This is a busy world—too busy for the common courtesies at times. How often do we catch ourselves, after a real or fancied “break” in etiquette, hanging the full blame on the excuse of absent-mindedness. However, at dinner, host or guest, one can surely practice the little graces that represent good breeding. In offering the following suggestions, most of them will probably meet with inward exclamations of aggrieved protest from the readers, but yet they are the commonest errors and simplest corrections. Here are a few “don’ts”.
- Do not sit with elbow on the table.
- Do not toy with food or tuck the napkin under the chin or fold it when finishing eating in a public eating house.
- Do not mash food with a fork or comment on food at a dinner party.
- Do not stir liquids more than a second or two, and after using any of the silver for your food, knife or spoon, do not retain it in your hand, but lay it on the table.
- Do not throw out elbows while eating and do not lounge slouchily in your chair.
- Of course, following the party it is courteous to thank the hostess for her hospitality, but it is both awkward and unnecessary to repeat such to the host.
When leaving the house after the party, it is correct to take leave of both host and hostess. Careful hostesses arrange chairs a slight distance from the table. It is more graceful and makes the matter of seating guests an easier affair. It is allowable to place the bread and butter on the plates except at dinners, when it should be passed as needed. Or a crisp dinner roll may be folded in the dinner napkin. The host should allow all guests to precede him from the dining room. The careful and thoughtful hostess will inform her guests, in an unobtrusive manner, whether or not the dinner is to be formal or the reverse.
Since a dinner invitation is the highest compliment that can be paid a guest, it is the guest’s duty to repay the hostess by proper dressing for the occasion and assist in making things go smoothly. Whenever there is any doubt as to the best way to do a thing, it is wise to follow that which is the most natural, and that will almost invariably be proper etiquette. To be at ease is a great big step toward enjoying your own dinner, and making yourself agreeable to the company. Finally, when rising from your chair at table, leave it where it stands. This trifling data sounds absurdly simple, doesn’t it? Yet a review is bound to suggest some point or another that you may have forgotten.– Florence Austin Chase, 1928
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia