By Lucie, communication
In Duration ~ 5 min

Laying out cutlery on a French table: what are the rules?

For a formal meal or with friends, it is interesting to know how to harmonise a table according to tradition. The arrangement of cutlery on a French table requires certain rules to be followed. A table can also be enhanced with elegant glasses.


1. How to set a French table

To receive your guests according to the rules of good manners, the setting of the table is an important step. You will honour your guests by favouring rigorous organisation, beautiful crockery and bright glasses with distinguished curves.


Before trying to place the cutlery in the French style, you can first lay out a fleece. It is recommended that you choose a long, wide tablecloth that is at least 20 cm longer than the table on each side. A white damask tablecloth is an excellent choice for a formal setting. With family or friends, a coloured or patterned tablecloth will work well.


It is best to iron a tablecloth before laying it. Traditionally, a round or square tablecloth should not have any folds. A rectangular tablecloth can have two folds lengthwise.


You can then begin to set up the table by placing the plates. First of all, a flat plate is provided for each guest, placed 2 cm from the edge of the table. Depending on the protocol, it should be changed between each course. In a meal with friends, it is of course possible to keep one plate for the whole meal.


A soup plate (for soup) is always placed on top of a flat plate. It is also possible to include a small bread plate above the fork.


2. The arrangement of cutlery for a French table

When it comes to cutlery, the rules for a French table are relatively simple. They are placed on either side of each plate, with the fork on the left (tines towards the table), the knife on the right (edge of the blade towards the plate) and the soup spoon to the right of the knife (curved part towards the sky).


This was originally done so that the initials on the back of French-made silver could be seen. As the initials were engraved on the other side in England, the placement of English cutlery is completely reversed from this arrangement.


If more than one type of cutlery is to be used for the meal, such as fish cutlery, it should be placed on the table in the order in which it will be used during the meal. In this way, the cutlery that will be used first will be on the outside and therefore furthest from the plate.


For a French table, it is customary never to place the cutlery for the cheese or the dessert spoon on the table in advance. In contrast, English tradition recommends that they be placed on the table at the beginning of the meal.


3. Placement of glasses and accessories for a French table 

For glasses, it is essential to provide at least one water glass and one wine glass for each guest. It is considered possible to have four glasses on a plate at the same time. It is recommended that they be arranged at an angle in descending order of height, with the champagne flute, water glass, red wine glass and white wine glass from left to right.


Napkins can be placed on the table. For a formal dinner, a cloth napkin that matches the tablecloth should be folded into a square or triangle and placed on each guest’s plate.


There are several ways to present the bread during the meal. It can be placed in a basket with ready-made slices of equal thickness. If you choose an individual roll, it can be placed on the bread plate or directly on the plate, tucked inside the napkin.


To respect tradition, a carafe of mineral water should be available on the table. The wine is placed in front of the host, who can serve it to the guests.


To complete the table decoration, fresh flowers can be placed in various places. Candle holders are also a good idea, especially for dinner parties.


4. Choose quality glasses for all occasions

An artfully set table for lunch or dinner is a great way to welcome your guests in style. However, there is more to entertaining than just the arrangement of the dishes and cutlery. You can emphasise the beauty of your glasses by choosing Cristal d’Arques Paris products.


The crystal models from the Abstraction collection, with their distinguished look, could not be more appropriate for a chic dinner party. Their random ring cut is a perfect match for the shades of the wine dress.


You can also turn to the Intense collection to bring a welcome touch of modernity and elegance to your table. These sophisticated yet strong glasses can be used with both classic and contemporary tableware.