I decided to create the ultimate list of 13 must-have table setting pieces for you. So you could use it as a reference. I know many of the items listed are kinda “duh!”, but since they are necessary ~ they must go on the list (haha!).
The key to this list is “must-have”.
There are a ton of table setting items that are great to have, but you don’t have to have them. They aren’t essential, or necessary.
That’s a future list (wink, wink).
I actually saw a chafing dish on a list of essential table serving items. WHAT!!! Seriously, a chafing dish is only necessary if you are in the food catering business or you are the ultimate entertainer.
It definitely isn’t an essential table setting piece.
This is a real, honest-to-goodness, list of what you actually need. The basic essentials for table settings. The items you will find yourself wishing you had, or in ten years, glad you have them and won’t regret buying.
I’m also not talking about crazy expensive investment pieces.
This is a list of the ultimate basic items you must have for your table settings.
If you know someone that is just starting out on their own and setting up their home, please share this page with them. It might alleviate the unnecessary stress of them feeling they “must-have” everything to set a nice table.
Ultimate List of 13 Must-Have Table Setting Pieces
1. Neutral Dishes: an absolute must-have for any table setting.
Neutral dishes are a key component of any table setting.
By “neutral”, I mean dishes that are white, eggshell, cream, off-white, etc. You get the picture.
Neutral colored dishes are the perfect base for any table setting, and really showcase the food you are serving. That’s why they are the dominant color of dishes at restaurants.
Also, neutral colored dishes are wonderful to build on later with fun colored or patterned dishes.
Neutral colors will mix and match with anything. Consider them the “little black dress” of table settings.
2. Flatware: essential for your table setting.
This is another obvious item that you must-have for your table setting. Unless you are planning to eat with your hands (lol).
The main thing to consider with your flatware is that it coordinates with the style of your dishes.
If you have sleek, modern white dishes, then go for a sleek style of flatware. Not an ornate, floral pattern.
The same is true if you own a feminine set of dishes. A chunky, rustic-looking flatware won’t coordinate with the dishes, and the table setting will look a little off.
3. Cloth Napkins: a table setting essential (in my opinion).
I am telling you now – use cloth napkins!
Yes, I did kinda yell that one at you. That’s because I feel very strongly that cloth napkins are a must-have for your table setting pieces.
You don’t need to invest in expensive, super nice cloth napkins. You can find really nice affordable sets that you can use every day.
Plus, you can get fun with your cloth napkins. You can mix up the colors, or use wonderful, patterned cloth napkins. They can easily change the look of your table setting.
I have a list of 7 reasons why you should use cloth napkins every day. Check it out.
4. Water Glasses: definitely necessary for your table setting.
Water glasses are a must on every table setting. Whether it’s for everyday eating or a formal sit-down meal.
So get a nice set of water glasses to use on your table when you are entertaining. You want them to hold at least 12-16oz of water.
Save the plastic tumblers for your immediate family.
5. Wine Glasses: must-have at least one set.
Whether you are a wine drinker, or not, wine glasses are a necessary item for your table setting.
You don’t need to have both red and white wine glasses, but you do need to have a set of them.
If you are on a tight budget, I would suggest starting with red wine glasses and investing in white ones later.
As for stem versus stemless wine glasses, that is up to you and your preference. You don’t need to have one over another.
6. Salt & Pepper Shakers: essential for any gathering.
You must always have salt and pepper shakers handy, if not sitting on your table. They must be readily available for your guests to use.
These too are best to start with a neutral color, since most people only have one set. That way it will work with any of the table settings you put together.
Either wood or clear glass, are good options for your first set of salt and pepper shakers.
I would also encourage a pepper grinder, instead of a pepper shaker. Freshly ground pepper is so much better than already ground pepper.
7. Steak Knives: necessary for more than just steak.
Whether you eat steak, or not, you must-have steak knives.
You need a set of knives at mealtime that can cut through your food. Besides steak, they can be used for other meats or vegetables like asparagus, onions, and peppers, just to name a few.
You don’t want to use the butter knife that is part of your flatware set to try and cut through these foods, it just won’t work.
8. Neutral Colored Vase: must-have piece for any table setting formal or informal.
A centerpiece of beautiful flowers is almost a given on most tables, so having a neutral-colored vase is a definite must-have item.
One that either matches the color of your dishes or is clear, is the way to start.
If you are able, I would suggest having both a small and a large vase. This will provide flexibility to accommodate any size flower arrangement that you use on your table.
Plus, if the vases match, you can use them together. Fun!
9. Placemats or Tablecloth: truely a must-have for daily table setting.
Nice placemats or a tablecloth are essential for your table settings. They protect the surface of your table from any scratches caused by plates or serving pieces being pushed along the tabletop.
They help ensure a long-time enjoyment of your table, which is usually a large-investment piece of furniture.
If you have a beautiful table that you want to showcase, do so when it isn’t being used. Then add the tablecloth or placemats when you sit down to eat.
You will come to appreciate how they protect your table from any potential tiny nicks and/or scratches.
10. Large Serving Bowl: an essential table setting piece you can’t live without.
You will quickly realize that a large serving bowl is a necessity for any table setting. One that can serve multiple uses.
To be specific; a ceramic or a glass bowl.
Not a wooden serving bowl, as that is limited in its uses.
You will find that a large serving bowl can be used to serve a variety of food dishes.
11. Serving Platters: more than one are necessary.
You must-have at least two different size serving platters. Whether it is a combination of a small and large, or a small and medium, or a medium and large platter. You will need them for a variety of food dishes.
You will almost always be serving more than one dish, and serving platters are great for your sides and entrees.
12. Serving Utensils: regular flatware won’t do it.
There are SO many different serving utensils you could have, but only a few that you must-have.
To ensure you are set for most meals, here are the essential serving utensils you need:
- Large spoon
- Tongs: for salad, pasta and fish
- Slotted spoon: great for veggies, or anything that needs to be drained before plating
- Ladle for soups or sauces
- Serving fork
13. Water Pitcher: an essential table setting piece that is often forgotten.
You should always have water available for your guests, which is why a water pitcher is an essential table setting piece.
I absolutely love it at restaurants when they leave a pitcher or carafe of water at the table. That’s because people often need their water glasses refilled.
Water pitchers also have a bonus use – they make great vases!
So, before you host your first, or next, gathering, review this ultimate list of 13 must have table setting pieces and make sure you are set to entertain your friends and family. It will help alleviate any pre-party stress and you will feel confident that you are prepared to entertain.
PS: Bookmark this page for future reference, or share with a friend that needs it.