6 Modern-Day Table Etiquette Tips You’ll Actually Use

Modern table etiquette is not just for formal dinners or events. Practice these tips to keep company comfortable.

If you’re anything like me you probably get a little flustered when thinking about formal dining. What fork comes first? Where do I put my purse? And what the heck is a consommé? Lucky for us laid-back eaters, most modern dining events have adopted a more informal approach than the stuffy debutant dinners and fussy lady’s luncheons of yesteryear. (Though, that doesn’t mean the food has suffered. Check out these impressive dinner recipes!)

However, it’s still good to be well-versed in today’s table etiquette. We’ve rounded up a few top tips to help navigate the flatware and keep those elbows off the table.

Setting the Table


If you’re hosting a formal event at home or attending one, make sure that the table is set with only the utensils that will be needed at the meal. The expert on all things etiquette, Emily Post, advises that you picture the word FORKS to assist with utensil and plate placement: forks (“F”), plate (the “O”), knives (skip the “R” and onto the “K”) and spoon (“S”). Learn how to set a table the right way.

Other Necessities

Additionally, a tablecloth is a necessity for a formal meal according to the experts, but place mats are A-OK for breakfast, lunch and informal events. While considering the centerpiece, keep in mind that candlesticks should only be placed on the table if the meal takes place after dark.

Respect the Host

When to Start Eating

Traditionally, it’s proper to wait to eat until the host is seated and has taken their first bite. Additionally, as a sign of respect to the host and chef, wait to season your food until you know it needs some extra pizazz according to your tastes. Salting willy-nilly could be interpreted as an insult, and a high sodium intake is not good for you either!

Put Away Your Phone

A meal’s interactions should also be about the people you’re sitting with, so leave your phone in your bag or pocket. Psst! There are a few surprising benefits of a digital detox. Reading the paper should be reserved for breakfast time; otherwise, keep the books elsewhere.

Don’t Diss the Food

For goodness sake, if there is a piece of meat or bad nut you do not love, you may just have to gulp it down. Rules indicate you should remove it out of your mouth with your fork and place it back on the plate, but that’s just plain gross. If it’s really an issue, ask to be excused from the table.

How to Pair Wine

You don’t have to be a sommelier to comfortably pair wines with your meals. These two rules can guide your pairing methods:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.

View our complete guide to easy wine pairing.

You don’t have to get caught up in strict rules, just listen to your taste buds after you bite and sip. But if you are a rule-follower by nature, you may want to reconsider the glasses you’re drinking out of. The glass and the grip actually DOES affect the taste. Experts say it’s worth the investment to buy bigger glasses for red wine and smaller, narrower glassware for white. Invest in yourself, I say!

I hope you’ll recall these tips the next time you’re at a special event and share with a friend.

Try these impressive dinners!
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Michelle Steber
Michelle is the Customer Account Manager at Scott's Marketplace and loves all things local: shops, parks, garage sales and yes, even the local bar. She engages the selling community by day, and by night is a chauffeur, sous chef, spin instructor and Pinterest junkie. Michelle seeks joy in everything she does, especially closet organization.