Correctly setting the table's utensils or silverware typically depends on the menu -- whether it's an everyday dinner, an informal meal or a five- or six-course formal spread. Generally, the way you set the place-setting's silverware for an event doesn't change, but the number or type of knives, forks and spoons might.

Day-to-Day Dining

For a basic silverware or place setting or for an everyday meal, place the utensils next to the plate in the way they're typically picked up:

  • Place the dinner fork to the left of the plate.
  • Set the dinner knife to the right with the blade facing the plate.
  • Lay the teaspoon to the knife's right.

Informal Form

An informal three-course meal usually requires at least a couple more utensils than for everyday dining. Add to the basic setting by laying a salad fork to the left of the dinner fork and a soup spoon to the right of the teaspoon, depending on what you're serving. The idea is to work your way inward as you consume the meal, picking up the utensils placed farthest from the plate as each course is served.

Formal Formalities

Plan your formal silverware layout by the foods you'll present. Again, position each piece according to the order you plan to serve the meal, with the first-used utensils farthest from the plate -- forks on the left and the knives and spoons to the right. Additional silverware for the setting may include:

  • Fish fork and fish knife
  • Oyster fork
  • Fruit spoon

If your setting includes a butter plate to the upper left of the dinner plate, lay the butter-spreading knife diagonally across the plate with the blade down and handle pointing right, toward the other knives.

Before serving dessert, bring the appropriate spoon or fork to each guest, delivered on the dessert plate.