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Etiquette tips for a gala dinner: the 7 dos and don'ts 

Class is a question of manners and style, says image and etiquette instructor Xenia Ferz. A gala dinner is the ideal event at which to demonstrate the presence (or indeed absence!) of these qualities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few tips to ensure you're ready.

1) Don’t put your purse, bag, pochette, or telephone on the table. I know it means a lot to you, and you may feel it says much about you too. However, this will show only that you have just begun your social climbing. Place it between your back and back of the chair. If it is very valuable, put it on your lap and cover it with a napkin. 

 

2) Don't wear an abundance of diamonds unless you're accompanied by a gentleman. Old-school etiquette would suggest that only married women may adorn themselves with diamonds, while younger ladies should opt for pearls or coloured gems. Rule-breakers would be labelled ‘kept woman’ immediately. 

 

3) Don't talk across a table of more than 12 guests; rather, keep to your immediate neighbours. Start with the one to your left with the first dish, switching to your right for the second. Avoid discussing religion, politics, wealth, health, and love. By the way, saying ‘bon appetite’ and discussing the food is regarded as inelegant; avoid doing so if possible.

 

4) Don’t take photographs of the food; it is Juvenile. Nor of yourself; it is unseemly. Nor of the other guests; it is intrusive. Professional photographers are allowed to; iPhone enthusiasts aren't. 

 

5) Do dress according to the dress code suggested in your invitation. Usually you'll be asked to wear black tie – this is a black dinner jacket with a black bow tie for men, and an evening dress with heeled shoes for women. Depending on the occasion and the guests expected, the length of your dress may vary, though it is better if the colour of your spouse's bow does not. 

 

6) Do not leave lipstick (or indeed any other marks) on your glass. If you wish to wear lipstick, opt for an indelible one, as you won't have the chance to remove and reapply it at dinner. Use your napkin when eating to ensure your glass is nice and clean after every sip. 

 

7) Do start your first dish with the outermost utensils, working inwards with each course. Some suggest taking a look at others to decide whether this fork should be paired with that knife...however, you should know for yourself. 

 

It is easier to master the rules than to seek a way out of an awkward situation!

Photo credit Arny North