For many of our students, Formal is the only event they have attended where table manners and social etiquette are taken to a whole new level. There is no need to be nervous, but you will feel more at ease if you review these simple guidelines to enjoying a formal banquet
Before the Meal
1. When the ballroom doors open at 6:45pm, walk (do not run) to your table. Your table number will be written on your wristband, and table numbers will be displayed on each table. Chaperones will be on hand to help you.
2. Once at your table, find the place card and dance card that indicate your seat. Don’t move place cards. Please sit where you are assigned.
3. Gentleman should remain standing until all the ladies have arrived at the table and been seated. It is kind for gentlemen to pull out the lady’s chair and help her get scooted in.
4. Place your napkin in your lap before eating.
5. Your drinking glass is to the RIGHT of your plate. Your bread plate is to your LEFT.
6. The salads and desserts will be pre-set when you enter the ballroom. Do not touch the food until after chaplain has given the blessing. Then, you may start on your salad and bread. Do not touch the dessert until after your main course has been cleared.
7. Serve yourself butter by putting some on your plate. Do not butter your bread directly from the butter dish.
8. Use the utensil farthest from the plate first. If there are two forks, use the outermost for your salad and the innermost for your entrée. The dessert utensil may be at the top of the plate near the dessert.
9. Do not start eating your main course until everyone at your table has received their entrée.
When Nature Calls
10. If you need to be excused to use the restroom during dinner, the fork and knife should be left criss-cross on your plate to show you are coming back. Leave your napkin on your chair when you excuse yourself.
11. The sign that you are finished and ready for your plate to be cleared is to place the fork and knife parallel across the plate, with the handles in the 4 o’clock position. Who knew?!
12. It is polite when a lady gets up to leave the table that the gentlemen stand while she leaves, and then stand again when she returns. We know this is rarely practiced these days, but it is always polite to stand and help a lady with her chair.
13. If you need to leave to use the restroom, exit at the doors near the chaperone Table #17. Return to the ballroom near Chaperone Table #1 where you first entered.
14. Do not make negative comments about the food. Even if something is not your favorite, your focus should be on helping all your dining companions to enjoy the meal.
15. You will have at least one friend at your table, but you may not know everyone. Introduce yourself and include everyone in your conversations. Don’t talk across someone without making them part of the conversation.
16. Keep phones put away during the dinner hour. Focus on your dining companions. A few photos are fine, as long as you are not being a rude distraction to others.
Mama Always Told Me…
17. Chew with your mouth closed.
18. Keep the hand you are not using in your lap.
19. Keep elbows off the table.
20. Don’t talk with your mouth full.
21. Don’t blow your nose on a napkin. Excuse yourself to the restroom.
22. Don’t touch up your makeup or do any other personal grooming at the table.
23. Don’t slurp or smack. If an unintended sound or bit of food escapes you, just say “Excuse me.”
When Something Goes Wrong
24. If something that goes into your mouth needs to come out of your mouth, it should be removed the same way it went in, whether that is with a utensil or your fingers.
25. If something slips onto the tablecloth, just discreetly return it to your napkin or plate. If something large gets spilled, like a glass of water, try to contain it with your napkin and signal for a server to help clean up. Don’t panic. It can happen to anyone.
26. If a utensil falls on the floor, ask a server for a clean one.
27. To call a waiter, simply raise your hand and wait until they make eye contact with you. If you need assistance from a chaperone, come to Table #1 or Table #17.
28. If you have special dietary needs or are unsure about the food you’ve been served, please ask a server immediately. If they are unable to help you, come find a chaperone.
29. Once the servers have removed the plates from your main course, you may eat your dessert.
30. If yours is the last table served, don’t panic. Please wait patiently. We will not dismiss from dinner until everyone has plenty of time to finish eating. If your table was served first, likewise, please stay at your table and wait patiently so others can finish.
31. After dinner, ladies please tie your dance card to your left wrist. Remove it when you wash your hands so it doesn’t get wet and fall to pieces.