How to Set a Formal Table for Your Gala, Wedding, or Corporate Event

How to Set a Formal Table for Your Gala, Wedding, or Corporate Event (Crystal Signature Events in Indianapolis)

Formally setting a table is a timeless tradition that elevates a celebration, and it’s an etiquette that Crystal Signature Events prides itself on delivering for clients’ special occasions. Crystal’s servers are thoroughly trained on how to do so, and our event managers work with hosts to accurately match the table settings with their food and beverage choices. 

If you’re holding your event at a Crystal Signature Events venue like The Indiana Roof Ballroom, The Crane Bay Event Center, or The Heirloom at N. K. Hurst, our expert staff will ensure every place setting is precise and every detail is accounted for when serving your guests. And if you’re hosting a formal occasion in your home or at another venue, we hope Crystal’s insights will serve as a resource to ensure a flawless event. 

Formal Event Place Setting Layout - Crystal Signature Events in Downtown Indianapolis


First, consider your menu and gather only the utensils you need. Most flatware sets include 5 utensils: salad fork, dinner fork, dinner knife, soup spoon and teaspoon. For simpler meals, you may need only a fork and knife where for more formal gatherings, you may need to add additional, like a steak knife or dessert utensil. 

For flatware placement on the table, the rule of thumb is go “from the outside in.” Meaning, the flatware for the first course will be the furthest out from the plate, and the next closest to the plate will be flatware for the second course, and so on. An exception to this rule is the dessert utensil, which is placed above the dinner plate. 

At Crystal Signature Events we line up the flatware that is closest to either side of the plate an inch from the edge of the table, and in line with the bottom of the dinner plate. Moving outward, the next flatware is placed slightly higher to create a stair step look.

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Like the flatware, only gather the glassware you need and set from the “outside in.” 

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For a pizza party, one plate may suffice. Otherwise, you may be looking at an appetizer plate and salad plate layered on top of a charger and/ or dinner plate. The placement of dinnerware is largely dependent on what type of food service you are providing, however there are a couple pieces of dinnerware that can be used for any type of service. Also important to try and have around 15 inches of space between place settings, so people don’t elbow each other or feel too confined.

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Table runners, tablecloths and cloth napkins can be optional, but are a quick way to elevate any space and tie together any theme. Check out the Crystal Signature Events blog for ideas and inspiration. 

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Seems complicated? That’s why our team of dedicated event and culinary experts are here to guide you through your event, from menu design to place settings. 

Hosting an event in your home? Simplify the setup and clean up with A Classic’s Rent the Table program. With different themes to choose from they make it easy so all you have to do is pick it up and follow the instruction card included. At the end of your event you don’t even have to fully wash anything! Simply rinse off, dry, and place it back in the box and return!  

If you need help on seating arrangement ideas be sure to check out this blog as well. Happy planning!