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Being a Good Hostess and Guest

We previously talked about Eating at the Table and a Checklist for Returning to the Table. I love today’s topic of being a good hostess and guest. We loved when our kids were young to practice proper table manners so whenever we went out to eat or were a guest at someone’s home we didn’t have to be concerned on how our children would conduct themselves. Enjoy the following list and see if there are some you can practice with your family tonight.

Proper Table Conduct for the Host and Hostess:

-Seat your guests, alternating men and women. Since most couples are more comfortable sitting together, seat each lady to the right of her partner.
-Place cards make it easy for guests to find their seats, however, the hostess or host should be standing as they show guests to their assigned seat at the table.
-The host and hostess should sit at opposite ends of the table, never side by side

Serving the Meal
-When the hostess is seated, the host should offer prayer. At the conclusion of the prayer, the hostess should give insturctions to proceed, placing her napkin on her lap.
-If she finds that she needs to leave the table, she should tell her guests to begin. For example she may say, “Please begin while I bring the hot rolls.”
-When serving family style, the host or hostess begins passing the food dishes first. They are passed to the right or counterclockwise.
-The host should assist with the refilling of water glasses, giving the hostess time to take a few bites.
-The host and hostess should so coordinate their individual responsiblities during the meal that they can avoid leaving the table at the same time.

Serving Dessert:
-Remove all soiled dishes and food items before serving dessert.
-When removing plates, remove only two at a time and do not stack the plates at the table. Carry them to the kitchen and return to remove two more plates until the table is cleared.
-Serve the hot beverage, coffee, or tea before serving dessert. Guests can sip on the beverage while you are preparing the dessert.
-Remove soiled dishes from the guests’ right side and serve dessert or dinner plate from their left.

After Dinner:
-If the dinner is formal the host or hostess should invite their company to join them in the living room or family room, leaving the dessert utensils on the table to be cleared at a later time.
-The host should encourage the visitors to take their beverages with them, offering to refill their glasses.
-If the dinner is informal and the company desires to linger at the table for conversation or to play a game, the table needs to be cleared of dessert utensils.

Proper Table Conduct for the Guest

Before you arrive:
-Ten minutes early and ten minutes late is considered to be on time for dinner guests. If you arrive any earlier, drive around the block and if later, call the hostess. Also, bring a thoughtful gift to the hostess. This immediately expresses your gratitude for being invited.

Wait on the Hostess:
-Wait for the host or hostess to assign your place to be seated. Remain standing at your assigned chair until your hostess is seated. Then seat yourself, unless otherwise instructed.
-After being seated at the table, wait for the hostess and follow her lead.
-When the hostess puts her napkin on her lap, you follow. If she doesn’t put her napkin on her lap but begins serving, then quietly place your napkin and continue without making it an issue.
-Never rearrange the table setting–even if it is set incorrectly. Remember that kindness does not embarrass the hostess who did not properly set her table. Instead, we choose to bend the rule and feel comfortable doing so.

Passing the food:
-When dinner is being served continental style (the plates filled in the kitchen and brought to the table), someone will set your plate in front of you, serving from the left. After eating, it will be removed to the right.
-If the food is served family style, you pass it to your right. However, do not lift a food dish to begin serving until the host or hostess begins passing the food or instructs you.
-When serving family style, hold the dish for the person on your right to serve himself. He should then hold it for the next person and so on until it returns to you.
-To prevent accidents, avoid placing dishes on the edge of the table as much as possible.
-When butter is passed, cut a piece of it using the butter knife. If one is not seen, use your clean dinner knife. Put the butter on the edge of your bread plate (if none is set, use the dinner plate). Never put butter directly on your bread.
-Salt and pepper should be passed together at all times–even if someone says, “Please pass the salt”. Always pick them up and pass them as a pair. The same is true with cream and sugar.
-When using sugar from a sugar bowl, do not use the sugar spoon to stir your beverage.

While eating:
-If water or beverage glass is garnished with lemon or other decorative fruit, place the garnish in the glass before drinking. The garnish is for enhancing the flavor of the beverage, not for poking you in the eye or swiping your nose.
-When eating bread, break off a bite at a time, butter it, and eat it. Never butter the entire slice at once. This rule also applies to eating rolls and using jam or other spreads.
-Always use your knife to cut. Do not attempt to cut food with the side of your fork.
-Never place a soiled piece of silverware back on the table. Rest it on your plate. If the plate has been removed rest the soiled silverware on an unsoiled piece of silverware.
-No elbows on the table while eating. You may place elbows on the table between courses or when the meal is finished.
-Eat with your mouth closed, and do not talk with your mouth full.
-If you bite into a foreign object, simple remove it with your fingers and place it on your plate without saying a word. Do not spit it onto your fork or into your spoon.
-If you are served something that you do not eat, leave it on your plate and eat around it.
-Under no circumstances should you ask for an item that is not served to the table. If the hostess discovers that she has forgotten something, she will let you know.
-If you must leave the table for an important reason, ask to be excused. Return as quickly as possible. Your napkin is placed in your chair, not on the table.
-A centerpiece should not obstruct the view across the table. If it does, do not move it. Converse with the people who are beside you.

After Eating:
-When you have finished eating, place your soiled silverware in your plate. Even if some food remains on your plate. Lay the utensils together and at an angle in your plate. The handles of the silverware should not hang over the edge of the plate.
-Thank your hostess for a wonderful time at her table. Compliment her for one item that she served. You might say, “Everything was delicious. I especially loved your pie.”
-Do not overstay, and graciously excuse yourself when it is time to leave. Thank your host and hostess verbally and follow up with a written than you.

Again, my daughter and I came across this list while doing some menu organizing so we are not sure of the source. If you recognize the author, please let me know so we can give proper credit. If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy part one – Eating at the Table.

Related Posts:
What’s For Dinner
Eating at the Table
Making Everyday Special

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  1. Phil and Darby Hawley says:

    I really like this post! I found your blog from Homemake by Choice, and I’m so glad that I did. I’m your newest follower 🙂

  2. Laura@everydayeasy says:

    I love this list! Sometimes these manners are forgot when we are getting together with family or close friends. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. That is an amazing and impressive list of how to give a dinner party. I am so glad when I see not only children being taught great manners but also sometimes it is the adults in the room who need gentle reminders.

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