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 Get This Party Started
 Choosing A Theme
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 Setting | Seating | Serving
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Home>Dinner Event Planning>Dinner Party Etiquette
Dinner Party Planning
Party Flow
Dinner Menu Planning
Birthday Dinner Party
Getting Started Basics
Lighting Tips
Setting | Seating | Serving
Dinner Party Checklist
Dinner Party Themes
Decorating Strategies
Dinner Party Etiquette
Dinner Shopping Lists
Guest List & Invites
The Cocktail Hour
Selecting the Music

Hosting A Dinner Party: Etiquette

As the host, it is a good idea to know the rules of etiquette, even when your dinner party is very casual.  When in doubt, your guests will take their cue from you, so it is best to be in a position to lead by example without being fussy or uptight. 

You can make your guests feel most relaxed and comfortable by overlooking the occasional etiquette misstep and, hopefully, they will return the favor.

Here are the the major ones, which you may be familiar:

  • Make sure your cell phone is set to vibrate.
  • The host is not obliged to put out wine or any other gifts brought by guests.
  • Do not do any cleaning until guests leave, except clearing of dishes and quick wipe up of spills.
  • If you are not using place cards, direct guests where to sit as they enter the dining room.
  • Gentlemen traditionally stand behind their chairs until ladies are seated.
  • Guests should be punctual for a dinner party, but plan your meal to be flexible by extending the cocktail hour, as needed.
  • If it is time to sit down to dinner, it is not necessary to delay dinner more than 15 minutes for late guests. 
  • When late guests arrive, serve them along with the other guests, regardless of the number of courses they missed.  Do not serve past courses to late guests.
  • Food dishes to the left, and glasses to the right, of the plate are yours.
  • Start with silverware farthest from the plate and work in with each course. In other words, if the course requires a fork, use the farthest fork from the plate; if the course requires a spoon, use the farthest spoon from the plate. 
  • The dessert fork or spoon should be above your plate or brought out when the course is served.
  • Keep used silverware off of the table, use your plate or bread plate.
  • When finished, place your silverware together in the five o’clock position on your plate, pointed up.
  • For more details see Setting | Seating | Serving.
  • The meal begins when the host is seated and partially unfolds his/her napkin. 
  • Dinner napkins should remain folded in half and lay across the lap.
  • Do not shake open.
  • Leave your napkin on your chair if you leave the table temporarily.
  • The host signals the end of the meal by placing his/her napkin on the table to the left of the plate.
  • Guests should begin eating after the host has picked up their fork and taken the first bite, unless directed otherwise.
  • Scoop soup and food away from you to eat.
  • Sip soup from the spoon (silently), do not put the whole bowl of the spoon in your mouth.
  • Cut one or two bites at a time. 
  • Do not blow on food too hot to eat, let it cool.
  • If everyone else has finished, do not continue eating.
  • Never ask someone why they did not finish something.
  • Spit out food the way it went into your mouth.  Exception:  Fish bones may be removed with your fingers.  In all cases, try to be inconspicuous.  Use your napkin for larger, unsightly bites.
  • Cup your free hand over lemons when squeezing.
  • Break bread into bite-size pieces then butter as you eat them.
  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • Keep your left hand in your lap when you are not using it.
  • If you do not want wine, hold your hand over the glass to signal the pourer that you do not want any. 
  • Use the stem when drinking from stemware glasses.
  • Pass food to the right.
  • Serve food from the left.
  • Clear dishes from the right.
  • Serve and clear beverages from the right.
  • Always pass salt & pepper shakers together.