Your Guide to Gathering: Navigating Tablescapes

September 27, 2022

As October nears and fall settles in, chances are you’ve received invites for parties, gatherings, and dinners. Whether you find yourself playing the role of host or guest, navigating a tablescape is no small feat. From the glasses (stemware) to the cutlery (flatware), it can all seem to be a rather complex undertaking—which begs the question: why set the table at all? 

For hosts, it shows their guests that they wanted to put in the time and effort to set the tone for conversation and connection to unfold around. By preparing a table for all of a meal’s needs, you avoid scrambling for utensils when it comes time to eat. (Not to mention, it can look gorgeous and be a creative endeavor for the host as well, no matter how casual or formal the event is.)

If you’re a guest, the good news is there is nothing on the table in front of you that doesn’t serve a purpose. So, if sitting down at an arranged table makes you feel like you have bitten off more than you can chew, your guide to tablescapes is here. 

Forks, spoons, and knives—oh my!

There is one very easy way to demystify cutlery: start out and work your way in. Forks are on your left, and soup spoons and knives are on your right. If there is a teeny, tiny, fork or spoon on your outermost right, do not fret—that is for a seafood course. If there is a fork and spoon resting horizontally above your place setting, those are for dessert and will be used at the end of your meal. 

And, if you are wondering just how long the meal will last (we have all been there), the more pieces of silverware, the longer you should expect to be at the table. 


It may feel daunting trying to remember which glass is your own (especially if each place setting has multiple). All of your glasses will be to your right—the age-old trick is to bring your thumb and pointed finger together on each hand, forming a “b” shape with your left hand and a “d” shape with your right; the “b” side represents your bread and the “d” side your drink. 

Just like flatware, each cup serves a different purpose. Your water glass will likely be directly above your knives. If there are additional glasses, this likely means that different wines have been paired with your meal—lucky you! A red wine glass typically has a fuller bowl, while a white wine glass is slightly slimmer. Typically forming a triangle, your water glass is, again, above your knife; above and to the right of it, your red wine glass; and below and to the right of it, your white wine glass. 

Regardless of the event, a full tablescape can be a fun way to mix things up. Just remember that everything serves a purpose, and when all else fails, your host will know how everything is meant to be used.

Enjoy this time of year when we are never more inspired and expected to gather around the table with friends, family, and loved ones.

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