Dining Etiquette: Splitting the Bill

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

Photo Credit: The Economic Times

After a wonderful meal with great company, there is no worse way to finish the dining out experience than having confusion over the bill. No matter the circumstance, a business meal, a group of friends, or a celebration in honor of someone, this type of confusion can always make attendees feel uncomfortable (click to watch). In order to avoid any awkward moments, here are my tips for splitting the bill:

  1. Splitting the Bill Can be a Touchy Subject – The following are important to keep in mind as you plan group meals.
    • People do not want to “get stuck” paying for the expensive meals, additional appetizers, or alcoholic beverages of others when they do not consume the same. Not everyone can afford the same thing.
      • Food for Thought: When the bill is split evenly between people who did not actually order things costing the same amount, those who are charged more often deduct from the tip. This is not fair to the servers.
    • If going out as couples, it is often easiest to split the total as an even amount per couple; however, keep the first bullet point in mind!
    • Bringing cash (and a variety of bill amounts) when you know you will be splitting the bill is a good idea. You do not want to owe anyone money after the fact or be responsible for holding up paying.
    • For those who are comfortable with digital payment methods, consider using the apps like Venmo and PayPal.
  2. If You Plan to Split the Bill – Always make the plan known ahead of time!
    • If you are the organizer for a group get together, but you are not the host, you should let attendees know ahead of time the bill will be split. After receiving the R.s.v.p. list, send a confirmation note to all attendees including “reminders” and stating the plan for the bill.
      • For example: “A request to split the total for brunch as individual bills has been made of the restaurant. Brunch will be divided by what you order, not split evenly among everyone, in order to be fair to all. Thank you for understanding!”
    • If you make a reservation for a larger number of people, call the restaurant and ask if separate checks for a large group is possible. Also, ask if gratuity is added for a group of your size. Some establishments are unable to do separate checks; therefore, it is important to let your attendees know in advance if paying in cash will be necessary.
      • For example: “Please bring cash for dinner. We have been told splitting the check between so many credit cards is not possible; therefore, having cash will make it much easier for us to divide the cost ourselves.”
    • Always tell your server you wish to split the bill when he/she first greets you. This way, when you order, your server can enter your drinks and meals as separate checks.
      • It is very frustrating for servers to receive a joint bill back that says, “Put $25.51 on the red card, $34.22 on the blue card, etc..”
  3. Ultimately, Who is Responsible for the Bill?
    • Typically, if your boss/manager is present and extended the invite then it is his/her responsibility to cover the bill.
    • Similarly, with client lunches/dinners or interviews that take place over a meal, the hosting business is responsible for the bill.
    • If you are hosting a meal out for friends, family, etc., the cost of the meal and gratuity is your responsibility. Think of it as hosting at your home – You do not ask guests to pay for their meal in your home when you host; therefore, you should not expect them to pay when you extend the invitation to join you out for a meal.
    • If you are out to celebrate a special occasion for someone (birthday, promotion, etc.), it is customary that his/her bill is covered by the other people at the table. As a guest, be prepared to split the honoree’s tab – bringing cash helps!
    • If you are asked to evenly split a bill for a group whose meals are clearly not equal in cost, speak up in a polite manner. Simply saying, “Excuse me, everyone did not order equal amounts and I think it would be unfair to expect each other to make up for our portions. May we split the bill based on our meals?”

No matter your age or the setting, splitting the bill can always be a difficult situation to navigate. I hope these tips help you find a solution easily and relieve you of some dining out anxiety in the future!

Happy dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The 3 Table Settings You Need to Know

Whether it is knowing how to set the table properly or being knowledgeable of your place setting at an event, learning these three traditional types of table settings will help you in any dining situation!

Basic Table Setting

Photo Credit: Emily Post

Basic Table Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This table setting is to be used on an everyday basis. Whether hosting a casual luncheon or setting the table for your family dinner in the evening, this is perfect!
  • An easy way to remember the placement is B – M – W
    • The Bread plate (or salad plate) is to the left of the main plate.
    • The Main plate is in the center of the place setting.
    • The Water glass is to the right of the main plate.
  • Use a simple 3-piece flatware setting – Fork to the left of the plate. Knife and Spoon to the right of the plate with the knife closest to the plate (blade facing it).
    • A butter knife should be added to the bread plate if rolls are being served.
  • Always remember your Essential Table Manners!

