I’ve had a few comments asking about napkin placement when setting the table. Does it go on the right, left or center? Unlike the game, there are no dice to roll to tell us the answer. It ultimately depends on the formality of the meal, so allow me to guide you through it.
For the most formal eating occasions, the napkin is in the center, either on the plate or charger. Although the only silverware on the table during each course is what is to be used during said course, the table is fully set until the first course is served. At that time, everything is removed other than what is needed for that course. This is when having help comes in handy. Alas, most of us do not. From this stems what most Americans consider formal…the “working in” method, with the utensils to be used first generally on the outside. Even in this instance, I would recommend that you place the napkin on the plate. One extra benefit of this is it encourages people to immediately put their napkin on their lap, which is in accordance to etiquette.
For less formal occasions (even those still involving china), you can place the flatware directly on top of the napkin or place the napkin directly to the left of the fork(s).
For a typical place setting, you have one fork (two at most, as shown in photo), a knife and a spoon. I would recommend placing the napkin to the side of the fork(s), unless space is an issue. This biggest concern with placing the napkin under the fork(s) is the potential fumbling when people pick the fork(s) up and try to replace them.
If you are uncertain, err on the side of caution, and place the napkin on the plate. No one will notice that you don’t have servers; they’ll be too impressed with your napkin-placing skills. 😉
Please let me know any questions you have! Thank you for reading!
To begin this segment, I want to elaborate on a point I made in the previous napkin post. I said that as soon as you sit down, you should place your napkin in your lap. This is because everyone should sit down at the same time. On the occasion the host has not sat down at the same time you have, it’s best to wait until they have sat down. They lead the dinner. But I digress.
When you sit down to dinner, your napkin may look like a rectangle or a swan. If you’re hosting, get as “flourishy” as you want. I’ve even attached a link at the bottom of the post for a good napkin-folding website, which has a fold I attempted for the first time tonight, the crown fold. How royal.
A couple of things to keep in mind. The most formal (think: dinners we’ll likely never attend, unless you plan to meet the queen) would never have the napkin on the table; it is placed on the plate or charger. Fun fact: these formalest of formal (yes, I know it’s not a real word) dinners also do not have bread plates. The bread is placed on the tablecloth or runner to the left of the plate. Yum…the practical reason behind placing your napkin in your lap when you sit down can be seen in this scenario. If you don’t remove it, how will you eat?
Even black tie affairs (white tail being the most formal) may have napkins on the plate, if that’s the host’s preference. Otherwise, it’s to the left of the plate, underneath the silverware. If the napkin is monogrammed, regardless of the fold, the monogram is in the bottom left in the case of a rectangle fold or the center in case of a diamond fold. When there is no monogram, the fold is closest to the plate. To be 100% honest, this is an area of etiquette that is not commonly practiced much any longer. The primary goal should be to have all of the napkins facing the same direction.
To remove your napkin, simply pick up the silverware with one hand, remove the napkin to your lap, then replace the silverware. Once it is under the table, open it to cover your lap (or leg).
I, unfortunately, do not have napkin rings. However, if you set your table with them and don’t want to roll the napkin, the pointed side is towards the diner. Just place the napkin ring to the top left of the place setting. Once the meal is finished, return the napkin to the ring with the pointed side toward the table.
If you have any other napkin questions, please ask away! Who knew there would be so much to learn about a piece of cloth (or paper)?
Fun Folds: http://bumblebeelinens.com/napkinFolding.php
A napkin can say so much. Knowing how and when to use it can not only save your lap, it can save your seat!
When I first got interested in etiquette, dinners were what I naturally gravitated towards. I loved setting the table, putting out the special china and serving our favorite foods. Now, let it be known I do not advocate hiring out help unless you need it/can afford it, despite what the other Emily says…you know, Emily Post. However, I love a cloth napkin and feel they make any dinner special. Fun fact: napkin rings were created to let each person know which napkin belonged to them; they were kept on the table throughout the day for all meals. Appetizing, I know.
No matter if it’s cloth or paper, as soon as you sit down, the first rule of napkin etiquette is to place your napkin on your lap. Ladies, this would be over your entire lap. Men, this is over your left leg. There your napkin will remain until you get up. If you want to return, place your napkin on your chair; this lets everyone know you’ll be back (Schwarzenegger impression). If you are leaving for good, place it to the left of your plate. That’s it. It’s that simple.