Thanksgiving is all about family, football, and, of course, a big Thanksgiving feast served in the dining room on the good china (or your closest equivalents). Even if you don't have gilded china and crystal glasses, Thanksgiving is one of the few times during the year that most of us will put together a fancy sit-down dinner with pretty place settings. So how do you know what goes where? We're here to remind you.
Plates and chargers go first: the charger is the large "plate" that sits under the dinner plate. Chargers, also called service plates, are mostly aesthetic and are used in formal restaurants so that there is never an empty space in front of the diner. They give the table a finished look and can help keep the tablecloth clean, but if you don't have a set, you can set a formal table without them -- just place the dinner plate about an inch from the edge of the table. A salad plate or soup bowl may be placed on top of the dinner plate. To the left, above where the silverware will be placed, place a small bread plate.
Silverware is often considered to be the most intimidating part of a formal dinner table setting, but it's really quite simple: Forks on the left, knife and spoon on the right. The outermost piece of silverware is used first; place the dinner fork and knife closest to the plate, with the salad fork and soup spoon on either side. One twist: If you're using tiny appetizer forks, that piece goes next to the soup spoon. Butter knives are placed on the bread plates. The small fork and spoon that sit horizontally above the plate are for dessert, and should remain there for through the early courses. Set out only the silverware you need -- no soup? No need for a soup spoon.
Glasses can also be overwhelming if you're not used to a formal place setting. There should be at least two stemmed glasses at each place: one for water on the left, and a wine glass on the right. If the dinner will include different wines, set both a red wine glass and a white wine glass next to the water glass. Formal settings may also include a small sherry glass for the after dinner drink, as well as a coffee cup, placed upside-down on its saucer on the lower right, though these are often brought out during dessert. If children will be seated at the table, one tumbler-type glass for their beverage can be substituted.
Napkins should be placed on the left, under the forks, or in the center, on top of the plate(s). Napkins for a formal place setting should be cloth; fold into a simple rectangle or triangle, or try something different. When dining, the napkin should be placed on the lap before eating.
Place cards are the final touch, and are a nice addition to the table setting even for a small family Thanksgiving dinner. Place above the dessert silverware, on the bread plate or on the dinner plate, and your Thanksgiving table is set.
See? Easy. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
For more on setting the table from ShelterPop:
Formal Settings Rules and When to Break Them