The season is here. Get out your best manners…Remember that table etiquette is meant to equalize the people at the table and so that everyone is comfortable. People all over the world and especially in international business and diplomacy – count on using the same rules everywhere they go. Its not meant to be snobby but to be polite.
If you plan to change things up an go a bit more modern – you can do whatever makes sense. If your guests understand what to do – it is considered polite.
The last rule of thumb to remember is that every course begins with the hostess choosing the correct piece of flatware and beginning. It is impolite to start before him or her. Do what he or she does and you are home free.
A. Napkin F. Wine
B. Luncheon Plate G. Luncheon Fork
C. Soup Bowl or Cup H. Luncheon Knife
D. Butter Plate I. Coffee Spoon
E. Water Goblet/Ice Tea or Water tumbler J. Soup Spoon
Note: If you are serving iced tea, the long ice tea spoon should go across the top of the plate. It is also a good idea to be less formal with the napkin folds.
FORMAL DINNER SERVICE – SERVED
The one unbreakable rule is that everything must be geometrically spaced – all places must be at equal distances, and all sterling silver flatware balanced.
The silverware used at a formal table setting should be sterling silver flatware if possible. It is not necessary that all the sterling silver match, although all forks or all spoons should be of the same pattern. Dessert sterling silver flatware, which is not brought to the table but is brought in with the desert plates, need not match the dinner flatware. Knives and forks should match.
If bread or rolls are to be served, a butter plate should be used. The butter plate is located above the forks at the left of the place setting. The butter knife is laid across it, slightly diagonally from upper left to lower right, with the sharper edge of the blade toward the edge of the table.
If you plan to serve coffee with the meal, the cup and saucer go to the right of the setting, with the coffee spoon on the right side of the saucer. Although it is far nicer to serve coffee separately with dessert at end of the meal.
The one rule for a formal table is for everything to be geometrically spaced: the centerpiece at the exact center; the place settings at equal distances; and the utensils balanced. Beyond these placements, you can vary flower arrangements and decorations as you like.
The placement of utensils is guided by the menu, the idea being that you use utensils in an “outside in” order. For the illustrated place setting here, the order of the menu is: Appetizer: Shellfish, First Course: Soup or fruit, Fish Course, Entrée, & Salad
*Knife blades are always placed with the cutting edge toward the plate. No more than three of any implement is ever placed on the table, except when an oyster fork is used in addition to three other forks. If more than three courses are served before dessert, then the utensil for the fourth course is brought in with the food; likewise the salad fork and knife may be brought in when the salad course is served. Dessert spoons and forks are brought in on the dessert plate just before dessert is served.
USING THAT FLATWARE PROPERLY
You really cannot do it wrong as long as you are neat and spare the tablecloth: There are three ways to hold those knives and forks
American: All action in the right hand, switching knife and fork between.
British: Action in both hands, knife in left, fork in right.
European: Action in both hands, knife in right, fork in left.
Remember that whether you are using fine china or paper plates; sterling or chopsticks; these are rules are for your guests’ comfort and enjoyment.