Eating Etiquette Tips

What are some tips on eating etiquette?
Dinner parties can be fun. They can also be nerve-wracking if you have not polished your etiquette skills. Cathleen Hanson, who is one of the owners and founders of the International School of Protocol, which teaches proper etiquette to children, adults, educators, and businesses, guides you step by step through what you should do during a formal dinner party or special event.

To avoid any awkwardness during the process of taking your seat at the table, Cathleen offers these tips: "At some point during a dinner party, the host will say, 'Please join me at the table.' The important thing to do is not to sit right away. Wait for the host to say where you should be seated. If you have a place card, you'll want to find your card and wait. Normally, the seating is assigned to sit male, female, male, female all around the table. If the dinner is very formal and traditional, the women will be to the right of the men. The woman that the man is responsible for seating is going to be to his right. So, the man will pull out the chair to the woman on his right. Everyone is going to enter the chair from the right side of the chair. That is done so that you don't bump hips. After sitting, wait for a signal from the host. The host might say a prayer or put a napkin in his or her lap. The host might give a toast, but whatever it is, just wait."

"If the host gives a toast, it will be made to the guest of honor first. The host will raise his or her glass, toast the guest of honor, and then everyone will drink to the guest of honor. However, the guest of honor will not drink. You don't drink a toast to yourself. Then at that point they (the guest of honor) might want to toast to the host," she adds.

After being seated, the serving of the food depends on the style the host and/or hostess has planned. If it is formal, then the food is served over your left shoulder and the drinks over your right. If it is being passed, wait for the hostess and/or host to give you the cue before picking up a dish, taking a serving, and then passing it to the right. Either way, the one rule to remember is not to eat anything until everyone has been served and the host or hostess has begun eating.

Next is one of the most confusing parts of dining etiquette for a lot of people, knowing which utensil to use. It is actually quite simple. Use the fork and/or knife farthest away from your plate first and work your way in with each separate course. Cathleen says, "It is important to pace yourself with your dining companions. If you are a really fast eater, you wouldn't want to be finished before everyone else is. If you are a slow eater, don't dawdle. When you're finished with the course, place your utensils so that the handles are touching. If you imagine the plate as a face on a clock, the tips of the handle should be touching the four. Your fork and knife should come together. This signifies 'I am finished.'" She adds, "The most important thing is to have fun. Remain comfortable. It is about sharing a meal with good company."