Image is how you present yourself and while style is important, it is not the only thing that portrays your image! You could look incredible, wearing the latest fashion and having your hair and makeup in tact; however, you decide to double dip your bread into the sauce everyone is using and all of a sudden your image is destroyed. Good manners and etiquette say more about you then you could imagine. Your appearance is the first thing that one sees, but shortly after your actions are studied and criticized.
In a past post, I wrote on how to properly dress to a dinner party; today I will give you the tips needed on how to act appropriately during the event.
First off, always make sure to respond to the invitation at least a week after receiving it. On the day of the event, be punctual! If you decide you wish to bring a guest to the event, ask the host beforehand. Also, it is polite to take a small gift. It could be a bottle of wine or flowers.
Once you are at the event, say your hellos and remember to keep up small conversations with the guest as you are sitting at the table. While you are seated unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. Use it for wiping your lips and fingers. Wait for the signal from the host before you start to eat. NEVER start to eat until you get the signal. When you reach for your knife and fork hold it with the handles in the palm of your hand, with the forefinger on top and the thumb underneath. While chewing, if you are unsure of what to do with your knife and fork you can place it on either side of the plate before you are ready for your next bite. Forks should not be turned over while you are eating, unless you are eating peas, rice or something of that sense. At the end of dinner, leave the napkin nicely organized on the place setting.
When the bread is served, please note that it is not considered good etiquette to use your bread for dipping into soups or to collect sauce that is laying on your plate. I know that one goes to a party and you might not like what is being served. However, if you don’t like what is being served, at least take a couple of small bites and move it around the plate. Make the effort or fake that you have in fact tried it. Never admit or criticize the food given to you. Now, if you do like it, never clear your plate completely. Leave a small amount on your plate, this way it does not looks like you have been starving for the past few days. Remember to eat quietly and to never burp! Do not talk with your mouth full! Not only is it rude it is disturbing to watch. Do not reach for something across the table. You are in a table filled with people, simply ask politely if they can hand you the object.
Dessert is being served and you look towards your utensils. You have a small fork and spoon, which one do you eat with? Well, dessert may be eaten with either a fork or spoon. So do not stress this concept to much. Worst case, grab the fork if it is a cake or pastry.
Ladies always excuse yourself when you need to go to the restroom. Men, if a lady excuses herself, it is polite for the gentlemen to stand up as she gets up to leave, sit back down and when she returns, stand up again as she sits down. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but consider it an exercise routine.
Before leaving, always thank your host or hostess. It is good etiquette to send a personal thank you note to the host shortly after the event. Nowadays, a nice ecard via email is equivalent to a nice thank you note.
Remember, it is important to be yourself, but to be polite. Follow these simple etiquette steps and you will make a lasting impression.