Dinner Table Etiquette

What are the basic principles of proper dinner table etiquette? Here are some tips on dinning etiquette that will help you through any formal/semi-formal lunch or dinner event that you might host or attend. Always remember though, no need to be fancy, just intellectual.

As a Host:

Based on the EtiquetteScholar there are 3 table settings for different events. 

Formal Table Settings:

Dinner etiquette

Informal Table Settings:

Dinner etiquette

Buffet Table Settings:

Dinner etiquette

  1. As the host, you should suggest the seating arrangements.
  2. Food is brought to each diner’s left side.
  3. During formal events food is brought to each diner at the table, unlike informal dinner events, were food can be passed around or placed in the center.

As a Guest:

  1. Your host may have seating arrangements in mind, so you should allow him to direct you to your seat.
  2. At informal meals, place the napkin on your lap immediately upon seating. During formal occasions, before unfolding the napkin, wait for the hostess to remove her napkin from the table and unfold it in her lap.
  3. The “work your way outside-in” table manners rule is a good way to remember which utensils to use, starting first from the outside and working your way inward.
  4. For informal dinners and based on the culture, it is very respectful to bring a bottle of wine or sweets as a present to the host.
  5. At a small table of only two to four people, wait until everyone else has been served before starting to eat. At a formal or business meal, you should either wait until everyone is served to start or begin when the host asks you to.
  6. Hold your fork in your left hand, tines downward. Hold your knife in your right hand, an inch or two above the plate. Extend your index finger along the top of the blade. Use your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth. If your knife is not needed, it remains on the table. At informal meals the dinner fork may be held tines upward, American table manners style.
  7. Pass to the right. One diner either holds the dish as the next diner takes some food, or he hands it to the person, who then serves herself. Any heavy or awkward dishes are put on the table with each pass.
  8. Be sure to taste the food before putting salt or pepper on it. Always pass salt and pepper together. If a person asks for just one, pass both anyway.
  9. Check out the do’s and don’ts for bread here.
  10. When you pause to take a sip of your beverage or to speak with someone, rest your utensils by placing your knife and fork on your plate near the center, slightly angled in an inverted V and with the tips of the knife and fork pointing toward each other.
  11. When you do not want to swallow something already in your mouth, like a piece of bone, etc. Move it with your tongue onto your fork at your mouth and then bring the fork down to your plate and deposit it on the rim. No one should notice you doing this because the motion of food to mouth is made commonly by anyone eating.
  12. Never eat greasy foods with your fingers (with the exception of french fries or potato chips)
  13. Soup should be spooned away from yourself to avoid spilling.
  14. Go easy on sauces and spices. Sauces can be messy and you should not season your food before you taste it.
  15. Do not pick your teeth at the table! Try drinking water to dislodge the food or if you need to, excuse yourself and go to the restroom to take care of it.
  16. Please, chew with your mouth closed and in a manner that shows that you have seen food before; eat slowly, one bite at a time.
  17. At a formal affair, plates are removed by professional staff. But as most informal meals are served without help, the hostess clears the plates, often with the help of a guest or two. At a family meal, members clear their own plates.
  18. Leaving the dining room. To signal dinner is concluded, the hostess catches the eye of the host, lays her napkin on the table, and suggests that everyone go into another room for coffee and after-dinner drinks. The hostess rises from her chair. When it’s time to leave, rather than detain one’s host with a lengthy good-bye, make the departure brief but cordial.