Real talk: You eat all your meals on the couch. It’s fine. How else do you expect to catch up on The Crown?
Next week, however, you’ll be expected to eat at a table like a civilized grown-up person. And if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll also be responsible for setting said table. Intimidated? Don’t be!
We asked Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, to tell us how to set a proper table for gatherings from casual to formal, and used her tips to make the simple instructional video above.
“One of the funny things about dining etiquette is that it’s the slowest to change because it’s the one based on practicality,” Lizzie says. “From the 1922 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, some of the advice is still so similar — how to set a table, how to use utensils — it’s almost unchanged.” Things have loosened up a bit though, and Lizzie okays keeping things casual (or getting creative) to suit your Thanksgiving crowd.
For the most basic place setting all you need is a dinner plate, fabric napkin, fork, knife, spoon, a water glass, and, if you want, a wine glass. “If this is your first time ever being a host and setting a table,” Lizzie suggests, “just sit in the chair and see if it’s comfortable to reach for everything.”
For a slightly more formal affair, just add a salad fork, a bread plate and a butter knife. The trick with multiple utensils is “you always eat from the outside in,” Lizzie says, “So whatever course comes first, you eat with the outermost utensil. Then the next course with the next utensil in, and so on and so forth.”
If you really want to get fancy, place a charger under your dinner plate and a dessert fork and spoon above it. A salad plate can go on off to the side or put on top of the dinner plate. Finally, for a formal affair, switch out your universal wine glass, for a red wine glass, a white wine glass, and a champagne flute or sherry glass. And don’t forget to dress up your table with festive flowers and candles.
More of a buffet-style family? Lizzie has a word of advice for you too: “So many people put the plate and the napkin and the silverware at the start, but the napkin and the silverware should be at the end,” she says. “You don’t want your guests having to hold so many things as they try to serve themselves. If you put it at the end, it allows people to be done with the buffet when they add more stuff to their hands.”
Have more questions about hosting and entertaining this holiday season? Lizzie suggests calling the Bob Evans Holiday Helpline, which she helped to create, to talk to an entertaining expert.