Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting a Table

| |

setting a table

One of my favorite things to do is set a table. I love mixing and matching and creating “art” on my table. A nicely set table can make a huge difference in a dining experience and I think how you set a table can affect how much your guests like your food! There are some common mistakes that are made when setting the table and today I am going to share what I think are the five most common mistakes.

how to set a table the right way

Avoid Tall Flower Arrangements

Good conversation at a table is important. So anything on the table that blocks the view for your guests to talk to each other should be left off the table. I set this table for a blog post, not a dinner party. Although it looks great in this photo there is no way I could set this table for an actual meal. The vases are way too tall and I think my guests would feel claustrophobic. 

When I add my centerpieces I always sit in two or three chairs at the table to make sure the sight view is clear. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I thought everything was good, only to sit down and realize my flowers were too tall. It’s also important to make sure your centerpieces or candles aren’t too fragrant. You don’t want the scents to interfere with your cuisine or make your guests uncomfortable. 

how to set a table

Don’t Crowd the Table

It’s fun to set a table with lots of silver, large napkins, and lots of wine glasses. But the last thing you want is a crowded table. You can always change out your vases and make your centerpieces smaller to make more room at the table. Ideally, you should allow for a minimum of 24 inches per guest. If you have more then that is great. Don’t forget to use comfortable chairs and use place cards to arrange your guests in a way to encourage conversation.

setting a table for a wedding

Forgetting the Importance of Ambiance

This summer I was on a mission to create some very unique settings for dinner parties. There is nothing like hosting a party and blowing your guests away as they head to the table. There is a certain energy that is created with unique lighting, sound, and environment. This requires some thinking outside of the box but I promise you it is worth it. I created this table setting above for my son’s engagement party. When the sun went down, it was incredible! I can’t wait to set some tables this winter in front of the fireplace in our living room and I am super excited to host one outside under our back patio. I think I can close the curtains, light the fire and turn on the ceiling heaters and pull it off!

You can also just add some unique lighting to your table or hang some additional lighting above your table and create a great setting. Imagine how awesome a table would be with thirty candles lit on the table? I love the table I set on the beach with my solar powered lanterns. They make a great lighting option. At the least, be sure to turn down the existing lights in the room. I added dimmer switches to all of our rooms when we first moved into our home. It’s so important for ambiance.

Music is also really important. Don’t forget to make a playlist in advance and keep the music low.

Here are a few dinner parties I have created.

This one was at the beach.

setting a table at the beach

This was in our backyard.

setting a table in your backyard

As was this one.

setting a table

Leaving the Essentials in the Kitchen

Be sure to keep items you may need during dinner nearby. Items like salt and pepper, wine, water, and sauces served with the meal should be on or near your table. If the extra wine and water don’t fit on the table have them very close by. A lot of guests won’t ask for them if they aren’t in plain sight. So be sure to think ahead of what they may need. That’s why a buffet is so great to have near all of your dining tables so you aren’t having to get up throughout dinner to keep your guests happy. 

setting the table

Setting the Table With Utensils You Don’t Need

I know it is really fun to set a pretty table with your silver but don’t set utensils that you don’t need. If you are setting a salad fork with the intention of using it for dessert it is likely it will get used during dinner. Keep things simple whenever you can.

If you can avoid these five common mistakes to set a table then you will be amazed at how much more you will enjoy your dinner party.

how to set a long table

How to Set the Table

One of the most common questions asked when you set a table is, what is the correct way to set a table? There are a few basic things you need to know and it’s easy from there. The forks always go to the left of the plate and the knives and spoons go to the right. Napkins also go on the left. All of the additional utensils are set in the order of use, from the outside in. Since you use a salad fork before a dinner fork, the salad fork goes to the outside. 

There are a few hints you can use to remember hot to set a table. Use the word F-O-R-K-S. Going left to right, F is for the fork, O is for the round plate, ignore the R, K is for the knife, and S is for the spoon. You can also use b and d. Touch the tip of your thumb to your pointing finger. You should form a lower case b with the left hand and a lower case d with the right hand. That can be a reminder that the bread plate goes on the left side and the dessert plate goes on the right side. 

I hope you have as much fun as I do setting your next table. If you have any additional tips I would love you to share them here!

Similar Posts


  1. When you preset your table and have centerpieces that take up so much room, do you serve buffet style and people go get their plate from the table before going through the buffet line? Or do you pass the food dishes around the table? If so, where do you put the food when not being passed??

  2. Love all of this! I was taught at an early age how to set a proper table. The rhyme my mother taught me about utensil placement: The knife and fork got in a fight and the fork left.

    1. Or on Disney Jr there use to be a little commercial with the characters from Beauty and the beast…”fork goes on the left, the plate goes in the middle, spoon and the knife go on the right and now I’ve solved the riddle”
      I still sing it to my daughter when we set the table lol

  3. I love following you and seeing your stories! And I’m not sure if I’m reading this wrong or if you have a typo but in the last section when talking about the utensil placement, I think you meant to say knives and spoons go to the right? Instead your statement says:

    “There are a few basic things you need to know and it’s easy from there. The forks always go to the left of the plate and the knives and spoons go to the left.”

  4. Great tips, especially about center pieces! Been there, done that with looking around them & ultimately removing to see company – Thank you.
    Also I believe you meant the knives and spoons go to the right of the plate.

  5. I agree that setting a table is an art form. When we have people over to share a meal, I get excited deciding how I will do the tablescapes depending on the food we are serving, the season, guests etc. I credit my mother for this gift.

  6. I love your Instagram account and now I’m so glad I’ve found your beautiful, instructive and entertaining blog.

  7. In this article, there is a picture I am very interested in knowing how you achieved the lighting. It is the one from your son’s engagement party & again just below in another setting. There are weathered porch posts of some sort (that I LOVE) surrounding your table. There is a wood frame on top of the posts and lights strung from side to side. My question is how in the world are those posts standing? They are not in the ground & I don’t think the thin board at the top is supporting everything. Do you disassemble it after your party?

  8. My mom was a stickler for table settings since she entertained quite often. I’m grateful that I watched her prepare all of their dinner parties and learned how to set a beautiful table including beautifully garnished entrées and sides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *