Civility: Etiquette and gentle behavior

Etiquette is not about snobbish rules and class separation. It is a code of behavior and life skills that shows thoughtfulness, common sense and consideration toward others.

Life often has changes and circumstances that arise for which one has no experience or training. Knowledge of etiquette helps to develop poise, confidence and self-esteem, and that enables one to handle the unexpected.

Because business is often social and involves dining situations, knowledge of fine-dining skills can help to give one an extra edge and create a positive impression and trust.

Here is a summary of information that may help you with your formal dinner parties:

•Formal invitations should be mailed 4-6 weeks in advance of the event.

•Informal invitations should be mailed 2-3 weeks in advance. Telephone invitations are acceptable, and reminder cards may be sent 10 days in advance.

•Invitations: If inviting 100 people to a social function, expect 80 people to attend.

• "RSVP" in the lower-left corner of an invitation means, "Respondez s'il vous plait" or "Please answer." Reply to the invitation within a few days. If you're unable to attend, a kind answer may be, "Thank you for the invitation, but we have made other plans for that date." A further explanation is not necessary.

•Guests should arrive within 15 minutes of invitation time; dinner is served within 60 minutes, and no more than 90 minutes, after the designated time. Delay dinner no more than 15 minutes for a late arrival.

•Seating at a formal table: Alternate men/ women/ couples at the table in order to encourage conversation. The female guest of honor sits to the right of the host; male guest of honor sits to the right of the hostess.

•Service/charger plate: This large plate holds the soup or salad and stays on the table until the entrée is served.

•Bread and butter plate: Placement is above the forks. The polite way to use it is to butter your bread over this plate.

•Service procedure: Food is served from the left and removed from the right. Liquids are served from the right. Service continues clockwise. Food is always passed to the right. The female guest of honor is served first; the host is served last.

• When the hostess places her used napkin to the left of her plate, that is the signal for the end of the meal.

Next week will continue with etiquette and gentle behavior.

DIANA OLSON, MA AICI CIP, a certified image stylist/etiquette & civility specialist. Contact her at (626) 584-9761,, or

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