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What Side Does the Napkin Go on?

09 January, 23

Table Setup

Proper table etiquette is important to master if you want to make a good impression. Setting the table correctly is a critical part of the mealtime experience. We will be discussing the details of proper table setup, including where to place the napkin and utensils. Plus, we will provide some guidelines for formal and informal table settings

Placement of plates

When setting the table for any meal, from a formal dinner to a casual family gathering, there is an established form of presentation that should be used. After deciding which type of plates and serving dishes to use, the exact placement for each item needs to be decided. A general rule of thumb is to place the larger items on the perimeter of the table and move inward with smaller items.

Plates are usually placed in front of each chair when all guests have been seated. Depending on layout and size, this could be from three inches to eight inches away from the edge of the table. To begin with your plate will typically become your canvas onto which you'll soon assemble food throughout your meal. EaterWare suggests a common practice nowadays is bringing two chargers per guest that are placed under each finished plate. This creates a luxurious finish at your event while also freeing up some space around each place setting.

After you’ve placed all the plates onto their designated spots on the table its recommended start arranging silverware in correspondence order moving right to left or left to right along with their respective roles within a party or foodcourse served throughout your event. It is not necessary but acceptable if knives are conferred directly above plates but it can become confusing and potentially hazardous if done so without facial obscuring linen napkins!

As always give yourself lots of room when arranging silverware as lack thereof make things challenging yet again it being made more hazardous for everyone present at such events! Napkins usually go off-center on top or slightly below forks just above knives allowing for easy access when needed as well as more elegant looks without disrupting deep breathing provided by tablingetup yet further! 

Placement of silverware

In a formal table setting, there are specific guidelines for proper placement of silverware. The general rule is to arrange the utensils in the order in which they will be used during the meal, with those used first placed furthest from the plate and those used later closer to the plate. Additionally, all forks should be placed to the left of the plate and all knives and spoons should be placed to the right.

The specific arrangement will vary depending on your menu selections. Begin by positioning an extra soup spoon directly beside and slightly behind (about 1 inch) your soup bowl if soup is being served. Commonly, place your salad fork (usually smaller than other forks) on the outside left of your place setting next to your dinner plates. The dinner fork sits to its left followed by any seafood fork – if seafood is part of your meal. To finish off this row, position a steak knife on its right side adjacent to all other knives (blade facing inward).

Now turn attention back to your soupspoon and work outward towards drinks glasses with any larger spoons like jelly spoons or sorbet spoons going between pinky finger and ring finger. Now moving from left side of plate – place tea/coffee spoon above top left corner of plate above if cups and saucers present for dessert course which often follows coffee course). If no dessert course or coffee cups follow, place teaspoon next beside knife handles where this row ends – in line with steak knife handle extending outwards away from plate towards cutlery tray or holder depending decor or banquet presentation style preferences.

Finally, small bread & butter knife can be placed near center perpendicular amidst teaspoons/jelly spoons – blade pointing inward towards bowl rim carrying alignment with steak knife blade – if appropriate for particular cuisine type being garnished at table as part of presentation style pertinent to banquet. Adjacent also and lower down will often be found placements for butter spreader(s) – and additional serving pieces such as cheese knives/serving turner(s)/specialty utensils as deemed necessary by service staff members at time for completion of dining ritual – whatever cultural custom observed might dictate. 

Placement of glasses

When setting the table for a meal, the placement of glasses is an important detail. It is important that the glasses are placed on the table in a neat and orderly manner. To do so, begin by arranging them in order of size from left to right on each side of the place setting – starting with the water glass and ending with whatever other glasses you are providing. Level each glass so that they all appear uniform. Generally, it is best to avoid stacking the glasses or nesting them inside one another as this can make their placement appear cluttered and disorganized.

In addition to making sure everything appears neat and uniform, it is also important that you pay attention to where different types of glasses should be placed relative to each other. Usually white wines will be served before red wines, so these glasses should be arranged in that order from left to right – if only one will be served they can go next to each other at the same level. If a champagne or sweet wine will be served, those should go at the top-right above all of the other drinks so they’ll be easy for guests to differentiate from regular wines. Finally, it may also help guests know how many drinks are intended for each person if you add small cocktail napkins on top of their placemats next to their respective drinkware – between each rung or nesting structure of your arrangement works well for this and adds even more decoration to your setup! 

