The diagram below is the standard formal place setting. As with anything, use it as a guide. Part of our philosophy is that we want to put our personal stamp on occasions so we don't follow the rules too closely. But there is a method in this madness. The utensils are positioned to be used from the outside in. When being seated at a formal dinner, the first thing you want to do is put your napkin on your lap. If you must leave the table for any reason, put the napkin on your chair. When you are finished, place the napkin on the table. This is a signal to clear your place.

Start each course of the meal by first serving the female guests at your table. Approach them from behind and place each course down by reaching just to the right side of each guest. Next, serve the male guests in the same way. Remove each emptied dish by approaching them from behind and reaching around their left side.

Charger plate etiquette and use varies among caterers and restaurants. Some professional catering companies remove the decorative charger plate as soon as the guests are seated. More commonly, charger plates are kept on the table during the serving of soups and first courses, and act as a base on which food-bearing bowls and dishes are placed. In other instances, when the design of charger plates complements the design of dining plates, charger plates are left on the table throughout the course of meal. However, charger plates are always removed before serving desserts.