Here is a confession: I don't know how to set a table. Each time I have friends over for dinner I have to look up where everything goes. As I get older and find myself throwing more and more dinner parties and fewer and fewer Chinese take-out on the floor parties, I thought it was time to finally learn the proper way to set a table and some of the etiquette involved.
For instance, did you know it is proper etiquette to pass the salt and pepper together, even if the person just asked for salt? They are "married" and must always stay together, which is adorable.
Because there is enough anxiety over getting food on the actual plates at a dinner party to worry about where the plates go, here is a simple guide for both a casual and a more elegant dinner party.
For your everyday, informal dinner parties...
and for your fancy shmancy parties...
Some tips: You always eat to your left and drink to your right. So if there are bread plates and wine glasses set out, you know which is yours and which is your neighbors by it's position. Martha Stewart gave this handy trick - "Make an OK signal with each hand: The right hand's lower-case "d" tells you to reach to that side for your drink, and the left hand's "b" shows where your bread is buttered." Jamie's mother taught her that while setting the table to remember that the knife protects to the spoon so the blade faces away from the spoon and toward the plate. Also, never light a scented candle during a dinner party - the only smells you should be smelling is the delicious food!
Recently, I've stopped bringing flowers to dinner parties because I have noticed that the host then has to leave the kitchen and deal with finding a vase and placing the flowers somewhere, which is super stressful when you are trying to play host at the same time. You could always bring them in a vase if you aren't lugging it on the subway!
Here are 25 dinner party do's and don'ts for a host or hostess by Bon Appétit that everyone should read before throwing a dinner party! (Although, I disagree about not letting guests help with the dishes - here in the city, where dishwashers are a luxury and peoples kitchens are also their living rooms, we all chip in at the end of the night!)
Do you have any etiquette or dinner party tips?