We are very laid-back people here at Sarah Drake Design, but we do enjoy some luxury from time-to-time, whether it be a lavish massage, linen bedding, lovely letterpress stationery, or in this case- a properly set table. Here is what you need to know before you host your own dinner party.
The charger, the largest plate in a china set, is used to hold the place and is to be removed when the first course--usually the salad, is served. For more informal meals, or if you do not require (or own) a charger, the dinner plate works just as well. Silverware should all be spaced evenly apart, which is about a half an inch. Salad fork, then dinner fork go on the left side, while the knife and spoon go on the right side of the plate. The (monogrammed) linen dinner napkin should lay to the left of the forks--it should not touch the silverware. A glass water goblet should go right above the knife, and the wine glass just to the right of that- a glass for white and red if space allows.
Obviously, this is for formal affairs and special occasions, but this knowledge is certainly useful, especially when instructing children how to set the table on a normal dinner night. I am constantly surprised at the mayhem I discover when I ask my kids to set: napkins strewn across the plate, knives on the left side, upside down forks, you name it! They scoff at my "momness" and think etiquette is useless, but I'm sure someday they'll thank me when invited to their first "meet the parents" and they know exactly where the napkin goes after they sit down. (it's in the lap!) What do you think? Is etiquette important? or too rigid?