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10 Table Etiquette Mistakes You Really Need to Stop Making

"No shirt, no shoes, no service" may be just as applicable at your table as the corner store, but there may be some less obvious etiquette norms that are slipping your mind.

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Friends at a restaurant and wine being pouredJACOB LUND/SHUTTERSTOCK

Not speaking up

Whether you vegan, celiac or keto, you should let your dining companions know your dietary restrictions before (and, we mean, days prior) the event. Saying something upon a dinner invitation gives your host ample time to menu plan or select a restaurant that offers items in tune with your tastes. Waiting until arrival can make for an uncomfortable evening, especially if the main course is a braised meat that the host spent half the day prepping. When it comes to a dinner party at a friend’s house, here are some etiquette mistakes you might not know you’re making.

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Switching seats

Love the one you’re with. “Don’t complain about who you’re sitting next to if seats are pre-arranged,” says Sharon Schweitzer, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert and founder of Access to Culture. Anyone who has planned a wedding can tell you that crafting seating charts is an art form. While you may want to catch up with your college roommate’s old boyfriend, the hostess may have sat you with a network connection for your growing business. “If you really have an issue with someone, I’d recommend communicating this to your host beforehand,” says David Leo Yarus etiquette expert.

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Pretty Caucasian smiling woman putting a plate with meal on dining table at backyard celebration.LSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Taking charge

“The host sets the pace and tone of the meal,” says Schweitzer. Defer to your hostess when ordering, changing the conversation or kicking off the dancing portion of the dinner party. And if you happen to be planning a future event, here are tips for planning the perfect pasta dinner party.

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Group of young friends sitting around a table having food at party outdoors.JACOB LUND/SHUTTERSTOCK

Not passing the right way

According to Schweitzer, food and condiments should be passed around the table counterclockwise. When you are passed an item that you do not care for, simply continue moving it around the table. Our experts agree that salt and pepper always travel together. They also advise asking for items that are not within your immediate reach, which is an imaginary box that measures equitably around from the widest points of your folded elbows. Sounds fussy? Find out the etiquette rules people are expected to follow when dining with the British royal family.

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Beautiful Caucasian smiling couple sitting at restaurant and looking happy.LSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

The hard pass

Don’t want coffee, wine or another beverage on offer? “Don’t flip the cup over or place your hand over the cup,” Schweitzer says. “Politely refuse the drink when the sommelier or waiter comes by, or allow the cup to be filled and not drink from it,” she adds. If you love wine, you might want to invest in these 18 gifts.

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Girls looking at a phone together over foodUFABIZPHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Checking your phone

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before—love the one you’re with. Checking, rechecking and glancing at your phone again is just plain rude. “It’s pretty disrespectful to constantly look at your screen or use social media sites during an important lunch meeting or dinner with friends,” says Schweitzer. Resist the urge to pick up on every notification. You probably won’t want it anywhere near the table when you realize it’s one of the dirtiest places in the house.

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Man reaching for appetizersLSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Digging in

That whole eat-while-it’s-hot thinking is actually a no-no. Always wait until the host is seated, says Schweitzer. Also, refrain from eating until everyone at the table has been served, she says. An exception to this norm is a casual buffet setting like a backyard BBQ. We bet you won’t be able to resist digging into these easy cookout recipes, anyway

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Woman smiling at each other over dinnerLSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ignoring others

While yelling down the table to someone and otherwise hijacking conversation is poor form, it is polite to engage with fellow guests, even those you don’t know. “Try to talk with everyone at the table,” says Yarus. “Always make eye contact and smile.” Sounds civilized, right? While etiquette gets a bad rap for being outdated, here are some modern tips you’re probably already following.

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Table spread including olive oil, glasses of water, and appetizersLSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Getting up

“Always prepare yourself by going to the restroom and washing your hands before the start of any meal,” says Schweitzer. “Avoid excusing yourself more than once during the meal, as it can be considered disrespectful,” she adds. However, she notes, if you must get up, exit to the right of your chair and enter from the right upon returning.

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Woman sighing at a laptopLSTOCKSTUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

No thanks

A genuine thank you goes a long way. A quick text or email after an event is always expected. A handwritten note—here are some guidelines—is downright classy.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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