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10 Table Manners Rules You Didn't Know You Were Breaking


April 23, 2021

Growing up, our mothers always taught us right from wrong and made sure that we followed orders. “Do as I say, not as I do” was a mantra that many of us heard throughout our childhoods, but sometimes rules don’t stick. 

One thing that was drilled into most of us was table manners. You had to have good table manners so that you looked good and polite in front of people at a dinner party or a restaurant. Table manners are of the utmost importance throughout your life, not just in childhood. 

Here are some common table manners mistakes you might still be making in your adult life. 

Dress Code

Whether you are going to a dinner party at a friend’s house or going out to a fancy restaurant, you always need to know the dress code. This will help you to dress accordingly so that you are presentable. 

Not adhering to the dress code will not only be embarrassing for you, but it is insulting, too. Ignoring the dress code signals that you have no respect for the person or the establishment of dining. 


If you are attending a dinner party at someone’s house, wait until they have unfolded their napkin before you unfold yours. It is bad manners for the guest to unfold their napkin before the host. 

You can also use your napkin to signal that you will be back at the table if you have to leave. When you get up, excuse yourself from the table and then place your napkin on your seat to indicate that you will soon be back. 

No Elbows, All Hands 

One thing that you probably already know is that you should never place your elbows on the table. This is common knowledge across most of the world, and most people already practice this. 

However, did you know that as important as it is not to show your elbows, it is even more important to show your hands? Your hands should be in sight at all times while you are sitting down to a meal. 


While it is perfectly acceptable to want to raise a toast for whatever reason, there is a certain way to go about doing it properly in polite society. Most of us are used to clinking our glasses when we raise a toast, but this is incorrect. 

To properly raise a toast, all you need to do is say your piece and then raise your glass to eye level. Everyone else that the table will do the same thing, and you will have correctly presented a toast. 


When sitting down to a formal dinner, you use the utensils from the outside in. The utensils left on top of your plate will traditionally be used to eat your dessert. However, cutlery can also be used to signal other things. 

If you place your cutlery on your plate at the 4 and 8 positions, it shows that you are pausing eating but are not done. If you place your cutlery side by side horizontally on your plate, it shows that you have finished eating and enjoyed your meal. 

No Cell Phones 

It should go without saying that you should not be using a cell phone when you are sitting down for any type of meal, but some still do this. Using your cell phone while sitting down for a meal shows that you are more interested in your device than the company. 

If you do not feel like you will be able to leave your phone alone for the entire dinner, leave it at home, or turn it off not to be tempted. This way, you will be able to engage in conversation and be a good party guest. 

Cut As You Go 

When you are eating, it is essential that you do not cut all of your food at once and then begin eating. You are no longer a child and do not need your food to be cut up into pieces before eating it. 

You should cut off small, bite-sized pieces of food as you go so that you can eat your food politely and with grace and decorum. If you are tempted to cut all of your food before you eat it, try ordering something that does not need to be cut. 

Try Everything 

If you are invited to somebody’s house for a dinner party, you might not know what you will be served. Some of us are incredibly fussy eaters, but you must put that aside for a minute. 

You should try everything on your plate. If you do not enjoy it, you do not have to finish eating it, but your host must see you trying the food. The only time you should not try something on your plate is if you are allergic. 


No Toothpicks 

It is common to get something stuck in your teeth while you are eating, and it is perfectly acceptable that you should want to get that piece of food out of your teeth. It can be very uncomfortable to have something lodged between your teeth. 

However, you mustn’t use toothpicks or dental floss at the table. Should you need to use a toothpick, pick one up and excuse yourself to the restroom. Once you’re in the bathroom, you can pick your teeth as much as you need to. 


Your makeup around your mouth will likely disappear a little bit while you are eating. It is not uncommon, and while we want to look our best, it is essential to remember some rules. 

You may reapply your lipstick at the table so long as you can do so without making use of a mirror; however, any other makeup touchups that you would like to do should be done in the privacy of the restroom.