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Formal Dining Etiquette

By: Alyssa J Freitas

There may come a time in a collegiette’s life that involves an elegant restaurant, be it dinner with the Dean, a club or Greek Life formal or even just a fancy date. As you might imagine, there are etiquette standards to abide by during formal dining, and if this is your first experience in an upscale restaurant, seeing multiple forks might overwhelm you!

I’ve set out the rules of formal dining etiquette and they’re easy enough to master.

General Table Manners:

  • Ladies, no purses on the table, even if it is a clutch.
  • Place your napkin on your lap immediately when you sit down. If you need to leave the table place your napkin on your chair. At the end of the meal, the napkin should be placed on the table.
  • When getting to the end of your soup you may tip the bowl ever so slightly away from you to aid in getting the last bits. 
  • When cutting, your fork should be in your left hand and your knife in the right. Your fork’s tongs should be facing downward.
  • If you need to be excused a simple “Excuse me,” will suffice.
  • Absolutely no texting or talking on the phone at the table. If you need to use your phone for an emergency, excuse yourself first.
  • When you have finished, place your utensils on your dish to make it easier for the wait staff to remove it. 
  • Lastly, do not comment on others’ table manners. There is no need to point out mistakes. Hopefully, they will learn by watching your good example!

The Place Setting:

  • Starting at the top left you have your bread plate and butter knife. Always keep your bread on your bread plate. If you have to take butter from a dish in the center, take a small amount with your butter knife and place it on your bread plate. The proper way to eat bread is to tear off a bite size piece, butter it with the butter you have already put on your plate, and then eat it. Although this is a more lengthy process, this method will prevent you from any struggle you may have biting the bread and is also more clean and refined.
  • Next, at the top middle, you have your dessert fork and coffee/tea spoon. These two items are pretty self-explanatory.
  • Then comes the water goblet and wine glass at the top right. Once again, these items are self-explanatory.
  • At the right hand side is your tea or coffee cup. It is important to note that you should hold your saucer underneath your cup when you sip. This will catch any small spill you may make.
  • Going back to the left are your forks. It is easy to remember that you should usually work your way from the outside in with each course. Another rule of thumb is that the fork will get bigger with each progressing course.
  • In the middle is your soup bowl and plate. If you don’t know the use of these it’s time to give up :).
  • On the right you have your knives. The same general rules apply for use of knives as for forks.
  • Your soupspoon is also on the right. It is easy to identify your soupspoon because it will be the biggest.
  • Last is your seafood fork. You will always know that this is your seafood fork because it is separated from all of the other forks.

And there you have it! Easy enough, right? Have a fabulous time at your formal and always remember to maintain your decorum.

For more etiquette lessons, visit here.

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