With invitations to every after-work function and office soirée filling my inbox, it’s safe to say ’tis the season for dinner parties. I love a good dinner party. Even more so during the holidays and new year. The excitement of getting ready, figuring out what to wear and—if you’re hosting—planning a festive menu are just a few of the things I gush over. But as much fun as dinner parties are, there is still one aspect that hardly anyone ever prepares for: minding your dinner table manners.
Etiquette is probably the furthest thing down on your list of priorities when you’re running like a chicken with its head cut off finalizing last minute details, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important. Even when everything is seemingly in order, a few small missteps can change the course of your entire night. You’ll go from having a great time to feeling like you don’t belong because you keep clinking your forks on the fancy China or dropping your napkin on the floor.
So the next time you sit down for a meal with a colleague, friend or family member, be sure to keep these 5 fail-proof tips in mind:
1. Don’t start eating immediately.
We’ve all been there. You rush home from work to get dressed and head out, knowing you haven’t eaten anything since noon. Now your stomach is making the most disrespectful growls. You can’t wait to devour the first piece of food that is in front of you. Sound familiar? But not only will eating before everyone else has been served make the entire table uncomfortable, you’ll seem super impatient and impolite. Good rules of thumb to follow are:
- Don’t start eating until everyone is seated,
- Wait until everyone at the table is served,
- Wait until the host picks up his or her fork.
Your food won’t get cold if you wait for others to receive their entrees. And everyone will be able to experience the food together instead of in waves.
2. Don’t groom at the table.
This is a big one. You finish eating, you’re having an intriguing conversation with the other guests and suddenly feel the need to freshen up your lipstick, right? Wrong! If you must fix your hair, redo makeup or (fellas) comb through your beard, politely excuse yourself from the table and go to the restroom. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone pull out a mirror or comb while you’re still eating, almost as if to hurry the dinner along. And trust me, no one wants to eat with your hair strands flying around.
3. Don’t check your cellphone.
It’s not uncommon to go out and see folks glued to their smartphones, checking their social media accounts and being completely disconnected from what’s happening in front of them. I hate having a conversation with someone and it’s going in one ear and out the other. Talk about frustrating. You’ll be much more present if you aren’t checking your text messages, tweeting, scrolling down Instagram or sending emails every other minute. Leave your phone in your car if you know you’ll be tempted. If there is an emergency and you must respond to something immediately, excuse yourself and do it away from the table.
4. Don’t eat off of others plates.
Have you ever ordered a dish or put something on your plate only to taste it and find that it wasn’t as appetizing as it looked? Then you glance over at your friend’s plate and their meal looks ten times better. It happens to the best of us. But unless it’s a dinner party where it’s encouraged that you share items, you should never grab a piece of food from another guest’s dinner plate. Simply cue the waitstaff and order another entree or make another round to pick up more appealing items.
5. Don’t be overly inquisitive.
“What is this?” A question that is so hard to ask without coming across as rude. If you don’t recognize what food your host is serving you, wait for them to explain what it is you are about to eat. In the same vein, also try to wait until your host or server explains what you’re eating before you reach for spices and seasonings. If you don’t know what the entree is or how it should taste, why douse it in salt? Sounds silly right? This will help not put the host in an embarrassing position.
Foodies, are you hosting any dinner parties in the coming weeks? What are your go-to etiquette tips? Let me know in the comments!