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How do you set a silver table service?

Whether you’re designing an entire table display or simply the plate, creating an enticing table, that sets the mood and gives your guests the wow-factor requires a meticulous eye for detail and an understanding of how to set a table properly. 

Here you’ll learn how to set the table, different types of crockery, mapping out a basic table setting or a formal table arrangement.

What’s Silver Service?

It’s a dining service where food is brought to the table, traditionally on silver platters, and served to individual’s plates, rather than plated up in the kitchen and brought to your table. Servers use either two forks, or a fork and spoon in one hand, in a similar grip to chopsticks, to pick up a serving of food and transfer it from the silverware to each diner’s plate.

There’s a real art to silver service, it makes the guests feel special and servers can control portion sizes too.

Placement of Silverware – The Basics

  1. Order of Cutlery

Position the cutlery in order of use.  The outermost layer of cutlery for the first course, then working inward. For example: because salad is eaten before the main, the salad fork should be placed outside the dinner fork (in other words, to the left of the dinner fork).

  1. Match Cutlery to the Courses

Check the menu with the Chef, you should only lay up the silverware that will be used to eat the various courses served. If you’re not serving a dessert or soup, don’t lay the dessert or soup cutlery.

  1. Fork Rules

Forks should be to the left of the plate, with knives to the right.  Just to complicate matters, there are a few exceptions to the rule.   A) The dessert fork should be positioned above the plate with prongs pointing to the right and B) the snail and oyster forks which should be popped on the right.

  1. Knife Direction

Make sure the blades of your knives always face the plate. Apart from the butter knife, which should lay on top of the bread plate, pointing left and down.

  1. Spoons

The dessert spoon should be placed above the dinner plate, pointing to the left, with the handle on the right, all other spoons (EG: soup) should be on the right-hand side of the plate (outside the knives).

  1. Bread Plate

Bread plate should be positioned to the left of the dinner plate.  Run a ruler along the bottom edge to make sure they're lining up.

  1. Napkins

These should be positioned to the left of the fork, or on the bread plate in preparation for the meal.

  1. Spacing

Spacing between crockery and cutlery is important, so your table looks neat and even. Start placing your silverware about an inch from the plate, leaving room for the server to serve. Ensure you line up the bottom edge of the silverware, so it all looks lovely and neat.

  1. Glasses

Angled in a diagonal from the highest point on the inside downward to the right, and on the right side of the plate, sitting above the knives and soup spoon you will need a water glass above the dining knife, then Wine Glass for white above the salad knife, then Wine Glass for red above the soup spoon.

There are many different types of table settings, according to the kind of meal you’re hosting:

  • Russian Service
  • English Service
  • French Service
  • American Service
  • Yacht Service
  • Butler Service
  • Buffet Service
  • Tray Service


For an informal, laid-back meal, this look is perfect.  Everyday cutlery and plates from the kitchen should be just fine, with a lovely floral display to make your guests feel welcome.


But for a more sophisticated, elegant dining event, frequently hosted in private homes, where multiple courses will be served, a formal table setting is required.  You’ll need to keep an eye on the details for this one.   Check your floral displays, number of candles and the length of the overhang from your table runner or tablecloth to make sure you’re not cluttering the setting. Take a step back to make sure the table display looks even from every angle.  

Remember you want guests to be blown away by your stunning table display, eager to take their place for a wonderful dining experience!

For details of our very latest private household vacancies visit our jobs pages or to sign up for one of our many training courses, eg: Silver Service Courses, or Dinner Party & Knife Skills training visit our training pages.

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