Informal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Informal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for informal three-course dinner (soup/salad, main course, dessert).
    • (a): This is where the plate will be placed.
    • (b): Two Forks – The smaller fork to the outside is for salad. The larger fork to the inside is for the main course.
    • (c): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • (d): Knife – The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate). You may use this knife throughout all courses, but not for your bread and butter (review (h)).
    • (e): Two Spoons – The rounder, larger spoon to the outside is for soup. The spoon to the inside is for dessert.
    • (f): Glassware: The water glass is to the left. The wine (or alternate beverage) is to the right.
    • (g): Salad Plate – If salad is served as the first course, this plate will take position (a). If salad is to be served during the main course, you do not have to set a separate plate, you can put it on the dinner plate. NOTE: Some people prefer to have their salad on it’s own plate so the dressing does not get on the other food; therefore, a salad plate is a good idea!
    • (h): Bread Plate and Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not your dinner knife (d).
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be provided prior to dessert being served. If you prefer to set the table with the dessert flatware out, place both pieces of flatware above the dinner plate with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • (j): Coffee Cup and Saucer – This does not have to be placed on the table for the entire meal. If you prefer it is, place it to the upper left of the dinner plate on the outside of the glassware and flatware. If you prefer to bring out the coffee after the meal, set the cup and saucer in that place then pour the coffee.

Formal Place Setting

Diagram Credit: Emily Post

Formal Place Setting Diagram Credit: Emily Post

  • This place setting is used for the most formal of occasions which typically have several courses.
  • NOTE: This is just one example of a formal place setting. Depending on what food is being served, and how many courses this place setting and the utensils may vary. The guiding rule for flatware is: set the flatware so you “work from the outside, in.”
    • (a): Service Plate or “Charger”: This plate is stationary throughout the early courses and serves as an underplate for all courses prior to the main course. When the main course is served, the charger will be removed for the main dish to take it’s place.
    • (b): Bread Plate – Sometimes, individual butter slices/balls will already be placed on this plate.
    • (c): Dinner Fork – Use this for the main course.
    • (d): Appetizer/First Course Fork: Depending on what is being served, the smaller fork to the outside is used for the first course(s).
    • (e): Salad Fork: If the salad is served following the main course, it is set to the inside of the dinner fork (as shown above); however, if it served prior to the main course, it should go on the outside.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Meal – Set the forks in the order listed (Left to Right) with the salad fork the furthest to the left of the plate and dinner fork closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Meal, Salad – Set the forks as the diagram shows.
    • (f): Dinner Knife – Use this for the main course. The knife is placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (g): Fish Knife – Only include this in the table setting if fish is being served.
    • Salad Knife: Not shown here. Just like the placement of the salad fork with the others, this depends on order of the courses.
      • Dinner Order: Salad, First Course, Main Course – Set the knives with the salad knife the furthest to the right of the plate and dinner knife (blade facing in) closest to the plate.
      • Dinner Order: First Course, Main Course, Salad – Set the knives with the salad knife the closest to the right of the plate and first course knife furthest from the plate.
      • All knives should be placed with the blade facing in (towards the plate).
    • (i): Soup or Fruit Spoon – Only include this in the table setting if soup or fruit is being served as one of the initial courses.
    • (j): Oyster Fork – Only include this in the table setting if oysters are being served. This is the only fork placed to the right of the charger, all others forks are always placed to the left.
    • (k): Butter Knife – Be sure to use your butter knife to spread the butter, not one of the other knives.
    • (l): Glassware
      • (la): Water Glass
      • (lc): Red Wine Glass
      • (ld): White Wine Glass
      • (le): Champagne Flute or Sherry Glass: Only include this if there will be a champagne toast or if a desert wine is being served.
    • (m): Napkin – Once seated, place the napkin on your lap.
    • Dessert Flatware – Not shown here. Typically, a dessert fork and teaspoon will be placed prior to dessert being served. When placed, both pieces of flatware go above where the plate will be placed with the spoon on top (handle facing to the right) and the fork below (handle facing to the left).
    • Coffee Cup and Saucer – Not shown here. This will be served after the meal and set to the upper right of the dessert plate.

