Placing the Napkin in Your Lap. Wait for the host or hostess to take his or her napkin off the table and place it in his or her lap. (An exception to this rule is buffet-style meals, where you should unfold your napkin when you start eating)
Unfolding the Napkin. Unfold your napkin in one smooth motion without "snapping" or "shaking" it open.
The size determines how you unfold a napkin in your lap.
- Large napkins provided at more formal dinners, are unfolded halfway.
- Smaller napkins are unfolded completely and cover the lap fully.
Tucking the Napkin. Don't tuck a napkin into your collar, between the buttons of your shirt, or in your belt.
When messy finger food is served before tucking the napkin under the chin or tying it around the neck, look to the host to see if he does the same.
Using the Napkin. Use your napkin frequently during the meal to blot or pat, not wipe, your lips. Blot your lips before taking a drink of your beverage-especially if you're a woman wearing lipstick.
Napkin Rings. If a napkin ring is present, after removing your napkin, place the ring to the top-left of the setting. At the end of the meal, grasp the napkin in the center, pull it through the ring, and lay it on the table with the point facing the center of the table.
Temporarily Leaving the Table. When leaving the table temporarily, put your napkin on your chair. If the chair is upholstered, place the napkin soiled side up.
Placing the Napkin at the End of the Meal. At the meal's end:
- The napkin is loosely folded at the end of the meal.
- If a plate is in the center of your place setting, when leaving the table lay the napkin to the left of the plate.
- If the center of your place setting is empty, the napkin is laid in the middle of the place setting.
- Leave your napkin in loose folds that keep soiled parts hidden.
- If after-dinner coffee is served at the table, the napkin remains in the lap.
Temporary Placement During a Conversation. For temporary placement of the fork and knife in conversation:
- The fork is laid on the side of the plate with the tines downward and the handle in the eight o'clock position.
- The knife handle is laid in the four o'clock position.
- If space permits, the tines are rested over the blade of the knife
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
If you find any typographical errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, or if you just have something to add, please email us.