Setting a proper table is a perfect way to elevate even the most casual meal.

By Real Simple
Updated January 28, 2011

Setting a proper table is a perfect way to elevate even the most casual meal.

What You Need

  • Table, placemats, dinner plates, salad plates, napkins, flatware, glasses, salt and pepper shakers, casual centerpiece

Follow These Steps

  1. Set placemats, plates, and napkins Lay one placemat at each person’s place, so that the mat’s bottom edge rests an inch or two from the edge of the table. To create the first place setting, rest a dinner plate on top of the placemat. Center a salad plate on top of the dinner plate. Fold a square napkin in half lengthwise, creating a rectangle, and place it directly to the left of the dinner plate.
  2. Place flatware on both sides of the plate Begin on the left side of the plate, laying the salad fork on top of the napkin, toward its outer edge. Place the dinner fork to the right of the salad fork. Place the knife to the right of the dinner plate. The teaspoon goes to the right of the knife. The bottom of each piece of flatware should be aligned with the bottom of the dinner plate. Aha! Make sure the knife’s blade points toward the plate. It’s often considered impolite to allow blades to face outward toward other diners.
  3. Choose and place glassware Place the water glass directly above the top of the knife. To its right, and slightly down toward the spoon, place the wine glass. Tip: Feel free to use tumblers in place of wine glasses for an informal meal—and it's fine to mix stemmed and stemless glasses and different patterns and colors.
  4. Finish with salt and pepper and flowers Place salt-and-pepper shakers near the center of the table, and add a cheery, simple flower arrangement for decoration.