How to Eat at a Formal Dinner

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The silverware is placed on the table in the order in which it will be used, starting with the outside pieces. Let this be your guide as you work your way through a meal.

Things You'll Need

  • Flower Bouquets
  • Votive Candleholders
  • Votive Candles
  • Napkins
  • Silverware
  • Tablecloths
  • Wine Glasses
  • Put your napkin on your lap. Unfold it, but don't spread it.

  • Use outside fork for first course, unless soup is served, then use the outside spoon.

  • When you are finished with the course, place your fork at the right end of your plate, using a slight diagonal. This signifies that you are done. For a soup course or another course that uses a wide bowl, place the spoon on the plate below the bowl. If a shallow bowl is used, place the spoon on the bowl in the same manner as a fork on a plate.

  • Continue by using the new outside fork. If the course requires a knife, use the knife farthest to the right.

  • Use fork closest to your plate to eat your entrée. The spoon and fork at your plate's head are for dessert.

  • Drink water from the largest glass at your setting.

  • Drink red wine from the big bowled glass; drink white wine from the narrower bowled glass.

  • If a little bowl of water is on the table, or appears with the dessert, wash the tips of your fingers in it. Dry them on your napkin.

  • Refold your soiled napkin when you leave the table.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is proper etiquette to wait for the host or hostess to unfold the napkin and begin eating before the guests do likewise.
  • If you're uncertain about how or when to use a certain utensil, watch others and do what the majority of them do.
  • When eating bread, tear off pieces with your fingers - don't cut it. Also, butter the piece you've just torn right before you eat it; don't butter the whole piece first.
  • To eat soup, dip the spoon into the soup, then remove it by going away from your body, not toward it. Sip the soup off the side of the spoon, instead of placing the whole spoon in your mouth.

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