Everyone knows that when you sit down at the table, the napkin goes on the lap, but then what? And what about if you are at someone's house, do you wait to place your napkin, or do it right away? No one wants to feel like a rube at the table, so here is the "Napkin 411" (wake the children!!) :
In a restaurant:
As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case. The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don't clean the cutlery or wipe your facewith the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left of your plate (placing it on the right side wouldn't be wrong, but for the sake of consistency, use teh left!). Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair (what is it about the chair?!).
At a private dinner party:
The meal begins when the host or hostess unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded if it is a small luncheon napkin or in half, lengthwise, if it is a large dinner napkin. Do not shake it open. The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal.
The host will signal the end of the meal by placing his or her napkin on the table. Once the meal is over, you too should place your napkin neatly on the table to the left of your dinner plate. (Do not refold your napkin, but don't wad it up, either.)
So, while this may not be the lap dance you had in mind, now you know everything there is to know about the use of napkins at the table- happy eating!
The dining table: the last vestige of civility. It's about community, conversation, and connecting with one another. This is where life events are toasted, where holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries are celebrated, and where family and friends can gather and share in the most primal and nurturing of rituals: the meal. So, pull your chair up around the table!