Proper Dining Etiquette: The Basics Covered
Proper Dining Etiquette: The Basics Covered

You’ve read our blog on how to lay the perfect place setting, so you’re off to a good start. But where do you go from there? Dining etiquette varies from country to country, culture to culture and the ‘rules’ flex and flow depending on the event and the environment. Within reason, anything goes for street food and informal buffets, but if you’re planning on having any kind of sit-down meal, it’s wise to get acquainted with the ins and outs of polite and proper dining etiquette to avoid any unforgiveable faux pas.

From knowing where and how to sit to being prepared to act accordingly when the unexpected catches you unawares, we’ve got you covered with our low-down on the ultimate dos and don’t of eating in good company…

Take a seat

Upon arrival at a dinner party, you might mingle a little first or it might be straight to sitting…

  • The only way to really know is to take your cues from the host or hostess. When they sit, you sit; that is, unless they ask you to take a seat whilst they’re still up and doing.
  • There will often be name cards set in place and if this is the case, do not go switching seats! The seating plan will have been poured over to get just right and it would be considered the height of rudeness to make changes to this.
  • If there is no seating plan indicated, the arrangement will usually be man, woman, man, woman with ladies seated to the right.

Once you’ve figured out where to sit, it’s also important to take into account how to sit...

  • Up straight is of course preferable, with no hunching forward or tilting of the chair.
  • If there is a napkin, gracefully unfold it (do not shake it open!) and place it in your lap.
  • Keep your hands still in your lap with elbows off the table until the food is served, at which point you keep your elbows bent and clear of the table with hands level to the cutlery.

Serve, Share & Pass

Unless you have waiters bringing food and condiments to you from off the table, it is likely that at some point during the course of the meal you will need to get something for yourself or be asked to pass something over to another guest…

  • Never reach across anyone to move something (it is perfectly alright to politely ask them to pass something to you or to whoever needs the item in question)
  • Try to pass from left to right where possible
  • Place the passed item directly on the table rather than into a hand
  • Keep salt and pepper shakers together at all times regardless of whether or not someone has asked for one or both – this way the next person needing these won’t have to go on a hunt!
  • Do not use something or take something for yourself as it is en route to the person who has asked for it. Wait until they have finished and then ask to have it passed back your way

If there is any sort of ‘self serve’ food on the table, whether that’s simply bread rolls and butter or full dishes, stick to these rules…

  • Always make sure that everyone else has taken what they want before serving yourself. Leave your plate until last.
  • Never use your own cutlery to serve food, to your own plate or someone else’s. Use the serving utensils provided and then put them back where you took them from.

The Cutlery

Our forte - If there’s one aspect of dining etiquette that we really know our stuff about, it’s cutlery (surprise, surprise!). At a formal dinner party, you’ll most likely be faced with a selection of cutlery to be used for certain courses in a certain way.

This can be a little daunting to those unfamiliar with the set-up, so take a look at our blog ‘Place Setting Tips & Techniques’ for a detailed run down of what to expect and in which order you should use your instruments.

  • Forks and spoons are usually the only cutlery that should enter your mouth, that is, unless you’re lucky enough to be presented with Studio William Taster Tweezers or Chopsticks!
  • Essentially what we’re saying is, a knife is for cutting only, so keep it clear of your lips.
  • Once you begin eating, your cutlery should not touch the table again – not even the handles.
  • Stay sitting up straight at all times and bring the cutlery to your mouth – do not lean forward to meet it, no matter how hungry you are!
  • Hold your fork with tines down and push food onto it, unless you are eating pasta or fish in which case you may hold the fork in your right hand with tines facing up.
  • Hold your knife with the handle resting in the palm of your hand with your thumb and index finger keeping it secure on the top and side.
  • Always eat dessert with both your dessert fork and spoon, unless you are having ice-cream or sorbet in which case opt for a teaspoon or long spoon.