How to set the table – Robert Welch style

Whether you're hosting a celebratory meal, a formal dinner party, a girls lunch or an evening meal with the family, here's our basic guide to table setting etiquette.


Dinner plates
Place dinner plates in the centre of each place setting, in-line with the chair that sits at that space.

Side plates
The side plate should be placed above the forks to the left of the dinner plate with a butter knife placed on top.

Bread and butter plate
Also known as a side plate, this smaller plate is to be placed to the left of the forks. It is also acceptable to set it slightly above the forks, ensuring that it always remains left of the dinner plate. Complete with a butter knife (or butter blade) placed on the plate horizontally with the blade turned to the left.

A water glass and white and red wine glasses should be placed above to the right of the dinner plate. If there is going to be a toast, a champagne glass should also be added to the right of the other glassware.

Cutlery placement
Cutlery should be arranged on the table following the sequence of the menu, starting from the outside and moving inwards with each meal course.

Forks are to be placed to the left of the dinner plate and knives to the right, ensuring knife blades face inwards. Soup spoons should be set on the right side of the knives.

The dessert fork and spoon should be placed above the dinner plate. Handles should point to the hand that will pick up that piece of cutlery, i.e., fork handle points left, spoon handle points right.

Extra cutlery
There is a wide selection of specialist cutlery available which is a useful addition to your formal table setting and ideal for serving something a little different. Our Radford cutlery range includes a wide array of such items like Steak Knives, Pastry Forks, Oyster Forks, Fish Eaters, Snail Tongs and Lobster Picks. Like other cutlery items, these should be placed in order of use.

Serving utensils should be placed in the centre of the table if guests are to serve themselves. Serving spoons, carving fork and knife and even cake servers for dessert are added to the centre of the table with the different dishes.

Adding some extra accessories will enhance you table décor and give it a special touch.

A tablecloth
Using a crisp white linen tablecloth will always make your dining experience feel like a special occasion. In terms of size, the general rule of thumb is your tablecloth should hang at least 20-30cm down from the edge of the table top, but no closer than 15cm from the floor.

Using a table protector under your tablecloth is a good idea to prevent the table from being marked or damaged by heat or spillages.

The placement and folding of the napkin in the table setting is an individual preference. Napkins can be folded in half and set to the left of the plate or underneath the forks. Alternatively, they can be folded and placed in the centre of the dinner plate. Using Napkin Rings can also add a sense of occasion. Linen or cotton napkins are a good choice for formal dining and good quality paper napkins are suitable for more casual settings.

Adding beautiful barware to your table will add height and interest. Items like our Drift Wine Cooler and Drift Champagne Bucket are both aesthetically unique and highly functional, adding a theatrical element to your dining setting.

Cup and Saucer
Once guests are ready for tea or coffee, the cup and saucer should be set to the right below the glassware. This will be following the meal, either during or after dessert, once the table has been cleared. A suitable spoon should accompany for sugar and stirring such as our coffee spoons which will add an elegant touch to your setting. Tea serveware including the teapot, sugar and milk jug plus cake stands can be placed in the centre of the table with the desserts to allow the guests to help themselves.

Finishing touches
A range of additional décor items are available to bring some extra personality to your table. Candlesticks, salt and pepper mills, name cards, flowers and napkin rings can all add a special finishing touch to dress up your table.

Adding texture and colour will add warmth and help make your guests feel welcome. Keep a collection of these little extra items on hand enabling you to change and mix it up to fit the occasion.

Add Texture
Layering of different textures will add an extra dimension to your table. Try textured cutlery such as our Honeybourne range which will add interest and catch the light beautifully with its unique textured handles.

Using placements made from natural fibres together with either matching or contrasting tablecloths is a nice touch. Adding natural greenery or vases of flowers will add some colour and height to your setting.