Does table etiquette really matter anymore? Are you hosting Christmas dinner this year and care about whether the bread plate goes to the left or the right?

My great friend Carol Ann recently reminded me that yes, table etiquette is still important and is still being discussed. So I did a little research to see if I could find any new trends out there to discuss.

First, I couldn’t find anything new. Bummer. So for those of us that actually don’t entertain formally very often (me, me, me!) I thought I’d review the basics, in hopefully a fun way.

Rule #1- Use fun dishes for Pete’s sake.  My china has been packed up in a box for 3 years (given to me by my mother) and has not seen the light of day since.  It’s beautiful.  But it doesn’t go in the dishwasher. (I mean, come on!) Who wants to hand wash all those dishes for crying out loud?  Not me.  Did that every Sunday growing up and HATED it.

Rule #2- Put out only the utensils people will actually use. Again, the dishwashing factor. Also, people won’t know what to do with them.  Salad fork on the outside of the dinner fork, as shown above.  Knife facing towards the place, and the soup spoon on outside of dinner knife.

Rule #3- Bread plate goes to the left corner of the dinner plate. (However, if you are a bit more casual then 86 the bread plate.)

Rule #4- Always serve water. Even if you’re serving other beverages like wine or sweet tea (as we do here in the South), it’s nice for your guests to have a glass of water as well.  (This does add to the dishwashing though. Sorry ladies.) Water glass is placed on the inside of the wine glass.

Rule #5- You’re officially supposed to place the dessert utensil above the plate as shown below. via However, I’ve never seen anyone do that in their home, only in fine dining.

However, while we’re discussing this image, I’d like to ask who on earth likes to eat fish before their dinner.  I can honestly say I’ve never done that.  And why on earth do you need four knives?  I can see a bread knife if you’re dining out, but really, the dishwashing! 🙂

Here is another option for you:

My mother-in-law (very Martha-esque) uses this type of setting and I personally prefer it.  It’s a small salad plate in the center, and no bread plate.  It makes for a very pretty table setting as salads and bread should be the only foods on the table when guests arrive according to etiquette coach Jill Slatter.  Slatter is an etiquette coach for Replacements, LTD  based here in Greensboro.

The rules above are mine.  Here are hers:

Rule #6- Wait to pour.  Only water glasses should be filled when guests arrive. Other beverages should be poured once everyone is seated.

Rule #7- The hostess always sits last (if at all!).  Most of the time when I host a dinner party, I’m up and down refilling glasses and dishes (we like to serve family style on the table) so sitting isn’t usually an option.

Rule #8- The potatoes are passed counterclockwise.  Don’t play football and try to pass dishes over someone sitting next to you.  (My brothers and I had this down to a science growing up!) Seriously, even if you hate to disturb your “neighbor,” they still need to participate in the game.

Rule #9- Turn cell phones off (as if this needs to be said!)

Rule #10- Take the centerpiece away if it is too tall or large for guests to enjoy eating around it.  Hmmm.  Mine perhaps?

I’m personally still smiling over the formal place setting above that lists fish forks and knives. Crazy. Anyway, if you need more forks and knives than what I’ve shown, I’m at a loss. Good luck figuring that out. 😉  Also, if you are missing a piece of china, silver or crystal from your set, be sure to check out Replacements.   You will be amazed at what you can find.

Anyway, chat with me.  Tell me what YOU do in your home. My comment button is at the top of the post.  Thanks!


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