5 Dining Etiquette Rules + Giveaway!

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have you ever been invited to a fancy event, sat down at a gorgeous table and looked down to see three forks, two knives and have no idea which water glass is yours!? it’s an awkward feeling and i always get a bit panicky in these situations because i am a simple gal that never knew there were such etiquette policies (though i knew no elbows on the table, i wasn’t raised in a barn).

there are dining etiquette rules you must know and i had the opportunity to learn a ton of them in a friendly and delicious way from Linda at Manners Simply a few weeks ago! you can tell it was a few weeks ago because of one picture with my favorite nail polish still existing (thanks sweet husband for a surprise mani/pedi complete with fiery cupcakes and cats).

remember that customs and etiquette vary from culture to country so this information is mainly for north america.

headerDining Etiquette

not only did i get my mind blown with all of the amazing information there is to attending fancy meals but also how to host formal and fun meals!

after 4.5 years in the making, linda reed and her business partner rosemarie burns have put together an incredibly informative yet simple dining etiquette book, “which fork do i use?” and i’m nerding out over it.

WhichForkFRONTONLY 10-29-14

do you have any idea how hard it was to get this blog post to a reasonable word count? there are so many fun and interesting things that go into planning both casual and formal meals. it’s made me look forward to having a dining table one day that didn’t used to be the entry way table in my in-laws house (it’s gorgeous granite..but it barely seats my husband and me).

heck, you can even rent plates/flatware/glasses for super cheap to host your own parties if you don’t have all the supplies!

let’s focus on the dining etiquette when it comes to eating instead of being the fabulous hostess because the book will give you amazing step-by-step directions, suggestions and awesome diagrams so you can rock your own parties and weekend brunches! see…

Weekend Brunch Set-Up

Property of Manners Simply

Property of Manners Simply

let’s go back to me panicking at a fancy meal with potential business clients or a gala event for charity and i don’t want to accidentally eat someone’s bread (it’s happened and it was delicious mortifying).

1) work from the outside of the flatware to the inside

Dining Etiquette Rules

there is a method to this layout and that’s what fun to learn about etiquette, things have a reason! we started with a shrimp cocktail. well, i had fruit cocktail because i’m a six year old my friend jessica knows me so well, so we obviously started with that little fork resting on the spoon.

next came the soup, so we used the soup spoon (more on that in a minute because my mind was blown).  if you are having a separate salad course, use the small fork AND knife on the outside of your main table setting. the smaller fork/spoon combination above the plate is for dessert. whittle away the flatware from the outside in and you will be in good shape.

2) spoon your soup away from you

like i said above, i had no idea this is how soup is supposed to be eaten! first, you never put your whole soup spoon in your mouth when you’re eating a creamy soup, it’s meant to be sipped from the spoon. here’s where my jaw dropped as linda explained the appropriate way to eat soup,

“lean forward slightly, filling the soup spoon about 3/4 full. spoon away from yourself while skimming your spoon across the top where the soup is cooler. gently touch the back rim of the bowl with the bottom of your spoon to remove any drips. do not blow on your soup as a way to cool it.”

did you know this is the appropriate way to eat soup?! i truly had no idea.

Dining Etiquette Rules

3) bread is broken and buttered over the bread plate

let’s first get clear about which one is your bread plate. it’s the one to the left of your main plate. remember “BMW.” it reads left to right, just like the table setting, “bread plate/meal plate/water glass” so you aren’t stealing anyone’s bread or taking drinks from the wrong glass. ew.

you should tear off a bite-sized piece of your bread over the bread plate, not your main plate. also do the buttering over there too and bring only a piece in front of you to eat at a time.

that little guy to the right of the bread plate is an individual ‘salt cellar’ complete with a teeny-tiny spoon. my new goal in life is to acquire some of these.

Dining Etiquette Rules

4) use a fork +  knife for controlling your salad

this is an etiquette tip that is slightly more labor intensive but makes you look less a cow shoveling lettuce into your pie-hole.

stab some lettuce with your fork, lift up slightly, then take your knife to fold the ‘fly-away’ pieces back under the fork and stab again. do this until it’s a manageable bite. see linda’s demonstration below:

Dining Etiquette Rules

my husband used to just cut up his lettuce into smaller pieces (not proper) and i used to just shovel it in like the cow example, with dressing all over my cheeks. no joke. try this-it works amazingly even if it’s a bit more effort!

