Aunt Dandelion is an advice blog offered to help readers solve simple or perplexing problems related to social and business etiquette. Ask Aunt Dandelion when you have a problem, and check back soon for answers. Send your conundrums to Or follow Aunt Dandelion on Facebook!

Serviette etiquette: the rules for napkins

My husband and I disagree on what is the appropriate etiquette for where to put your napkin when you are done eating. I was taught to keep your napkin in your lap until you leave the table but my husband says it’s OK to put your napkin on your plate when you are done eating. Who is right? — Michelle in McKinney, TX
Aunt Dandelion answers:

Michelle, this isn’t a case of one is right and one is wrong. Let me explain the napkin rules:

When you sit at the table, open your napkin and place it on your lap. Leave it there throughout the meal, except when using it to clean your lips during the meal (dab, don’t wipe). Incidentally, lips should always be dabbed before drinking from a water or wine glass, to avoid creating a greasy build-up on the glass. This is not only very unattractive; it will interfere with your appreciation of a good wine as well.

If you leave the table at any point during the meal — such as to use the rest room or to assist with serving and clearing when dining in someone’s home – place your napkin on the table, to the left of your place setting. Do not leave it on your chair. And do not fold it into a square or ball it up, just loosely arrange it (with clean sides showing) and drape it attractively next to your place.

When the meal is complete, do as described above — loosely fold the napkin and place on the table. Napkins should never be put on used dinner, dessert or salad plates. From tablecloth it came, to tablecloth it must return. (Or table, or placemat. You get the idea. The napkin is not part of the china.)

Ideally, the napkin should stay in the lap until the diners are rising from table. In practice, however, if everyone has finished eating and a long discussion over the dinner table is ensuing, Aunt Dandelion has no qualms about napkins being restored to the table so that diners may shift positions and get comfortable. At a formal dinner, this is not really advised, however.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here, or ask Aunt Dandelion your etiquette question: