Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NAPKIN ETIQUETTE

Nothing says more about your table manners than the way you use your napkin. The napkin is a beautiful accessory at the dining table and there is definitely napkin etiquette to be followed y'all!

Most napkins are square...cocktail napkins are 4 inches, tea serviettes are 12 inches, luncheon napkins are 14-16 inches, and dinner napkins are 22-26 inches.

In formal tablesettings, the napkin should be white, ivory, or a pastel color, matching the tablecloth. In the formal setting, the napkin must be placed in the center of the service plate with the monogram facing the diner.

Here's a formal placesetting with the napkin in the most proper place...on top of the plate.

For informal settings, napkins may be any color or pattern...gingham, polka dots, floral, et cetera--to add color or to coordinate a theme. In the informal setting, napkins may be placed to the left side of the plate, left of the forks {not under the forks}. They may also be placed under the plate, in the goblet, wrapped around flatware, or any other place the hostess chooses to display them.

Here's an informal placesetting, with the napkin to the left side of the forks...

Here's a proper Afternoon Tea Setting. The tea serviette is adorned with a teapot-motif napkin ring...with the point of the serviette facing the diner.

There are numerous books written about napkin folding and fancy folding styles. The rule of thumb to remember is that the fold should always be closest to the plate. However, this isn't really all that important. What is important to remember is that you should not iron the napkin folds flat {iron the napkin but not the folds} and that all the napkin folds on your table face the same way!

Here's a napkin wrapped around the flatware and adorned with a paper napkin ring which coordinates with a golf theme...an informal tablesetting.
Here's an informal tablesetting for children--using paper napkins folded with the folded edge nearest to the plate and placed to the left of the fork...

This rooster motif napkin was used at an informal breakfast setting and is folded in such a way as to display the cute little rooster...

Napking rings are one of my favorite table accoutrements. They make a lovely adornment for napkins and are only used at an informal tablesetting.

When using napkin rings, set the table with the point of the napkin facing the diner. After the napkin has been removed from the ring, the ring should be placed at the top left side of the placesetting. At the end of the meal, the napkin should be placed back in the napkin ring, with the point facing the center of the table.

I have a confession to make y'all! While I was looking back at photographs of my tablescapes, I noticed that I have not always placed napkins in my settings facing the correct way! GASP!!!!

This is incorrect...

Again, incorrect. Cute, but incorrect!

A holiday display...incorrect!

Fourth of July bash...incorrect!
Italic

How did I make those mistakes? Who knows? I'm so rushed with everything I do in life and I have no excuse. Except for the pink & green one...I wanted to show that Lilly pattern! Does it matter? To me, absolutely! I am a perfectionist and certainly don't want to confuse any of you who may be learning to set the table properly. So I dearly apologize!

Now, sometimes I do get everything right...

This is the correct way a napkin should be placed inside the napkin ring...

I was having a good day when I placed this napkin inside the cute snowflake ring...


Correct placement of the red napkin inside a Christmas tree-motif napkin ring...

Totally organized at Halloween when I placed this solid black napkin inside the cute witche's hat napkin ring--the correct placement...

So remember y'all, this the way the napkin should be placed after the meal is complete...facing the center of the table!
Whether you are dining at McDonald's or at the Ritz...here are some napkin etiquette rules you need to know:

~Wait for your host or guest of honor to take their napkin and place it on their lap. Then pick up your napkin and place it on your lap. Fold large napkins in half and place the fold towards your body. Open small napkins completely.

~Do not open your napkin by shaking it; open it discreetly under the table.

~Do not block your lipstick on your napkin, use a tissue.

~Do dab the corners of your mouth with your napkin--don't wipe your mouth!

~Unless you are eating lobster, wearing a bib around your neck at the table is totally tacky! {Only children under the age of 5 wear a bib!} You may take a napkin and spread it across your chest and then use the other hand to eat really messy foods...that is acceptable.

~Please don't use your napkin as a handkerchief...that is just gross!

~If you need to leave the table during a meal, place your napkin on the seat of the chair. A napkin is never returned to the table before the meal has ended!

~At the end of the meal, the hostess will pick up her napkin and place it loosely on the table, to the left of the plate. At that time, you should also place your napkin on the table. If napkin rings were used, return the napkin to the napkin ring, with the point facing the center of the table, to the left of the plate.

So that's it for napkin etiquette! I hope you have learned something new and useful to YOU today. Remember, it is never correct to point out an etiquette faux pas that someone has made. That would be tacky! However, I simply had to tell y'all about my napkin etiquette faux pas!

Thank you for visiting with me today.

51 comments:

bj said...

OOO, dear me. I am not such a stickler at MY home but it is ALWAYS good to know the true etiquette of using your napkin.
The more we know about etiquette, the more relaxed we feel in a formal setting.
My mother taught me all she knew about etiquette. I tried to teach my children because I wanted them to know how to handle themselves if ever they attended a formal affair...and...they have! :O)
Thank you so much for these wonderful tips.

