Impress Even Your
Most Genteel Guests
Begin by greating your guests at the door and offering to take their coats. Let them know where the washrooms are, and then lead them into the living room for hors d'hoeuvres. Let them know which beverages you have available, and once they are settled, you can head off to get their drinks.
Although having an appetizer table may be perfectly suitable for when you host a Super Bowl party or have a few people over for drinks, it simply won't do for a classy dinner affair. Instead, invest in appetizer plates and napkins that go with your decor. Offer each guest a plate and napkin, and then bring each platter of hors d'hoevres around while they remain seated. If you have children, this can be a great job for them. If not, enlist the help of a close friend or family member to take on this task while you get any last-minute work done in the kitchen.
This is probably the most rule-laden element of proper etiquette. Fortunately, setting the table can be done well before your guests arrive so you have time to work out the kinks. Begin by placing the correct amount of chairs evenly around the table, and place a dinner plate and a placemat (if using) in front of each one. Forks go on the left side of the plate, while knives go on the right. As a general rule, when it comes to cutlery, you want guests to be able to start from the outside and work their way in. So if you are beginning with a salad, the salad fork will be farthest away from the plate on the left, followed by the dinner fork. Dessert cutlery, if required, goes at the top of the plate. The dessert fork is closest to the plate with the handle to the left, and the dessert spoon goes above it with the handle to the right. The water glass should be placed on the upper right-hand side of the plate, with the wineglass on its right.
You always want to serve from the left and clear from the right. Enlist the help of a close family member or friend to act as server while you put the food on the plates in the kitchen. Make sure the order of serving goes from women to men and from oldest to youngest. So, the oldest woman present will receive her plate of food first, and the youngest man will receive his last.
When it comes to clearing the plates, avoid piling them up or scraping leftovers from one plate to another. Instead, simply take a plate in each hand and deal with them once you get to the kitchen. Finish things off by serving dessert and then coffee and/or tea in the same manner you did the meal. If you stick with these steps, you are sure to leave your guests well fed and unbelievably impressed!