Just remember one thing first – every time the plate/bowl/cup changes, you use clean silverware. It is socially “tacky” to eat off a different plate with the same utensil. And it is so easy to remember which silverware to use. First of all, you will never have more than two plates in front of you at a time (one of those is normally a bread plate with a squigly looking butter knife) to your left. All other plates will be placed right in front of you. Every time the server takes a plate away, he/she will replace it with another.

Now comes the fun part. You will start using silverware from the outside in. That means that the first knife and fork you will use (the ones furthest away from the plate) will be a fish fork or soup spoon. The really great thing about formal place settings is that your server knows exactly what to do if you do not. For example, if you go to a nice restaurant and see the formal place setting on the table but then order a salad, entree and desert, your server will automatically take away the unneeded silverware. So, he/she will leave you with a salad fork and knife, a dinner fork and knife and a bread plate and knife.

The same holds true for glasses. There could be up to five glasses on the right of your plate – water, champagne, white wine, red wine and sherry glasses. You don’t need to know all of those different glass shapes and locations, you simply need to know the ones you will be drinking out of because your server will take away un-needed ones. For a teen outing you will probably only need a water goblet and maybe an iced tea glass (which could be another water goblet).

One of the more fun utensils is the oyster fork (which looks like Neptune’s spear) which is the only fork to the right of the plate.

A couple of things to remember to eat properly is that the fork is always held in the left hand (even if you are right handed) and the knife is in the right hand. Remember to keep the “tines” (the fork’s prongs) pointed down and never talk with your silverware (in other words, don’t motion or swing your fork and knife around while you talk).

Dessert utensils are never put on the table beforehand but are brought out with the dessert so that is one less spoon/fork you have to worry about.

Formal place settings are not difficult at all just remember that high-end restaurant servers are expected to know how to serve you and accommodate your order with the proper silverware and glassware so it takes some of the worry off you. But if you want to brush up on your table setting skills, a great site to visit is www.emilypost.com.

Now put your napkin (which is on the plate in front of you) in your lap and enjoy your meal.


  1. Table setting
  2. Genetically Modified Salmon Debate
  3. The Formal Place Setting – The Emily Post Institute, Inc.

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