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Napkin Know-How 101: Mastering Napkin Etiquette at a Fancy Dinner

May 3, 2023 Chastine Kurt Petines

Napkins play a crucial role in any posh dinner, but many people need clarification on using them correctly. Table Matter is here to guide you!

Formal dinners demand a certain level of etiquette, and napkins are integral to that etiquette. They serve a practical purpose in keeping clothes clean while adding a touch of sophistication to the dining experience.

Why Are Napkins Significant at a Fancy Dinner?

Napkins are essential at a fancy dinner because they fulfill multiple roles. Not only do they protect clothes from spills and stains, but they also help clean hands and faces. Moreover, napkins are an indispensable table decor element that can add elegance to any formal setting.

Using Your Napkin at a Restaurant

As soon as you sit down, pick up your table napkin. Once seated at the restaurant, you should first take your napkin from its spot. Then, discreetly unfold it and place it on your lap, where it should stay until needed. Unfold rather than shake the napkin open before putting it on your lap. The wait staff may perform this service in some establishments, but that is becoming rarer. Nonetheless, even if they do, you can do it yourself instead of waiting for the waiter to place it.

Keep the napkin in your lap. The napkin should stay on your lap until needed, or the meal concludes. Never use your napkin to clean your cutlery or wipe your face. Instead, excuse yourself from the table and use a handkerchief or tissue in a separate area if you need to blow your nose. Using the dinner napkin for this purpose is inappropriate.

Place the napkin to the side when you leave the table during the meal. If you need to excuse yourself from the table, use one hand to pick up the napkin, then loosely fold it and place it to the left or right of your plate. Refolding your napkin is unnecessary, but avoid crumpling it or making it into a ball. Never leave the napkin on the chair or let it fall on the floor.

Use your napkin to indicate when you have finished. At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded on the left side of the place setting or the plate. This gesture signals to the wait staff that you have completed the course, and they may remove the dishes.

Using Your Table Napkin at an Intimate Dinner Party

When attending a private dinner party, your etiquette goal is to prevent drawing attention to yourself. Instead, pay attention to everyone at your table, especially the host or hostess.

Follow the host's lead. The formal dinner party meal begins when the dinner hosts unfold their napkins. This signals all guests to do the same; unfold your napkin and place it on your lap. You can leave it folded lengthwise if it is a large dinner napkin.

Keep the napkin in your lap. As at a restaurant, the napkin should remain on your lap until you need to leave the table for some reason or the meal ends.

Pay close attention to your host or hostess during the meal. The hosts' signal of the end of the meal is by placing their napkins on the table. Once the meal is done, you should neatly place your table napkin on the table to the left side of your dinner plate. Remember, there is no need to refold the napkin because it is already dirty and needs laundering.

What Not to Do

Knowing how not to use your napkin is just as important as knowing how to use it. Here are some tips:

  1. Don't use your napkin as an accessory when you explain something during a conversation.
  2. Don't tuck your napkin into your shirt. You may ask for a special bib if you eat lobster or other messy food.
  3. Don't blow your nose into your napkin.
  4. Never toss your napkin onto a plate with food on it.

Whether dining in an expensive restaurant or at a friend's house, you should be neat and polite when you eat. That’s why using your napkin is necessary. Be as discreet as possible when placing your napkin in your lap at the meal's start and then back on the table when it's over. The key to proper napkin use is to avoid making it the focus of people's attention.

Discover Table Manners with Table Matters in Singapore!

Proper napkin etiquette is a vital aspect of any fancy dinner. Mastering different napkin folding techniques can add more sophistication to the dining experience. Additionally, using high-quality tableware, dinnerware, cutlery, and glassware from Table Matters in Singapore can significantly enhance the overall ambiance of any meal. Remember to choose the proper napkin folding technique for each situation and be bold and creative with your table decor.

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