December 16, 2014 If you enjoyed this, please share:Downton Abbey dining etiquette is not passé today. Even though most of us don’t sit down to a Downton Abbey-style dining table in homes that resemble Highclere Castle, many Edwardian dinner etiquette rules still apply today. If you’re a guest at a formal dinner party held in someone’s home or at an elegant restaurant, you’ll be a proper guest if you tuck these timeless tips into your memory…(but please, don’t tuck your napkin into your shirt!) Don’t sit down until the hostess (or host) does. Stand behind your chair. When the hostess is seated, move to the right of your chair and sit from the left. A man may seat the woman to his right; she should offer a simple thank you. Do not move your place card to another seat. Considerable thought and planning go into the seating protocol at the table to show respect to positions and titles and to promote conversation. Husbands and wives are often seated apart. The host may sit at the head of the table or in the middle, depending on the length of the table and number of guests. Place your napkin in your lap after the hostess (or host) does. At formal dinners, large cloth napkins are placed in the lap and then unfolded in half with the fold facing the waist. Use good posture at the table. Sit straight but not stiffly with your feet flat on the floor and keep your hands in your lap when not eating. If eating “Continental Style,” (as do Europeans and savvy Western diners), the wrists may rest on the table while eating. Place nothing on the table—eye glasses, pill bottle, cell phone. A small flat handbag may be placed in the lap under the napkin. A larger handbag goes on the floor under the chair. You will notice an array of silverware on the table…multiple forks, knives and spoons. Begin with the outermost silverware and work your way in for each course. Begin eating each course only after the hostess or host takes a bite. The hostess will pace herself with the guests. Be observant. When you see that the hostess has placed her silverware for each course in “finished position” on her plate (at approximately 10:20, if the plate was the face of a clock), you are finished eating as well. And if you were at Highclere Castle, the “footman” would not remove the dishes until the hostess is finished with each course. Crystal stemware for water, white wine, red wine, and champagne (for dessert) may be included in your place setting. They are placed in the order of use. Do not sip your wine until the hostess takes a sip. Coffee may be served after the meal. After the coffee, you may be offered a dessert wine like sherry and port or a digestif. Again, do not take a sip until the host or hostess does. The hostess will signal the end of the meal by placing her napkin loosely folded to the left of the plate. You will do the same. When the hostess stands, that’s your signal to stand. Even though it’s not our custom to don a pair of gloves as we “dress for dinner” these days—and your host and hostess may not be Lord Grantham and Lady Cora—you’ll be an impressive dinner guest if you don these Downton Abbey dining etiquette tips for your next formal social event.