Formal Dining Rules
To create the perfect formal dining experience in your own home, there are several time-honoured rules to follow. Your guests will be expecting a certain amount of decorum and tradition at a formal event so here is a brief, but comprehensive guide of rules to abide by to make your party a proper formal occasion!
The step by step of a proper place setting;
- Allow for ample room between guests. The standard is 24 inches from the center of one plate to the center of the next guest's.
- Start the place setting with a charger. As well as adding interest to the table, during a soup or salad course it will help prevent the table linens from being spoiled. A charger is to be removed when the main course is served.
- Add a bread plate , with a butter knife or spreader laid across it, above the left corner of the charger.
- Flatware/silverware should be placed according to the order of use (use them from the outside in) but forks will always be on the left side, directly below the bread plate. Add a folded cloth napkin to this side or place it under the forks. Another option is to place the napkin across the charger and other plates in the setting.
- The order of flatware is as follows : from far left to right - salad fork, dinner fork, charger, dinner knife with the blade side pointing towards the setting then a teaspoon and soup spoon. Keep the bottom of all flatware in line with the bottom of the charger.
- Water and wine glasses are to be placed on the right, above the knife and soup spoon. The water glass is to be above the knife and the wine glass or glasses placed slightly lowered, above the soup spoon.
- A dessert spoon and/or fork are laid horizontally between the bread plate and water glass, directly above the charger or dinner plates.
The food presentation
- As a general rule, serve food and drinks from the left but clear from the right.
- Serve all courses together and clear away all plates together.
- As a hostess, serve all guests before serving yourself. Serve the guest of honour first.
- Offer your guests a few small but tasty appetizers during cocktail hour with an apéritif to whet the appetite.
- When the guests sit down for dinner with a glass of wine , serving an 'amuse-bouche' is a perfect way of stimulating the appetites of your guests.
- Other than an amuse-bouche, the first course of your formal meal should be a soup or plated salad with a bread basket brought to the table. If desired, bring a palette cleansing sorbet between courses.
- The main course will come next, followed by dessert and coffee, tea and a dessert wine or liqueur.
Other host rules to follow
- Keep things simple by only using the plates and flatware that are required by your dinner menu.
- Never place more than three utensils on either side of the plates.
- Use a cloth or linen napkin only.
- Keep all stemware, silverware et cetera, sparkling clean.
- Always stand while offering a toast.
- Don't start to eat before all your guests have been served.
- Have pitchers of water ready to refill glasses.
- Choose the proper wine for each course.
- Have low lighting, such as candles, to create the right mood.