pretty-woman-table-sceneWhenever I get together with other people to eat, I definitely have a bit of an eye for watching those who have never seemed to understand certain etiquette when eating.   I love table etiquette, from which fork to use to which way to pass the food.  Ya, I’m a weirdo, I admit…  but I’m not passing judgement.  Sure, when we are around family, we should feel comfortable doing what we do, but when at a formal dinner, especially a wedding or other event where etiquette should be taken into consideration, I have put together a few tips that may help you out.  You’re welcome  🙂


If you are a guest, then proper etiquette is to wait for your host to take his/her first bite.  Of course, if they insist you start, then you go ahead and chow down.  When at a wedding or restaurant, you must wait until everyone at the table has received their meal before eating yours.  It’s just polite.  In the case where 1 meal is late or has to be sent back, wait for that person to give you the OK to begin eating without them.


photo credit:  BBC UK
photo credit: BBC UK


This one if often quite confusing and unfortunately, if the first person to take their bread or a sip of their water does it improperly, the entire table can get messed up.  Trust me, I’ve seen this happen at weddings.   The key things to remember here are that your water & wine glasses are to your right and your bread plate is to your left.  Think of it this way.  The world is set up for right-handed people (sorry lefties!!) so you would naturally pick up your water with your right hand.   When it comes to forks, start  on the outside and move inward.  Soup spoon will be on the knife side, whereas the spoon at the top of your plate is reserved for dessert.



Another one that can be easily confused, and if you are eating family style, one wrong move can cause food traffic.  When food is being served, always pass to your right (counter-clockwise).  If all food goes the same way, you will not end up with one person having to juggle a hot platter in one hand and a gravy boat in the other.  In a case where someone asks for more food (ie: more of Mom’s famous stuffing), you may pass in whichever direction is shorter.  Unless the person is within reaching distance, pass around the table until it reaches that person.  Don’t hold it out making someone reach over top of the table or god-forbid, stand up, to try and get to it.  Lastly, when someone does request more stuffing, do not ever intercept the pass.  First, the bowl must be passed to the person who requested it, then when they are finished, you may ask for it to be passed back to you.   Unless it’s turnips.  Turnips can just be thrown straight into the garbage.  😉

salt pepper
photo by Doonidesigns



Simply put, if someone asks for the salt, give them both the salt & pepper.  They should stay together at all times.  It was just meant to be.



It is incredibly rude to your host to season your food prior to tasting it.  Never assume the food is under-seasoned.  Taste, then season.  Taste. Season.



If a utensil leaves the comfort of the table, it shall never return!!  Seriously, don’t use your knife to butter your bread and then return that knife to the table.  It will now and forever need to rest FULLY on your plate.  No balancing, no resting the base of the utensil on the table and the edge of the plate (they are not oars!).  When you have finished eating, place your knife & fork parallel to each other, diagonally on the plate (do not cross them).  If you want to get technical, the sign for “I’m done” (especially if you still have food left on your plate) is to place them diagonally from upper left to lower right, at 11 & 5 if you think of a clock.



Whether your napkin is paper or cloth, the etiquette is the same. Your napkin will either be on your plate, in your glass, under your fork or to the left of your fork.  Your napkin should remain on your lap for the entire meal, although you may pick it up to gently blot your mouth throughout the meal.  If you do have to excuse yourself during the meal, or at the end of the meal, just give the napkin a quick fold and place it to the left of your plate.  And for goodness sakes, NEVER use the napkin to blow your nose.


That’s pretty much it!!   Just remember your manners, your please & thank you – and perhaps a little reminder to keep your elbows off the table!!!!

Do you have anything you would add to this list?

xo – J


Jenn Perry

The author Jenn Perry

Entrepreneur, Child-Wrangler and Domestic-Goddess-Wannabe, Jenn is a married, mother of two. She is also the founder of That's So Social and Editor in Chief of Travel Mavens. Likes: travel, eggs benedict, yoga pants, dogs, and Netflix.