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Table Manners for the Modern Lady

While I may not agree with the outdated, Victorian sense of the word lady-like, I do believe that presenting oneself well at the dinner table is important, no matter the circumstance. Whether at a business luncheon with your boss, a fancy family dinner at your grandma’s, or date night at Elizabeth’s, it’s important to know what kind of table etiquette is appropriate for what kind of meal. Conducting yourself well in formal functions allows you to exude an educated and polite sensibility that will help you remain poised, regardless if you support the whole lady-like concept or not. So for those of you who are not quite sure of all of the unwritten table etiquette rules, reference this manners guide:

When you first arrive at the table…

  • Always give your jacket to the coat check.
  • If there’s no coat check, when you arrive at the table, take off your jacket and hang it on the back of the chair so it doesn’t get wrinkled on your seat.
  • Immediately place your napkin in your lap.

When you’re waiting for the food to arrive…

  • Sit up straight in your chair, but don’t look uncomfortable!
  • Elbows remain down by your sides. Don’t rest them on the table.
  • Feel free to break into the bread bowel, but always break a roll into pieces before buttering.
  • Never dip one utensil used for one reason into the vessel of another. For example, don’t dip your knife into the jam and then into the butter.

When the soup comes…

  • Use your soup soon in a motion away from the table edge.
  • Leave the soup spoon in your place when you’re finished.
  • Soups and sauces should not be sopped up with bread.
  • Soup, oysters, or any food that’s offered to you already portioned should never be refused.

When the salad comes…

  • Use the smallest fork furthest from the place setting.
  • Salad should not be cut with a knife.
  • Anything that must be taken from the mouth and put back on a place is dealt with one rule: If it went in on a fork, it comes out on a fork. So if there are pitted olives in your salad, make sure to extract the pit and carefully place it back on the fork to take it out of your mouth.

When the entrée comes…

  • Condiments go on the plate before the food, if you’re serving yourself from a platter.
  • Food should be kept in the center plate away from the flat rim.
  • Don’t push around or mess up your food.
  • Cut only one thing at a time, no layering.
  • Two bites should never be taken from the same forkful.
  • When placing your utensils down mid-meal, place them face down on the edge of the plate so you can pick them up easily.
  • When you’re finished with your meal, place utensils together in the middle of the plate to make it easy for clearing.

If you have more questions, check out this Buzzfeed diagram below:

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