Hosting a dinner with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whether it’s an intimate dinner with your other half or a celebratory get-together for ten, nothing says occasion like an expert table setting arrangement. Find out how to select the right type of linen, pick between different types of cutlery and which glasses to place where with our table setting guide.

white plate with silver fork, knife and spoons

Tablecloths and linens form the foundation of your table setup, setting the tone for the decorative scheme and protecting against spills. Picking the right material will preserve your furniture, leaving you to focus on entertaining. Put guests at ease by opting for darker colours that are less likely to magnify stains. Tablecloths and napkins are often available in poly-cotton or cotton variations. When choosing between the two, bear in mind that the latter is more prone to wrinkling and staining.

Provide each guest with a coaster and placemat, and use a heat, stain and moisture resistant table protector underneath your tablecloth to protect the entire surface.

Add a decorative central runner and coordinating napkins at each place, complete with napkin rings. If you have some time to go the extra mile, try learning a folding technique. With practice you’ll be able to transform each place setting into a miniature work of art.

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white plates and bowl on a brown wood table

After setting the tablecloth, runner and linens, you can choose to contrast or continue the theme with tableware. Think practically when choosing the best tableware for your needs and consider what food you will be serving.

Porcelain tableware is the traditional choice, but there are many affordable alternatives that are less prone to shattering and scratch marks. It’s best to leave porcelain and glass for special adults-only occasions to avoid any accident-induced stress.

If you’re serving a tapas style menu you’ll need spacious serving plates and platters. A heartier menu, however, works well with heatproof earthenware serving dishes. Place them in the oven until you’re ready to serve your food so that guests enjoy a piping hot meal, but don’t forget that earthenware is more breakable after radical changes in temperature. Add extras such as butter dishes, gravy boats and seasoning shakers as needed.

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wine glass, champagne glass, cocktail glass and a beer glass

With so many types of drinking glassware to choose from, it’s easy to go overboard. Instead, remember that less can often be more. As a rule, you needn’t use your best drinking glasses for a casual gathering. Be accommodating to guests by pairing your glassware to their chosen beverage. No matter what everyone drinks, ensure you have water jugs and tumblers to hand.

A celebratory dinner isn’t complete without a toast, and what is a toast without a champagne flute? Keep these on hand but off the table. The same goes for post-meal coffee and teacups, and cocktail glasses if the occasion calls for it.

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Illustration of a knives, forks and spoons

Few areas of table setting etiquette cause as much confusion as cutlery. There isn’t a major difference between most forks and knives on offer, but choosing a subtly distinguished set can elevate the overall impression of your meal. Browse our range of serving and dining cutlery, matching a traditional or sleek, modern aesthetic to the mood of the evening.

If you’re not sure how to lay your cutlery, don’t worry – our visual guide will help.

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Illustration of how to lay out your table setting

We’ve created an illustrative guide for assembling your formal table setting, piece by piece. These are simply guidelines – you may find you need to add or subtract elements based on your occasion or personal taste.

Glass vases in small, medium and large

Choose from the following final decorations to truly set your dining table apart:

  • Candles or fairy lights

    These are great for romantic evenings. Stick to unscented candles to give centre stage to the aromas of your food.

  • Name settings

    Personalise a larger gathering with handwritten name settings – calligraphy always looks impressive.

  • Flowers

    Create several smaller floral arrangements to place along the table instead of a single large arrangement that could stop guests from seeing each other!

  • Lanterns

    Technically these will not be placed on the table, but if you have limited space for decorations you can make use of lanterns. Line them along your garden path or hang overhead in the dining room.

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Frequent entertainers tend to make bolder choices in linen, tableware, cutlery and glassware. If you’re new to hosting, however, you might prefer to start with a classic matching set of items in neutral colours. That way, even if you only host two dinners a year you’ll be able to use them again. Explore our dining selection for dinnerware, glassware, cutlery, table linens and placemats.

Take your time planning each element of your dinner party, and mull over investment purchases until you’re sure.

When the night finally arrives, remember to have fun! There’s no better ingredient for successful dinner party than a happy, smiling host.