Some table settings for weddings can look very overwhelming and have a huge effect over your decision in respect to table decorations and centerpieces. So although I've included some advice on place settings, they are merely intended to guide you; it's your decision about how to use these rules. Remember that the overall effect should create a nice welcoming atmosphere so your guests can enjoy the meal.
We'll also take a look at elegant table settings and decoration ideas to get you inspired too, so hopefully all your wedding table questions will be answered.
How Formal is Your Wedding?
How to Lay an Elegant Table Using a Template
Most of these 'rules' or etiquette have been used for years because it just makes sense to have it that way, and makes life easier for the guests at your wedding reception. So if a glass needs to be placed in a certain way, it's probably because it positions the glass in an easy-to-reach location; guests can still hold their cutlery, but avoid leaning over other guests to get to what they want.
This picture to the right is a template of a correct and formal table setting and is likely much too formal for most wedding receptions; unless you are expecting royalty! You should keep in mind that it's all about setting an elegant table to match your wedding.
Here are some important elements to take note of when setting the table:
- Crockery starts with a service plate, from which everything else is placed around, or on. This is usually removed when the first course is served, unless you are serving soup, in which case the soup bowl can be placed on top of the service plate.
- A small side plate (for bread etc) should be placed to the upper left corner of the service plate.
- Cutlery usually causes the most confusion for hosts and guests alike but is the easiest to remember; its placement depends on the type of food you are serving. The general rule is to work from the outside in, according to the courses you are serving, with forks on the left, and knives and soup spoons on the right.
The butter knife is placed on top of the side plate.
Desert cutlery is usually placed above the service plate and can consist of a desert spoon and cake fork.
- Napkins are folded simply and placed either in the middle of the serving plate, or to the outer left of each setting.
- Glasses should always be placed to the top right corner of the service plate; the type of glass depends on what kind of drinks are served. The water glass should be placed above the innermost knife, with the wine glasses to the right of it. A red wine glass is larger than a white wine glass, and champagne should be poured into a narrow fluted glass.
Consider your Table Decorations & Flowers
Bearing in mind we have already considered the type of wedding in regard to how to set the table, and obviously in regard to what food is being served, we also need to consider what table decorations, centerpieces and wedding flowers you are choosing too.
Take a look at the picture of a set wedding table to the right here. This is clearly quite a traditional wedding with three glasses and a cup for each person as well as a lot of cutlery and yet the table is uncluttered. Some of this is down to the formal way the table is set, but it also looks good as the table decorations are at a minimum and more importantly the centerpiece is very understated. You simply cannot have a large and extravagant table decoration on a formally decorated table -- not if you want your guests to be able to communicate and have fun anyway.
They have saved on space by putting the menus in the center of each place setting inside a napkin so no extra space is required for each of those items. You could save more space by leaving the cups off the table and only bring those out when it is time for coffee.
Alternatively you could take a leaf out of the book of this less formal table (pink picture to the right), which includes some great table settings ideas and is probably more reflective of most modern weddings. The centerpieces are elaborate but not large, and the candles as table decorations form part of this centerpiece too. This doesn't leave a lot of room for excess glasses and so on, and yet the impression is creates is still 'proper' to keep the aunties happy but modern enough to keep you and younger guests happy.
Choosing table settings for your wedding is all a bit of a balancing act, but then again that's wedding planning for you; indeed that is marriage for you so it's a good lesson to learn