Holiday Dinnerware Etiquette

My family is quite informal when we entertain guests. I’d much rather host a barbeque than a fancy dinner or cocktail party (this includes events I go to). As a matter of fact, when my husband and I got married we hosted a barbeque at our house for the reception the following day. Is this a bad thing? I guess it is a matter of opinion. I, for the most part, grew up in a small town where formal gatherings are rare. I became accustomed to the more informal party life rather than the fancy dresses, multiple types of silverware, etc. However, I can mingle at the fancier parties just as well, but I’d prefer jeans and tennis shoes.

I figured that not everyone goes for the jeans and tennis shoes approach for all events, so here is some holiday dinnerware etiquette for those of you who aren’t quite sure what fork to use or where to set your wine glass down at.

Fork Placement: on the left side of the plate, starting from the outside working inward are: the salad fork, the dinner fork, and the desert fork. If there are only two forks, then it is just the salad fork and the dinner fork. The desert fork is sometimes brought out just before the dinner course is served. On the right side of the plate, starting from the outside working inward are: soup spoon, teaspoon, and dinner knife (with the blade facing the plate).

Bread Plate: the bread plate will be sitting to the upper left of your plate with the butter knife (spreader) laid diagonally and the handle of the knife to the right.

Beverage Ware: beverage ware will be sitting to the upper right of your plate. If wine is served, then the wine glass will be to the right of the water glass.

Napkin: the napkin, usually cloth, will either be folded on your plate if soup is not being served, or it will be placed to the left of your salad fork.

Do you have a trick for remembering which fork is which?


  1. What I'm thinking is that if people want 20 forks, they can go to a fancy restaurant and knock themselves out! lol

    But, back in NY we used to entertain for various holidays and it was usually a sit-down meal, a late lunch that was basically like dinner. What can I say, where I come from you gotta sit everyone down at a table and feed them for hours…then take a break and feed them again! lol

    There was no bread plate or salad fork, but sometimes we had to have an appetizer fork & plate. And the nightmare of glasses…sometimes as many as 4 per person, with a champagne glass and a dessert drink glass too…or else people would also bring their cocktail glass to the table. I like the way a table looks with all the glasses and candles and such, but boy oh boy, was the clean-up a pain. We didn't have a dishwasher for a while, and besides, most of the glasses were crystal, so all had to be washed by hand. It took forever!!!

    So, lesson learned…these days my idea of a fancy table is one glass each! lol

    1. I love the ‘one glass each’ idea! Personally, I prefer pretty disposable cups 🙂 personally. Then again, I’m not one for doing dishes for hours after eating. I’d much rather sit down and relax :).

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