When casually eating, most don’t have a formally set dining table with multiple pieces of silverware and glassware.  We rely on some basic rules that we learned as children such as not speaking with our mouths full of food.  However, an upscale event, the etiquette rules are somewhat more complex.  Here are five table etiquette tips that you will want to implement.

1.  With Silverware, Begin from the Outside In


In some cases, a formal dinner setting might have three or more forks, and just as many knives and spoons. It can get somewhat confusing! You may be confronted with a shellfish fork, a soup spoon, or a fish knife and fork, all in addition to the main dinner knife and fork.

For some multiple-course meals, utensils may be brought in with each course. This is especially true for salad and dessert courses because it makes it easier to know what utensil to use. When in doubt, the basic rule to remember is that you should always start at the outside and work your way inward so that the largest tools are used for the main course. Another helpful tip is to wait for the host or hostess to begin eating. Not only is it good manners, but it also allows you to see which utensil they are using.

2.  Place Your Napkin in Your Lap

Despite napkins storied history, they eventually developed their own rules of etiquette. When sitting down to eat, it is polite to take the napkin and spread it on your lap. Do not tuck it into the neck of your shirt. Use it to gently dab your mouth.  If you are planning to leave the table for a short while, place your napkin on the seat or back or your chair. When finished, leave the napkin loosely folded on the left side of your place setting.

3.  Pause Before Eating the Bread

Can you relate to this scenario? By the time the entrée arrives at a restaurant, everyone has eaten their share of bread. However, a formal dinner offers bread with the courses, rather than by itself.

There are also rules about how to eat the bread. Do not spread the entire slice with butter. Likewise, don’t cut a bread roll in half and butter both halves as this becomes too messy to contain while eating. The correct way to eat it is to break off a small piece and butter just that piece. Continue to butter one bite at a time.

4.  No Elbows on the Table (But Only While Eating)

Where and why did the rule about no elbows on the table originate?  Although there are many historical accounts where elbows on the table is frowned upon, more recently,  Emily Post cautions against it, unless engaging in conversation between courses.

Some believe that the use of elbows could once have been seen as a sign of intimidation or potential violence. Martha Stewart claims that resting one’s elbows increases the likelihood of slouching, which was once considered, in itself, rude. Whatever the reasoning, most people agree that elbows on the table while eating can be seen as impolite and can intrude upon your neighbor’s space.

5.  Be Aware of Local Customs

Table etiquette varies from one country to another. To avoid insulting a host when dining overseas, it can be useful to become acclimate with local manners.