21 Most Common Table Etiquette Mistakes

How to not embarrass yourself at the next formal dinner party


What you can and can’t eat with your hands is a complex maze of awkward mistakes and confusing rules.

How many times have you taken your seat at a formal dinner table, dived straight into that tempting bread roll, and two minutes later realized that that bread actually wasn’t yours? Have you ever spent the first several minutes of a dinner party looking from place setting to place setting, trying to figure out which wine glass is yours? You’re not alone: The most common table etiquette mistakes are often the most simple, and it really is about time you fixed the errors of your ways.

21 Most Common Table Etiquette Mistakes (Slideshow)

Formal dinner parties aren’t as common as they once were: We spend a lot of time eating alone, sharing a pizza and fries, eating in front of the television, or dining with such close friends and family that manners are not taken into consideration. When we walk into a smart setting, where multiple knives and forks are laid out, water glasses and wine glasses are crowded together, napkins are elaborately folded into extravagant origami forms, and we realize we don’t know many other people there, it’s all too easy to get really flustered.

As a simple trick to avoid the making most basic dinner party mistakes — and just in case you don’t remember the 21 errors to avoid that we’ve listed out here — when you sit down curl your thumb and index finger up into circles. Your left hand will make a lower case “b,” and your right hand will make a lower case “d.” These aren’t random: The “b” stands for bread and the “d” stands for drink. At least now you know which glass of wine you can drink from, thanks to the magical perfection of the human body.

Hopefully, this list of the most common table etiquette errors will save you from making any more humiliating dinner mistakes — you’ll be the perfect guest who everyone else will be looking to for help and guidance in any confusing or awkward dining situations. Finally, you can focus on the conversation and the fancy food, rather than spending the entire evening uncomfortably fretting about which fork to use, and what to do when you accidentally drop said fork on the floor.

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