It’s no secret that the French have perfected the art of the table for generations (l’art de la table). Indeed, the French have a strong sense of tradition, which is why you’ll often find even their most casual family dinners adorned with fine silverware, crystal glasses, and porcelain plates. Their tables are always beautifully set, and also very simple to put together.
If you’re not sure how to set your table, we have listed below a few rules for the French table settings.
It’s always best to cover your table with a tablecloth even if you have a truly beautiful table. The French usually prefer a classic white tablecloth that easily goes with any table decorations. Then, make sure to properly set your tablecloth on your table: the corners of your tablecloth should cover part of the table’s legs (it should hang down 20 to 40 centimeters from the table).
At any elegant French dinner, there is always an abundance of courses and therefore plates. And because each course makes its appearance on its own plate, there are usually already several plates on the table at the start of the meal such as the presentation plate (or charger plate), the dinner plate, and the soup or the salad plate.
The forks should always go to the left of the plate on the napkin and with the tines pointing down. Next, the knives go to the right of the plate with the cutting surfaces pointing towards the plate. Lastly, the spoon goes to the right of the knife and is placed face down. At more French informal dinners a dessert spoon will be placed above the plate whereas, at more formal affairs, it will be brought with the dessert.
Your drinking glasses should always go right above the knife, to the upper right of your plate. If you serve red and white wines during your dinner, you should place 3 types of glasses. You can align your glasses in a row or set in a triangle formation. French tip for immaculate glasses: clean them with steam: pour hot water into a small pan, hold the glass upside-down over it until the inside fogs up, then wipe with a cloth.
At any French elegant dinner, the French always use cloth napkins and not paper napkins (it’s more refined). And it’s even nicer to use old embroidered white napkins with a monogram. You can either place them to the left of the dinner plate or directly on the top plate.
On every elegant French table, there is always an open bottle of wine and a beautiful carafe of water (avoid by all mean plastic bottles).
The French avoid cluttering their tables with a large centerpiece. In addition, they usually avoid tall floral arrangements that can limit the conversation across the table. Instead, the French prefer to opt for a few fresh low-scent flowers in small personalized containers that effectively divide the space for the meal.