5) how to signal you’re finished eating or ‘just resting’

the book talks more about “continental vs. american dining” style but there is a difference. one of the main differences is that during “american style,” you would cut a bite of food with your knife, set the knife on the edge of plate, switch fork to your right hand and take the bite. repeat as above.

with ‘continental,’ you still only cut one bite of food at a time but you are ‘allowed’ to keep your knife in your right hand and bring your fork to your mouth with the tines down. this cuts down on the clanging of dishes and is less labor intensive.

regardless of dining style, never do these things:

Property of Manners Simply

Property of Manners Simply

we dined ‘continental style’ during this meal. the “i’m just resting between bites” and the “okay, i’m finished” are also different. below is how you signal you are finished with your course, both utensils to the right side, with the fork tines down.

‘american style’ is the same, except the fork is facing up.

Dining Etiquette Rules

if you are just taking a breather and aren’t finished yet while dining ‘continental,’ then you put your fork tines down but cross it with the knife. regardless of my utensils below, you can tell i’m not done because there are still potatoes on my plate and i would never leave potatoes behind. ever.

you can see my table-mate is finished across from me, so he put the fork tines down next to the knife.Dining Etiquette Rules

this feels like a good time to include a cute picture of jessica and my husband. thanks for hosting this at your home, jessica and devin! she’s the fabulous woman who did an incredibly moving and powerful ‘new wifestyle profile!‘ read it and see her gorgeous wedding photos too.

dining etiquette ryan and jessica

bonus reminders:

  • always pass the salt and pepper together, they are BFFs (even if someone only asks for one)
  • don’t push your plate way from you when you’re done
  • blot your mouth with your napkin, don’t do a huge wipe across your mouth
  • no personal grooming at the table either (lipstick/blowing your nose/using a toothpick)

which fork do i use?” is a great gift for someone who is getting married, someone who loves entertaining or even yourself! you can order it from www.mannerssimply.com and feel free to send an email at orders@mannerssimply.com!

the book contains amazing graphics which spell out exactly what everything is in a simple way, without making it seem snooty or complex.

Property of Manners Simply

Property of Manners Simply

the book even gets into how to eat difficult foods (do you know what to do with kabob or artichoke heart?!) how to set up a cheese course, different ways to serve dessert and instructions on a basic breakfast setting to an involved six-course meal.

i am SO excited because linda and rosemarie are giving away a book to one of the marvelous new wifestyle readers! isn’t it a good thing we both decided to wear loud patterns? i think so.

Dining Etiquette Rules

now i just need to rent a table, some utensils, get my husband to cook everything and we have everything we need for a fantastic party! i truly do feel more confident learning some basics of dining etiquette so i don’t make a fool of myself when i’m out and about.

please note that this giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry beautiful international readers, we’ll get you on the next one!).

enter below and the winner will be selected on 2/23/15 and the book mailed out shortly after!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

if you found this useful, feel free to “pin-it”or share so you can reference these tips or pass them on the next time you get invited to a fancy dinner!

headerDining Etiquette

This was a sponsored post by Manner’s Simply but all opinions and lack of etiquette knowledge are my own!


  1. Amanda

    February 16, 2015 at 8:55 am

    So…you’re saying I shouldn’t lick my plate clean in public? Dang. (I’m legit guilty of that.)
    There’s a way to eat soup?! Who knew!
    Amanda recently posted…Pura D’or Argan Oil Shampoo Review

    • chelsea

      February 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      haha that’s hilarious amanda and no…you probably shouldn’t do that in public anymore (unless you were getting the last bit of chocolate…then maybe) 🙂

      so glad i’m not alone in the soup knowledge field!
      chelsea recently posted…5 Dining Etiquette Rules + Giveaway!

  2. Courtney! @ Redefining Athlete

    February 16, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I had no idea about the proper way to eat soup!
    And I love your patterned top!
    Courtney! @ Redefining Athlete recently posted…Weekend Roundup

    • chelsea

      February 16, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      whew, this is making me feel better because i totally called my mom and i was like “why didn’t you teach me how to eat soup?!”

      thanks for the compliment on the top-my fashionable sister got it for my birthday!
      chelsea recently posted…5 Dining Etiquette Rules + Giveaway!

