How to Set a Table for a Dinner Party

 

If you're throwing a dinner party for friends and family and want it to really "wow," we've got you covered. Follow along for our advice on how to set everything from a basic table for a casual get together to a formal table fit for royalty. 

Should You Use a Tablecloth, a Runner, or Placemats?

This depends on the formality of your dinner and your overall style. If you have a beautiful farmhouse table, you can show it off and skip a tablecloth for most dinners (unless you want to throw a Bridgerton style gala dinner). 
For casual events you can do placements, or placemats and a charger. A charger is a piece of decor that goes under your plate to add another element of style. It's usually round and is slightly larger than your plate. You leave it there as people eat, but it can be removed at dessert. 
For more formal events, you can do a tablecloth - or if you love tablecloths, you can do them at casual events, too! The rules aren't hard and fast and can be adjusted to your style and taste. 
A runner can be used on its own down the center of a table or layered on top of a tablecloth to add visual interest. You can also use a runner in creative ways, running it across the table from different place settings, like here in our Provence Linen Runner. 

What Utensils Do You Need for a Dinner Party?

This depends on what you're serving. A fork and knife are usually the basics. For most dinner parties, you'll want a dinner fork and a salad fork. 

Do you need a spoon? Well, only if you're serving food that requires eating with a spoon. 
Check out our illustrated guides below for an in-depth look at what utensils to use. 

How to Set a Basic Table for a Dinner Party - What Do You Need? 

Having a simple dinner for just the family? If you just need the basics, this should suffice. You can dress it up with flowers from the garden and a great bottle of wine.
For the simplest, most basic table setting, you'll need:
  • A dinner plate
  • A bowl if you're serving soup
  • A napkin
  • A water glass
  • Utensils, depending on your menu (fork and knife, usually; soup spoon if you're serving soup)
  • And decor, of course: place cards, flowers, candles, etc.

How to Set a Casual Table for a Dinner Party - What Do You Need? 

If you're having a more casual affair but still want an elevated look (no paper plates, please), here's what you'll need: 
  • Tablecloth if you're using one. A runner can go on top of a tablecloth if you choose.
  • If you're not using a tablecloth, a runner and placements will dress up a bare table. 
  • Chargers with a tablecloth are always recommended (at least by us - we love a good charger!) - chargers with placemats are optional but add another layer of decor. 
  • A dinner plate and salad plate. Soup bowl if you're serving soup.
  • A napkin
  • A water glass and additional glass, depending on your menu. Usually a wine glass (red or white, depending on what you're serving). This could also be a champagne flute, if it's a brunch and you're serving mimosas, or a cocktail glass if you're serving a fun signature drink with dinner. 
  • Utensils: fork, salad fork, knife. Add a soup spoon if you're serving soup, and a steak knife if you're serving steak. 
  • And then of course, your decor. 

 

How to Set a Proper Formal Table for a Dinner Party - What Do You Need? 

If you're going all out and setting a formal table for a fancy dinner party or a holiday, here's what you'll need. 
  • A tablecloth is de rigueur for formal dinners. It doesn't have to be crisp white; you can always do something more interesting and colorful, while maintaining the formality of the dinner. 
  • A beautiful charger underneath each plate will elevate your table - we definitely recommend it for a formal dinner.
  • A dinner plate and salad plate. Soup bowl if you're serving soup.
  • A napkin 
  • A water glass, white wine glass, and red wine glass if you're serving all three. If you're not (or you don't have that many glasses), you can get away with just a water and a wine glass... we won't call the etiquette police!
  • Utensils: fork, salad fork, knife. Add a soup spoon if you're serving soup, and a steak knife if you're serving steak. A dessert spoon goes above the place setting. 
  • A bread plate and bread knife opposite the glasses. Your bread plates don't have to match the rest of your dishes! You can mix and match.
  • And of course, your decor. Candlesticks and flowers galore for a more formal setting! 

Shop Dinner Party Decor and Essentials

Shop all of our dinner party decor and essentials at Lavender and Company here. Don't forget to register for dishes, stemware, and tabletop for your wedding, too!