How to: Set Your Thanksgiving Table with Southern Etiquette

by Lucie Wall on November 25, 2019

With Thanksgiving on Thursday (I can't believe it!!) we put together a Thanksgiving place setting using Lynn Rosen's Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests. Southern etiquette is timeless, and sometimes we need a little reminder of our traditions.

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The napkin

"Upon sitting down at the table, your first assignment is to place the napkin on your lap," (19)

The napkin is the first element you use during Thanksgiving, and should add artistic flair to the table. Our linen napkins come in a beautiful rusty orange color; perfect for the holiday.

Napkins can be placed to the left of the setting or "roll the napkin and enclose it in a decorative napkin ring, and place it across the service or dinner plate," (18). We added a lowcountry twist with an oyster shell napkin ring!

The plates

"there is a long-standing and quite proper tradition of mixing china patterns and styles," (26)

We mixed and matched our plates with an olive wood dinner plate and a cream ceramic charger & salad plate. For a bit of flair, we added a gold metal leaf as an informal placemat!

Service plate: Is also called the charger and sits at the bottom of the stack. Rosen states,"food is never placed directly on the service plate and the guest never moves the service plate," (27).

Dinner plate: The dinner plate is in the middle of the stack and "is used as an underliner to the appetizer plate," (28)

Appetizer plate: Placed at the top of the stack, it is to be used first then removed after the first course.


"A standard contemporary american place setting includes five pieces: a dinner knife, two forks, and two spoons," (50)

To stick with the gold tones, we used our black and gold silverware which added a rustic feel.

The general rule is to work from the outside to the inside. The smaller fork is placed on the far left and is used first for the appetizer, then the larger fork for the main course. The knife and spoon are placed on the right, with the blade of the knife turned towards the plates.

Large spoons are generally used for soup, and the smaller spoon can be used for coffee or dessert. If there is dessert, "put it [the silver] above the plate," (51). 


"In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it," (87) - Napoleon Bonaparte

From water, to wine, to champagne, knowing which glass to use is confusing. Here's a tip: the water glass "is the largest glass on the table," (84) and is the furthest to the right. 

We skipped on the wine glasses, however they would be placed in between the water glass on the right and the champagne glass on the left!

Décor & our additions: 

Although it might not be perfect etiquette, we added a small Thanksgiving inspired bud vase with dried grass and thin feathers for a natural element, and a personal olive wood cheese board  with gold cheese knives to the setting. 

Plus, isn't that embroidered turkey napkin hilarious? 

Grab a copy of the book in store and Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!



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