Your table is the focus of any party where food is served. Depending on the occasion, the tableware and seating plan can be as important as the food you serve.
General rules of thumb for setting a table may include the same instructions when you were asked to set the table as a child: ".... fork on the left, knife on the right!" (with the blade facing inward toward the plate.)
For formal dinners, the rules remain the same, but get a bit more involved. These include where to place the water and wine glasses, the bread plate and butter knife and, later when it's time for dessert .... where does the coffee cup go?
Perhaps even more puzzling, who invented all these rules?
Historians point to the Middle Ages, when members of the royal court finally stopped eating with their hands and fingers to use forks and knives as they feasted. Although different cultures have evolved different customs, this particular setting is now considered the universal way for treating your guests like royalty:
NOTE: Always observe an additional nicety by making sure that the dinner plate is set at least two inches away from the edge of the table. This is so that if any spillage occurs from the plate, it lands on the table - and not in the guest's lap!
While ultra-proper table setting isn't for everyday family meals, it's good to know the rules when having family, friends or important guests to town for special celebrations like wedding receptions, Thanksgiving dinner or the Christmas holidays.
Just up ahead, top Web resources point the way to more established table setting etiquette for casual buffets, formal holiday dinners or wedding receptions, related etiquette for seating arrangements, and more on providing the perfect setting for the best mix of merriment and relaxed conversation...
More about table setting etiquette around the Web:
Setting a Spectacular Thanksgiving Table - Check out this Reader's Digest feature with a complete guide to Thanksgiving table settings including instructions on where to put the place cards, setting up a kids table, and arranging a holiday buffet.