Prom Dining in a Nutshell

I was asked to talk about Prom Dining on a local TV show, River City Live, recently.  It’s hard to talk about much in five minutes so here’s a cheat sheet!  Enjoy Prom–these tips should provide a little self-confidence.


Being Seated

  • It is courteous for the gentlemen in the party to pull the chair out for ladies. Do this quickly before she seats herself!
    • Exception: don’t do this in a business situation!
  • Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you sit down
  • Napkin stays on your lap the whole time
  • Left arm (right arm if you are a leftie) also stays in your lap on your napkin the whole time
    • Arms, elbows and wrists should not be on the table during a meal.
    • You don’t have to guard your food (wrap left arm around the plate
  • If you leave the table, napkin goes in the seat of the chair.

Use silver from the outside in

  • Forks on the left (for American style of dining)
  • Knives and spoons on right (for American style of dining)
    • Continental is the opposite but usually seen in Europe, not common in the US
  • Fork and the spoon at the top of the plate is for dessert
  • Sometimes a piece of silverware will be brought to the table with the course
  • Once a piece of silverware has been used, it never touches the tablecloth again.
    • This keeps linens from getting messed up.
    • If there is not a small dish for iced teaspoon, turn it upside down, bowl down to the side of your plate.
  • If you drop a piece of silverware on the floor, don’t attempt to retrieve it yourself. Ask a server for another piece and don’t draw attention to yourself.

Drink goes on the right

  • DR (first two letters of drink are DR—drink right)
  • B&D (OK sign with your hand—left hand makes a B, right hand makes a D)
  • BMW (Bread, Meal, Water)

Passing Food

  • Always pass to the right.
  • Salt and pepper are passed together (even if someone only asks for salt, pass the pepper, too).

Eating Bread

  • Break off a small piece and butter each piece one piece at a time.
  • Make sure you are using the correct bread plate (on left).
    • One of the most often dining mistakes b/c it’s so natural for most of us to reach to the right.
  • If bread is in a basket, it’s started around the table by the person closest to the basket.It’s considered courteous for that person to hold the basket and offer it to the person to his/her left before helping themselves . After this, the bread ONLY goes to the right.
  • The bread plate stays where it is—don’t move it around.

Eating Soup:

  • Spoon the soup away from you.
  • Place the soup spoon on the plate between bites.
  • No slurping.


  • Cut only a couple of pieces of any food at the time.
  • Try to pace yourself with other diners. If you are a fast eater, you may have to slow down. If you are a slow eater, you might want to speed up.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Try not to bring attention to yourself.