Top 10 rules of table manners for a classy Thanksgiving dinner

With Thanksgiving around the corner, now's the time to brush up on your p's and q's at the dinner table.
Place setting fine china white and gold dinner plate and cutlery Getty Images

As much as we look forward to Thanksgiving — catching up with the extended fam and feasting on plates of delicious turkey, let's be honest, a packed table full of friends and family can really showcase the worst in table manners. And so, before you head home for the holidays, take a minute to read this table manners refresher (and then subtlety share it with your future dining mates) from our trusted etiquette and entertaining resource, Charles the Butler. With over 24 years experience in household management and hosting, we thought it wise to pull this excerpt from his book, The Butler Speaks (Appetite by Random House) to ensure your Thanksgiving is a classy affair.

1. Your dinner napkin

Never tuck your napkin into your collar. When you want to use your napkin, put your cutlery down first and pick it up from your lap. When you are done with your napkin, place it back on your lap and resume eating.

2. Elbows

As your mother always said, no elbows on the table. Also, don't let your elbows stick out at your sides like wings. Keep them tucked into your body, especially when lifting food to your mouth.


3. When you don't like what is being served

Inevitably there will be times when you don't like the dish being served. Take a little of what is being served, try it, and try not to look unhappy. You don't need to finish it.

4. Bringing your fork to your mouth

Never lean over plate. Instead, bring your fork to your mouth.

5. Your cutlery


Speaking while holding your cutlery and, worse yet, pointing with your cutlery while speaking is considered very rude. And avoid holding your cutlery "as if you are going to war," as my mother always says. Put cutlery down while chewing.

6. Reaching

Never reach for the salt. Ask the person beside you, "Would you pass the salt, please?"

7. Speaking

Never speak with your mouth full. I know, you've heard it before, but it bears repeating.


8. Blowing your nose

If you must blow your nose, never do it at the table. Excuse yourself and go to the restroom or elsewhere. Be as quiet as possible so you do not disturb the other guests at the table.

9. Dealing with spills at the table

If you accidentally spill something, don't make a big deal about it. If there are servers, motion for one of them to bring you additional napkins. Deal with the problem as quietly and quickly as possible. If you accidentally spill something on someone else, resist the temptation to wipe them down yourself. Instead, offer your napkin.

10. Concluding your meal


At the end of every meal, the napkin always goes on top of the table never on your chair. Push your chair back into the table; don't leave it where you got out of it.

The Butler Speaks by Charles MacPherson book cover


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