This is going to be about as basic as you get. I’ll get a little more elaborate next week.
The first step in setting a table is to plan the menu. What you will serve will determine which items need to be set. For example, if you will be serving soup, then your guests will need a soup spoon. Otherwise it does not need to be on the table. If you are serving steak, you may wish to include a steak knife. I will discuss the various possibilities in much greater detail next Monday.
The second step is to decide which style you wish to use. When serving European style, the place settings may become quite elaborate with multiple plates and an array of silverware in front of each seat. When serving Compromise of Family style the plates will all be at the head of the table, waiting for the food to be placed on them before being handed around to their respective places. Again, I will discuss this in more detail later.
In most setting the fork(s) should go on the left of the plate. The knife(s) and spoon(s) should go on the right. The knife should always be closest to the plate with the blade facing inward where it can do the least amount of harm to the clumsy. Spoons and forks should be placed so that the diner can take up whatever is on the outermost edge and be ready to eat whatever will be served next. For instance, if a salad comes first and the salad fork is place on the table rather than on the salad plate, it should be on the outside of the array of forks, furthest from the plate.
Napkins may be place in a variety of places. Placing them under the silverware may create a problem, however, as the silverware must then be removed and may become jumbled at the very beginning of the meal when the napkin in placed in the lap. Optimally, it will go to the left of the forks.
Stop laughing, Anastasia. You know I’m talking about a handkerchief type thing, not a diaper.
The water glass should go to the right, toward the middle of the table. Other glasses, such as wine glasses, juice glasses, etc. should be placed in the same general vicinity.
I will admit that my own table settings have occasionally been rather sparse. I’ve been known to put down nothing more than a plate and a pair of chopsticks.
Drop by next week when I attempt to get fancy with this.