European Table Setting Guide

European Table Setting
A European formal table setting includes a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, three forks, three knives, and two spoons. An informal setting may have fewer utensils, while a basic setting may only include a plate, a fork, a knife, a glass, and a spoon.

Formal Table Setting in Europe

European formal table setting
European formal table setting

A formal dinner has more courses; the more courses there are, the more utensils you’ll need. Here are the common utensils you’ll need for a formal setting:

  • Tablecloth: A clean and crisp tablecloth protects the table and creates a polished and refined look.
  • Tableware placement: Place the fork(s) on the left side of the dinner plate, with the largest fork closest to the plate. Place the knife(s) and spoons on the right side of the plate, with the knife’s blade facing the plate. You can set the dessert spoon and fork horizontally above the plate, with the fork facing right and the spoon facing left.
  • Napkins: Place a folded napkin on the center of each plate or to the left of the forks. 
  • Chargers: Set a decorative charger plate under the dinner plate to add visual interest to the place setting.
  • Soup bowl: If soup is part of the meal, place the soup bowl on the underplate.
  • Bread and Butter: Place a small butter knife and a butter dish on the bread plate, along with a slice of bread.
  • Glassware: Set a water glass above the knife(s), with the wine glass(es) to the right of the water glass. Place a champagne glass between the water and wine glasses at the top. If you’ll serve sherry, place a sherry glass on the right side of the wine glasses.
  • Coffee cup and teaspoon: Place the saucer, cup, and spoon to the knife’s right. The cup handle should face the four o’clock position. The spoon should be on the right-hand side of the saucer.
  • Service plates: A larger charger plate is used as a service plate, placed beneath the soup bowl.
  • Salt and pepper shakers: Place the shaker above the cover with the pepper shaker to the left hand of the salt shaker.
  • Centerpiece: A decorative centerpiece, such as a floral arrangement or candle holder, can be placed in the center of the table.

Also read: Restaurant Table Setting Best Practices

Informal European Table Setting

An informal place setting requires fewer items than a formal one. These include:

  • Cutlery: Place the fork on the left of the plate and the knife on the right, with the blade facing the plate. If you’ll serve dessert, place the dessert fork and spoon above the plate. The dessert spoon should be closest to the plate, and its handle should face right. The fork’s tines should face right.
  • Plate: Place the plate at the center of the place setting.
  • Glassware: Set a water glass above the knife and a wine glass to the right of the water glass.
  • Napkin: You can set the napkin on the left side of the plate or on the plate. 

Basic Table Setting

basic table setting
Basic table setting

As the name implies, the basic table setting is the most common and easiest to set. Here is how to set a basic table:

  • Dinner plate: Place the plate at the center of the place setting.
  • Tableware: Place the fork to the left of the plate or on top of the napkin. The dinner knife goes to the right of the plate, next to the spoon.
  • Glassware: The water glass goes above the knife.
  • Napkin: Place the napkin to the left of the plate, folded neatly or placed in a decorative napkin ring.

Buffet Setting

Buffet setting
Buffet food setup

In a buffet setting, the table should be long enough (at least five feet) to carry the food and the items needed for serving. Here is how you should set your buffet table:

  • Plates: stack the plates and place them on one end of the table where the guests will start serving themselves.
  • Food: start with the hot foods followed by the cold dishes
  • Flatware: place the forks and spoons after the food.
  • Napkins and glassware: these should be at the end where guests can pick them up before sitting.

Learn more: 14 Buffet Etiquette Do’s and Dont’s

How many forks are in European table setting?

In Europe, it’s common to find three forks in a formal place setting: a dinner fork, a salad fork, and a dessert fork. The dinner fork is typically the largest and is used for the main course, while the salad fork is smaller and is for the salad course. The dessert fork is even smaller and is used for the dessert course.

You can also find an oyster fork or a cake fork, depending on the type of food served. An oyster fork is the only fork that goes to the right.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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