Etiquette for Event Managers - Table Etiquette (part 2)

In this miniseries, Etiquette for event-managers, you will learn everything you need to know about etiquette as an organizer. Kevin asks expert Vincent Vermeulen, in this episode, all about table etiquette.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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In this miniseries, Etiquette for event-managers, you will learn everything you need to know about etiquette as an organizer. I ask expert Vincent Vermeulen, in this episode, all about table etiquette.


Hi Vincent, welcome back to our studio.


Thank you.


In the previous episode, we were talking about hierarchy in etiquette. Today we will be talking about table etiquette.




There's a lot of fuzz about that.


Well, it's a fun subject. It's the most favourite subject of our students.


Where do you start? Maybe with all the attributes over here?


It can be a bit daunting when you arrive at a table and you've got all these things laying around. Starting with the napkin.


Of course.


Yes, that's where it starts. So, the best thing you should do, is take your napkin, put it on your lap, folded in two. Preferably in a triangle shape. Because, if you put it in a triangle shape, the tip of the triangle will stay between your legs. If you do it in a rectangular form, which is correct, but it could slide off much easier.

That's the first thing. Now, if you excuse yourself to go wash your hands, because in etiquette we never say we go to the toilet, you should leave that napkin on the seat of your chair. If your chair does not have armrests. If it does have armrests, you would leave it over the left armrest.

So, that's the first thing you should know. To be quite honest, we don't leave the table to go wash our hands. Because, if you have a good host, they would announce diner. Let's say, just before, they would say: ladies and gentlemen, in five to ten minutes lunch will be served. But most people think: oh, I'll finish my drink. No, that's the time to go wash your hands and prepare for lunch.

So, next we have all this. We have the whole set-up. Now, sometimes you have like four utensils on the left, four on the right. You got three to four glasses. You got a bread plate. You don't know where to start. Well the most simple thing is to start from the outside towards the inside. That we mostly know. If you look at what we have here, for example: a very simple set-up.

Of course, let's say we start with the soup. So, we have our spoon. And a spoon is not intended to eat from the front of the spoon. It's intended to eat from the side or more like this. When we have a soup bowl or a soup plate, we would always eat from the back to the front. So, we would scoop it from the back to the front. If there's just a little bit left, soup, we would tilt, actually, away from us. Like this. So, we would tilt it away. And then go from the back to the front and finish as much as we can. We shouldn't go [tapping noise] to get the last drop as well. So, we should be discreet about that. Okay, that's about the soup.


What if I want to sip from my wine and I want to pause. I have my fork and knife in my hands. Where do I leave them?


Exactly. So, the first thing we would do is: we position our fork and knife like this, on our index finger, we turn it around and this is how we eat. If we're at an event and it's all fun and laughs, sometimes we want to pause. We want to drink our wine, we want to have a conversation, etcetera. What most people would do is: they would pause like this. They would let their utensils or cutlery rest on their plate. That is something I would advise against. First of all: it's against the rules of etiquette. But second: it's kind of a risk. Because if I want to reach for my glass of wine, I could actually touch my knife. And things could happen. So, the only right way to pause, is actually like this. It would create more of a space to the side of the plate. And it's easier for you to reach your wine and to let your hands rest during a conversation.


Okay. And when I'm finished?


When you're finished, we would have a parallel situation, like this. At three o'clock. What we see in the UK, for example, is that it's at six o'clock. So, as long as you're not at home later than six o'clock, it's fine.


I also noticed a difference between your set-up over here and the set-up on the screen.




How come?


Well, I think that the picture is...


It's just wrong.


It is. First of all: a butler would never put a fork down with his right hand. But second: what we see here is this is actually a mix-up between the French table and the English table. We see the spoon on the top, who should be for dessert in a French table-setting. But the spoon over here is actually the dessert spoon for the English table. So, it's actually a mix-up.


Because it's in the middle, it's the last...


It's the last course. So, that's how the English would think. They would say: we start with the starter, then we have the main course and then we have the dessert. And it's kind of a logical reasoning that the spoon would be there.


So, what do I do with things like lobster? They're quite difficult to eat, always a mess.


Yes, well, there are a few foods which you can eat with your hands. So, anything which is, for example, lobster and any shellfish if you will. Then we have poultry. So, any poultry with a bit of a bone in, like pigeon or chicken. There's actually also a few vegetables which you can eat with your hands. Artichokes, as you know, for example. The leaves. But asparagus are also vegetables.




Yes, absolutely. So, you would need your fork and put the asparagus tip onto the fork. And then with your hand, eat it like this. It's perfectly acceptable. And another one who's mistaken quite a bit is sushi. So, sushi is actually not to be eaten with chopsticks.




Oh no, it's actually to be eaten by hand. Because that's how they are designed. They're small canapes, if you will. And you should have the fish on the tongue, instead of the rice on the tongue. And do you know, by the way, why you always have two sushi's of the same? Like two salmon and two tuna?


No, not at all.


Because it actually represents male and female. It's yin and yang in the Asian culture. And that's why you always get two the same.


Oh, that's a nice detail.

What about the wine? Who tastes the wine?


Well, it depends on the situation. If it's a diner at home, it would be the butler. If you don't have a butler, it would be the host. But we wouldn't do it in the presence of our guests. We would taste it upfront. Because if we taste our own wine, where the guests are present, it's kind of saying: I'm not sure about my wine cellar. I'm not sure I have some good wines. If you're at an event, for example you go to a football...

Sorry, if you go to, for example, a football game. It would be the CEO of the company, who tastes the wine. In front of the guests, because it's kind of a catering situation. So, that's how you would do it, actually.


Okay great, Vincent, thank you very much for coming over again.


My pleasure.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.