and Table Manners
of a Place Setting for Dinner
Plate-The place plate is placed one inch from the edge of the table.
If the first course is already on the place plate, the napkin is placed
to the left of the forks, otherwise the napkin will be on the plate.
Forks/Flatware-Handles of the flatware are aligned at the bottom.
The forks (no more than three) are at the left of the place plate, placed
in order of use, working from the outside in. The oyster fork
is the only fork on the right side with the knives, tines of the fork
placed upward, across the soup spoon or parallel with the knives.
Often in North America the salad is served prior to the main course.
In this case, the salad fork is positioned the furthest from the plate
on the left. One would use this fork first. In the case of French style dining, the salad would be served after the main course.
In this case, the salad fork would be positioned next to the plate.
Knives-Knives, no more than three, are at the right of the place
plate in order of use, from the outside in, with the cutting edge toward
the plate. The only spoon (for a first course) is placed to the
right of the knives.
Dessert Silverware-The dessert fork and spoon are above the place
plate, the bowl of the spoon facing left, the fork below facing right.
In the most formal setting, the dessert fork and spoon are brought in
on the dessert plate.
Glassware-No more than four glasses are set on the table,
in order of use, for water, white wine, red wine and champagne, from the
left to the right.
Glasses-When filling glasses, note the diagram. Don't overfill!
the shapes of each type of stemware. They all have a unique shape
and should only be used for their respective drinks.
and Butter Dish-The butter plate (optional) has the knife placed
across the top of the plate, handle to the right, edge of blade toward
the user. The salt and pepper are above the place plate, pepper
to the left of salt. Larger salts and peppers to be shared are
placed slightly below the wine glasses and between every two place
the end of the meal, you should place your used silverware close together on the plate, with the utensils entirely on the plate (less than an
inch of the silverware over the side of the plate). This is
a signal to the servers that your meal is finished and the dishes
may be removed.
a formal dessert service, a waiter brings each guest a finger
bowl filled with water. The bowl is set on a small lace or organdy
doily (optional), which in turn sits on the dessert plate. The
dessert fork and spoon are balanced on the plate in this case (instead
of sitting at the top of the place setting throughout the meal.)
A guest should dip finger tips in the finger bowl, wipe them on his
or her napkin, and then remove the finger bowl and doily to the upper
left of the place setting. He or she now moves the fork and
spoon from the plate to the left and right of the plate respectively.
The empty plate is now ready to receive a helping of dessert.
way to cut your meat, whether eating American or continental style, is
to grasp your knife and fork in a relaxed, natural manner, never with
clenched fists. Elbows are never placed on the table, they
are accepted only when everyone has finished the meal.
- In the American style of eating, after cutting your meat, you switch
the fork to your right hand, place your knife on the plate, spear a
piece of meat, and then eat it. The idle hand may be left hidden on
- In the Continental eating style, you keep your fork in your left hand
and convey the food to your mouth after cutting each piece. The
knife remains in your hand and may be subtly used to get meat or any
other food. The hands should never be hidden under the table for any length of time.
not cut all the meat at once, cut only one or two small pieces ahead
- Each time
after using your napkin, place soiled section inside the folded
portion so one cannot see it.
Etiquette at a Dinner Function
for the occasion. "Formal" or "Black Tie" means tuxedos and ball
gowns. Business lunch or dinner usually means you should wear a suit
or other professional attire.
business functions, arrive 5 to10 minutes early (not more) if not otherwise
specified. Check your appearance. If it is a private home dinner party,
always arrive on time or just a few minutes late (5 to 10 minutes),
never early or much later.
your host(s). Shaking hands is the usual way, particularly if it is
a business function. Shake hands with a firm but not too hard a squeeze
as someone wearing rings will feel pain if you squeeze too hard and
the rings will leave marks on their fingers. A limp handshake or with
finger tips only is not a good handshake, get a solid grip and
shake as though you mean it.... If you are wearing a coat, ask
where you can put it.
