In any scenario other than a formal dinner party, a simple cloth napkin would be a benign and nonthreatening object. However place said napkin in a poised position next to five-piece Lenox place setting at your boss’ holiday dinner and suddenly the stakes seem much higher. Intimidation is likely to set in. Previously nonexistent thoughts and doubts may swirl in your head. “When do I place this napkin in my lap?”, “Where do I put it if I leave the table to go to the restroom?”, “Would it be unseemly to blow my nose in it?” (Admit it, you’ve wondered about that last one.) As with most things in life, knowledge is power, and mastery of the dinner napkin is no exception. Here we go:
- After the hostess is seated at the table and has placed a dinner napkin in her lap, you may place your napkin in your lap. At larger gatherings with multiple tables, or where there is no specific individual host, place your napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated at the table.
- The operative word is “place.” Do not flap or snap the napkin like you are shaking out a dusty blanket. Simply unfold the napkin and lay it neatly in your lap. Typically, large napkins are left folded in half when placed in your lap with the fold toward your waist. Never tuck a napkin into your shirt like a bib.
- If you need to leave the table during dinner, place the napkin in your chair. Always remember to push the chair back under the table.
- The napkin should remain on your lap throughout dinner and be used to gently blot your mouth when needed. Never use your napkin to wipe off lipstick or blow your nose.
- At the end of the meal, place your napkin on the table to the left of the dinner plate, but not before the hostess has done so. Do not refold the napkin or wad it up. Never place your napkin on top of a dirty dinner plate. Doing so could get you banned from all future dinner parties in polite society ;)