Suburban Princess said...

Napkin ettiquette is one of my favourite topics!
I realise now though, how many time I have made the same mistake as you...ooops!

I am curious to know, why should we never iron a napkin flat? Whenever mine come out of the dryer I MUST iron them - I dont like wrinkles!

Sally said...

I love etiquette! This post is very helpful because it has cute pictures too, thanks!

Headbands and Hand Bags said...

Fabulous collection of place settings for one thing! And thank you for the wonderful tips on napkin placement!

QueenBeeSwain said...

thank you thank you thank you- I've been wanting a napkin protocol guide for longer than you can imagine! and since you're THE authority, this is just pure bliss!

and ps- my heart skipped a beat at the Masters napkin picture- after all, I am a Masters baby :)

xoox

kHm

Miss Janice said...

Suburban Princess,
I have edited the post. I wasn't very clear about "ironing the napkin." It now reads that "you not iron the napkin folds flat." Ironing the napkin is perfectly acceptable and usually needed! Just don't iron a folded napkin down flat.

I Do Declare said...

I had no idea about the formalities of the napkin ring....good to know!

Ashley said...

I'm embarrassed to say I've done used napkins-in-napkin rings incorrectly my whole life! Now if I can only convince my husband that the napkins are actually NOT upside down when I use them correctly from now on! Thanks, Miss Janice!

Bumpkin on a Swing said...

I needed this touch up lesson on napkin etiquette, did not know the rules of the "ring". Have a nice day, Miss Janice. Thank you for your invaluable lessons.
Love,
The Bumpkin

theaikenite said...

Oh! I always put the napkin under the forks for informal dinners at home with the family. That's good to know. :.)

Bella Michelle said...

Love pretty table settings and I love napkins (something I have discovered about myself later in life! LOL).

Pink Martini said...

They all look lovely in every place setting you showed but now I will pay more attention to that detail. You truly set the loveliest tables that I doubt no one has ever noticed if a napkin had been misplaced. :) xoxo

JulesTX said...

Thank you Miss Janice.

I now realize that I have made a similar mistake to you and have not been consistant with the napkin direction. I appreciate these posts and always learn something new.

PAT said...

Wonderful post, Miss Janice. I absolutely enjoyed and learned, too.

A Hint of Home said...

Very informative. I'm sure I have done it wrong a few times, at least. Now I know better. Thanks for the tutorial,
I hope your friend is doing better. She's been in my prayers.

Bea said...

Thank you for this post, Miss Janice, I've neglected using fabric napkins lately, so my children will benefit from it. Love all of your napkins and napkin rings...

Mid-Atlantic Martha said...

Goodness Miss Janice -- now I'm afraid to look back to check on how many times I've done it wrong -- I have a small table -- so I KNOW I've put the silverware on top of the napkins to save space. I guess I'll have to take "points off" for that one! Thanks for keeping us on track.

Jeanette said...

I did not know about the fold of the napkin. I always love coming here, I learn so much.

Kara said...

Miss Janice, nice to know not everyone is perfect...there is hope for the best of us.
Love the whole napkin etiquette explanations. It is the attention to details that make a memorable adventure.
Miss Kara

Teresa Jane said...

Bad bad Miss Janice. You know we talked about this at my house last time you were here trying to teach me how to be prim and proper which is a task in itself. haha
Love you girlfriend

stephanie said...

This was most helpful, Miss Janice. I learned several new things that I had incorrectly taught my children.

Brittany said...

Great points!! I love learning about stuff like this. I had no idea you were not supposed to put the napkin under the forks, even in a informal setting. Thanks!!

bevy said...

I never realized the whole napkin ring issue... learn something new every day!

I have taught my boys about putting their napkin in their chair if they need to get up from the table for a minute. My youngest thinks it is silly because he wonders what would happen if someone forgot and sat on it when they came back to the table!

midnight macaroons said...

Where did you find your Magnolia set? I LOVE THOSE PLATES & GLASSES!!! I've been searching for a Magnolia set for the past two years. Your set is fantastic.

I love this post. I wish everyone had the privledge to go through Miss Janice's Etiquette Class.

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Oh My Miss Janice, my napkins have certainly faced the wrong direction, but I do like the look so much! Thanks for helping me learn the correct direction of the napkins. I think I've been learning by looking at other blogs, and it looks like a lot of us having been doing it wrong! laurie

Joanne Kennedy said...

I love learning the proper etiquette in dinning but I do have a question.

You said that the fold of the napkin should be facing towards the plate on the left side of the forks.

Well what if the design is on the right side. Like your rooster napkin. How do you show the design if you have to put the fold towards the plate?

