How to set your Thanksgiving table: Forks, napkins, decor, oh my!

How to set your Thanksgiving table: Forks, napkins, decor, oh my!

Butter knife, steak knife. Bread plate, salad plate, dinner plate. Salad fork, seafood fork, dinner fork. What the fork?? How do you even set your Thanksgiving table?

Ever scratched your head while setting the table and wondered, which side does the napkin go on? And, which utensil goes where? Don’t worry many of us are in that camp. So before your family and friends show up for a Thanksgiving feast at you home this year, let’s go over some fundamental table rules—and shed some light on the mystery of the forks.

Here’s your cheat sheet:

Setting the table

Place forks to the left of the plate; knives and spoons to the right. Arrange from the outside in based on which utensil you’ll use first: for example, on the left side, the salad fork (smaller and wider than the dinner fork) to the far left, then to its right, the dinner fork. On the right side, the knife is closest to the plate with the spoons on the outside.

The venerable Emily Post Institute advises to think “FORKS”—minus the “R”—working from left to right: as in, Forks first, then O representing the plate, then Knives and, finally, Spoons.


Set wine glasses to the right of the plate, just above the dinner knife. The order is: first wine glasses, then the water glass to the bottom right. The bread plate belongs above the fork and napkin (top left), with the knife sitting diagonally across the plate.


The napkin goes either to the left of the fork on the very outside, or if you have three forks in a formal table setting, put the napkin on the plate. When you sit down, unfold the napkin and put it on your lap. If you get up, put it on your chair. When finished, set your napkin neatly to the left of your plate.


Don’t forget that small details can make a big impact on your Thanksgiving table. Try adding a few mini pumpkins or an arrangement of red, orange and yellow flowers for a personal touch that will make guests feel special.

Thanksgiving dinner table setting, pumpkin decor 2

And finally, avoid the temptation to clear the table and start washing dishes…that can wait until after your family and friends leave.

Enjoy the feast. Bon appétit!



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