Table manners impart confidence in embracing new dining experiences with ease and grace and napkin etiquette form an integral part of good dining etiquettes. Napkin etiquettes is not just confined to wiping your mouth while eating noodles, burgers or other messy food, but more about how to use the napkin in a polite and socially acceptable way.
At a sit down dinner, place your napkin in your lap immediately when you take your seat. If there is a host or a hostess, wait for him or her to take their napkin off the table and place it in his or her lap. An exception to this is buffet style meals, where you should unfold your napkin when you commence eating
You can find napkins either to the left of the forks, beneath the forks or on the main plate. In a restaurant, the napkin may be folded in a fancy way and placed on the plate or in a glass. The rules for using your napkins remain the same whether they are made of paper or cloth.
You must unfold your napkin in one smooth motion without “snapping” or “shaking it” to open. Large napkins are unfolded halfway while smaller napkins are unfolded completely and made to cover your lap fully.
One must never tuck his or her napkin in to the collar or between the buttons of the shirt or dress or within the belt. Napkins must be used frequently during the meals to gently pat or blot, but not to wipe the mouth. It must never be used to wipe off lipstick or to blow your nose.
If a napkin ring is present, remove your napkin and place the ring to the top left of the setting. At the end of the meal, grasp the napkin in the centre, pull it through the ring, and lay it on the table with the point facing the centre of the table.
When leaving the table temporarily, put your napkin on your chair. If the chair is upholstered, place the napkin soiled side up. Please do not refold the napkin. In upscale restaurants, your server places your napkin on your lap for you and when you leave the table momentarily, this waiting staff will bring you a fresh napkin and place it to the left of your plate.
The napkin is loosely folded at the end of the meal. Mostly the host signals the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. You should take the hint, and place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate with no soiled areas showing. If the centre of your place setting is empty, the napkin is laid in the middle of the place setting.
The napkin remains in the lap, if after dinner coffee is served. These tips would surely help you in polishing your napkin etiquettes the next time you dine.