Thursday, February 7, 2008

Facing the Formal Dinner

Now that you’ve solved the mysteries of the banquet hall and the buffet table, you are ready to move on to that most daunting dining dilemma—the formal dinner. You’ll be able to handle this challenge with grace and confidence if you know what to expect and how to react.

Before Sitting Down
A lipstick trail is the red badge of discourtesy. Take precautions before you reach the table. This is also the time to visit the restroom for hair repair and other finishing touches. Remember to greet everyone before sitting down. Gentlemen must rise to greet latecomers. They may also rise when ladies leave and return to the table, although today’s woman should not expect this behavior. A server will draw the chair for you. Enter from your left.

After you are seated, wait for your host to make the first napkin move. When the host places the napkin on his or her lap, the guests should follow suit. Similarly, at the end of the meal, the host should be the first to place the napkin on the table to signal that the meal is over, having made certain that everyone at the table has finished. Large dinner napkins should remain folded in half and placed across your lap with the fold facing your waist. Never “flap” the napkin to unfold it. If you leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair. If the server does not push the chair back under the table, you should do so. The server may also refold your napkin and place it on the arm of your chair during your absence. At the end of the meal, do not refold the napkin. Pick it up from its center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate.

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