Setting a Table Properly
The Overall Scheme
The charger is a large service plate which will stay on the table during early courses. Dishes containing soup, appetizer or salad courses are served on top of the charger, which is removed only when you serve the main course, or entree. Whether you use a placemat or set plates directly on the tablecloth, you need to leave a gap of 1/2 to 1 inch between the bottom of the place setting and the table edge. This allows diners to sit down without disturbing the setting.
Spoons follow the outward-in pattern, although there are usually only two. The spoon farthest from the plate is for the first course, which is soup. The second spoon, if one is provided, is intended to be used when coffee is served at the end of the meal. At a less formal American meal, coffee might be served and the spoon used, throughout the meal. If there is no second spoon, coffee may be served away from the table, in another room. A third spoon, for dessert, is placed closest to the plate and is often paired with a small fork, close to the other side of the plate.
A Bread and Butter Plate
Imagining your charger plate as a clock face makes it easy to locate other silverware in the setting. A bread and butter plate with its knife is usually set at the point of the entree-knife blade, or at approximately 10:00.