Hugs,
Joanne

Michelle said...

I did learn plenty just now. Thank you. I love your posts!

Disabled Domestic said...

This was a great post. I learned quite a few things! Especially with napkin sizes...beyond cocktail napkins, I just didn't really know!!

Kathryn @ Bonafide Southern said...

Miss Janice, thank you so much for the kind words left on my recent tablescape post. I'm thrilled that you like it and say it's "just your style!" After reading your napkin etiquette post, I realize that I've made a napkin violation. Please forgive me, but I placed the fork on top of the napkin!! Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. I'll be sure to be more careful from now on. And just so you'll know, I will change my mistake before I serve from this table. Always lovely to visit with you.

Fashion Meets Food said...

Wow! Thank you extremely much for this! I have my wedding coming up, and all the setting up will be done by my Mum and I. I wouldn't want to be the fool who didn't have her napkins right. I try to be as proper as possible, and the wedding is going to be very elegant and incorporate butterflies. I am learning so much from you!

cambridgechic said...

What a wonderful post - I loved seeing all your different place settings. You have such a fantastic eye for coordinating things!
I have one small question - what is the reason for placing the napkin back in the napkin ring after the meal? My mother always said not to fold the napkin after the meal, as this implies that the host/hostess would ::gasp:: re-use the napkin. This seems to be in the same vein as putting the ring back on the napkin. Is it for the sake of being tidy? Just curious!

P.S. I love your blog and always look forward to reading your posts!

KDC Events said...

Who knew there was an incorrect way to use a napkin ring! Thank you Miss Janice for making sure I know the proper way! I will forever keep this in the back of my mind when setting tables at events! THANK YOU!!!

Valerie@travelingthrough2 said...

Very nice post! We love napkins at our house! Miss Janice, I mentioned you in my latest post, would be honored if you would stop by. Happy Thursday!
Valerie

Jenifer Helton said...

I must admit, I've made this mistake as well. I would like to ask for a bit of napkin/dining advice..... I'm having a family function for 15 for easter. We are eating in shifts, and at various places.... I found some beautiful disposable plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins. I am wondering if because it's such a large group and not a formal dinner, if I can get away with it or am I committing the biggest no-no evah?

nannykim said...

I hate to admit it , but I do prefer the look of the INcorrect napkins!

nannykim at spindlecottage

The Pink Tutu said...

This is so interesting! Thank you SO much for sharing!! I am glad to know about the proper etiquette now for any future dinner parties I have. Love all your beautiful napkins!

Debbie said...

Thank you so much! It is nice to learn something new everyday:)

Kathleen said...

Oh go for the cute! Now if your name starts with M, if you turn the monogram the wrong way it is W..good to know when selecting 2nd husbands! No wasting good napkins..LOL..
Thanks for the birthday wishes and dropping in..always good to see you. esp if the napkin is correct!

annie said...

Oh, did I ever have a lot to learn from this post.
Glad your wrote it, happy I read it!

...All Things Refined said...

Miss Janice - you're the best! Your info is very easy to read and understand.

kay said...

love this post,thank you for the tips, I love matching my napkins to anything on my table, lately I have been collecting napkins from antique stores and love how you displayed so many ways to use them, thank you!

Mummie Lynda said...

As usual, I love your post!

Komali Nunna said...

Thanks for teaching about true napkin etiquette. I have learned a lot.

The Blushing Hostess said...

The used napkin back in the ring? Did I understand correctly?

I have never encountered this instruction before but speaking for my own table and a few others I frequent: Left of the plate, laid gently. Ring above.

I'd truly prefer not to see a used napkin returned to my rings: I am a little compulsive regarding hygenics...

Peggy said...

Your so cute. Thanks for sharing.
Peggy

Ted Mercer said...

What is the correct etiquette in terms of using the napkin or not? If it is on the table, do you have to use it?

Miss Janice said...

Dear Ted,

Whether or not you actually use the napkin, you should still remove it from the table and place it onto your lap. The napkin should remain on your lap until the end of the meal.

Miss Janice

confused said...

I was taught that you are to put the fold toward the plate and the loose end at the top left. This way one reaches with their right end to the top left of the napkin and opens it with one hand and one move. Is that not correct?
Randi

Miss Janice said...

Dear "Confused,"
As I said "The fold should be near the plate."

Alice Supple said...

Question ....? You say ".... only children under the ae of 5 wear a bib!)" You may take a napkin and spread it across your chest and then use the other hand to eat really messy foods...that is acceptable" Do I understand that to mean you hold the napkin in place over your chest while you eat with the other hand? And, if so, could you give me an example of what "messy foods" one might be eating that way? I can't quite picture it.

Miss Janice said...

Alice,
When you are eating messy foods, you may hold the napkin to you chest. "Messy foods" would be any foods that you are afraid might splatter or drip onto your clothes.