Etiquette

A Quick Guide To Royal Wedding Etiquette

Royal weddings come with their own set of rules—some of them are the same as any other formal wedding but some are exclusive.


The upcoming Royal Wedding will bring together Royals, high society and members of the general public. yet all attendees will be expected to follow Royal protocol and British etiquette. Guests will be on their best behaviour for the social event of the year that will be broadcast worldwide and by now all guests will have received their official Royal Etiquette Guidebook prepared especially for them (guests at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding received a 22-page guide).

Here are a few of the Royal expectations that the lucky guests will have to prepare themselves for. 

Greetings – “How do you do”. This is actually a rhetorical question, the person asking this does not expect a detailed explanation of your health or anything else, a simple response of “How do you do” will suffice. This is not a greeting used on a daily basis throughout the UK, but it is uniquely British and is used among certain circles as a form of politeness at formal events.

Curtsy – Not something that many of us do on a daily basis, so some guests may need advice on whether or not to curtsy, and how to do it correctly. Knowing that the monarch will be present can be unnerving for any guest but really it shouldn’t present any problem. Protocol dictates that you shouldn't approach the Queen or ask her any questions, but her presence should be acknowledged. Gentleman are supposed to offer a brief bow; ladies are expected to curtsy …easy! (FYI Americans guest would not be expected to bow or curtsy to the Queen but may choose to do so out of respect).

Dining Etiquette – Guests will have a traditional wedding feast at Windsor Castle and will need to know how to navigate the formal place setting. Then they will need to decide whether to use the British method of eating (fork held with tines down and hands below the table when not in use) or the European method (fork held with tines down and hands above the table when not in use). Both styles will be accepted ways to eat but American style of eating (also known as the zig-zag method) may not be deemed appropriate.  Should tea or after dinner coffee be served, guests should avoid sticking out the pinkie (last finger) as this is actually considered a faux pas. There are too many other dining etiquette quirks to mention. :)

Dress Code –  The invitation (always to be adhered to, it is not just a suggestion) stated the dress code as: "Military uniforms, morning coats or lounge suits" for men and for women, “Day dress with hat.” The gentlemen have it somewhat easier and it’s a great opportunity for those with medals to display them with pride. The ladies on the other hand have more elements to consider! 

  • Day dress with hat also means: respectful attire, including reasonable hemlines, shoulders covered, no plain black outfits, no plain white outfits, open toed shoes or wedges are not ideal as not formal enough and no showing of the cleavage. Guests should take care to dress modestly, befitting to a Church of England setting with the Queen in presence, who also happens to be the Head of the church. 
  • As for the hats: there is no rule that hats MUST be worn but if you don’t wear a hat to a formal British wedding you risk being heavily criticized, as was the Former Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron at the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2011. The British public were outraged at the lack of this important accessory. For those who aren’t too keen on hats, a Fascinator will do. 
  • Handbags – no need to state the obvious here as no woman I know would turn up at a wedding with anything other than a small clutch or shoulder bag.

Cell phones/Mobile phones – it’s more than likely that phones will not be allowed inside during the ceremony, avoiding the risk of selfies! Guests will at least be respectfully asked to switch them off. This is becoming quite a common request at many weddings nowadays, it’s considered bad etiquette to post photographs before the bride and groom release their own.

British Royal weddings typically adhere to traditions, with each Royal couple bringing their own twist. Let’s see what twist Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will bring!! 

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

How To Survive a Formal Dinner - Cheat Sheet #2 - Forks, Knives & Spoons

Cheat Sheet #1 may have prepared you for the selection of glasses at a formal table setting but what about cutlery? Cocktail fork, salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork, dessert fork...where to start? Don’t worry, a little knowledge goes a long way.

Outside to inside: Knives and spoons are placed on the right of the place setting and forks are placed on the left (with a few exceptions mentioned below). Remember always to use the cutlery from the outside first, working inwards for each course.

Forks: When forks are placed on the left side of the plate, the first fork to use will be the outside one, perhaps for an appetizer or salad. Then for the following course use the next fork, perhaps for a fish course, until you reach the last one closest to the plate which will be the dinner fork (unless you are dining in Britain, where you might find the dessert fork closest to the plate). There may be two, three or four forks on the left side of the plate. The only fork placed on the right side of the place setting would be an oyster fork, which would be the very first fork you would use. If a fork is placed above the plate it will be for dessert.

Knives: Knives are placed on the right side of a formal place setting. Again, the first knife to use will be the outside one, then for the next course use the next knife, until you reach the last one closest to the plate which will be the dinner knife (the same order as for the forks). Sometimes there may be no knife to accompany a salad course, and there may be a knife above the plate alongside a fork and spoon for the dessert and cheese course. A small additional knife is placed on the bread plate, which is for spreading your butter.

Spoons: Beside the knives you may find a teaspoon, possibly for a sorbet and soup spoon which will be furthest to the right away from the plate (sometimes the oyster fork will be placed on top of the spoon). A dessert spoon may be placed horizontally above your plate, spoon facing left, fork right.

Sometimes the rules of etiquette and fine dining can seem ridiculous or intimidating, but in fact, understanding these rules removes the worry and uncertainty and lets you relax and enjoy the food and company! That said, if you find yourself confused by all the utensils, simply take your cues from others at the table, as it’s always polite to wait, after all!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

How To Survive a Formal Dinner - Cheat Sheet #1 - Is That My Glass or Yours?