I know that seems like a lot, but just remember to review these on a case-by-case basis! For occasions involving both informal settings and formal settings, review my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips!

As I mentioned, there will be changes to these place settings. What variations to place settings have you seen?

Last, but not least – A little added fun, perfect for this topic! Check out this lovely “Preppy Fixins” Tee by Lauren James!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

The Essential Table Manners

As the holidays approach, we will all soon be gathering around the table with family, friends, and loved ones. In the spirit of enjoying such divine meals, having good tables is an incredibly important asset yet so commonly overlooked. From social to professional settings, food defines our culture and is present everywhere. Whether you are with family, friends, coworkers, a new client, or distinguished guests and dignitaries, it is always important to mind your manners, especially at the table.

This week, I am sharing my list of the essential table manners everyone should follow.

  1. “Sit Pretty” aka Have Good Posture at the Table
    • Sit straight in your chair with your shoulders back.
    • Keep both legs on the ground in front of you. If you want to cross your legs, cross at your ankles.
    • Pull your chair up to the table so you can comfortably reach everything at your place setting and your legs are under the table.
  2. Use a Napkin
    • Place it in your lap when you take your seat and keep it there the remainder of the meal.
    • Wipe your mouth with your napkin, not your hands.
    • If something gets on you fingers, wipe it on your napkin. Licking your fingers is not a good look!
  3. Avoid Gulping, Slurping, and Playing with Things
    • Drink your beverage slowly and smoothly. Do not gulp it down.
    • Avoid playing with your straw, chewing on it, and making sucking noises with it.
    • Leave your utensils where they are until you are ready to use them.
    • Put the spoon in your mouth when eating soup or cereal to avoid slurping it off the end.
  4. Basic Manners Run Down
    • Wait to begin eating until everyone has been served and the hostess begins eating.
    • Use the butter knife to cut a piece of butter from the full stick and place it on your bread plate. Use your own knife to spread the butter on your roll/bread.
    • When eating bread, gently pull off one bite from the roll and butter that piece only. Do this for ever piece.
    • Always pass the salt and pepper together. Even if someone asks for only salt, pass them both. Salt and pepper are “attached at the hip.”
    • If eating “family style,” the Guest of Honor (seated to the right of the host) is served first then pass the serving dishes to your right around the table.
    • Bring food up to your mouth. Do not bend down to the plate to get food in your mouth.
    • Cut one bite of food at a time, eat that piece, then cut another piece. Repeat for the whole meal!
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
    • Always use your knife (not your fingers!) to get a piece of food onto your fork.
    • When eating spaghetti, use the side of your plate to twirl the pasta on your fork. A spoon should not be used.

Please keep these essential table manners in mind, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. These tips will truly help you in both the social and professional setting by giving you that little extra touch of polish! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to send them my way!

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

You Got Invited to a Military Ball!

It’s one of my favorite times of the year… Military Ball season! Between growing up in a military family and working in the field of event coordination and protocol for the military, I have had the pleasure of attending several military events. One of my favorite formals is the traditional “Birthday Ball” for the services in the Fall.

There are many pieces to a Military Ball/Formal so I am breaking this topic into a two-part post. Today, I am covering preparing to attend a Military Ball/Formal.

  1. Be Fashionable, Yet Tasteful
    • Think classy, sophisticated, timeless elegance. Your date will be in his/her most formal uniform with full ribbons and medals; therefore, you need to dress to that standard. Civilian women wear floor length gowns or very formal cocktail dresses and civilian men wear tuxedos.
      • What to Wear – Here are some beautiful examples!
        What to WearWhat to Wear
    • Military culture is traditional and on the rather conservative side. Avoid neon/fluorescent colors, side cut-outs, excessive displays of cleavage, extremely high leg slits, or backs that plunge so low you can almost see your bum. I am sure you can rock those styles and look dynamite, but this is not the place to do that.
    • Be cautious of too much glitter and/or sequins, tulle, and poofiness. Believe me, I am the first one to go for the glittery gown (see photo below), but you do not want to look like a mirrored disco ball or an overdone pageant queen.
      • What Not to Wear: While shopping, I found the gown pictured below. I think this gown is so fun and a glitzy show-stopper; however, it is definitely not the look for a military formal.
        Deep v-neck + high slit + low back + cut-outs = A big no, no.

