How to Correctly Lay a Dining Table

As a member of private household staff, it’s important that you are seen as not only educated to a certain level but also knowledgeable of standards which should always be maintained. Although it may not seem particularly important, understanding how to correctly lay a table will certainly impress your employer and show them that you are intelligent in your role. Laying a table properly is also important because it helps the diners have the easiest experience while eating, and therefore it’s important to get right. As a helping hand, here’s our guide on just how this simple art is achieved.

Working from the outside in

To start with you need to work out how many courses diners will be enjoying at the table, picking up a fork and knife or spoon for each. The forks should always go on the left hand side of the place setting with the knives and spoons on the right hand side. They should be placed in the order of usage, with the cutlery for the first course being on the outside and working in until the last course. Also, forks should always be placed with the prongs sticking up and the knives should lay with the blade facing inwards.

The only difference to the rule are dessert forks and spoons. If required, these are placed above the place setting with the fork pointing to the right and the spoon facing in the other direction.

In the case of a buffet rather than a formal meal, both knives and forks should be wrapped in a napkin and placed near the plates so guests can take them before moving on to food

China and Glasses

As the plates will sit in between the cutlery, the last aspect to consider is the china, wine glasses and napkins. Here’s exactly how you do it.


– You should always lay side plates to the left of the place setting.

– If food is to be eaten with fingers, you should provide finger bowls of warm water with a slice of lemon.


– If the napkin is a simple half fold it should be placed either on the side plate on the left or to one side of the glasses to the right.

– If the napkin has a complicated fold then it should be placed in the middle.


– The wine glass should be placed just above the meat knife.

If you are providing more than one wine, use a corresponding number of glasses.