I meant to post this yesterday, but it turned into such a crazy day of errands and etc, that I never got the post written. So, RWA peeps, last post (I think) before we all converge on Orlando next week.

If you’ve been to a huge banquet before, you might know everything you need about table settings. But just in case, I’m gonna tell you all about what the etiquette expert who visited my RWA chapter last month said.

The banquet tables at the luncheons and dinner will likely be big and round. They will be crammed with dishes, glasses, and silverware. Which glass is yours? Which bread plate? It seems logical, and yet you sit down and that bread plate could be yours — or it could be your neighbor’s because the settings are so close.

Relax, I’m about to give you the secret: the glass is to your right. Everything else is to your left. I repeat, all extra dishes are to your left (clearly, your plate is in front of you). The glass is the only thing on the right that belongs to you (of course the silverware on the right of the plate is yours; I’m talking about big things that might be confusing). Easy, right? If you remember that place settings are designed for right-handed people, you’ll see it makes sense. (If you’re left handed, it’s not fair, but this is the way it’s done. Majority rule.)

What other things did the etiquette expert say? So much I can’t remember it all, but here are a few tidbits.

1. Work from the outside in on your silverware. It’s permissible to keep your knife if you only have one and you’ve used it to cut salad before the main course arrives.
2. You will be served from the left. The servers will clean up from the right, so make sure you have your knife and fork on the right, angled across the plate to indicate you are done. Don’t put the fork on one side and the knife on the other. Don’t prop the knife across the top of the plate. Angle them both across the middle, like they are the hands of a clock pointing at 4. It’s easier for the servers.
3. Don’t put your napkin on your lap until everyone is seated. You may be standing up and sitting a few times before everyone sits. Oh, and men should stand whenever a woman arrives at the table. Women don’t have to.
4. Don’t eat until everyone at your table is served. (Hey, I’m just reporting it!)
5. Do not leave your spoon in the soup bowl or cup. Lay it across the top.
6. Break your bread and butter the piece you are eating. Don’t slice it and put a slab of butter in the middle. (Seriously, I’m just reporting it! If you aren’t concerned about the Junior League or the Debutante Ball, do it your way if you must.)
7. If you must get up during the meal and you plan to come back, place your napkin on your chair. If you are all done and leaving, put the napkin on the table.
8. If someone asks you to pass the salt or pepper, pass them as a set because someone on the other side of the table might want them both. Likewise, if the packets of sweetener are closest to you, take what you need and pass them.
9. Don’t talk with your mouth full (who doesn’t know that one?).
10. There are two styles of eating which are permissible. American and Continental, or European. American style is fork in right hand, switch to left hand to cut meat, switch back after cutting. Continental is fork in left hand and knife in right. Stays this way through the whole meal. The knife is used to push food onto the fork. (I eat this way; learned it in Europe and it makes more sense to me. Both, however, are acceptable.) Do not grip knife or fork with your hand over the top of the handle. This is rude. And, well, more appropriate for a caveman. (Sorry Geico Cavemen!)

That’s most of what I remember. It all makes sense, I think, though I probably wouldn’t have thought to pass both the salt and pepper if someone only asked for one. Oh, and pick them up by the sides, not the top — no one wants your germs.

Finally, the thing the etiquette expert said was the most important? Graciousness. You can get away with a lot if you are gracious. 🙂

So that’s it. I’ll see you next week!