We've all been there at some point, where we sit down to a dinner party and have no idea what plate is for what or what fork to use first. Maybe it's because we haven't really attended very many dinner parties or perhaps we were so busy in the pursuit to adult that we missed this important lesson. Today I'm going to discuss the basics that will get you through practically any dinner party during this holiday season. You can watch a video where I go into more detail here.
-First, let's start with the flatware. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. If you're setting a table and get confused, just remember that fork has four letters and so does left and knife and spoon have five and so does right. You may have a dessert fork or spoon above your plate as well. If you have a cheese spreader above your plate, you're in for a real treat because there will be a cheese course!
Regarding flatware, always work from the outside in and from the top down. So, start with your outermost knife and fork and work your way in with each new course. If you aren't quite sure, watch your hosts and do what they do. Once you have picked up a piece of flatware, it should never touch the table again. Rest it on the edge of your plate, carefully.
-If you have a bread plate, it will be on the left above your fork(s). Take one piece of bread at a time, please. When eating your bread, tear off one bite-sized piece at a time, butter it if so desired, and eat it. No butter sandwiches at the dinner party.
-Drinks go on the right above your place setting. If it's a glass or water goblet, grasp it around the thickest part. If it's a stemmed wine or champagne glass, grasp it around the stem. Do not clink glasses for a toast, they can break. If you are not having a particular drink, just put your hand over your glass and say "no, thank you". Do not invert your glass on the table.
-Cloth napkins go on your lap folded over once before you start eating. Dab your mouth before taking a sip or as needed, but do not wipe your face.
-Wait for the host or hostess to start eating before you do. Try to eat at the same pace as your host. Everyone should finish around the same time. It's very rude to wolf down your food and watch everyone else as they eat.
-If you realize that you used the wrong fork or forgot to do something, don't panic or draw attention to yourself. Just keep going and if it's something that needs to be rectified, discreetly inform your host(ess). Do not take over the conversation. Let everyone talk. Try to add to the conversation, but do not make it all about you. Even if people are gracious enough not to point it out, they will consider it, when making the guest list for the next party.
Have fun! Someone who is being enjoyable company and trying to use proper etiquette will always be an appreciated and welcome guest.
I hope that these tips help you feel confident at dinner parties around the holidays and throughout the year. Did you already know about these "rules"? Do you exercise proper etiquette daily?
For more information on proper etiquette, Emily Post and Vanity Fair.
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