Proper Table Manners

Napkin Etiquette

At informal meals, place the napkin in your lap immediately upon seating. During formal occasions, before unfolding the napkin, wait for the hostess to remove her napkin from the table and unfold it in her lap. When leaving the table temporarily, put the napkin on your chair. At the meal's end, fold your napkin and place it to the left of your place setting.

The continental style prevails at most meals, formal and informal.

It is a natural, non-disruptive way to eat. To follow it, hold your fork in your left hand, tines downward and your knife in your right hand, an inch or two above the plate. Extend your index finger along the top of the blade and use your fork to spear and lift food to your mouth.

When to Start Eating

At a small table of only two to four people, wait until everyone else has been served before starting to eat. At a formal or business meal, you should either wait until everyone is served to start or begin when the host asks you to.

Setting a Table

The Overall Scheme

A place setting puts food directly in front of a diner, within convenient reach. For a formal dinner, allow between 24 and 30 inches for each diner, and centre the place setting on that space.

Utensils: Forks

To use utensils correctly, start with those, farthest away from the plate and work inward, toward the plate. For example, a small fork farthest to the left of the plate is intended for an appetizer course or the salad. In an American meal, the salad often precedes the entree. In Continental service, the salad follows the entree. If there are two small forks to the left of the big entree fork, the fork farthest from the plate is intended for the appetizer, while the second is for the salad. The large fork closest to the plate is for the main course. Sometimes you will find a small fork between the large fork and the plate. This fork is intended for dessert. The only fork that appears on the right side of the plate is very small, used for a first course of oysters.


Glasses are clustered at between above the charger and to its right. The water glass is lined up with the top of the knives. Glasses may also be lined up at an angle to the plate, in order of size, with the smallest placed farthest to the right, and the largest located above the plate.

Choosing Utensils

Choose the Shine Level

Take a look at the numbers, used to label the flatware. When choosing between 18/10, 18/8 and 18/0 flatware, the first number refers to the amount by the percentage of chromium and the second to the amount of nickel. If you want shiny flatware, go for the 18/10, which is 10 percent nickel.

Determine the Number

A general rule of thumb for deciding how many items of your stainless steel silverware you need is "one for every place setting of dinnerware". If you’re in the process of choosing dinnerware as well as flatware, it’s often best to aim for a total of 12 place settings.

Think About the Weight of Your Flatware

Some people love the feel of picking up a heavy knife or fork that feels substantial in the hand. If that describes you, look for hand-forged flatware. If you like to keep things casual and lightweight, check out flatware that’s stamped, or made out of a continuous sheet of metal. These pieces still feel solid but aren’t too heavy in your hand.

About us


Yolanda Zorita

Instructor at Household Educational Parlour

Our course covers the fundamentals of table manners, addressing everything from place settings and holding utensils to good posture and the appropriate conversation. Etiquette is merely a set of guidelines for politeness, the kindnesses with which we should always treat each other.

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