Food Gadgets

How To Set A Table For Formal and Informal Dinner Parties

August 13, 2018

Dress to impress: dinner party table settings

Dinner parties are a wonderful social experience, both to attend and to host. But, like with any fashionable trend, the expectation changes by the year. How should you dress your dining table when hosting a dinner party? What are the key differences between formal and informal parties?

In the following guide, provided by AC Silver, retailers of antique silver we’ll give you pointers for a perfectly presented dinner party table, whatever the event.

Formal parties

Perhaps you’ve invited your boss over for dinner, or you’re the host of a special occasion within the family; perhaps a relative has popped the question to their significant other with a beautiful antique engagement ring, and you want to host a party of equal elegance to celebrate! In this instance, you might wish to lean towards a more formal table setting. A formal table will have pre-set cloth napkins — and potentially antique silverware and glassware — as well as a quality tablecloth and elaborate centrepiece. Candelabras, sterling silver wine ewers and antique claret jugs ae also perfect for setting an elegant dining tone.

In-keeping with tradition, an empty plate is set before the guests for each course. A server would then bring in the food and offer it to each person in turn, rather than placing plated-up food on the table. However, this is quite old-fashioned, so you may prefer to serve your guests already-filled plates/bowls for each course. If you’re hosting a formal dinner party, preparing up to six courses is a generally accepted rule, which will often include a starter, fish course, meat course, dessert, and cheese.

Setting a table for a formal dinner party

Cutlery placement is important when setting a formal dinner table.

The plate should be in the centre, with the forks to the left and the spoons and knives to the right. When it comes to the dessert fork and spoon, these must lie above the plate — the fork below the spoon — with the former pointing to the right and the latter, to the left. Next, all side plates go to the left of your dinner plate, while napkins go on the side plate — or you can put these on each dinner plate, if you prefer.

Here are some important points to consider when setting a formal table:

  • All cutlery must be placed in the order it will be used — starting from the outside and working in.
  • Your knife blades should face the plate, while all fork prongs must face the ceiling.
  • Serving salad and soup? The salad must be served on a salad plate, which is placed on top of the dinner plate. The soup bowl then goes on top.
  • If you’re serving red and white wine, they must have their own glasses. These should sit above the table knife, on the right-hand side.

Each dish should be tidied away when the course is over, and it’s vital that your guests have everything they need to dine already on the table.

Informal parties

You may be hosting a less formal affair, such as a dinner party for some friends. The entire atmosphere will be more relaxed and there’s less of a need to use your finest china and silverware. However, that doesn’t mean your table shouldn’t look nice and you could still use attractive centrepieces — such as an LED vase or decorative wooden bowl, if you wish.

Your table will have less cutlery and flatware than for a formal party, as all the food will be out for the guests to pick from. An informal dinner party can also be comprised of a single course or standard three. Go for the typical ‘starter, main and dessert’ dining structure, or simply cook up a hearty main meal and let your guests chat, laugh and drink as they dine.

Setting a table for an informal dinner party

With an informal dinner party, you have more room to let your creative side out, as there’s less rules involved. However, you still want to create an attractive setting.

A good idea is to pick a theme. Whether this is simply a colour, or you want to go for something quirkier — like the seaside or fairy tales — a theme can really bring your informal dinner party to life. Get tablecloths and runners that complement your chosen theme and put out handmade crafts on the table to add personality. Why not also tweak formal table setting trends to make them more casual? For example, you can use wine corks, toothpicks and paper to make fun place card holders for each guest or opt for colourful, simple tealights to illuminate the table without the need for ornate candelabras.

Informal parties are a great place to serve interactive dishes, like gourmet burgers or fajitas, so your guests can make their own combinations. Put everything out on the table in one go so that your guests can pick and choose which ingredients they want to eat and pass food around for a more sociable atmosphere.

It’s a wonderful social experience to host a dinner party. Simply choose how formal or casual you wish the evening to be and use the appropriate tableware and dining etiquette to set the ideal tone!

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