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Dinner Party Do’s & Don’ts: From how to correctly lay the table, nail seating plans and sending thank you notes – Allens has you covered!

27 Sep 21

In this blog we’ll share some do’s and don’ts for planning and hosting dinner parties – including a guide on how to correctly lay a table, creating the best atmosphere via a seating plan and even solving the conundrum of thank you cards.

How to correctly lay a dinner table

We know it might sound like a basic task but laying the table correctly will set the tone for your evening. Formal and informal dining will require different settings, so we’ve created a handy visual guide to help you nail your dinner setting.

Informal and Formal Table Setting Etiquette

DO follow basic etiquette

No matter the formality, you should follow the following three rules:

  • Place forks and knives in order of use and only set out cutlery that will be used
  • Side plates should sit on the left of the dinner plate
  • Glassware should be set above and to the right of the dinner plate with a red wine glass, a white wine glass and a water glass
  • Forks go to the left and knives to the right of the plate
  • Dessert cutlery should only go above when space is at a premium

If you’re looking to create a formal setting and planning to serve multiple courses – you should follow these etiquette tips for laying a table….

DO provide enough cutlery for the number of courses you’re serving

Formal setting etiquette

Formal Table Layouts

For a formal table setting, it is likely that a diner will be enjoying a number of courses. As stated above, knives and forks (and soup spoons) should be placed in the order of use with the utensils for the first course on the outside and ending with the dessert course (or whatever is appropriate).

DON’T get your left and right mixed up – Forks to the left, knives to the right

Desert forks and spoons can be placed above the plate.  If there’s enough room they are also often placed in the appropriate sequence to the side of the plate, fork to the left, spoon to the right.

If you are serving a fish course a fish knife and fork will need to be set in the appropriate sequence although it has to be said that fish knives and forks are rarely used in the majority of modern settings. If you are serving bread as part of your meal you will need to lay a butter knife across the bread/side plate.

Informal table setting

Informal Place Settings

If you are having an informal table setting, you should still follow the basic etiquette rules above, however, it is unlikely you will need as many items of cutlery. For an informal setting, you will only need a dinner knife and fork and maybe a dessert spoon or fork.

Whatever style or formality you opt for, our collection of tableware and glassware is used by luxury venues and for exclusive events, so we’re sure to have the perfect set for your dinner party.

Planning seating arrangements

With your table set, you’ll need to think about seating your guests. We’ve provided some tips on seating arrangements you can follow:

  1. DON’T let your guests choose their seats – In order to encourage mingling and help people get to know each other, we’d recommend planning where you’d like your guests to sit in advance. This way you can seat people based on shared interests and ensure no one feels left out.
  2. DO create place settings with name cards to identify where you’d like people to sit. This should enhance the theming (if suitable) and act as a talking point.

Here are some examples that have been used at some of our client’s events:

Place Settings

  1. DO position yourself at the head of table. This is the designated Host seat and will allow you to quickly exit to the kitchen, to drive conversation if necessary or guide the course of the evening – guests will take their lead from the host
  2. DON’T sit couples together, have them sit separately to help conversation flow and sit singles together

Thank you notes

Sending thank you notes after a dinner party may be viewed by some as an old-fashioned practice, but if you’re wanting to follow dinner party etiquette then thank you notes are a must!

As the host, once your dinner party has concluded your work is done. By selecting, inviting and hosting your guests you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain and generally aren’t expected to send thank you notes.

As a guest however, once the evening has ended it’s your turn to be gracious. Here are some tips for sending thank you notes after a dinner party.

  • DO send your note as soon as possible after a dinner party, experts suggest a week deadline
  • DO thank the host for inviting you, before thanking them for hosting and serving a delicious meal
  • DO include a personal comment or anecdote from the evening – perhaps a memory or joke from the evening that will make the host feel appreciated
  • DON’T include any negative comments about the meal, guests or evening and withhold any criticism or suggestions for what could be done differently. This is a positive message and you want to appear grateful
  • DON’T just send a ‘thank you’ text or whatsapp. Whilst this might be the easiest, fastest and most modern option it isn’t considered polite or sufficient by etiquette experts. Handwritten, posted notes are deemed most appropriate and the more elaborate or expensive the dinner party, the more intricate the note should be. This is just a token of your appreciation to the host.

Next time you’re hosting or attending a dinner party, we hope these tips come in handy. If you’re planning your next dinner party, browse our stunning collection of classic and contemporary dinnerware, cutlery and glassware to help set the scene and create a memorable evening.