  3. Audrey

    February 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I took a course in college that prepared students for the career-world and we spent a day learning table etiquette in case we had to dine with future employers or during an interview. It was eye opening!

    My mom always made us set the table when I was young and I’m total going to make my kids learn the basics someday! 🙂
    Audrey recently posted…Fifty Shades of Grey, Black, and White

    • chelsea

      February 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      whoa, well done at your college! we did not have things like that at mine and i think it’s important to know things like that in the real world! so you knew about this soup thing??

      yeah we had to set the table too, that totally counts 🙂

      • Audrey

        February 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm

        I did! The thing that surprised me most in my course was that once a utensil has been used/dirtied, it shouldn’t touch the table again. Apparently it has to rest on a plate somewhere.
        Audrey recently posted…Fifty Shades of Grey, Black, and White

  4. Ashley Perez

    February 16, 2015 at 11:04 am

    No, I have not 🙂

  5. Melissa

    February 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    it’s amazing how many things I’ve done “wrong”. Never knew there was a “proper” way to eat soup!! Thanks for sharing!!
    Melissa recently posted…Grateful that I Put the Phone Down

    • chelsea

      February 17, 2015 at 10:53 am

      i was honestly in shock how many things i’ve been doing wrong too, melissa! one thing they say in the book is that you need to “know the rules so you can break the rules!” i liked that.

  6. Vivien

    February 16, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Mind blown regarding how many different kinds of utensils there are! The cheeky part of me almost wants to say “chopsticks please!”

    I did know about the soup one (but I’m just as guilty as breaking it now). A coworker told me about BMW, and another friend told me to make a circle with my index finger and thumb on both hands, so my left hand is the letter b (bread) and my right hand is d (drink).

    I found it weird that you aren’t even supposed to let the spoon hit the sides of the cup when you stir your tea/coffee. How am I supposed to know if the sugar has melted?!

    Thanks for letting me know about the difference between Continental and American style dining. Never knew it existed but it’s very interesting. New knowledge!
    Vivien recently posted…Speaker’s Showcase: The Morning After

    • chelsea

      February 17, 2015 at 10:54 am

      hahaha oh that was a good one, vivien! although chopsticks sure gave me a run for my money!! i should pull some back out and keep my skills on the up and up.

      i’m super impressed you knew about the soup rule and the hand circle thing is a good one too! so much to know but i love that the book takes you step by step with it all!

  7. Linda Reed

    February 16, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Chelsea…I’m still cracking up at your writing style! You are one funny lady and that makes me happy. It was a delight to spend the evening with you, Ryan, Jessica and Devin! You rock.

    • chelsea

      February 17, 2015 at 10:55 am

      thanks linda 🙂 it was such a fun and informative night and excited to get this book in more people’s hands because it’s so helpful and great!

  8. Rosemarie Burns

    February 17, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    You are such a fun and creative writer. Great job in marketing our book WHICH FORK DO I USE? Hopefully I’ll meet you someday. I am the co-author of the book , business partner and friend of our fabulous Linda Reed. Thank you for including us in your blog.
    Rosemarie Burns

    • chelsea

      February 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      thank you for your kind words, rosemarie! hopefully we will meet one day and i’ll know exactly how to eat properly with you 🙂 it’s a fabulous resource for people!
      chelsea recently posted…How to Pick Your First Dance Song

  9. Celeste Dimichina

    February 18, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I love this book! Linda is my dear friends Aunt, she put out such a valuable book/tool. Sadly a lot of the information in this book is not being used anymore. But this can all be solved by reading this book.

    • chelsea

      February 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      it really is a valuable resource, celeste! i’ve enjoyed looking through all the pages and thinking “whoa! i had no idea” or “oh that’s how you do it!”

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  11. Rosanne

    February 22, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Yes, I’ve made the mistake several times mostly with regard to the butter dish and tableware.

    • chelsea

      February 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      yeah i never really understood the rules around the butter dish either, rosanne but glad we do now 🙂

  12. Brittany Koelmel

    February 22, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I knew a little about the cutlery but I had no idea about the soup!

    • chelsea

      February 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      me neither, brittany! glad i wasn’t the only one eating my soup ‘incorrectly’ 🙂

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