I want you to feel confident and have the basic tools to handle yourself with class in any dining situation. When you take a seat at a formal dinner you may find yourself face-to-face with a jumble of silverware, glassware and china. I’m going to teach you how be comfortable and take the stress out of formal dining. The most important thing to remember about table manners is to behave graciously. Enjoying both the meal and company is the goal.
I’m going to share some basic dining etiquette. These tips will show your respect for others and yourself. Let’s start at the beginning, keeping in mind the host sets the pace for the meal. After everyone is seated, wait for the host to begin eating before you start. Pace yourself while eating so that you finish at approximately the same time as your host or the majority of diners.
To eliminate the confusion of which plate to use or which glass is yours remember this rule of thumb: Anything to do with food is located on your left and anything involving beverages is found on the right.
Always pick up and use utensils from the outside in towards the dinner plate. Once flatware is picked up, it should never touch the table again. Place flatware on the outer rim of you plate when you need to set it down.
Place your napkin on your lap. If you have to leave the table in the middle of your meal, place your napkin on your chair as discreetly as possible.
Food is served from the left, and dishes are removed from the right
If you are asked to pass the salt, always pass the salt and pepper, they travel together.
Always turn off your cell phone before preparing to dine with others. Don’t place any personal items on the table.
Should the person on your left commandeer your bread plate, which happens often, use your dinner plate for bread. Do not acknowledge the faux pas. Resist the urge to take the bread plate on your right and confuse others.
The host should always be the first to offer a toast. When the toast is being proposed to you, in your honor, never drink to one’s self. Simply stand up when the toast is finished and say something like “Thank you so much for inviting me here tonight. Here’s to a wonderful evening!” Then you can take a sip of your drink!
Now it’s time to set your own table. I will show you two different ways. First, an informal table setting you can use for a casual meal. Second, I will show you how to set a formal table setting that will add elegance to any occasion. With the holidays approaching it is the perfect time to learn the proper way to set a table. You will be able to keep the focus on the food and your family with these easy table setting ideas. Let’s start with a basic setting and advance to the formal setting by adding additional serving pieces to the table.
You’ll be a dinner party expert in no time!
Informal Dinner or Lunch Table Setting
*Basic Informal Table Setting
- The dinner plate is positioned in the center of the place setting
- Everything is placed around the dinner plate
- The napkin can be placed on the dinner plate or to the left of the forks
- Forks are placed on the left of the dinner plate. Salad fork on the outside, dinner fork next to the plate
- Knives and spoons go on the right. If serving soup you may include it as part of the setting
- Knives are placed with their cutting-edge toward the dinner plate
- The water-glass should be placed above the dinner knife behind the wine glass (if necessary)
- Liquids are always on the right, and solids, such as the bread and butter plate, are on the left
A meal that requires a formal place setting will include bread, soup, salad, drinks and a main course with dessert and coffee
Formal Dinner Table Setting
*Begin with the setting for an informal table setting
- At the center of your place setting may be a charger. A charger is a large plate used as a base. Dishes are set on the charger, food is never placed directly on this plate
- Add white and red wine glasses
- If serving sherry, the glass would be placed in front of the white wine glass
- If serving champagne, the flute would be placed behind the water-glass
- Dessert fork and spoon are typically situated above the dinner plate
- The bread and butter plate are positioned on the left side above the forks
- The place card is placed above the dessert silverware
- The coffee cup and saucer can be brought out after the meal is served and placed on the right
- A place card is used when entertaining more than twelve guests
You should never discuss a few “taboo” topics while dining: surgery, divorce, finances, religion or any other topic that’s too personal or negative.
Focus on the people you are dining with and offer up a genuine compliment.
For any type of place setting, avoid using more silverware than the meal calls for.
Centerpieces should not be taller than 10 to 12 inches in height, otherwise guests won’t be able to see each other across the table.
If you are the host, resist the temptation to start washing dishes while you are still entertaining guests.
If you are a dinner guest, it is polite to mail out a thank you card no more than forty-eight hours after the event.
This is by no means a complete list. These tips are meant to lead you through a dining event with confidence!