Just Plain Southern

Proper Southern Manners Part 9 – (Table Manners)

As we have explained to our children, table manners are essential!!

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To get them to understand we spoke with them about going on dates (the opposite sex when speaking to teenagers is always a good way to get them to pay attention LOL).  Good table manners are something that will be important and carry through all our lives including dinners with family, going on dates and impressing that your man or woman you are out with, dinner parties as well as business dinners.

Of course as we have pointed out throughout the Proper Southern Manners series, this is by no means all inclusive. It does, however, give us a starting point and a jumping off point for discussion.

Please be sure to let us know any other important table manners that you feel would be helpful. We would LOVE to hear from you!!

Make it a great day, you deserve it!

Table Manners

Proper conduct at the dinner table is becoming a lost art.  The following is a list of things everyone should consider when sitting down to eat.

Conduct at the dining Table

Before coming to the table, be clean, neat, appropriately dressed (wearing a shirt and hair combed) and wash & dry your hands.  Be on time.

  1. Your napkin should be placed in your lap, folded halfway.
  2. The first person to take a bite of food should be the person who prepared the meal.
  3. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor.
  4. Never rest your arms/elbows on the table.
  5. Eat with one hand and rest the other in your lap.
  6. Men and boys can help women be seated (pull out their chair).
  7. Talk only of pleasant things at the table, and don’t interrupt another person.
  8. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
  9. Never say you don’t like something that is being served.  Take a small helping and eat it out of respect for the cook and host.  You don’t have to have seconds.
  10. Food is passed to the right.
  11. Do not overload your plate.
  12. Chew with your mouth closed.
  13. When serving yourself, be sure and use the serving utensil, not you own utensils.
  14. When eating soup, spoon away from yourself.
  15. Never reach for food, say, “Would you please pass the _____.”
  16. Before talking or drinking, be sure you do not have food in your mouth.
  17. Never spit food out if it is too hot.  Drink water to cool off the food.
  18. Use your napkin to clean you mouth and hands before getting up from the table.
  19. If you must sneeze at the table, use your napkin and sneeze downward and away from others and your plate.
  20. You may leave to table when everyone is finished.  Children may ask to be excused early if adults wish to stay and talk.  Children should address whoever prepared the meal and say, “I enjoyed my meal, may I be excused?”
  21. When finished, place napkin to the left side of your plate, or if plate has been removed where plate was.
  22. When leaving the table, be sure to push your chair under the table.

Men – Remove hat or cap at table.

Restaurant – If you drop a utensil, do not pick it up.  The waiter will bring you another one.

Cutting Meat

1.  Only cut two to three pieces at a time.

2.  When finished cutting, lay the knife on the plate and use your fork for eating.

Bread and Butter

  1. If the table includes a butter plate, bread and butter are placed on this plate.
  2. Never eat bread when you have an eating utensil in either hand.
  3. When not in use, the butter knife remains on the butter plate.

Be sure to leave us a comment below to let us know what you thought of this post.


  • Dodie

    Oh my. That is how I learned to eat. Can’t say I do it now when it is just me at home.
    I am old now. I know this because when I see someone leaning over their, elbows on table and shoveling food in their mouth while chewing it with their mouth open.
    The urge to walk behind them and shove them into their plate is overwhelming.
    But now that would not be polite now would it

  • Tammy

    This the way I taught my children, whether they follow the rules now I’m not sure, but they do follow them when with me. I don’t understand people anymore, everything is so fast. Not sure if you mentioned this before but this drives me batty, cell phones! I say turn it off and keep it put away. Some time ago I went to dinner with a dear friend who had just started dating her now-husband, She was texting him back and forth and I made the comment that we were out to dinner to catch up. She kept texting and I got up and left. She got so mad at me and I told her I thought what she had done was incredibly rude. Next time we went to dinner her cell phone was never seen.

    Thank you for all your great articles.

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for these tips! They’ve been quite helpful in discussions with my children and grandchildren regarding etiquette.
    It’s sad etiquette is not practiced as it once was, we’ve become too lax as a society.

  • Faye

    That is how I was taught. Back in my generation, we sure better use these good manners or else.
    And when company came to eat with us, you better use your very BEST manners

  • Nina A McKissock

    Oh dear God. My mother was an orphan and the first book she bought was Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette. It made my life wonderful but so hard because there are so many slovenly, ill-mannered slobs in this world.

    Ugh. I really don’t know how to feel about this.

    Thank you for your education though!


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