Table-setting etiquette for any occasion

At home or at your reception, proper table setting can make an impact, regardless of the formality of your event. We perused the websites of experts on etiquette and style—Emily Post and Martha Stewart—to guide us in setting a place for a formal dinner and a more casual one. We turned to David Kneal, a visual designer at Macy's at Easton, for style guidance … and he didn't disappoint. Bonus: All of these items can be added to your Macy's registry.

Formal Setting

The central setting typically includes a charger and a dinner plate. Here, Kneal has paired them with a placemat and a salad plate, topped with a napkin and a coaster that's been repurposed as a napkin ring. Chilewich Pressed Dahlia placemat in Brushed Gold, $14; charger from the Corelle Gilded Woods set (see Page 122); kate spade new york Library Lane dinner plate, $36; kate spade new york Library Lane navy 9-inch accent plate, $35; kate spade new york Larabee Dot navy napkin, $8; napkin ring from Thirstystone four-piece gold-tone Moroccan coaster set, $33

The bread and butter plate is placed above and to the left of the main service area. Kneal added a charger to accent it, but this could double as a dessert plate as well. kate spade new york Larabee Road gold bone china salad plate, $26; Wedgwood Byzance Collection bread and butter plate, $30

The old silverware adage about starting on the outside and working in is true. Forks always go on the left, salad fork outside of the dinner fork, with the knife immediately to the right of the plate. (The knife's edge should always face the plate.) We've placed the dessert spoon next to it, followed by a soup spoon. kate spade new york Larabee Dot five-piece gold flatware, $90

Wine glasses go above the cutlery on the right. Exact placement varies based on the food and wine pairings you'll serve, but generally, set the water goblet on the far left, with white wine, red wine and champagne glasses following in the order they'll be used. kate spade new york Pearl Place Collection glasses, $40-$45 each

Casual Setting

Opting for a heavy dinner plate as a charger keeps a casual, yet polished, feel; placing a linen napkin between it and the actual dinner plate reinforces the vibe, while a whimsical design on the dinner and salad plates complement it. Charger from the Vera Wang Wedgwood Vera Color gray 16-piece dinnerware set (service for four), $150; dinner and salad plates from the Market Street New York by Corelle Gilded Woods five-piece round place setting, $100; Hotel Collection linen two-piece modern gray napkins, $25

Kneal dropped the bread and butter plate for a communal serving tray, in an homage to family-style dining. Thirstystone marble and wood long oval board, $67

Just because we're more casual doesn't mean order goes out the window. This soft matte black silverware is at once elegant and fun. Hotel Collection 20-piece black flatware set, $200

Removing a few wine glasses instantly makes a table feel less stuffy. We chose a water goblet and an all-purpose wine glass that could carry a red or a white. Waterford Ballet Ribbon Essence water goblet and white wine glass, $80 each