Your Go-To Wedding Table Setting Checklist

Real talk confession: When you’re seated at a formal dinner table, can you remember which fork to use first, and which water glass is yours? We get it. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options at a formal table setting, just like the feeling of understanding every single piece of cutlery, stationery, gifts, and favors that you will need to include on your wedding reception tables. To help you and your stationer account for every necessary element, we’ve compiled the following go-to checklist.


Let’s start with the basics: Tablecloths, napkins, and the optional table runner. Once you know your color scheme, talk to your reception venue to ensure it knows how to accommodate your color scheme. Also, provide your venue with advance notice as to what you plan for your floral arrangements or other table centerpieces. If you dream of adorning every table with large candle-lit lanterns or grandiose centerpieces, that may dictate whether or not you want or need a runner, or which palette colors you want to accentuate.

The Table Settings

Don’t let this all-encompassing phrase fool you. When we talk about table settings, we specifically are talking about plates, glasses, and utensils. Depending on your menu, your meal (including dessert) might require any or all of the following:


  • A Charger. This intriguing term refers to the larger, often decorative plate that sits below the dinner plate. You don’t eat off of it, but rather, the wait staff will place other dishes on top of it. It’s super fancy and fabulous.
  • Dinner Plate. Typically ten to 11 inches in diameter and used for your main course.
  • Salad Plate. Typically eight inches in diameter and used for salads or appetizers.
  • Bread Plate. Don’t confuse this little guy for your salad plate. At only six or seven inches in diameter, its only use is for bread and butter.


  • Salad Fork. Use this small fork with the salad plate for (you guessed it) salad or appetizers.
  • Dinner Fork. You’ll recognize this fork since it’s the biggest one on the table. Use it for the main course.
  • Fish Fork. Cheat code for spotting the fish fork: it often has three prongs instead of four (like a trident). Use it for fish only. If your menu does not include a fish option, your reception venue may not recommend adding this item to your table setting.
  • Dessert Fork. This fork will be the smallest, most dainty one on the table. Use it to heap forkfuls of your wedding cake into your smiling face.


  • Salad Knife. The smallest of the knives, use it just for salad or appetizers.
  • Dinner Knife. The largest knife on the table is used for the main course and is ideal for steak and other meats.
  • Fish Knife. Unlike your dinner knife, the fish knife does not have a sharp edge. It often includes a notch at the top for naturally flaking fish.
  • Bread Knife. Use this smooth-sided knife for spreading butter on bread, not to cut your steak.


  • Soup Spoon. A large, deep spoon intended for your soup course, if you have one.
  • Dessert Spoon. The smaller, dainty cousin of the soup spoon perfectly sized for eating anything from mousse to ice cream.


  • Water Glass. Find this flat-bottomed cup or goblet on the left side of your plate. Otherwise, you’ll be drinking your neighbor’s water. And that could get awkward.
  • Wine Glass. Unlike your water glass, your wine glass will have a longer stem. Its shape might be determined by whether you will be serving red, white, or an option of either variety.
  • Champagne Glass. Save this tall, narrow, celebratory glass for your champagne toast and the speeches that will make everyone cry.

Table Stationery

These pieces should match your theme and your wedding invitations, so talk to your stationer to have them create your table stationery for consistency. These pieces should include:

  • Place Cards. Also called escort cards, sometimes your guests pick these up from a central location and use them to find their assigned table number. If you will be placing them on tables, put them in the middle of the charger.
  • Table Number. Place in the center of the table, adjacent to your centerpiece, so guests can easily spot their assigned seat.
  • Menus. With your menu, you can finally reveal to your guests what fabulous fare you have in store for them. Place your menus in the center of the salad plate or directly above the dessert fork and spoon. Alternatively, you can tuck them into the napkin.
  • Favors. There are endless possibilities for how you can show your guests your thanks for being a part of your special day, from candies, to donations to charitable causes, to keepsakes, to a candy buffet. Some favors need to find their home at each place setting and might need an accompanying label or note, so talk to your stationer and plan accordingly.

If you’re ready to start planning your wedding invitations and day-of stationery, contact us at RSVP to me today.


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