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Table Etiquette - How to Behave at the Table

Table Etiquette - for the knowledge of good table manners, or if you're about to dine in one of the country's finest restaurants and would like to know some proper table manners. Also included: american table manners, art of the table

The way we eat gives away a great deal about us: this very public exhibition is impossible to hide and says more about us in one mouthful than what we wear.

Eating is as necessary as breathing. Good manners of eating is an act of kindness. It puts people at ease and enhances the dining experience. A sloppy eater is distracting and he draws unnecessary attention to himself. It also turns off those eating with him.

Some Table Etiquette Faux pas

  • eating with the mouth open
  • making noises; slurping, chewing loudly, burping
  • talking and gesticulating while eating
  • elbows stuck out in a flapping-like-a-chicken position
  • holding the fork or knife in stabbing position
  • hunching over the food like a dog

Please see more Bad Table Manners.

Taking a Seat in Table Etiquette

William Henry Jackson-Colonial dining

If you have invited a friend to dinner, you're the host and it is a nice gesture to offer seats facing a more interesting view.

If you are a gentleman, do so for the ladies. It will be nice to help her with her chair too, especially if she is wearing a long gown.

If you're at a dinner party, women and men are seated next to each other, but preferably not to their own husband and wife. This practice is not that common these days, I presume most husbands and wives prefer to seat next to each other.

In some traditional clubs which were formally gentleman's clubs; my male dinner companions were told nicely to put their dinner jackets on. So please do not remove your dinner jacket especially if you are dining in the finest hotels and restaurants.

Art of Dinner Conversation

Though most people says anything goes these days - here are some sensitive topics you should be aware of:

  1. Money
  2. Politics
  3. Religion
  4. Sex
  5. Inappropriate Jokes about race, gender, religion
  6. Sinister gossip

Boasting, bragging, name dropping or incessant talking will also make anyone unpopular.

See also these two important pages on the art of conversation and conversation blunders.

Proper Manners at the Table

  • Liquids such as wines, water, coffee are usually served from your right, and another waiter usually serves plates to your left.
  • It is only necessary to thank your waiter once.

  • Excusing yourself to use the bathroom: while it is true that if you have to go, you have to go but it also is a conversation breaker and unsavory. It is a good idea to use the bathroom before dinner to minimize this occurrence.
  • Though the waiter should fill up your glass when he sees it half empty, try not to raise your glass mid air to 'help' while he is pouring. Make your requests known and leave your glass at the table.
  • At a buffet, don't overload the plate if you're not going to eat all of them - it just looks greedy.
  • Practice cutlery etiquette: Hold your utensils the right way. If you are leaving the table temporarily, set your cutlery in "I'm-coming-back" position and leave your napkin on your seat.
  • It is common practice to taste the wine before accepting it. Please refuse it if you can taste the cork. Of course, feel free to ask the sommelier (somel-lee-ay)
  • If there is a speech going on, it is rude to speak to the person beside you no matter what.
  • Be aware of differences in american table manners and continental style
  • Always pass salt and pepper together no matter if only pepper is asked for.
  • Start with cutlery on the outside.
  • Always break bread into a piece before buttering it and eating it (refers to the bread plate at dinner).
  • Be punctual.
  • So not add salt and pepper before tasting the food. You might insult your host who has prepared the food.
  • Do not put used cutlery back on the table.

  • Planning a Dinner Party

    Choosing China

    You would need 18 pieces for a usual dinner for 6
  • 6 main plates
  • 6 sides
  • 6 sweet plates

  • Glassware

    I suppose this will be more important if you love cocktail parties and hope to host one soon.

    It is elegant to have some uniformity of glassware at the table.

    Traditionally, says the royal butler from Paul Burrell, each drink should be served in a different style and different size glass.

    Essentials for lunch and dinner - water glass and wine glass

    If you are serving red and white wine then you should have a different glass for each. The white wine glass is smaller and shorter than one for red wine

    Champagne should be served in a flute, designed to hold the bubbles for longer

    Glasses should not be filled more than two-thirds full. Red wine are only filled one third full.

    Setting the Glassware

    A general rule, short in front, tall at the back.

    You may set the red, white wine, champagne and water as suggested below.

    table etiquette


    Brandy is served in a balloon glass


    Port is served after dinner and is drunk from a small glass (miniature looking wine glass)

    Place Table Setting

    Just note that knives are always facing to the left and never to the right.

  • Elegant Table Setting
  • Gallery
  • Formal Table Setting
  • Types of Glasses and other Table Setting Etiquette

  • Table Etiquette of Dressing the Table

  • Elegant Table Decorations
  • Gallery
  • Elegant Table Runners

  • Selecting The Drinks

  • Wine Tasting Etiquette
  • Know your wine glasses

    International Table Etiquette

  • French Table Manners
  • Chinese Table Manners

  • Thank you for reading 'Table Etiquette'!

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