Napkin Placement

When setting the table for a formal event, it is important to understand the proper napkin placement. Napkins are used to keep your lap clean from crumbs of food, to dab your mouth, and to clean up spills. Depending on the event, there are several ways napkins can be placed on the table. In this article, we will discuss the different types of napkin placements and the etiquette behind them. 

Placement on the left side

If there is a napkin holder, the napkin is usually placed on the left side of the plate meze. Generally, when a person sits at the table, one should take the napkin and place it on their lap with care not to unfold it too much.

When eating soup or other items that are prone to splashes, a person may need to use an additional napkin just for that course. This can be done by either taking some of the unfolded napkin from the place setting and keeping it near your body or taking an extra folded napkin and placing it next to your plate.

It is important not to leave your napkin unfolded on the left side of your plate; this is considered impolite as it shows that you do not intend to return for more courses of food throughout the meal. 

Placement on the right side

When dining formally, the napkin is typically placed on the right side of the place setting. The correct side of the plate to place your napkin on will depend on what style of meal service you are experiencing. Whether you are being served a course-by-course meal service or a continental breakfast, it is important to make sure your napkin is properly placed to prevent any awkward moments and inconveniences.

When placing the napkin on the right side of your plate, it should be unfolded with one corner pointing towards you. This simple gesture signals to waitstaff that you are ready for them to begin serving. If you do not yet wish to be served, leave your napkin folded and tucked in at the top left corner of your place setting until you are ready for waitstaff to begin serving.

Ensuring that your napkin is properly placed helps communicate with servers and establishes proper etiquette while dining. It can help create a positive atmosphere in which everyone knows their role and provides a more relaxed atmosphere while still being presentable, courteous and professional. 

Placement on the plate

The standard practice when dining formally is to place the napkin on one's lap as soon as one takes there seat at the table. Placement on the plate differs depending on whether a pre-set place setting has been prepared or if one's own placement is needed once seated.

In either case, the napkin should be placed either directly to the left of or slightly overlapping the left side of the dinner plate. A napkin should not be tucked entirely under the plate, nor should it be placed within an embellished ring that is often set upon a charger plate above or below where the personal dinnerware will sit.

When an informal meal is being served, such as a picnic outside at a park, rules for napkin placement are relaxed and can depend largely upon how casually or formally one wishes to dine. Generally speaking, though, it transpires much like formal dining in that it should still remain visible and easy to reach by all parties sitting at a particular setting and can either be spread out across a lap or draped over clothing entirely as desired. 

Folded Napkins

Achieving the perfect napkin fold can add a touch of elegance to any dining table. But with so many different folding techniques, it can be difficult to know which one is the best fit for your occasion. For a simpler approach, the folded napkin technique is a great way to add a touch of refined style without too much fuss.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of a folded napkin and the best side to place it on

Different folding techniques

There are many different ways to fold a napkin, ranging from the more intricate and elegant designs to simple folds that add a bit of decorative flair. Regardless of your folding technique, make sure that your napkins are adequately sized and laundered prior to use.This way, they will have a crisp finished look. Here are some of the most popular techniques used when it comes to folding napkins:

  1. The classic triangle: This is one of the simplest and most common folds – making a triangle by folding one corner over the other. This shape works well with both square and rectangular napkins and can be used in any setting.
  2. The fan fold: This type of accordion fold requires four folds that meet at its center point – much like an opened fan or flower petal – creating an effect similar to an artichoke head or cotton blossom. This fold works best with square napkins and can be used for more formal settings because of its elegant design. It also holds silverware in place much better without having any extra materials added on top.
  3. The French twist fold: Folding your rectangular napkin into thirds, then twisting each end into each other forms this chic twist on the classic triangle fashion. Fold this style neatly for formal gatherings for classic yet subtly impressive presentation!
  4. The pocket fold: This is great if you have an extra-long or thick rectangular napkin; it acts like a mini pouch or pocket while providing multi-functional use as a place setting item that carries silverware all in one tidy package! It’s also great if you’re feeling creative and want to save space while adding some decorative flair at the same time. 