        The low v-neck on this gown shows a lot of cleavage and the high leg slit is rather revealing. The low back with cut-outs also shows too much skin. While the sparkles and pink are fun, it’s too much for a formal setting.

        The low v-neck on this gown shows a lot of cleavage and the high leg slit is rather revealing. The low back with cut-outs also shows too much skin. While the sparkles and pink are fun, it’s too “in your face” for a formal setting.

    • Wear pretty, yet comfortable shoes!
      • There is almost always a cocktail hour before the Ball and mingling during the evening so you will be standing a lot.
      • There is dancing!
        • I highly recommend keeping your shoes on and not being the girl who flings them off at the table. It is much more proper to keep your shoes on and even if you have not, it may give the impression you drank too much and are not able to keep your balance in heels. If you truly cannot dance in heels, you may bring a pair of flats and discreetly put them on in the restroom before you start dancing.
  2. Makeup, Hair, and Accessories
    • Keep your make-up clean and elegant.
      • Simple and pretty fake eyelashes? Yes!
      • Red lips? Go for it! (Just be sure to do a more natural eye to avoid competing looks.)
      • Pure glitter or bright neon eye shadow? Not the best idea.
    • Style your hair how you like it: Straight, Curled, or Wavy – All Down, Half-Up/Half-Down, or an Up-do are all gorgeous, especially when they compliment the style of the top of your gown!
      • I advise against tiaras, large hairpieces/pins, and having a hair color that looks like it came from the rainbow.
      • Personal preference note: I tend to stay away from the low up-do. Females in the military always have to wear their hair in a low bun or braid to keep it off/above their collars. I figure my date sees that hairstyle a lot so, I like to change it up and do something different!
    • Get your nails done or do them yourself! You will be shaking a lot of hands and it looks so much better when you have nails that are clean and polished!
      • I suggest a nude color, pale pink, or a French manicure.
      • If you do choose to have colored nails, be sure it is suttle and matches your gown.
      • Stay away from overly long, bright, and decorated/bejeweled nails.
    • Jewelry – Keep it simple and make sure it compliments your gown.
      • I know I said simple, but girl, if you have big diamonds – Wear them! 😉
      • My personal fashion tips:
        • If you are wearing a one-shoulder gown, skip the necklace and go for drop earrings or a dazzling bracelet.
        • If your gown has beading/accents/etc. at the top, you may not need to wear a necklace. The accent in the gown may speak for itself and you do not want the necklace to take away from your gorgeous gown.
        • If your gown is plain and you are looking to sparkle it up a bit, add a broche or a statement necklace.
        • Avoid wearing a statement necklace and drop earrings together. The looks will compete and draw attention away from your gown and overall look.
        • Avoid gaudy pieces.
  3. Be Knowledgeable and Respectful of Military Culture and Tradition
    • Military Balls are FULL of tradition! From parading the colors (bringing in the American and Service flags) to the traditional cake cutting and so much in between, the evening involves an array of traditional elements. If you are unfamiliar with the traditions, ask your date to tell you about some of the important things to that branch of service and his/her specific Corps/specialty/MOS beforehand.
    • Military Rank. I highly recommend making yourself familiar with the rank structure. Here’s a great link to the rank structure and insignia.
    • Sir and Ma’am. Saying “Yes, Sir/Ma’am” and “No, Sir/Ma’am” is a BIG one in this setting! Any officer who is a higher rank than your date and all Flag/General Officers should be referred to as “Sir” or Ma’am.” Follow your dates lead on this!
    • History. Be sure you know the basic history behind and reason for the event you are attending. Your date and his/her fellow service members will appreciate it if you take the time to know the basics of their branch of service as well as why you are there that evening.
    • Current Events. Be up-to-date! Seeing as balls/formals are a social occasion, you will not be thrown into deep conversation and strategic talks about current events, but it is very important to know what is going on in the world. After all, it often dictates where these service members will be and what they do.
      • If you do not already read TheSkimm, I highly recommend it! It is a daily newsletter delivered to your inbox that summarizes the biggest stories and adds a little fun to your morning news report.

