Dinner Etiquette – Tips for Dating

dinner date

When you first start dating after leaving a violent relationship, you’ll probably have forgotten how to go about that process, and your confidence will be at an all time low.  So, here’s some tips on what to do when you go to dinner with your first date after breaking free.  Making a good first impression will help you find someone who will really treat you with respect.  It would be wise to know how to use the right table manners so that you make the kind of impression that allows your potential new partner to feel relaxed enough with you that he can invite you out to more formal functions. Most decent guys are looking for a lady who has good table manners (as well as good manners in other areas), so read this article carefully and apply what you will learn.

Even though today’s lifestyle is informal, formal etiquette has not been forgotten or displaced. Many top executives have been extremely embarrassed by the manners that have been used at the dinner table by the people they are eating and mixing with. There are certain rules that apply that help to keep the standards high so that everyone may enjoy their meal without distraction. Here are some:

  • When allowing the waiter or waitress to serve you, you should shift a little to your left so that you may have your wineglass filled from the right (this is the side it is done from), or shift a little to the right when your dinner is being served to you from the left.
  • Food is always served to each person on his or her left, and when the meal is done the plates are taken away from the right. It is common for the wait staff to hold back from clearing the table until everyone has finished eating the particular course they are on.
  • If you can remember to do so, sit to your date’s right when sitting with a group of people around a table. It is from this position that he will serve you first, as the lady to his right will be the first that he will serve if the event requires that guests help themselves (if he too has learned these rules of etiquette). You may then offer to hold the serving dish for your date so that he may take from it as well.
  • When passing serving dishes around the table they generally should be passed from left to right in an anti-clockwise direction, as most people are right handed. This will allow you to hold the dish in your left hand while you take a portion of food off the dish with the serving utensils held in your right hand. The only time this might cause a problem is if you are left-handed, of course.
  • After finishing the entrée or main meal you should wait about 10 – 15 minutes before you begin the next course.
  • Use a folded napkin to brush the crumbs from earlier courses onto the bread and butter plate next to you before commencing dessert.
  • The napkin is placed in your lap as soon as you take your place at the dinner table. The only exception to this rule is when a hostess who intends to also sit down and eat with her guests is serving you. Under these circumstances wait until your hostess has taken her place at the table before you place your napkin in your lap.
  • Wait until all people that are sitting at the dinner table have been served before you commence eating your meal, unless your hostess insists that you start your meal so that it does not go cold. When there are numbers of about twelve or more then this would be acceptable to do, but if the numbers are smaller than that wait until your hostess sits down.
  • If you are watching your weight and your hostess has gone to a lot of trouble to prepare a meal for everyone, do not say something like ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly eat that! It’s so fattening!’ If you must have a special meal, ask your client if you may talk to the hostess in private so that she may possibly be able to accommodate your needs.
  • There is no need to assist with the service. Guests and diners do not help pass empty plates or glasses to the wait staff, but rather, permit these to be removed or replenished for them.
  • It is generally considered to be impolite to sit with an empty plate or glass in front of you at the dinner table. It is better to leave a small amount of food on your plate or wine in your glass so that if anyone asks you if they can ‘give you another serving of the last course’ or ‘get you a drink’, you don’t have to refuse umpteen times.
  • If you are attending a private function where the hostess has prepared the meal herself, do not insult her by shaking salt and pepper over your meal before you have tasted it. When you do use the salt and pepper, do so in sparing amounts.
  • Don’t stretch across the table to reach items that are on the other side. Ask the person who is closest to them to pass them to you. The item may end up going around via other guests, but this is far more polite than leaning across the table, and it saves you from the embarrassment of ending up with your dinner all over the front of your blouse or dress should you lean into your plate.
  • Keep your elbows off the table!
  • Generally, try not to speak while you have food in your mouth, but if it is going to delay the conversation by doing so, then speak when you have swallowed enough food that it allows you to talk without looking offensive.