When to use a pocket fold

The pocket fold is a popular choice for formal dinners, especially when serving food courses with utensils. To create a pocket fold, first fold the napkin in thirds lengthwise. Then fold in half to form a rectangle shape. Place utensils in the bottom portion of the napkin, making sure that forks go on the left side for larger events and on the right side for a more casual occasion.

The top corner of the napkin can be turned down just slightly – no more than two or three inches – or left unfolded depending on your preference and style of service. Placing silverware in the center ensures that guests will have easy access when it's time to eat. For extra flourish, you can also place a fresh flower or sprig of greenery inside the pocket before folding into place. 

When to use a fan fold

A fan fold napkin is a dinner napkin folded into the shape of a fan. This type of fold can be used for formal, but mostly for semi-formal meals or parties. The fan is a versatile and distinct way to dress up your dinner table, and can easily be adapted to any tabletop décor or party theme.

Fan folds are created by folding the dinner napkin in half diagonally from the corner to create a triangle shape. Starting from the point of the triangle, begin folding accordion-style until you reach the end of the napkin. Gently pinch, press, or roll each fold if desired for visual texture. When folded, one side will be slightly thicker than the other due to overlapping layers. Place this side of the napkin facing away from each place setting when using it as decoration at a meal or gathering.

If you would prefer not to use actual fabric dinner napkins, there are many creative paper towel and tissue paper substitutes that can provide that same stylish presentation without compromising your guests' comfort. 

Special Occasions

When you're dining at a special occasion such as a wedding, anniversary, or other momentous events, setting the table correctly is key to creating a memorable experience for all guests. This includes the careful placement of items on the table including the napkin. Depending on the type of special occasion, there are specific rules for where the napkin should be placed.

Let's explore the different types of special occasions and the proper napkin placement: 

Etiquette for formal dinners

For formal dinners, arriving on time is the accepted etiquette. If you must delay your arrival, call ahead to inform the host and offer your apologies. If you are invited late in the evening, arrive as soon after accepting as possible, so that your presence does not interfere with other guests’ enjoyment.

Upon arrival at a formal dining setting, wait for the host or hostess to direct you to your seat. However, if there is no assigned seating and you arrive early, it is polite to greet the rest of the guests first before claiming a seat. Regardless of when you arrive, introduce yourself to all those present; if someone else is handling introductions for everyone take your cue from them and do not interject yourself into another person’s introduction.

The most widely accepted place setting guidelines can be found in Emily Post's Etiquette Handbook or other literature on etiquette. Utensils are used starting from the outside working inwards; each course will have its own set of utensils that may be placed above or below your plate as directed by the host or server. An unofficial rule of thumb states that it may be appropriate for ladies to refuse one of two utensils; for example ladies may only use one spoon for soup and dessert courses instead of two. This rule should not be considered hard and fast; though it has been around for some time it is no longer common nor expected in today’s world. Upon completing a course remove your utensils from their resting positions and place them parallel on either side of your plate signaling that you have finished that portion of the meal. Above all else remember to enjoy yourself! 

Etiquette for casual dinners

For casual dinners, the guidelines that you should follow are much the same as for any other meal. It is important to practice basic etiquette, including showing up on time, being attentive to the host and taking your cues from them during the meal.

When it comes to table manners, it's best to observe good posture and not be overly messy with your food. Make sure to use utensils correctly and keep your elbows off of the table. If you need something from elsewhere on the table or have a request for a condiment or serving of food, ask politely rather than reaching across someone else’s place setting.

You should remain aware of how much of each type of food is left and offer help with cleanup if necessary before leaving. Thanking your host before departing is also essential – appreciate their efforts in providing you with a good time! 

Etiquette for outdoor events

When planning and attending an outdoor event, it’s important to know the etiquette of appropriate behavior. Outdoor events can range from hosted gatherings such as birthdays or weddings to baseball games and campouts, so consider the type of event and the atmosphere you’ll be in. The following are some general tips for navigating through any outdoor event with respect, consideration, grace and minimal disruption.

