so close to your salad fork that you can’t tell the two sets apart, just count: Items on your right (most people’s dominant side) will have five letters – K-N-I-F-E and S-P-O-O-N. On the left, it’s only four – F-O-R-K.
6. Bread Plate: You know it’s small and off to the side, but is yours on the right or left? Try this hand trick to help you remember: With palms outstretched and facedown, touch index fingers to thumbs and stick your remaining fingers up. Your left hand will form a “b” shape (for bread) and your right hand will form a “d” shape (for drink).
7. Place Card vs. Escort Card: This is a common source of confusion. A place card features your guest’s name and is located at the actual table setting. Escort cards are displayed at the entrance, “escorting” guests to their assigned seat via a small number denoting their table.
8. Read the sign: Table signs tell your guests the name of each table so they know where to sit. Make sure they are easy to read so your guests can find their assigned table easily. Typically they are done in number format —1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. But I encourage you to get creative and name them after favorite travel destinations, wines or movie stars instead.
9. Size matters: Larger glasses are for red wine; smaller hold the white. Fluted glasses are for sparkling beverages only.