Dinner settings may be more casual than they were in our grandparents' days, but that doesn't mean we should let manners and dining etiquette fall by the wayside. Not to mention it's an honest truth that your dining and dressing can give lasting impressions — good or bad.
Here are a few things that are top-of-mind this time of year:
- Put your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting down or just after your drink arrives
- If someone asks you to pass the salt, pass both the salt and the pepper (like a bride and groom, they go together)
- Don't salt your food until after you taste it (otherwise how can you know it needs salt? Not to mention you could offend the chef or host)
- If you absolutely have to spit something out (like an olive pit), remove it from your mouth the same way you put it in your mouth (fork, fingers, etc.) — it's more discrete that way.
- If you're served ice water or iced tea with a lemon wedge on the glass rim, put the lemon in the glass or take it off the glass altogether. This is one of the things that doesn't have a good explanation... just go with it.
- Cut only one piece of food at a time (e.g., steak, chicken)
On party etiquette:
- RSVP. Hosts need to know headcounts for food, drinks, seating, etc. RSVP isn't synonymous with regrets; RSVP means to tell the host if you're coming or if you're not.
- Even when a dinner party host tells you not to bring anything to their party, consider bringing a bottle of wine for their home. If they aren't drinkers, consider a dessert or maybe even an ornament.
- Make proper introductions so your date doesn't feel left out of a conversation; when you can tell your date is having trouble remembering a name so he/she can introduce you, step in to save them from the awkwardness of forgetting a name and introduce yourself quickly
- You don't want to be the most casually dressed person in the room at a holiday party — but you don't want to be overdressed either... talk to your friends to get a feel for what they're wearing
- Society is slowly becoming more open to jeans at dressy events, but ask yourself if you want to be the one pushing the "are jeans appropriate?" envelope
- And please don't wear white or off-white or anything like it to the winter weddings you're attending (or any weddings for that matter); especially in the south, most brides are offended when they see a wedding attendee donning white — it competes with the bride. This is debated among etiquette-istas but I wouldn't want to risk offending a bride. Just read the comments on that post)
Read more, including the myth that you have a year to send a wedding gift, on Emily Post's Web site.
What etiquette/traditions do you follow? What do you think is outdated?