I have four siblings and we’re all 18 months apart. At one point there were three of us in college and when we came home for Christmas my mother threatened to send us back to Cotillion. Apparently surrounded by our besties at a cafeteria table did not lend itself to good dinner table manners. Something about licking our plates being frowned upon? My mother is such a stickler!
We’ve marginally improved since, most assuredly through our spouses hard work.
I’ll be honest, I hate writing these lists of etiquette rules because I chronically break them, and then everyone KNOWS I broke them. But, I’ve had many requests for more, so I am sharing them in good faith that you will not judge me when I come to your house for dinner and break each and every one of these great rules.
Dinner Table Manners
The golden rule at the dinner table is to follow the lead of your hostess or host. If two people are hosting (a married couple) follow whoever is leading.
- Napkin and one hand in your lap. No elbows on the table (at least until the meal is finished). If the meal is a more formal affair, do not put your napkin on your lap until your host or hostess has done so.
- Do not eat until everyone has their food and the hostess or host has lifted their fork. As children my siblings took etiquette very seriously and we used to go around discipling all of our friends. I guess until college. If your hostess or host asks you to begin eating though, you should eat.
- Offer to the left and pass to the right. This only applies to the beginning of the meal when everyone is putting food on their plate.
- Don’t reach across the table. Ask for it to be passed.
- When finishing soup, tip the bowl away from you to fill your spoon. The reason you tip the bowl away from you and not toward you is that you don’t want to spill your soup on your lap if you accidentally tip it too far. Don’t you dare ever lift that bowl to your mouth, even if your bowl is filled with ice cream.
- Use your fork to remove food from your mouth (e.g. a piece of gristle or a small bone). The guideline is to take the unwanted food out of your mouth with the same utensil you put it in (in other words, not your napkin). Then set it back on your plate.
- Slowly chew your food, do not gobble it. I have tunnel vision when it comes to dinner. How do I get this goodness in me as fast as possible? Perhaps this comes from being the oldest of five children. If you don’t eat fast, you don’t eat. My sister has even confessed to feelings of anxiety when it comes to dinner time with the family. Don’t be like me, food should be enjoyed slowly.
- Do not cut your entire steak all at once. Meat should be cut two bite-size pieces at a time.
- Take your hat off at the dinner table. Your hat should be removed when you come indoors regardless, but if for some reason it doesn’t, remove it when you sit down to eat.
- Never ever use your fingers (unless its finger food). If you need to push something onto your fork use a knife or a piece of bread.
- Salt and pepper are married. This means they should always be passed together. If someone asks you to pass the salt, pass the pepper as well.
Conclusion – remember to follow your host, and that the purpose of these rules is to make dinner more enjoyable for everyone, not stiffer, so have fun!
Which dinner table manners are you teaching your children? Which have you broken yourself? Let me know in the comments!