Why hello there! I'm a recent recipient of china. I never wanted china. I never saw a use for it. But my mother-in-law insisted I should put it on the registry. So I picked one, hoping no one would get it. Whoops.
So I have a nice large set of china and no clue how to use it.
This is information I found when researching. Who knew there were so many different place settings!?!
Step 1: The Basic Table
Okay. So say you're having a dinner party. That you forgot about. In 20 minutes. This basic table setting is quick and easy and gets everything on the table that a dinner guest could need.
First, a dinner plate in the center for the entree/main course.
Then a wine glass/goblet/glass in the upper right hand corner. (Apparently this always assumes people are right handed....)
Then, opposite of that is the bread plate, with a knife for buttering said bread.
A fork and knife go on opposite sides of the plate. You're supposed to cut with the knife in your right hand and stab at the food with your left.
Finally, a napkin.
Step 2: The Informal Table
Let's say you're having a dinner party. That you knew about well in advance. But it's not like Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. This place setting should be enough to support a nice dinner, but not extravagant.
In the center is the napkin. Typically the main plate would go on top.
Then, place your forks/knives/spoons. This is where the terminology "outside-in" comes into play. The fork furthest from the main plate is used first. It's typically smaller. The largest fork is used for the main course. The knife for the same reason is the closest to the plate for the main course. Note - the knife blade faces in. So you don't have any awkward hand twisting trying to cut into that steak or chicken.
Above the forks there are two plates. One is the salad plate. A salad is typically the first course, so this awkward plate goes away quickly. Next to it is the bread plate. It's always good to have bread. (Ever have O'Charley's rolls? Mmmm delicious.)
Above the knife and spoon are two goblets. One goblet (the larger one) would be used for water. The second goblet would be used for wine, either white or red.
Step 3: The Formal Table
It's Christmas time! And you've been the lucky person selected to host everyone this year. Since you'll be more worried about the ham, take a look at this table set up to make your life easier.
First, place the center plate for the main course.
On top of this plate is a bowl. This can be used for soup or salad.
The bread plate and butter knife are placed above this main plate.
To the right of these are again two goblets. One is for water, one for wine. In addition, this place setting is also capable of serving coffee, with a saucer plate.
The forks go on the left, smallest to the largest from the outside in. The knife and spoon or spoons to the right. The napkin in the case I've presented above is dressed up with a napkin ring and placed on the side. I've also seen it where the napkin is placed on top.
Step 4: And How Things Normally Look at My House
Despite all of this new knowledge. This is how my house typically looks. But it's a work in progress....
Best of luck to you in your dinner parties!