Holiday Entertaining | Golden Rules Gal

Category: Entertaining Etiquette Holiday Etiquette

Sunday brunch dessert presentation

Holidays are a time for friends and family, the time when we cook, drink, and eat together, and celebrate good cheer. Here are some tips for doing it in style:

1. What is the biggest faux pas people make when setting their table for a big holiday meal? The biggest faux pas, believe it or not, can be in the seating. When two introverts are seated next to one another, the result is no interaction at all. When two extroverts are seated side by side, often the result is noise—too much noise! Alternate quiet and lively guests instead.

2. When entertaining family, don’t seat mother, father, and children all together, just as you wouldn’t seat significant others together at a regular dinner party. (If there are newlyweds, this is the exception for not seating spouses next to one another.) Mix and mingle is the rule at the holidays. Of course, if you know that some people will not get along all that well, such as Uncle Harry and Aunt Diane, who have not spoken in twenty years, steer clear.

3. For this reason, when I’m the host, I always assign seats. It’s human nature for us to gravitate to our comfort level, which means sitting next to people we already know, such as our spouse or good friends. A dinner party is an opportunity for the hostess to mix things up a bit and make the party more interesting.

4. What is the order of utensils and how should they be arranged? When setting a table, always work from the outside of the plate to the inside for usage. This is why the salad fork is on the outside left, and the soup spoon is on the outside right. Next in line are the dinner fork on the left, and the teaspoon and dinner knife on the right. Depending on how formal the meal is, the dessert knife and fork will either come out with dessert, or for a more formal meal they will be placed at the top of the plate.

5. Where should the wineglasses and water glasses go? Again, usage works from out to in. If there are both red- and white-wine glasses, the white-wine glass is on the outside right, then the red wine, then the water glass. The water glass should be placed just above the dinner knife. White wine is usually served with the first course and red with the main course.

6. What occasions demand an informal table setting and which ones demand a more formal setting? These days, table settings range from one end of the spectrum to the other. It really depends on the hostess or the occasion. If you’re having a black tie dinner, formal china and crystal are in order. For Sunday brunch, use everyday china with fun, colorful linens.

7. What does “family style” service mean? “Family style” means that the food is passed in platters, or the host may serve the main course from a platter in the center of the table. Otherwise, the plates may be assembled, with main course and sides, in the kitchen and served at the table. When passing food, the host or server passes everything to the right, including bread and butter. The host may first offer bread to the person on her direct left so that person doesn’t have to wait until the basket makes it around the table. Salt and pepper are passed to the right, and always together, like husband and wife. Why? Even when someone asks only for the salt, both are passed, as someone else might need both.

 

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