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Proper Politesse – Etiquette Tips by Sherry Gordon-Harris │To Eat or Not to Eat

Greetings, Traveler Weekly Readers!

I’m Sherry Gordon-Harris, Certified Etiquette Consultant, owner and instructor of Royal Purpose School of Etiquette. Our purpose is to assist with the Total Refinement of You, including children and adults, by offering classes and workshops on Etiquette and proper Manners.

As we learned in the previous articles, Etiquette is the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. Manners are a person’s outward bearing or way of behaving toward others. It’s a way in which a thing is done or happens. In general, Etiquette is simply respecting others and not causing an offense to others.

Dinner banquets, luncheons and galas are common in the business and social communities. These are hosted for multiple reasons such as developing business relationships and recognizing achievements. These types of events also provide an opportunity to network with colleagues, meet current and prospective clients, or get to know your co-workers better for team building.

Representatives or associates of the company or organization may all sit together at the same table. They may be in different roles. And they may have a spouse or a plus one accompanying them at the table. Regardless of the role or company, you and your company are on display. In some ways, the reputation is at risk. You are being observed. And observations by others contribute to forming opinions about both you and your company. Even though these events may be outside of normal work hours, you are still representing your company or organization. It is very important to be aware of your actions and display proper etiquette.

One of the most common etiquette mistakes made at these events that involve meals is starting to consume your meal before the appropriate time. At large banquets where the meal will be served by waiters and waitresses, the salad and dessert may already be on the table in advance as soon as you arrive. This is to help save time. But this does not mean that you can start eating those items as soon as you sit down.

Often there is an order of the program. Whether or not the program is printed and given to you in advance, know that the host generally has a plan for the program. The first hour of the event starting time can be for reception and networking. There could be a place on the program where a minister or clergyperson will give an invocation and bless the food. Only after that or when the host says it is now time to enjoy the meal is it appropriate to begin consuming the food. Even if others have begun eating their salad or dessert, it is not appropriate. When in doubt, always follow the lead of the event host.

As a general rule, you should not begin eating until everyone at the table is served. If you are a guest at a large meal, or if the meal is for a particular occasion, someone may want to make a toast before the table starts eating. Someone at the table may make a special order or request replacement items. For example, someone at the table may ask for a correction to their order to receive a vegetarian meal or ask for new utensils. This could take a while to arrive. In this case, it is okay for the rest of the table to begin their meal before those special requests arrive. And the person making the special requests should give the okay and considerate understanding for the remainder of the table to begin consuming their meal, so their food doesn’t get cold.

So, the next time you are invited to a formal event that includes a meal, I encourage you to keep these etiquette tips in mind. Whether you are representing your company or organization, you are always representing yourself. Basic banquet etiquette and table manners are essential to a professional and personal image. Save yourself from embarrassment and the appearance of being rude. Ask yourself, “Is it time to eat or not to eat?”

Hopefully, these articles are helping you to learn additional Proper Politesse.

Once again it has been my pleasure sharing this Etiquette tip with the Traveler Weekly Readers. There’s more to come. Well wishes to you and your family. I encourage everyone to, “Live your life with Purpose in a Royal Manner.”

If you, your family, or group want to learn Etiquette for the first time or just want to brush up on your skills, consider enrolling in a scheduled class or book a private class with Royal Purpose School of Etiquette LLC. We are now offering Pageant Coaching Services specifically for those in pageants and other competitions. We can help with the Total Refinement of You.

Contact Mrs. Sherry Gordon-Harris at (309) 585-6145 or e-mail or visit

Thank you.