Follow these tips for a special-occasion dinner, an informal lunch, and a Sunday brunch.
A formal setting isn’t meant to be “overcomplicated or just plain pretty,” says Eric Ripert, executive chef of Le Bernardin, a four-star restaurant in New York City. “The order of everything on the table is logical.” This table, featuring handpainted dishes by Pupilles et Papilles at Michael C. Fina, is set for a first course of soup, followed by a salad, an entrée, and a dessert. Use the Place-Setting Cheat Sheet as a guide.
A charger, or presentation plate (shown under the soup bowl), holds a spot for the dinner plate and should be removed after the salad course. In all but the most formal settings, you can forgo chargers, but etiquette sticklers swear by them, insisting guests should never walk up to a bare table.
All flatware should be evenly spaced, about a half inch apart.
People typically reach for water more often than wine, so the water goblet goes above the knife tip, with wineglasses (red above white) to the right.
If space allows, place the napkin to the far left, so as not to disturb the flatware.