  • If you must sneeze at the dinner table, do not use your napkin to stifle your sneeze. Turn your face away from the table and use a handkerchief.
  • When you need to leave the table for whatever reason, either illness or bathroom, you do not need to provide an explanation. ‘Please excuse me’ is enough said. Also, when you return just sit down. You do not need to apologise or elaborate.
  • If you would like to refuse a top-up to your wine glass, just place your fingers across the top of the glass for a brief moment, and your waiter, waitress or hostess will understand that you do not want any more. Or, you may like to say ‘No thank you’ instead. You may also ask for a glass of water if you wish to change from drinking wine to drinking water.
  • Do not gnaw on a bone with your fingers. If you can’t cut it off the bone using your knife, just leave it. Do not try to clean the bone while only using one hand to hold the bone.
  • If you do not know the polite way to eat a particular food, watch how the others are doing it. Or, confess that you don’t know how and ask.
  • If something goes into your mouth that you do not wish to swallow, the way it went in is the way it should come out. For example, a chicken bone that went in on your fork should come out on your fork. A watermelon seed that went in with your hand comes out with the hand. Place the item on the side of your plate along with other food scraps.
  • Long-stemmed wineglasses are held with the thumb and first two fingers at the base of the bowl. If the glass contains chilled white wine, then hold it further down the stem so as not to heat the wine with your fingers.
  • When eating soup, use the spoon so that it tips away from you, unlike dessert, which is eaten so that the direction of the spoon moves towards you. The soup bowl is tilted away from you while the dessert bowl is tilted towards you. When sipping the soup from your spoon, sip from the side not the front. Tipping from the front is perfectly acceptable with dessert, though.
  • When buttering your bread, take butter from the butter dish and place it on the side of your plate. Then break a small piece of bread from the roll and butter only that one small piece. You may eat that piece before going through the same process again. If you butter the whole roll all at once, this is not considered good manners in high society. Also, use the butter knife that sits next to your bread and butter plate to butter your roll, not the serving knife that sits in the butter dish.
  • If you have toast or hot bread in front of you, you may butter the whole piece while it is hot, and then break it into smaller pieces in order to eat. Bread sticks may be broken and buttered in small pieces, or if unbuttered they may be nibbled at whole.
  • Do not sop up sauces with your bread! At a corporate dinner function this is a definite no-no.
  • When eating with a knife and fork, the knife is held in a similar manner to a pencil. The end of the handle should be in the centre palm of your hand. The index finger is held on top of the knife but does not touch the back of the blade. The fork is used in a similar fashion, with the prongs pointing down.
  • The knife is used to push the food onto the outside of the fork, not onto the scooped side – no, not even the peas!
  • If you are using a fork without a knife, the fork is held at the top and not down at the base. The prongs must always point downwards.
  • Remember that when pausing between mouthfuls, the knife and fork are placed on the plate at an angle to each other, 8 o’clock to 12 o’clock, and 4 o’clock to 12 o’clock positions, for if you place the two parallel and together, the wait staff or your hostess will take this as a signal that you have finished your meal and will, to your astonishment and disappointment, remove your plate.
  • When eating Dessert, you may do so with both a fork and a spoon. The fork in the left hand, prongs pointing down, serves as a pusher onto the spoon. It is quite in order to eat your dessert, if it is plum pudding or ice cream, just using the spoon. It is also quite in order to eat dessert cake using the fork only. However, most people use both.
  • On completion of your dessert, place the spoon and fork parallel and together in the centre of the plate, the prongs of the fork and the bowl of the spoon uppermost.

There are a few more guidelines that will assist you to have good manners, but these few here are enough to get you started. Your potential new partner will think that you were born into high society if you practice these table manners while you are out with him (jk)! But hey, there’s no harm in making a good first impression.

Good luck on your new first date!  Remember too that while you’re trying to make a good impression on your date, you should be watching him closely to see that he’s going to treat you right too.  Don’t let him get away with any kind of abuse, and if you see it,  take a note and then pull your hopes and dreams back out of that situation and move on to the next one.  Men are like buses….. there’s always another one along shortly!!