Top Table Laying Tips

9th Feb 2023
Top Table Laying Tips

Laying out an attractive dining table is an important skill if you want to be a great host. It is also a pleasure to see all your efforts in the kitchen laid out the best advantage. A beautifully arranged table sets the perfect tone for an enjoyable dining experience with friends and family. Here are some tips for setting a table for a special occasion.

Table linen

A crisply ironed tablecloth protects your table and can be used to add some colour and texture to the room. Pick an accent colour, such as the primary or secondary shade of the curtains or other accessories in the room, or alternatively go for traditional white. You may need to lay a table protector underneath the cloth to guard against heat and stains.

An alternative to the tablecloth is a table runner that runs along the centre of the table. You can then lay out placemats for each diner. If it is a special occasion or you are having friends or family over for dinner, then you may want to use linen or cotton napkins. Paper napkins are fine for everyday dining. 

Some people like to carefully fold the napkin and place it in the centre of the dinner plate, or use napkin rings. However it is fine to place the napkin to the left of the plate, folded and underneath the forks. 


Set out a placemat (if using) and a dinner plate out at each place, with a fork to the left and a knife to the right. If you are having a starter or side dishes, set out the bowls or salad/side plates. Bowls and salad plates sit on top of the dinner plate, while side plates are placed to the left just above the fork.  

The type of cutlery you lay out will depend on the dishes you are serving. As a rule, the cutlery to be used for the first course should be set furthest away from the dinner plate, so that the starter cutlery is on the outer edge, and the dinner knives and forks are closest to the dinner plate.

Forks are placed to the right, and knives and soup spoons are to the left, with dessert spoons placed above the dinner plate. 


Good quality glassware adds to the interest and beauty of the table, ensure that all your glasses are given an extra polish before laying them out to give them that extra sparkle. Water glasses are placed on the right, above the fork, with wine glasses placed just above this. 

Other items

The centre of the table should have enough room for serving dishes, a water jug, and small bowls for sauces and condiments.

Finishing touches

For a special occasion, you may want to add a few accessories or even a theme to complete the look. Popular choices include long tapered candles in decorative holders, a small vase of flowers, or sprigs of dried seasonal foliage such as leaves and twigs. 

If you are looking for Emma Barclay homeware, please get in touch with us today.