If you’re planning to host a formal Thanksgiving table, you’ll want to pay extra attention to your place settings to make sure everything is correct. Fortunately, once you know the rules, setting a formal Thanksgiving dinner table isn’t difficult. Just follow the tips below, and you’ll have lovely, formal Thanksgiving table settings that your guests will appreciate and enjoy.
Before you worry about the actual dishes and utensils found at each place setting, determine what type of table you want to create. If there will be a floral or other centerpiece, this should go in the very center of your table, with other adornments placed evenly on either side. Choose a tablecloth, cloth napkins, and dishes that coordinate and harmonize with your theme. For Thanksgiving table settings, anything from your good china to dishes with a fall theme will do nicely. Think of a color scheme with reds, oranges, browns, and golds to complete the look. Take into account the number of guests you’ll be serving, and make sure your table is large enough to properly accommodate everyone, since each table setting should be evenly spaced around the table in a formal arrangement.
Planning the Meal Courses
Before you determine your place setting arrangement, you’ll need to be certain about how many courses your Thanksgiving meal will have. Since Thanksgiving is traditionally a large feast with one main course, you can serve it this way with minimal fuss, or choose to spread out your dishes over a series of courses. Decide whether or not you’ll be having a more formal soup, salad, entrée, and dessert progression, or just entrée and dessert. Your choices will affect exactly how you lay out your formal Thanksgiving table settings, so make a firm decision and stick with it.
Setting Each Place
A basic formal table setting starts with a charger in the center. This is a large plate that is not eaten off, but used as a holder for the other course plates until the entrée is served. A cloth napkin is folded and placed on the charger, either in a basic rectangle, rolled with a napkin ring, or for those who are creative, in a shape. Each course’s plate or bowl, such as soup or salad, is placed upon this charger. The charger is then removed and replaced with the entrée plate when the main course is being served.
The only other plate that is constant throughout the meal at each place setting is the butter plate. This smaller, saucer-like plate is placed at the upper left-hand corner of the place setting, above the forks and is used for bread and butter. If you have them, each guest may receive an individual butter knife, which rests diagonally upon the butter plate. This utensil, however, is optional.
The utensils should match the number of courses, and are used from the outside in, so that the last course’s utensil (usually the dinner fork) is closest to the plate or charger. To the left of the charger sits all of the forks to be used throughout the meal. For many meals, this consists of first (from left to right) a salad fork, then a fish fork (usually not present at a traditional Thanksgiving table), and finally a dinner fork. To the right of the charger sits knives and spoons.
Usually for a Thanksgiving meal, utensils such as a salad knife, fish knife, or oyster fork are not used. So the traditional utensils found beside the charger would first be (from left to right) a dinner knife (with the blade facing towards the charger to the left) and a soup or fruit spoon. Simply omit the spoon or add any of the above-mentioned utensils to fit the scope of your formal Thanksgiving table. Dessert utensils should be brought out on the plate with the dessert course. No more than three implements should be present on either side of the charger, so if more courses are being served, simply bring out the utensil with the course.
Finally, glasses should be placed above the knives and spoons in the upper right-hand corner of the place setting. Starting on the left, closest to the charger, and working out, the glasses should be in the following order (omit what you won’t be serving): water goblet, champagne glass, red or white wine glass, and sherry glass. Coffee or tea cups and saucers should be served at the end of the meal before or during the dessert course, and therefore do not appear on the initial table.
Follow these easy rules and your guests will have a formal Thanksgiving celebration they’ll enjoy and you can be proud of.