There’s toothpick holders, bread sticks, and fondue – but would it be rude if I passed on the mini gherkins?

As the late comedian George Carlin once said, “at a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom”. Even George, who was anti-compliance with most social situations, still had respect for dinner party etiquette. (If perhaps, in his own cynical way).

[1940s educational video on dinner party etiquette.]

In days gone by, one of the common things to do, was bring a small gift to the party. (One that the hostess is not obliged to use that evening). Gifts such as flowers, candy, wine, or dessert, were not good hostess gifts – as the hostess would have felt that it must put it out immediately. It would never have been expected to have your gift served at the dinner party.

According to 1960s dinner party etiquette, the hostess was also not allowed to serve more than three cocktails, unless she had hired a bartender. The glasses of course, had to be immaculately shined too – but not with your own spit, (like some waiters used to do).

Another practised mannerism at the table, was over when to begin your meal once it had been served. The answer, was when the host/ hostess unfolded his/ her napkin – as this was your signal to do the same.

The female guest of honour seated on the host’s right, was always served each dish first. If there was serving help, servers would move around the table counterclockwise from her, serving the host last.

There was of course, also a big emphasis on woman in particular to pay attention to their table manners. It was believed that a woman with bad table manners, would never find a man due to the lack of elegance that comes with not having good social etiquette.

Children in particular, were also at the epicentre of good table manners. Parents thought it best to guilt trip them into learning how to behave. 

If the fruit of their loins were not up to scratch with social protocol, their parenting skills would be the talk of the town. Teaching social etiquette to your offspring, seemed more important than a college degree.


Above all, however, was the importance of steadily flowing booze for the adults. “Letting their hair down”, came as a delight to the children too, as it took the focus away from their own table manners. 


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