- If there is a cocktail party first, limit your intake, especially
if you have to drive.
sure to leave your right hand free for shaking hands or eating.
You can do this by using all the fingers and palm of your left hand.
Fold your napkin loosely around your little finger. Balance the hors
d'oeuvre plate between your ring and middle fingers, and hold your glass
or cup between your index finger and thumb. It takes a little practice.
to go in to dinner or sit down until either your host(s) say to sit
or until they are seated. Leave your jacket on until dessert comes
unless you are so hot you can't stand it, then place it around the back
of your chair.
your napkin on your lap. If it is a large one, fold the top half
down. After wiping your mouth, place the soiled section of your napkin
inside the folded section so that the soiled parts do not show.
- If you are ordering from a restaurant menu, avoid asking for changes
to the item, or the most expensive meal option, or food that will drip,
slip or be messy (ie: Lobster to crack, unless you are not the only
one ordering it).
you are ordering wine, the simple thing is to ask the host or waiter
to recommend something. White wine is recommended for fish, chicken,
and vegetables; red for red meat and heavy dishes like lasagna. Beer
works with hot food. If you are there as part of an interview,
do not drink more than one glass.
orders the wine will have a small amount poured into the glass to taste.
Take your time, smell it delicately, sip it, rolling it around on your
tongue, then swallow. Unless it tastes like "vinegar" or it is "corky",
nod your head and say something like, "Excellent!" or "Very Good."
is best to hold your glass by the stem, especially with cool
white wine and champagne, as cupping the glass with your hand
will warm up the wine/champagne very fast.
is okay to order a drink that does not contain alcohol.
your eating utensils from the outside in. If you are unsure about anything,
watch your host or others around you. Use them delicately so you avoid a lot of noise as they touch the plate.
- Pass to your right. If someone asks for the salt, pass both
salt and pepper.
beverages should be on the right of your plate and food like
bread and salad on your left. This will help you avoid eating
or drinking someone else's food.
- If soup is served, remember to spoon away from you. Also tip the bowl
away from you. This helps stop the drips. Leave the spoon turned over
in the bowl when you are finished.
your knife in your palm with three fingers around it, the index finger
on the top, and your thumb on the inside of it. Hold it gently and use
pressure from your index finger and thumb to cut.
never lick your knife.
you have cut a piece of food, in North America, you may put your knife
down on your plate with the blade to the inside and switch your fork
to your other hand to eat. Yes, it is weird and the Europeans do
not do it this way, but we do.
- Don't reach across anyone for something on the table; always ask the
person nearest to it or to you to pass it.
butter is being passed, cut a pat and place it on your bread plate.
- Tear off a small piece of bread to butter. Never butter the whole slice.
Lay your butter knife down with the blade to the inside.
- Use your knife or a piece of bread to help corral the pesky vegetables,
never use your finger(s) to push food unto your fork.
- Talk to everyone around you, but don't yell at someone down the table.
Of course, don't talk when your mouth is full either.
- Don't place your elbows on the table; in fact, unless you are cutting
something that requires both hands, your idle hand should be in your
lap (or in Continental Style, your idle hand should be on the table).
- If coffee is served, it usually comes with a teaspoon you can use to
add sugar or stir.
- If you have dessert or fruit, the dessert fork or spoon will either
be above your plate, or will be served with the dessert.
- Use the restroom to pick food out of your teeth or repair your makeup.
If you have to excuse yourself from the table, place your napkin on
your chair. Women, if you are in a very high-class restaurant, you might
find an attendant in the restroom. You are supposed to tip that person
if she provides any service to you.
- When you are finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side
in the middle of the plate with the handles resting on the plate. Fork
tines should be turned down and the knife blade turned in. Place the
napkin to the right side of your plate or on your chair when you get
- The host(s) should pick up the restaurant tab, so don't offer. But it
never hurts to have money or a card handy just in case. Thank your host(s)
for a wonderful meal (unless you ended up paying for it).