  1. Respect the host: Follow any specific rules given by the host as well as observing any posted signs at the outdoor space that indicates its use is limited to certain hours or requires permits for large groups.
  2. Dress appropriately: Check with the host for dress code expectations if necessary. Depending on the weather, bring sun protection such as sunglasses and hats, as well as bug spray if needed. If it gets chilly after dark, bring along a jacket or blanket too!
  3. Bring supplies: Depending on how long you’re going to be outside, pack a cooler with drinks (preferably non-alcoholic), sandwiches/snacks or anything else that can withstand warmer temperatures without spoiling quickly. If it is suggested by your host or amongst guests that bringing a gift would be appropriate, check with them beforehand to get an idea of what they might need/want in order to make sure your contribution is appreciated and helpful.
  4. Be courteous: Be mindful of your surroundings when playing music or other types of entertainment for large gatherings; always keep volume levels respectful of those who weren’t expecting loud noise pollution (especially in residential areas)! Additionally – use common courtesy during activities such clean up after yourself so that you leave nothing behind when packing up at the end of an event; no glass bottles (for safety purposes) etc…
  5. Have fun!: Go into events prepared with realistic expectations about what will happen (be willing to let go of things not going according to plan) and don’t forget why you are celebrating in the first place! Show gratitude towards hosts who have gone above and beyond providing their time and resources devoted specifically to making your day special! 

Additional Tips

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when setting the table for a formal dinner is not paying attention to the side on which you place the napkin. Depending on the occasion and type of tableware, there are different rules for properly positioning the napkin. To make sure you get it right, here are some additional tips and guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Napkins should be placed to the left of the forks.
  2. If there is more than one fork, the napkin should be placed between the forks.
  3. If there is a soup spoon, it should be placed to the right of the forks, with the napkin placed to the left of the soup spoon.
  4. If there is a salad plate, the napkin should be placed on top of the plate.
  5. If there is a bread plate, the napkin should be placed to the left of the plate. 

Placement of other items

In addition to the correct placement of the napkin on the table setting, several other items will require proper placement. Most place settings include a dinner plate and may also include multiple glasses for different types of beverage, a charger plate or larger plate used as an elegant presentation piece, cutlery, and condiments.

To properly place the dinner plate, it should be in the middle of the setting with enough space around it. The forks are usually placed to the left of the plate while knives and spoons are placed to its right. For more specialized procedures such as seafood service, there may be multiple forks on either side.

The smaller dishes such as soup bowls and appetizers should be arranged within reach but not blocking access to other plates or glasses.

Glasses generally require less special placements than other dishes. The smallest glass closest to your dinner plate is traditionally for water, while a larger glass is often for white or red wine depending on your choice of beverage for that course. Additional glasses may be provided for each type of drink served throughout the meal if necessary.

Relish or condiment dishes such as butter dishes or salt/pepper shakers should either be placed near each person’s place setting at their own discretion or set in a central location closer to everyone if it is something being shared amongst all at the table – often surrounding wine bottles if applicable. They should not impede access to any dish nor get in anyone’s way during dinner service so proper placement is key! 

How to signal a meal is finished

At the end of the meal, signaling that you are finished is an essential part of etiquette. Generally, all utensils should be laid parallel across the plate in an orderly fashion to show that you have completed your course. Additionally, folding or crumpling your napkin and placing it on the left side of your plate is also a subtle sign to your server that you are finished and ready for the next course. Remember to fold or crumple your napkin if it is a linen cloth—never wad it up or place a soiled cloth on a plate.

If dining in a more casual setting where cloth napkins aren’t provided, simply place any leftover paper napkin on top of your plate. 

How to signal a meal is ready to begin

At the table, good manners suggest that a meal should not begin until all are seated. There are several ways to signal the beginning of a formal or informal meal.

i). Informal meals – If it is an informal setting where everyone knows each other, you can start by simply telling everyone to dig in – keep in mind, however, if there are children present usually adults should be served first or at least asked if they are ready before the children start eating.

ii). Formal Meals – For more formal settings and dinners that have been pre-planned ahead of time, the host can signal that dinner is ready to begin by placing their napkin on their lap followed shortly thereafter by all guests doing the same. Once all guests have their napkins in place and everyone seems ready, you can either give a brief toast to mark the occasion or simply ask everyone to dig in.

It's also important to remember that etiquette regarding passing dishes and utensils differs for both formality and cultural backgrounds. If hosting an international dinner party, research any food customs beforehand so you can honor guests accordingly on formal occasions.



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