For many, Thanksgiving is an occasion for pulling out all the stops – a Long Weekend holiday full of family, fall, and feasts. Nieces and nephews play in their fancy outfits and party shoes, the hallways breathe a rush of crisp air with the arrival of every guest, colourful turkeys and pressed leaves adorn place settings and mantelpieces, and gifts of the autumn harvest take centre stage at Thanksgiving dinner. The day is a vision of fall elegance – why not honour it with a table to match? Dress to impress: set the perfect table with our easy-to-follow guide:
Note: the formal table setting is designed for a four-course meal: soup, salad, main, and dessert, with coffee and tea served during or after dessert; however, the arrangement can be easily adapted to suit your Thanksgiving feast.
Beginning at the centre: dinnerware is layered according to courses served. The soup bowl (1) sits atop the salad plate (2) under which rests the dinner plate (3). Ideally, there is a distance of 24 inches between the centre of the plate and that of its neighbour. If you wish to warm the bowls before serving, do so and ladle soup from the stove once guests are seated to avoid collisions during assembly. Clear dishes away between each course.
For the flatware: the knife/knives and spoons lie to the right of the plate, ordered chronologically by course from the outside in. Thus, the soup spoon (4) rests farthest from the plate, with the optional spoon for the main (5) and the knife (6) placed in between. Usually teaspoons are not set out until the coffee and tea service, but may be placed to the right of the knife if so desired. For real sticklers, the distance between the knife (6) and the plate (3) determines the spacing between all other elements of the place setting. To the left of the plate, the salad fork (7) and the dinner fork (8) lie in order of courses served, again from the outside in. Flatware and dinnerware should be aligned along an imaginary baseline 1 inch from the table’s edge.
The napkin (9) may be neatly folded and placed on the left of the setting, or alternatively tucked elegantly into the water goblet (13) or artistically balanced across the soup bowl (1). Above the forks sits the bread plate and bread knife (10); the butter dish will have its own butter knife. The dessert spoon (11) and cake fork (12) rest in parallel but converse alignment. Arranged in an arc or a triangle, the water goblet (13) and wine glasses – red (14) and white (15) – round out the place setting. A place card (16) may be displayed at the top.
And voila – a formal table for an elegant occasion. Whether your soup is a classic French onion or a modern chestnut; if you’re salad’s built from crisp apples and tart dried cranberries on crunchy romaine or grainy goodness with fresh herbs; whether a colossal stuffed turkey or a sweet-brined ham constitutes your piece de resistance – your table will be well prepared to receive. Have fun and make it your own by adding brightly-coloured leaves, napkin rings, clusters of pine cones, candles, a harvest-themed centerpiece, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Bring your magnificent feast to a fittingly exquisite table this Thanksgiving and celebrate the art of fine dining.