How to Set a Formal Table Setting? (Part One)

  1. The setting of the table sets the tone for the meal.
  2. Table ware for formal dining must be of the finest quality so take out your best porcelain, crystal, silver and damask to make the room sparkle.
  3. The colors of formal dining are white, ivory, and ecru and only solid colors are used.
  4. The table is laid with geometric precision, so align the chairs properly, leaving exactly the same space between each chair.
  5. The spaces between chairs should allow easy movement of the serving staff and enable easy conversation with the neighbour.

Table Linen:

Both table cloths and table mats are acceptable.

Table Mats or Place Mats:

  1. Table mats/Place mats are normally used when there is an exceptionally beautiful dining table which you may not want to cover.
  2. The Table mats/Place mats used must be of fine quality linen with some embellishment like embroidery or lace. Normal table mats made from printed fabric, wood strips, plastic are not used for formal settings.
  3. The table napkin should match the mats or the general table decor.
  4. The Table mats/Place mats should be placed exactly in front of the chair.
  5. The edge of the mat should be aligned with the table’s edge.
  6. The size of the mats should be sufficient to accommodate all the crockery and cutlery.

Table Cloths:

  1. The fabric and pattern of the tablecloth must reflect the quality of the tableware and the formality of the occasion.
  2. The texture of the fabric must be smooth and satiny, the motifs small and subtle to form a rich base for the table ware.
  3. Choose heavy fabric that will fall well, such as damask.
  4. The table cloth should fall over the edge of the table. This is called an overhang.
  5. The overhang for a long table it should not be less than 10 inches. For very formal meals, the tablecloth should hang almost to the ground.
  6. When a large number of tables are used, especially with folding legs, then the tablecloths should be floor length, so that the legs are covered. In such cases, there should be enough gathers on the tablecloth to allow proper seating.
  7. To reduce noise, a protective liner is often laid under the tablecloth. It also gives the tablecloth a soft, plush finish. This liner can be made of assorted materials, such as felt or wool.
  8. The cloth should be well ironed, without any creases whatever.


Napkins must be crisp and properly ironed. They can be put into attractive napkin rings or folded into different shapes. Folding a napkin properly is almost an art form and can beautify any table. They can be placed on the side-plate, charger plate, the main plate or in the water goblet. Will be coming up with some good ideas on this soon.

Table decorations:

Decoration should be such that they do not block the opposite person. So either small arrangements below eye level or very tall arrangements which are above the seated line of vision are fine. Arrangements can be of anything from fresh flowers to dry decorations and candles which are suitable for the occasion. Decorations need not necessarily be in the centre of the table but small decorations can be placed before each setting.

Many beautiful ideas can be found in Martha Stewarts website:

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