Wine and food is always a great combination…except when there is no wine and you’re with strangers.
One of the most nerve-racking events to attend is a scholarship recognition dinner. Of course it’s an honor to be a recipient of an incredibly generous donation, however, many people are unaware of what that entails.
At first, you may not know anyone else who is attending. Which leads to a fear of awkwardly standing out and walking around aimlessly avoiding conversations. After an hour or so of a reception, you head to your assigned dinner table with more unfamiliar faces.
Your table will look something like the picture below, with an assortment of silverware, plates and drinks.
For people who don’t normally attend events with a dinner setting like this, it’s important to act like you do. Don’t make yourself look like you’re trying to be something you’re not, but don’t sit there and stare at your place setting, because that will be obvious to other guests. The best advice I can give you is to be confident in what you’re doing.
Lets pray that your parents taught you how to be polite at the dinner table – meaning you know how to chew your food, properly hold your silverware and cut your food. Before you dig into anything, make sure you place our napkin on your lap. If this is the first time you’re hearing all of this then I suggest you go to an etiquette class because you will come across these table settings more frequently i.e: reunions, weddings, graduations, etc.
Along with being the most confident guest at the table, you need to understand the use of the utensils in front of you. It’s this simple: from the outside in.
Plated dinners like the one above come in courses usually starting with a salad, soup or fruit. If you have a salad, take the farthest fork on the left to eat it with. Don’t save your salad fork, that’s why there’s another one right next to it. The server will clear your plate and used fork and you will have a clean area to eat your next course. If you have soup, take the soup soon all the way on the right and eat with that. It’s that simple.
Your setting should then look like the picture above if you used your utensils properly.
All that is left is making small conversation with the other guests at your table. Be friendly, outgoing and talk about a common interest. One of my favorite things to do is ask the person sitting next to me if they were/are involved in greek life. It’s a great conversation starter and you’d be surprised how many fraternity and sorority alumni are around you everyday.
Emily Post, a fantastic etiquette website, has a list of Top Ten Table Manners, check it out!