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Modern Manners

Bring your host a gift, say your 'please' and 'thank you's' and don't forget to send your host a thank-you card. 

A handy trick for Cocktail Hour

Your formal place setting

This bread is not a sandwich!

Breaking down the bread plate

Which bread is yours? Just remember 'B' & 'D'

A breath between bites

Finishing your meal

Placing your napkin when you finish

Written by The Strategy

With Canadian Thanksgiving out of our minds and American Thanksgiving kicking off this weekend, it is safe to say, the Holiday Season is officially upon us. Time for countless office parties, cocktail parties, dinner parties and party parties. We here at The Strategy agree with Andy Williams in saying, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of The Year.”

However, nothing can be more appalling than a pretty girl in a jaw dropping Chloe dress, slurping up her soup with her dessert spoon and eating her fish with her salad fork.

So, we took it upon ourselves to sit down with Leanne Pepper of The University of Toronto’s Faculty Club to learn the do’s and don’t of proper holiday etiquette.

To begin, Leanne cleared the air about one thing: “Etiquette is not just about table manners. It’s about being aware of your surroundings and putting people at ease.” From there, she walked us through the appropriate social cues of holiday etiquette.

Cocktail Hour

As depicted above, a great way to handle your appetizer plate and stem-wear is to curl your index finger around the stem of the glass, with your plate resting on your middle finger.  Tuck your napkin underneath. Do this in your left hand, so your right hand is free for shaking.

Holding your Stemware

  • Always hold from the stem of the glass and not from the ball of the glass. You do not want to end up with finger prints or heat up your wine.
  • When taking a sip, look into your glass and sip.


When sitting at the table, first off, always follow your host. From removing a napkin, taking a drink or starting to eat, wait until the host/hostess makes the first move.

From there…

  • Sit with your hands from wrist up resting on the tabletop (NO ELBOWS!), sitting straight up.
  • Do not cross your legs at the table.
  • Be sure to keep pace with whomever you are dining with. When they stop eating, put your knife and fork down. Dining is like a dance – you create a rhythm.
  • When placing your napkin on your lap, fold in half with the fold facing your waist. When wiping your fingers, wipe from the centre of the napkin.
  • If you must excuse yourself from the table, drape your napkin over the arm or the back of the chair, signifying that you will be returning to the meal and are not finished. Tuck your chair in.

Table Settings

  • Always start from the outside in.
  • Your fork is always on your left, knife and spoon is on your right, and at the top of the plate setting is your dessert spoon or fork.
  • An easy way to remember which bread/side plate is yours and which drink is yours, is ‘B & D’, as demonstrated by the image about. ‘B’ stands for ‘bread & butter’, which is on your left. ‘D’ stands for ‘drink’ which is on your right.
  • Your bread knife/spreader is used only for buttering your bread.

Eating Your Bread/ Dinner Roll

  • Butter is placed in the 5 o’clock position. The knife sits parallel to the place setting, so the handle is not in the butter.
  • Remember: This is a dinner roll, not a sandwich. This bread is not to be cut in half, buttered and eaten like a sandwich.
  • Instead break off a small, bite size piece, and butter just that bite.
  • If you prefer olive oil, again, pour the oil into the 5 o’clock position and simply dab lightly into the oil.

The Soup

  • The soup spoon on your far right.
  • Rest the spoon on middle finger.
  • Take the soup from the top or outer edges of the bowl, because it is the coolest – never blow on your food. If it’s too hot, let it sit.
  • Fill the spoon 3/4 full.
  • Run the back of spoon from inside the bowl along the back edge, pulling away from you.
  • Do not slurp or sip from the spoon.
  • When you are taking a break from your soup, the spoon rests on the saucer below the bowl. Never on the tabletop or in the bowl.

Holding your Cutlery

  • Your fork is in the left hand, knife is in the right.
  • To begin, with your palm flat, rest the cutlery on your index finger, into the palm of your hands. Take your three fingers, wrap it around the handle and turn your thumb over, onto the handle. Turn your hand over.
  • Your index finger is resting lightly where the fork curls up and slightly on the the knife blade.
  • Secure your food with your fork and cut with the knife.
  • Use your knife to secure the food onto you fork, twist your wrist toward your mouth and slide the fork in.
  • Break off small, manageable bites, so you are never caught talking with your mouth full.
  • When taking a break from eating, place the knife, blade is facing in. The fork is resting overtop of the knife, tines facing down.
  • When you are finished your meal, place the fork and knife together at the 6 o’clock position with the blade facing in and the tines facing down.

The Meal

  • If there is something served that you are not comfortable eating it, do not question it or make a scene. Instead, place it to the side of your plate and eat around it. Generally, a host should ask their guests of any food allergies or dietary restrictions upon inviting them.
  • When the meal is over, and all plates are clearing, place your napkin (as pictured) on the tabletop. Do not bunch or ball it up.

A Few Extra Notes

  • If you feel there is some food on your face, wrap your napkin around our index finger and delicately dab.
  • Be sure to bring your host a gift. Wine should be a part of that gift. Flowers are tricky for your host to handle, so if you chose to bring a plant, bring something potted.
  • Send a thank-you card to your host! Everyone appreciates received a hand-written note.

Happy socializing!

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