The Ultimate Modern-Day Dining Guide
- Next1 of 9Courtesy of Houzz/Photo: Jacob Snavely; Design; Design: Chango & Co.
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Eat, Drink, Behave1 of 9
Elbows and cell phones at the table? Maybe. Forgetting to say "Thank you"? No way. From setting the table and serving the meal, to the most polite way to get your guests to leave when they just aren't taking the hint—our mealtime etiquette guide takes the guesswork out of group dining.
Linen Line-Up2 of 9
Use a tablecloth for a formal gathering or placemats if your meal is more casual, but not together. If you are using a tablecloth and want a more layered look, add chargers under your dinner plates. Or forgo a tablecloth and placemats for a simple, modern feel. Cloth napkins make any meal feel more special, so set them out at breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether or not you have company.
Service Supplies3 of 9
Setting the table is easier than ever. For fine dining you only need salad and dinner forks, table knives, soup spoons and after-dinner or dessert spoons. One set of wineglasses—with or without stems—will serve you well no matter the type of wine you have, plus water glasses for water and other beverages. Dinner plates, salad plates and soup bowls are essential—plus a pretty set of dessert plates if you wish (but you can also use salad plates in lieu of dessert plates).
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Map Quest4 of 9
Forks go on the left, knives and spoons on the right; glassware goes above the knives and spoons. First course flatware starts from the left with the main-course flatware ending closest to the plate. Folding and placing the napkin under the fork is less formal while placing it in the center of the plate (with or without a napkin ring) is more formal.
The Meal's Deal5 of 9
When planning your menu, deciding how the food will be served will affect the atmosphere you are trying to create. Casual gatherings are more fun served family style, with all of the serving dishes placed on the table and passed around. If there is not enough room for all of the food, put a few bulky trays of food on a nearby buffet and the smaller items on the table. For more formal dinners (and for tiny tables with no room for platters) plate the food in the kitchen.
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Accents on Design6 of 9
Floral arrangements and the glow of candlelight are the perfect finishing touches to the dinner table, but overly fragrant flowers and scented candles will interfere with the enjoyment of the food. Use only unscented flowers and tapers near your dining experience—saving your favorite scented version for the living room.
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Mannerly Speaking7 of 9
While decorum around mealtimes has relaxed a great deal, certain basic rules still apply. Wait until everyone is seated and served before you begin eating. Ask someone to pass food rather than reaching for it. Try a bite of everything (even if you know it's not your favorite). Wait until everyone is finished eating before getting up. And finally, be sure to compliment the food even if dinner is a complete disaster—you can still express gratitude to your host for taking the time to prepare it.
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Table Techies8 of 9
During dinner, silence your phone and put it away. In this age of 24/7 connection, giving your attention to the people you are with is best. If your friend is constantly checking their phone during dinner, ask them to put it away until you are finished eating. Emphasize you have been looking forward to spending time together—keeping your language positive. If you must keep your phone on—parents and doctors on call come to mind—let everyone know why. If you get up during dinner to answer the phone, it won't look rude.
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Happy Endings9 of 9
Always offer to help clear the table—and if you are really familiar—just pick up a plate and start helping. Be sure to thank your host for a lovely evening, and do not overstay your welcome. If you are the one hosting, cleaning up the table is a good sign that you are wrapping things up. And if your guests still don't get the message? Say, "Well, it's been lovely catching up with you. You know I'd love to talk all night, but I have an early morning tomorrow, so I'm afraid it's time for me to say goodnight."