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Dinner Party Etiquette

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, you will likely be attending more and more dinner parties, whether it’s a work event or hosted by family or friends. Whether you’re in someone’s home or out at a restaurant or banquet hall, keep these dinner party etiquette tips in mind.

Before The Dinner
It is always best to respond whether or not an RSVP was requested. If not explicitly offered, refrain from asking if you can bring extra guests. The exception is if your family is invited to someone’s home for dinner – then you should ask if children are included. If so, be sure your children are on their best behavior.

Gift
Bring a host or hostess gift if you will be dining at the home of a friend or family member. Keep in mind that most dinners have carefully planned menu items so do not expect your gift to be used during the meal.

Getting Started
Seating depends on the host or hostess. Some formal parties may have place cards for where the host or hostess wants you to sit. If not, ask if there are seating preferences and wait until the host sits before you do. Sometimes, a blessing will be said before dinner. If you do not follow the beliefs of the prayer, respectful silence is acceptable. If the host offers a toast, lift your glass – a “clink” with someone else’s glass is not necessary.

Napkin
After sitting down, take a cue from your host or hostess for when to begin. When the host unfolds his or her napkin, you should do the same. However, if you are dining out, you should place your napkin on your lap immediately.

Your napkin should remain in your lap until you are finished eating. If you must get up at any time during the meal and plan to return, place the napkin on either side of your plate. Once finished completely, place your napkin on the table to the left of your plate.

When To Eat
At a restaurant, you should wait until all members of your group have been served before you begin eating. For private dinners, take cues from the host or hostess. For buffets, you may start when there are others seated at your table.

Silverware
Silverware can be tricky. Typically, it is best to start with the utensil that is farthest away from your plate and work your way toward the center of your place setting. However, if the host or hostess is doing something different, you may follow his or her lead. Your best bet is to remain as inconspicuous as possible.

Food
If the food are your dinner party is served at the table, the dishes should be passed n a counter-clockwise flow and remember to never reach across the table for anything. Ask that condiments be passed from the person closest to the item (salt and pepper should always be passed together). And always use the serving utensils, not your own, when lifting food from the serving dish.

Eating
Some common table manners and essential dining etiquette are as follows:

  • Turn off your cell phone before sitting down – it’s rude to talk on your phone or text while in the company of others.
  • Never talk when you have food in your mouth -even if someone asks you a question, wait until you swallow before answering.
  • Taste your food before you add salt, pepper, or other seasoning. Doing otherwise may be insulting to the host or hostess. If you are dining with a prospective employer, the person may perceive you as someone who acts without knowing the facts.
  • Don’t cut all your food before you begin eating – cut one or two bites at a time.
  • Never blow on your food – if it’s hot, wait a few minutes for it to cool off. And scoop soup away from you.
  • Some foods are meant to be eaten with your fingers – follow the lead of your host or hostess.
  • Stemmed glasses are meant to be held by the stem.
  • Break your bread into bite-sized pieces and butter only one bite at a time.
  • Unless you are allergic, try at least one or two bites of everything on your plate.
  • Compliment the hostess if you like the food, otherwise it’s best to keep mum.
  • Use your utensils for eating, not gesturing.
  • Keep your elbows off the table and rest the hand you are not using in your lap.
  • Eat slowly and pace yourself to finish at the same approximate time as the host or hostess.
  • Avoid burping or making other rude sounds at the table.
  • If you spill something at a restaurant, signal one of the servers to help. If you spill something at a private dinner party in someone’s home, pick it up and blot the spill. If necessary, offer to have it professionally cleaned.
  • When you finish eating, leave your utensils on your plate or in your bowl.
  • Never use a toothpick or dental floss at the table.
  • You may reapply your lipstick, but refrain from doing the rest of your makeup at the table.

After The Meal
As mentioned, after you finish eating, partially fold your napkin and place it to the left of your plate. Wait until the host or hostess signals that the meal is over before you stand. If nothing is planned after dinner, stick around for approximately an hour before thanking your host for dinner and leaving. For informal events, you may offer to help clean up.

Later
Always send the host or hostess a thank you note or card in the mail, but don’t wait more than a day or two after the event. You brief but heartfelt note should address the host or hostess, thank him or her for the lovely dinner, and include another short, positive comment to show your appreciation.

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