These tips are all meant to make you a successful and stunning date (fashion, etiquette, and knowledge wise)! You will be sure to “knock the socks off” your date while also impressing the host and other attendees with your poise and elegance! So, start getting ready because it will be time to attend a fabulous event in just a couple weeks!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra

8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips

This week, I am covering dining etiquette! This is a vast topic and can be broken into many posts so today, I am highlighting what I think are the foundational pieces of dining etiquette. Even though “dining etiquette” may feel like a formal topic, a lot of these tips can be used in everyday circumstances such as client luncheons or dinners, going out for a date, dinner with a significant other’s family, and many other settings! Here are my 8 Foundational Dining Etiquette Tips:

  1. Arriving at the Table and Being Seated
    • Stand to the right of your seat and enter from that side.
    • When everyone arrives at your table, the Host/Hostess invites the table to sit. Allow the Guest of Honor (to the Host/Hostess’ right) to begin sitting first, then the rest of table follows.
    • If everyone has not arrived at your table, but it is time to sit down, allow the evening to proceed as it should.
      • If additional guests join your table, stand to introduce yourself.
    • Anytime a lady excuses herself from the table, the gentlemen should stand as well. The same applies for when she returns.
    • If you have a purse with you, place it under your seat or in your lap if it is small. A purse should not be placed on the table.
  2. Napkin Duty
    • Once seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, but do not unfold it.
    • With the napkin on your lap, unfold it so the main fold is towards you. This prevents crumbs from falling out onto you when you pick-up your napkin.
  3. B – M – W
    • Your Bread is to the left of your plate.
    • Your Meal is directly in front of you.
    • Your Water/Wine is to the right of your plate.
  4. Which piece of silverware do I use?!
    • Work your way from the outside, in.
    • The silverware at the top of your plate is for dessert; do not touch it during the earlier courses. The wait staff should adjust your place setting prior to dessert. If they do not, the fork goes to your left and the knife or spoon goes to your right.
  5. Ah, there are so many glasses!
    • 3 or 4 Course Meal: Work from the bottom, up. The glass(es) closest to you will be for wine during your meal, the next and largest glass is for water, and the small, skinny flute is typically for champagne for toasts and/or dessert drinks.
    • 6 Course Meal: Work diagonally (from right to left), up.
    • If you do not want to be served wine or you do not care for coffee with dessert, simply say “No, thank you.” and place your hand gently over the glass to signal to the waiter not to pour. Turning your glass/cup upside down is not appropriate.
  6. Dining American or European/Continental Style?
    This is actually an entire post of its own (look for another one coming soon!), but a few major points are:

    • American Style: You switch your fork and knife between hands to cut then take the food to your mouth with your fork in the dominant hand. Continental Style: You keep the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right, both facing down, with your wrists against the table.
    • American Style: hands do not touch the table. Continental Style: Wrists always remain on the edge of the table both when you are eating and when you are resting.
    • Both styles: Once finished, place your knife with the blade facing you and fork facing up (American)/down (Continental) in the 4 o’clock position on the plate. This signals to the server you are finished.
    • Both styles: Cut one bite of meat or food at a time. Put that piece in your mouth then cut the next.
  7. Need to leave the table?
    • Simply say, “Please excuse me for a moment.” No one needs to know you are going to use the restroom!
    • Place your napkin neatly on your seat.
    • Exit your chair on the right side and when you return to the table, enter your chair from the right.
  8. At the completion of the meal
    • Place your napkin neatly on the table to signal you are not returning.
    • Exit your seat on the right side.

I hope this breaks down dining etiquette into digestible bits and provides you with the foundational pieces! If you have questions about any of these tips or about another topic, please comment here or contact me. I love hearing from my readers and answering your questions.

Happy Dining!

Sparkle On,

Alexandra