Attending a dinner involves far more than getting dressed (appropriately) and showing up (on time). This post features social events, and next week focuses on business etiquette. Few families sit down to family dinners where children used to acquire the table manners that prepare them to participate in social situations where knowledge of dining etiquette is required.
First of all, respond to a dinner/event invitation immediately. The invitation should include the dress for the occasion. If it doesn’t, ask. In general, it is better to dress more conservatively. Make sure that you have the appropriate clothing prepared to wear well ahead of time.
Arrive 10-15 minutes before the time on the invitation. Late is NEVER acceptable. If alcohol is served, NEVER have more than one drink. No hostess wants to deal with difficult guests. If you have problems with controlling your behavior after drinking, DON’T DRINK AT ALL. Don’t let your consumption of alcohol make you a party pariah.
If there are name cards, be sure to sit in your assigned seat. Don’t sit until your hostess and guests of honor are seated. If you have not been introduced to those dining around you, introduce yourself to those sitting near you. Have some topics of conversation ready—not religion or politics. Conversation is all about being polite and considerate of others.
If dining out, take your cue from the host when ordering. Don’t order things that are “messy” or will take an inordinate amount of time to prepare. Following your hostess’s lead, place your napkin in your lap folded into a triangle with the point away from you. Generally, don’t eat until everyone (or at least everyone at the table) has received their food and the hostess begins eating. When not eating, keep your hands in your lap. NEVER speak with food in your mouth or chew with your mouth open.
Dining. Table settings may be complicated. Usually, forks are on the left and the knife and spoons are on the right. Generally, start using utensils from the outside toward the inside. When in doubt, take your cue from your hostess. If food needs to be passed, pass to your left (clockwise). Offer condiments to others before serving yourself.
Tips. Don’t stir drinks loudly and never chew ice cubes. Place butter on your bread plate, break off a piece at a time, then butter only a few bites at a time. If soup is served, spoon AWAY from you. If you need to cut your salad, place your knife on your bread plate. Cut your meat into a few SMALL pieces at a time. When finished, place your knife on your plate with the blade turned away from you which signals to the server that you are finished
At the end of the dinner in a restaurant, the host pays the bill with a 15% tip (20% for especially good service). Thank the host before leaving and write a thank you note the next day.
Tomorrow, Writing a Thank You Note. Rita Bay