Introduction to Social Etiquette for Formal Events

Besides getting the perfect prom dress, there are many other things to think about. If you want your prom to be the best, and I'm sure you do, the first thing I want to talk about is etiquette. For many of you, the prom will be you first formal event. If that thought makes you uncomfortable, it's a clear sign that your social graces could us improvement.


…The word has all but disappeared from the English language of today, but at one time, it played a very important role in Western Civilization. Etiquette was how society would distinguish the educated, cultured, and high born from the rest of us riff-raff. In fact, improving your etiquette did much to advance your station in life. It can still do a log for you. Just consider what a fuss everyone makes over your friends with manners; Their "please's" and thank you's" always get a "Why can't you be more and so?" from mom.

Regrettably, many teens have never attended a formal dance, and the prom may be the only one they attend for a while. Facing facts, many of you may never attend another formal dance. Let's try to make a good and lasting impression.

Nowadays, most people could use a little help in the manners and behavior department (and I'm being kind by using the words "a little"). This is not just because you are going to a prom but because you will soon find yourself in the real world. And I'm not talking about the MTV show. You'll be going on job interviews, taking business lunches, and other social functions where people will make determinations that affect your life based on, dare I say it... your etiquette.

Advice About Etiquette and Reference Sources

One group of prom-sters took a crash course in etiquette at a local country club. The boys wore suits and ties (no tux required). They socialized graciously under the watchful eye of a charm school veteran a la Amy Vanderbilt. I'm sure it was unlike anything seen in their school cafeteria. These high school students were taught to socialize gracefully and eat with proper table manners.

Movie Tip

Remember in Pretty Woman when the hotel manager gives Julia Roberts a crash course in table manners and etiquette? You might want to start by renting that movie.

Try this at home

You can seek out an etiquette specialist; search the Web. If you think hard you probably know somebody who's civilized. Organize a Saturday lunch. Get dressed up and practice eating a meal for reasons other than satisfying your hunger.

General Etiquette Guidelines for Formal Events

Here are some general Guidelines that will help you in the manners battle… or “Common Sense” Etiquette

  • Think before you speak.
  • Try to remain patient with the world around you, and resist the temptation to react when presented with bad behavior.
  • Approach life with an attitude of respect - treating everyone you encounter with thoughtful regard.
  • Be aware that your actions, both good and bad have a cause and effect.
  • How you present yourself to the world is how people see you. Your inside is invisible to them. It's not just being a good person that matters; it's how you present that good person.
  • Careful planning and a relaxed attitude will help you sail through most social situations.
  • The secret to successful social interaction is to make others feel comfortable.
  • Have fun while being considerate of others; don't let it be perceived as a chore. Remember sincerity is everything - so even if you have to, fake sincerity ...Just Kidding.

Formal Place Setting

A. Serviette (napkin)
B. Service Plate
C. Soup Bowl
D. Bread/Butter Plate
E. Water Glass
F. White Wine Glass
G. Red Wine Glass
H. Fish Fork
I. Salad Fork
J. Dinner Fork
K. Service Knife
L. Fish Knife
M. Soup Spoon
N. Dessert Spoon
O. Cake Fork
P. Coffee & Tea Cup

  • If you can't remember which fork you eat with, just remember to start from the outside and work your way in.
  • The very first thing you do at the table is place the napkin in your lap.
  • Break slices of bread or rolls in half or into small pieces before buttering.
  • Wait for everyone in your party to be served before beginning the meal. If for some reason your meal is late arriving, give all permission to begin.
  • If for some reason you need to remove something from your mouth, a good rule of thumb is however it went in comes out.