Aaah, Sunday dinners. Grandparents everywhere look sceptically at the manners of their grandkids while parents pray they will eat and not completely offend everyone at the table. “Put your napkin on your lap! Chew with your mouth closed!” But it doesn’t have to be like that! Family dinners tend to have enough stress for some people without the addition of insecurity. UrbanMommies sat down with Sunita Padda, Founder of TableSmarts, and got some amazing tips about family dinner etiquette – and garnered a few refreshers of our own. Etiquette can be intimidating, but remember it’s purpose is about making people feel good.

Manners 101 – to begin the meal

  1. Think BMW: from left to right this means Bread, main, water. This is where you will find your glass and plate.
  2. Place your napkin on your lap before you take any bites or drinks.
  3. Make sure everyone has their meal before you begin. How would you feel if people didn’t wait for you?
  4. Dab your mouth before taking the first bite.

Cutlery Etiquette

  1. Your cutlery goes in order of each course from outside to inside.
  2. Cut with cutlery upside down with middle fingers on top. Rotate and eat with fork upside down.
  3. Resting position – serrated edge towards you with fork crossed on top.
  4. Finished position is vertical beside each other on top of the plate.

Dinner Table EtiquetteMinding Manners While Drinking

  1. Lick your glass discreetly so your lipstick doesn’t transfer and make a mess.
  2. Hold a wine glass by the stem. The temperature of your hand will affect the wine, even with red varietals. As an added bonus, holding by the stem means that you won’t taint the aroma with scented hand lotions.
  3. When taking a sip of a beverage, look into the glass.

Passing Properly at the Table

  1. Pick up a family-style dish and offer to the person on your left, then help yourself.
  2. Pass counterclockwise.
  3. Serve from the left, take away from the right.

Manners Apply to Bread and Butter also

  1. When you receive your bread remember that you are not making a sandwich. Butter one broken-off piece at a time. This also makes you look like you are not starving.
  2. Butter knives don’t have a serrated edge because they are just supposed to cut butter, not bread. So break it off.

Taste and Seasoning – Especially at a Job Interview

  1. Always wait to taste food before seasoning. Many corporate groups use this as a test before hiring. “The salt test.” Adding salt or pepper immediately means that you are a creature of habit and may not exhibit flexibility and open-mindedness in the workplace.
  2. When kids don’t like something, encourage them to try it even if they didn’t like it last month. Food can taste different depending on the season and who makes it.

Soup Etiquette

  1. Never blow on it. If it is hot, skim the top layer and eat that first or take it from the edges.
  2. Spoon your soup away from you.
  3. Teach kids this rhyme: “As a ship sails out to sea I spoon my soup away from me.”
  4. Lean in from waist and not shoulders. To teach kids, give them crowns and tiaras and suggest they don’t fall into the soup.
  5. Don’t slurp. Keep soup spoon in the bowl while still eating.
  6. Oh – and don’t mix your bead and soup. You can go back and forth.

Cake a la modeHow to Eat Pie or Cake a la mode (with ice cream)

  1. Hold the spoon as if it were a knife. Then push food with the fork onto the spoon.

  2. Slide the spoon and fork down and eat from the spoon – not your fork.

Extra Manners Tips Please read these!

  1. Any cultural food should be eaten the way that culture eats it.
  2. To use the restroom, let the person next to you know. Exit from the right side. Loosely put your napkin on the chair and tuck the chair in slightly.
  3. Never groom at the table.
  4. If your knife falls on the floor, tuck it under the table and ask for another.
  5. Toasting: don’t drink to yourself. That’s a bit self-involved.
  6. After dessert loosely place napkin where bread plate would have been.



36 Family Dinner Questions

Reinventing Dinner – Table Manners Rebooted

How to Teach Your Child Good Manners


I was certainly thrilled I attended lunch with Sunita! Even as the daughter of family raised with strict British Navy rules and manners, there are a few lessons I needed to learn! The confidence that manners provide help you to truly enjoy the food in front of you and the company you are with. I tell my kids it’s kind of like learning multiplication tables. Once you know them well, you never have to worry again.

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