Corporate and Special Event Planning

Table Etiquette and Table Settings

Table Etiquette and Table Settings
I love training staff in the etiquette of service and settings, no I really mean LOVE, like an obsession, the perfection of everything done exactly right, what could be more flawless, orchestrated, and seamless, adding to the guest experience. So it is with enthusiasm I share with you what I have taught, and have learned, even some things I did not previously know before doing some research. 
The perfect place setting starts with all utensils that you require for each course of your meal, although you can also bring a utensil with a course as required, for example the soup spoon with the soup course.  Here are some typical place settings.
You will notice that forks are on the left and knife on the right, dessert and teaspoon for coffee at the top of the setting, with all glasses on the right, above knife and soup spoon.  Bread and butter plate is above forks, the coffee cup can be placed to the right of the last wine glass. Remember you always work from the outside in for utensils. 

Here are some NEVERS:

  • Never have more than 3 forks to left of the plate
  • Never have more than 4 glasses, and they are used in order of inside to out.
  • Never set with utensils you will not be using
  • Never place a dirty utensil on the table, leave it on your plate.
  • Never use your phone at the table, you can only read at the table if you are alone or at breakfast.
  • Never wear a hat at the table.
  • Never take photos while eating.
  • Never lick your fingers, or your knife!

Other Etiquette: 

– If you can not reach an item, ask the server to pass it to you, or the person closest to the item. 
– Always pass salt and pepper as a pair. 
– Always pass left to right. 
– Do not use seasoning until you taste your food, if salt and pepper are not provided on the table, do not ask for them. 
– It is polite to bring  a gift to the host, always thank your host upon leaving and even send a thank you note. 
– Only start to eat once the host has begun, the host should only start once everyone has been served.
– It is proper to serve all ladies first, eldest to youngest.
– When you are finished eating place your utensils side by side in the centre of the plate.
– White wine should be held by the stem as to not heat up the wine, and red should be held by the bowl, always serve white wine before red.
– Place butter on the edge of your side plate, and carefully rip and apply butter to each mouthful of bread.
– Eat slowly, with your mouth closed, sip from the edge of your soup spoon, not the end.
– Do not leave the table during a mealWow napkin etiquette – this is new for me, here is what I have learned:


  • The napkin can appear most commonly on the plate, and in the wine glass.
  • There are hundreds of fancy folding techniques, I had a booklet at one point in my career and let my staff do fancy folds to amaze guests if time permitted during the setup.
  • So as a guest you should place your napkin in your lap as soon as you sit, and if the meal is formal, you should place it in your lap as soon as the hostess does, and it should stay there for the whole meal.
  • Never use a napkin ring for a formal meal.
  • Do not “pop” or shake you napkin vigorously when placing in your lap.
  • There are breakfast and lunch size napkins, which you should unfold all the way into lap, and larger dinner size napkins that you should leave folded in half lengthways.
  • Most napkins are square, but some are rectangular and vary in size from 10 inches to 26 inches,
  • Only use interesting textures or decorated napkins during an informal meal.  Fine smooth textures for formal dining, and match them to the tablecloth.
  • Leave the napkin soiled side down, to the left of the setting, not on the chair when you are finished dining, as to not soil the chair.
  • If you are in a fine dining establishment, quite often your napkin will be replaced if you leave the table for any reason.
  • NEVER tuck it into your shirt, waistband, etc.
  • NEVER wipe your mouth, gently blot, like in the movies
  • Never dip it in your water, and never spit into it. If you eat something you do not like, be an adult and eat it anyway. If you find something undesirable in your mouth, like a bone or gristle, remove it with the same utensil that was used to put it in your mouth, and place it on the edge of your plate, not your side plate.

Remember etiquette is about making you feel comfortable, not to make you feel uncomfortable.  

Angela VanWingerden is a focused logistics dynamo with nearly 20 years of experience in the events industry. Since obtaining her BA of Commerce in Hospitality from the University of Guelph in 1998, she has built an impressive portfolio of weddings, corporate events and fundraisers for hundreds of satisfied clients. Angela enjoys the entire event planning process from chaos to order and back again. An avid trouble-shooter, Angela has her finger on the pulse of every event she manages. When on-site, she constantly monitors every element of the event to ensure client satisfaction. Angela works closely with staff and volunteers to ensure that they know what their duties are and she provides oversight at the event itself to ensure that all responsibilities and expectations are met. When she isn’t designing and coordinating awe-inspiring events, Angela loves spending time with her family.


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