Etiquette for Table Setting Using Charger Plates

Formal and informal table settings aren't fussy or archaic. Quite the opposite -- they are practical rules that take the guesswork out of setting a table. The charger plate is the keystone of each table setting by providing the center around which the setting functions and your dinner flourishes.

About Charger Plates

Whether the charger plate is called the "chop plate," the "under plate" or "service plate," it always has the same purpose. The charger plate rests under another food-safe dish, whether it's a soup bowl or salad plate.

  • Chargers vary in size from 11 to 14 inches in diameter.
  • They are made out of many different materials, such as porcelain, metal, rattan and plastic.
  • They can be used with place mats, tablecloths or both.
  • Charger plates help catch any spills or stains that would otherwise stain the place mat or tablecloth.

Proper Etiquette

Chargers are used as part of informal and formal table settings. When used during informal meals, the charger can be used as an accessory throughout the entire meal. The formal rules are more stringent:

  • Each place setting should have a charger, and the chargers should be at least 2 feet from each other to allow adequate elbow room for guests.
  • The charger may be used as a place to rest name cards, napkins or menu cards prior to the dinner.
  • Salad dishes, soup bowls and dinner plates may all be placed on the chargers, but the chargers must be either replaced or wiped clean between each course.
  • Chargers are to be removed from the table after the main course and before the dessert. Chargers are never to be used during the dessert.

Other Uses for Charger Plates

When not in use for formal or informal dinners, use your chargers as part of your decor.

  • Display pillar candles on a charger plate.
  • Rest a vase of flowers, real or artificial, on the charger.
  • Incorporate both flowers and candles as the centerpiece and center a small vase of flowers in the center of the plate and surround it with tea light candles.
  • Display special cakes on the charger, but lay down a doily first.