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Setting a French table

Setting a French table

At Loudenne, many receptions have been held over the years and the guests invited have always been welcomed in full respect of the art of entertaining.  Some timeless customs have lasted over the centuries, such as the art of table setting.


There are two ways to set a table: the French and the English way. Neither is more refined than the other but the most important is not to mix them. Here is what you need to know if you want to set a table in the French way.

  1. The first thing is to lay the table with a fine tablecloth. Allow a distance between each guest of around forty to fifty centimeters. Each plate must be placed two to three centimeters from the edge of the table.
  2. Only the plates for the main course and the bread should be set on the table from the beginning. The latter should be placed on the top left of the main course plate alongside the butter knife. However, if you plan to serve a soup as a starter, you can put a soup plate on top of the main course plate.
  3. For the cutlery, place a maximum of three pieces on each side of the plate. This means that there will be three courses. If there is one more course, bring the cutlery with the new dish (and the new plate).
  4. As to the position, it’s very simple… Forks should be placed on the left side of the plate, knives and spoons on the right, in the order of use, from the outside to the inside. Therefore, the cutlery for the starter will be placed farthest from the plate.
  5. Unlike the British way to set a table, where the bowl of the spoon is not positioned facing down towards the table but towards the ceiling, in France forks should be placed with the prongs facing the tablecloth.
  6. Please note that in the French way, dessert cutlery are always forks and not teaspoons. They are positioned between the top of the plate and the glasses.
  7. The main difference between the two styles is how the glasses are set. In France you must place the glasses diagonally, above the desert cutlery and ranked by order of size. So from the right to the left it should be : white wine glass, red wine glass and water glass. The red wine glass should be on the same line as the largest knife. The champagne glass should be positioned on a second line behind the other glasses, between the water glass and the red wine glass.
  8. As for the napkin, it should be placed on the plate and folded into three or four.



In France, the fork is placed prongs downwards on the tablecloth and the back of the spoon facing upwards. This position is called « A la Française » and dates back to the French silver- and goldsmiths’ tradition of engraving their hallmark on the back of the cutlery, as opposed to the British way which was to do it on the front, hence the difference in table setting.