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A guide to table setting

A guide to table setting

Thanksgiving is truly a harvest—of family, traditions, and all the pieces that make up a formal table setting. With so many meals eaten on the go, it may not have been since the last holiday season (or was it the one before that?) that you had the opportunity to set a table with all your tableware. Here’s a little refresher on the most common types of tableware and their use on your table, plus a how-to for cleaning and storing your flatware and dinnerware.

As for how to set a table, we recommend Heather Christo’s videos, featuring our Pheasant Run collection. Pheasant Run is a perfect choice for Thanksgiving because it’s decorated with a colorful cornucopia of autumn vegetation and trimmed with hand-applied gold lustre. It also easily mixes and matches with your family heirlooms.


  • When you set a table, start with a charger, the largest plate in a formal table setting. Think of it as a decorative base underneath the dinner plate. Food is not usually served on a charger, although ours may serve as a small passing tray or a large buffet plate.
  • The dinner plate serves the main course of the meal. Measuring 10 to 12 inches in diameter, it is often the plate resting on the charger, serving as the base of the place setting, with the salad plate and soup bowl on top.
  • The bread and butter plate is the smallest plate on the table, usually 5 to 7 inches in diameter. It is placed to the top left corner of the place setting.
  • The salad plate is smaller than the dinner plate and can be placed to the left of the forks or stacked on top of the dinner plate. In our Pheasant Run collection, the dessert plate could also be used for salad.
  • The soup bowl may be placed on top of a stacked salad plate or may arrive from the kitchen when the soup course is served.
  • The dessert plate can also be placed on top of a stacked salad plate but may appear from the kitchen with individual servings. It usually measures 7 to 9 inches across.
  • The cup and saucer are two pieces. The saucer is about 6 inches in diameter with an indentation to hold the cup. The cup and saucer may not be included in the basic table setting but appear prior to dessert.
  • The water glass goes above the dinner knife, dinner spoon, and teaspoon.
  • The wine glass goes to the right of the water glass.


Servingware includes pieces that are used for displaying or serving food to the entire group gathered for the meal. This type of tableware includes bowls like our Pheasant Run Serving Bowl or our Courtly Check Medium Serving Bowl. Large platters and trays, such as the Pheasant Run Turkey Platter, are used to serve the main course, while smaller platters can hold additional side dishes. Other Pheasant Run serving pieces to consider as you set a table are the Pheasant Run Gravy Boat and the Pheasant Run Sweet Stand. The Sweet Stand, which has two stacked tiers, is perfect for hors d’oeuvres or desserts. Finally, the Courtly Check Teapot is perfect for serving a hot beverage following the meal.

Typically, you set a table for a formal occasion with a wider selection of flatware, usually five pieces. Our  Gold Check Flatware includes a salad fork, dinner fork, dinner knife, and two spoons. To the left of the dinner plate, place the salad fork and the dinner fork. To the right of the dinner plate, place the dinner knife with the spoons on the outside. The blade of the knife, by the way, should have the cutting edge facing toward the plate and the food it will cut. The dinner spoon can be used for soup. Some settings also include a dessert fork and a dessert spoon that are placed above the dinner plate. Additional flatware can include serving utensils (like those in the Gold Check Hostess Serving Set), canapé knives, butter knives, and extra-sharp steak knives, if the meal requires it.

Care, cleaning, and storage

  • Do not put formal dinnerware in the dishwasher, where agitation and heat will damage it. Wash it by hand in warm, sudsy water, followed by a rinse and hand drying. A china closet is a good storage option, where you can display and enjoy your dinnerware while keeping it clean.
  • The cleaning of flatware is like dinnerware. Wash it by hand in warm, sudsy water, followed by a rinse and hand drying. Do not wash silver on a rubber mat, which will darken the surface of the silver and leave black marks. To avoid pitting on silver, do not wash silver and stainless steel together.
  • To clean tarnish, use a tarnish-preventive liquid, a nonabrasive metal polish with a base of jeweler’s rouge, or silver polishing mitts made of tarnish-preventive cloth. Polish silver lengthwise to prevent scratching.
  • To prevent tarnish, which is created by warm air, dust, and sunlight, store your silver away from heat or sunlight. Avoid plastic bags, which trap moisture and damage the silver. Instead, store silver in acid-free tissue paper or tarnish-preventive bags. Another way to avoid tarnish is to use utensils made with stainless steel, like our Check Flatware and Gold Check Flatware. Stainless steel contains chromium and other metals that do not tarnish or rust.

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