Table Setting Ideas
How to Set a Formal Dinner Table
Delmonico, one must first learn how to set a table.
How many people
know how to give a dinner, set a table properly,
and serve foods and wines as they should be
served, in an orderly, appetizing way?
Epicureans might differ as to what constitutes
a perfect dinner, but no one will deny that a
dinner properly cooked and well served, is a
delight. Moreover, if the company be agreeable,
it is perhaps one of the chief pleasures of
For generations, the restaurant
Delmonico stood for all that was good in elegant dining.
Many of the famous men and women who visited New York
during the nineteenth century also crossed the threshold of this
world-famed restaurant. Famous dinners were
given in its great white and gold dining room – politicians,
statesmen, editors, artists and ministers dined and then thundered forth their after-dinner eloquence
at Delmonico's. Moreover, the big building has
sheltered beauty and wealth at hundreds of great private
entertainments, where rare gems gleamed and the odor of
thousands of roses made one almost believe that fairyland
was a reality. During the late 1800s, Delmonico had no
rival in America, if indeed in the world. Everything was on
the most lavish scale – rich, rare and costly.
Annual Banquet of the Sons of
the Revolution in the State of New York, Delmonico's, Feb.
[Image: Library of Congress: #LC-USZ62-90311]
Also during the late 1800s, city
dinner-giving was carried on to an extent only equaled
in London and Paris. Much use was made of flowers,
candelabra, colored lights, silverware, and silver and gold
plate. But all people cannot have rare
foods, served on gold or silver plates, and not all of us
possess handsomely decorated dining rooms, and for the lack
of these we must make up in less expensive ways. And one of
the most important is a well set and attractive table, snowy
linen, polished glass and china, and brightly burnished
silverware. In 1891, Delmonico gave this advice to the
readers of The Ladies
to Delmonico, one must first learn how to set a table. A
round table is better than a square table, if the
dining-room is large enough to permit it. It is easier to
seat people at, as well as it gives a suggestion of the
famous "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table."
available, then the
ordinary oblong extension table must be used. Flowers should never
be absent from the dinner table. No matter how homely, they
add to the picturesqueness of the feast. Furthermore, it is
important that the temperature of the room is kept a
little cool, rather than a degree too warm. An over-heated
dining-room is an abomination.
fashionable dinner-party, on the table is first placed a
thick flannel cloth, the thicker it is the better as it
prevents noise from the dishes as they are placed on it.
Over this is spread a snowy white damask tablecloth; it
should be monogrammed if possible.
Sometimes over this is placed still
another, of elaborate embroidery and lace, lined with pink
or yellow satin, as taste dictates, or whatever color is to
predominate at the dinner. The plates are first placed upon
the table. As these are to remain until after soup is
served, they are always the handsomest in the gold or china
sets, as the case may be.
crowd. Each guest should be allowed a space of two feet or
twenty-six inches, if the table will permit it, and the
plates placed at equal distances apart. Place two
dinner forks to the left of each plate and also an oyster
fork with prongs resting on the edge of the plate. On the
right must be a dinner knife and a spoon for soup. The
glasses are arranged at the right of each guest on a line
with the inner edge of the plate. The water glass is set
next to the plate; then glasses for whatever other
beverages are intended to be served. If wines are
objectionable, any of the best mineral waters can be used
throughout the dinner, with French coffee at the close. A
glass, whether of water or any other liquid, should never be
filled more than three-quarters full.
In the middle of the table
is the big centerpiece of silver and at each end a handsome
candelabra with colored satin or flower shades. In between
are silver composers of fruit, one at each end, and four low compotiers — two at each end — filled with cakes and
marron glacés. Two other dishes of fruits glacé
are placed one at either end. These dishes of glacés
are used principally at winter dinners. In the summer,
different kinds of fresh fruit are substituted in their
stead. Two compotiers, which stand on either side of the
centerpiece, are filled with favors for the ladies, and may
be anything that the fancy dictates. Six silver shells,
three on each side, are filled with olives and salted
almonds, to be served after the soup. Six or eight handsome
salt-cellars are usually placed on the table, each one
serving two guests. The napkins to be used are large damask,
over-folded so as to reveal the monogram, and each forms the
receptacle for a dinner bread roll. When the roll is taken
out of the napkin by each guest, it should always be placed
at the left of the plate. The name cards must be placed on
the top of the napkin, and the menu cards at the right of
decanters, handsome glass jugs covered with silver, are
used, they are placed at opposite corners of the table — one
at each corner, making four in all. These generally contain
claret and sherry.
On a side
table, is all the extra silver and china
required. The plates are of course changed, after soup, with
each course, until cream and fruits, which are the last
things on the menu.
finger bowls, which may be of gold, silver, or enamelware,
or very fine glass, are not placed on the table until after
the ices and fruits have been served. They are then put on
handsome dessert plates with fine embroidered doilies.
decorations of flowers must always be in keeping with the
color of the dinner decided on, and consist of a large
center vase of flowers, not high enough to obstruct the view
across the table. It should extend within ten inches of the
inner edge of the plates. A few hostesses like to have large
bouquets at each end of the table also, but this is not
necessary. A pretty idea is to decorate the chandelier above
with smilax and flowers.
bouquets for the ladies are placed at their right hand, just
in front of the plate; while the gentleman's boutonnière is
placed on his napkin, with his dinner card.