If you’re anything like me, going into social situations that you’re unprepared for can make you nervous, and maybe even cause some anxiety. When I was younger, I had a difficult time attending business dinners or dates at very formal restaurants because I never felt prepared. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I got embarrassed and flustered easily, and my anxiety kicked into overdrive.
So, like everything else in my life, I went home, and I spent time learning the proper etiquette for things like seating, and serving, and utensil placement, and table settings. Having the awareness and knowledge made me feel so much more comfortable in those types of environments because I was no longer intimidated. As I’ve learned time and time again in this journey of life, knowledge always makes me feel less afraid. Information has always helped me navigate my world better. And so, my loves, I thought this may help you navigate your worlds better, too. Or at the very least, give you a few things you can take with you on your next fancy night out.
When sitting down to an informal meal, the first thing you should do is place your napkin in your lap when you sit down. If you’re in a more formal setting, you can wait for the host or hostess to remove their napkin from the table before doing the same. If you’re at a buffet-style meal for a wedding, you should wait to unfold your napkin until you start eating.
When you get up from the table temporarily, put the napkin on your chair. If the chair is upholstered, make sure to place the napkin soiled side up. At the end of the meal, fold your napkin loosely and place it in the center of your place setting if it is empty. If there is a plate in the center of your place setting, place the napkin to the left of your plate.
This is a trick I’ve told many, many, many people. In fact, if you’ve been out to eat with me in a restaurant, you’ve more than likely heard me share this tip, because I share it often — probably too often — but I think it’s a useful one. Have you ever gotten to a table with a bunch of people and sat down and have no idea which water glass is yours and which bread place it yours and so you sit there willing the person next to you to make the first move so you can follow their lead?
There’s a really easy way to remember this, but your bread plate is always to your left and your water glass or drink glass is always to the right of your setting. If you make the letters “b” and “d” with your pointer finger and thumb of each hand, you’ll quickly and easily be able to remember, left side or “b” is my bread place, and right side or “d” is my drink.
To figure out which utensil to use first when you have multiple sets, is to follow the outside-in rule, use utensils on the outside first and work your way inward toward the plate. For example, when you are served your salad, you’ll use the fork that is the farthest away from the plate on the outside.
For some reason, this used to make me so anxious. I was convinced that where I left my knife and fork on my plate in a fancy restaurant was a secret language to the staff that I had no proper etiquette. Here are the rules of etiquette to follow when it comes to resting your utensils (chopsticks not included).
You should never rest your utensils half on the table and half on the plate. Any used utensils are laid on the plate or bowl it is provided with and not on the table.
When you are taking a temporary break from eating, but you aren’t done with your meal, there are two ways you can rest your utensils:
1.) Continental style — Put your fork and knife in the center of your plate with the tips facing each other in an inverted V (slight angled)
2.) American style — Rest your knife on the top right of your plate at a diagonal with the fork nearby with the tines facing up.
When you are finished with your course, place the fork and knife parallel with the handles in the four o’clock position on the right rim of the plate, with the tips of both resting in the well of the plate in the ten o’clock position. The blade of the knife should face inward and the fork tines can be either up or down.
If you are using utensils for a soup or dessert course that is served in a deep bowl, cup or stemmed bowl setup on another plate, you can place your utensil(s) on the underplate when you finish. If the underplate is too small to balance the utensil, then it can be laid in the bowl. If the bowl is what is called a soup plate — something that is shallow and wide — you can simply leave the spoon in the bowl.