The Napkin: Setting a Proper Table

The Napkin: Setting a Proper Table

“An attractive table creates welcoming ambience” – Elizabeth Post

When setting a table sometimes the napkin can be the finishing touch that makes the over-all design of your table fabulous. You need napkins at every meal. My kids don’t seem to think so. They feel their clothing is perfectly capable of collecting the mess of their meal.

The napkins are set to the left of the fork. More formal or fancy settings can put the napkin in the center of the service plate. Many times the napkin will be folded and placed in the empty water glass. Luncheon and dinner napkins are treated the same, they are just a different size. For more formal meals, a Menu Card would then be placed on top of the napkin or at the very top of the place setting. Southworth has beautiful cotton paper ideally suited to print a formal Menu Card.

When you are sitting at the table your napkin belongs in your lap. You can take your cue as to when that should happen from your hostess. As soon as your hostess puts her napkin in her lap you are then also free to put your napkin in your lap. If you are called away from the table for a phone call or to powder your nose then you would place your napkin on the seat of your chair. If, however, when you have finished your meal, the correct place to put your napkin is loosely to the left of your place setting. Do not cover your plate. Do not wad up your napkin and put it in your drink. These are simple rules and they apply whether you have paper napkins or linen napkins.

My kids set the table in our house and they love to choose from a basket of napkins that are available. This allows them to add their flare to the table. When I was growing up my grandmother had a set of napkins that each had a different trim. Each grandchild could choose which shape and color of napkin trim to use for the week. Then they were laundered and if you were lucky enough to be there the next week you could choose again.

Our family sits down to dinner together at least 4 times a week. As my kids grow older and older, getting everyone together is harder and harder. When we are together I cherish every moment!

Cricket Wantland is a graduate of The Protocol School of Washington and is a Certified Consultant of Corporate Etiquette, International Protocol and Children’s Etiquette. She lives in Southern California and offers classes and training to all ages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website at

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