Dining etiquette is, by far, my favorite to teach. I especially enjoy teaching young children to set tables correctly. My 6 year nephew recently learned how to position napkins, knives, and forks and it made him so proud to see his work. Some may deem dining etiquette unnecessary, but I wholeheartedly disagree. There are many reasons why I feel the way I do, but I would like to share the top three with you.
- A place for everything and everything in its place. This also applies to setting a table. When we practice discipline in the way we complete a task (such as table setting), we are improving our character. A disciplined character shows that you have self-respect. “Knowledge will give you power, but character respect” –Bruce Lee
- We are constantly making impressions. Everything we do, or say, leaves an impression behind for someone else to interpret. When we practice good table manners and dining etiquette, we are leaving behind positive impressions and therefore gaining the respect of those around us. Respect often opens up opportunities that the best education cannot.
- Being neat and orderly clears clutter from our minds and lifts our spirits. This leads to a more grateful and satisfying life, which lead to improved health.
The two main tables I set for company are breakfast/brunch and dinner. We’re going to look at these two tables today and talk about proper positioning.
To set a breakfast table, clean table with washcloth and dry thoroughly. Dress table with tablecloth, placemats, or just a table runner (not pictured). Use your thumb knuckle as a guide to place the edge of you plate 1 in from the edge of the table. To the left of the plate, place your napkin and fork (for breakfast it is acceptable for the napkin to be placed under the fork). To the left of your plate, from the inside out, place your knife (blade in), your table spoon, then your teaspoon. Above the spoons, place your coffee/tea cup and saucer, left to the upper left place your juice glass, then you water glass. (For Brunch, you may add a champagne flute to the upper right of the juice glass.) Finish with placing your bread/muffin plate directly above your fork.
To set a formal dinner table, clean table with washcloth and dry thoroughly. Dress table with tablecloth, placemats, or just a table runner (not pictured). Use your thumb knuckle as a guide to place the edge of you plate 1 in from the edge of the table. To the left of the plate, from the inside out, place your dinner fork, your salad fork, and then your napkin. To the left of your plate, from the inside out, place your knife (blade in), your teaspoon, then your soup spoon. Above the spoons, place your wine glasses (white first, then red), then your water glass to the upper left. Lay your dessert fork directly above your dinner plate facing right, then your spoon above facing left. Finish with placing your bread plate directly above your fork with your butter knife laying across the plate. The name/place card should be placed directly above your dessert cutlery.
(TIP: A fun way to teach children how to set a table is with their hands. Fork has 4 letter just like Left. Knife has 5 letters just like Right. Also have them make a small “b” and “d” with their thumb, index, and middle fingers. The bread plate goes to the “b” and the drinks go to the “d“.)
As a dinner guest in someone’s home, there are a few important etiquette tips to remember:
1.) Do not start eating until everyone has been seated and the host/hostess begins their meal.
2.) Your napkin should be placed in your lap during the meal. It should not touch the table until the meal is finished. When the meal is finished, the napkin should be folded and placed to the left. Not crumpled and thrown just anywhere.
3.) Regarding cutlery, always start with the outside and work your way in.
4.) Chew with your mouth closed.
5.) Unless someone specifically asks for a dish, always pass food from left to right.
The more we practice our etiquette skills and table manners, the easier they become. Soon, they’ll become second nature and our efforts can go from remembering our manners, to concentrating on those around us and holding conversations.