How to Act at a Dinner Party

This article will teach you the basic essentials of dinner party etiquette. Read on to learn about good table manners that will help you through any formal or semi-formal lunch party or dinner party. Here you will find instructions regarding good table manners that will help you through any formal or semi-formal lunch or dinner party.


  1. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 1
    Unfold your napkin and place it on your knee. Use it for occasionally wiping your lips or fingers once seated. At the end of dinner, leave the napkin tidily on the place setting.
  2. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 2
    Wait your turn for food. It is traditional to serve the most senior lady at the table, then the other ladies in descending order of rank (usually equating to age unless you have royalty staying), and lastly the gentlemen. Never start eating until the hostess begins to eat, then you may.
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    If there are lots of different sets of cutlery beside the plate, start at the outside and work in. If in doubt, have a look to see what the other guests are doing/using.
  4. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 4
    Hold the knife and fork with the handles in the palm of the hand, forefinger on top, and thumb underneath.
  5. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 5
    While eating, rest the knife and fork on either side of the plate between mouthfuls. When you have finished eating, place them side by side in the center of the plate.
  6. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 6
    Try your food. In the event of being presented with a dish which you feel unable to eat, it is polite to at least make some attempt to do so. Or at the very least, cut it up a little, and move it around the plate! It is quite acceptable to leave some food to one side of your plate if you feel as though you have eaten enough. On the other hand, don’t attempt to leave your plate so clean that it looks as though you haven’t eaten in days!
  7. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 7
    Make polite conversation with those guests around you. Dinner parties are not just about the food; they are intended to be a sociable occasion.
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    Make a point of thanking the host and hostess for their hospitality before leaving.
  9. Image titled Act at a Dinner Party Step 9
    Send a personal note to the host and hostess shortly afterwards thanking them for the pleasurable evening.


  • Believe it or not, it's perfectly fine to tip your bowl toward you to get every drop of soup.
    • Never blow on hot soup, stir it to cool it down. Etiquette experts say that the proper way to fill your spoon with soup it to scoop away from you.
  • If you wish to bring a guest as your partner, always check with the host first. If you are the one hosting the party and a guest of yours arrives with an unexpected friend, be polite and courteous with them, and speak with your inconsiderate guest at another time.
  • Be punctual – never more than 10 minutes late.
  • Desserts may be eaten with both a spoon and fork, or alternatively a fork alone if it is a cake or pastry style sweet.
  • Should a lady wish to be excused for the bathroom, it is polite for the gentlemen to stand up as she leaves the table, sit down again, and then stand once more when she returns.
  • It is considered polite to take along a small gift for your host and hostess. Flowers, chocolates, champagne or wine is always appreciated. If you know the host/hostess well enough, ask them if they need something to be brought along to the dinner and absolutely bring it with you.
  • Always respond to an invitation within a week of receiving it.
  • Good dinner party etiquette sometimes involves a degree of diplomacy when it comes to the host’s choice of food and wine! Even if you feel that you can do better, don’t ever offer your criticism. If you feel unable to pay any compliments, at least remain silent on the subject.
  • Forks should not be turned over unless being used for eating peas, sweetcorn kernels, rice or other similar foods. The fork should never be transferred to the right hand. However, at a casual buffet, or barbecue, it is quite acceptable to eat with just a fork.
  • Don't forget your pleases and thank yous!
  • Dress according to the recommended (if any) dress code. Never attempt to “out dress” the hostess!
  • Try to not talk about touchy topics like politics and sex; you might make it awkward and make the person uncomfortable.


  • Picking teeth (unless toothpicks are provided) is very nasty and unattractive, even if you think no one is looking or you've "got it covered". Licking fingers is very unattractive! The only exception to the latter is when eating meat or poultry on the bone (such as chicken legs or ribs). In which case, a finger bowl should be provided.
  • Don’t ever stretch across the table crossing other guests to reach food, wine or condiments; instead, ask a guest sitting close to pass the item to you.
  • Loud eating noises such as slurping and burping are very impolite.
  • Never talk with your mouth full.
  • Never embarrass yourself by drinking too much wine. Where a different wine is served with each course, it is quite acceptable to not finish each glass.
  • It is not generally regarded as good dinner table etiquette to use one’s bread for dipping into soups or mopping up sauces.

Sources and Citations

  • [1] - Original source of this article. Shared with permission.

Article Info

Categories: Dining Etiquette