If you are not accustomed to formal dinners, sometimes it can be hard to figure out the place settings. At events where a large group of people are dining in close proximity (business event, wedding reception etc) and when there are several courses to be served, there will be an elaborate table setting with multiple glasses of various shapes and sizes. Sometimes the tables can be so crowded with silverware, crystalware and decorations that it can be difficult to identify what is yours and someone will inevitably ask, “Is that my glass or yours?”.

Keep in mind these easy tips to remember which glass is yours and when to use it…

The ‘B’ and ‘D’ sign
Using your forefinger and thumb make a circle to form the letter ‘b’ with your left hand and the letter ‘d’ with your right hand (similar to the ‘OK’ sign used in many countries). The ‘b’ in your left hand will remind you that your bread plate will be on the left of the table setting and the ‘d’ in your right hand will remind you that your drinks will be on the right side. Just be sure to do this under the table, otherwise those around you might wonder what you are trying to tell them!

Water glass to the left
The water glass should be placed above the dinner knife and the other glasses placed around it but this is not always the case on crowded tables.  If you have several glasses to choose from, remember that the water glass will always be the furtherest to the left or the closest to the plate.

Outside to inside
Follow the same principle used for using silverware by starting from the outside and working your way inwards. The glass to the furthest outside of the table setting will be for the first course, then the next one will be for the second course and so on.

Glasses at the back are for last
If there are more than three glasses they will be arranged in rows. The row of glasses at the back or behind are the glasses you will use for the last courses of the meal, for example the champagne for toasts given during dessert.

Don't worry too much about which glass to use. At formal events you will be served drinks by knowledgeable staff, so even if you don't remember which glass to use, they will remember for you. All you need to do is just wait for them to pour!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Soft Skills Are The New Hard Skills

For graduates entering the professional world this autumn, soft skills are more important than ever. You may have landed the job…but can you keep it?

Here are 5 tips for young professionals preparing to take on the corporate world.

1. Know how to introduce yourself (and others). You should be able to introduce yourself and others with confidence. Prepare a brief self-introduction before an event and find out who else is attending. If you have to introduce people at a business event you need to know who they are and what they do. There is an important protocol for introductions. Be sure to shake hands with a confident grip and direct but brief eye contact as this will convey confidence and credibility.

2. Know how to dress correctly. Be appropriately dressed. Whether it is for a job interview or meeting, always be well-groomed. Your appearance speaks volumes about your character and people will judge you, so consider the image you want to portray.

3. Know how to speak. Nowadays when speaking, young professionals lean toward a more relaxed manner, probably as a result of social media. However, understanding how to communicate clearly and effectively will be fundamental in your success. Different businesses will have different expectations regarding professional and appropriate speech during meetings, presentations and even telephone conversations. It is better to err on the side of caution and be on the more formal side to start with.

4. Know how to write. Appropriate business language is not as easy as it sounds. To be professional it is essential to use correct and appropriate spelling, grammar and punctuation for most written communications. Of course how you write will be different from one social media outlet to another, just be sure to keep it appropriate – hashtags are not always necessary. For formal business communications it is better to remain business-like and use the relevant business language.

5. Know how be appropriate (wherever you are). Every communication that you have whether in the virtual world or otherwise will leave an impression. Learn how to network, how to dine and how to communicate in the style that is expected in your working environment. Remember that your online impression is equally important and sometimes even more important than your face to face impression. Pause for a moment before reaching for your phone during a meeting. You have control over your own image so be sure to control it to your advantage.

Taking the time to consider your business environment is critical. The rules of dressing and writing may vary according to industry but people will always remember people with good manners!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Wedding Gift Etiquette

We are now full swing into the wedding season and many of us are attending several weddings over the course of the summer. Sometimes the rules and expectations of gift giving are not clear cut and we can be left wondering what are some of the do's and don'ts.

Here are few of the most common questions that people frequently ask me at this time of year…

Do I have to give a gift?
Well you wouldn’t attend a birthday party empty handed so yes, you would be expected to give a gift when attending a wedding. Nowadays most couples opt for a gift registry with a store where you can select something you know the couple will like.

How much should I spend?
There is no right amount. How much you spend is strictly a matter of your budget, and how close you are to the couple. I never agree with the amounts that are written in magazines that people are expected to spend on gifts. Everyone has different incomes and therefore different budgets, and it’s unreasonable to think that everyone can afford the same. A good rule of thumb is the closer the relationship the higher the budget.

The couple asked for money and I would rather give a gift, can I ignore their request?
Nowadays many couples have been living together before the wedding and have accumulated many of the items that you would expect to see on a wedding registry. I would strongly recommend following the wishes of the couple, after all it should be about what they want.

Do I have to buy a gift from the registry?
The couple has created the registry to make the process easier for everyone. Do you really have to use it? No, it’s not set in stone but highly recommended that you do! The tradition of a wedding registry originally started because there would be distant family members invited to a wedding who didn't know the couple closely and needed some guidance. If you know the couple well then feel free to choose something different, perhaps using the registry as a guide to be sure of what they like, and don’t forget to include a gift receipt just in case. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and stick to the list.

When should I give the gift?
Ideally, not at the wedding! This is the most inconvenient time. According to older etiquette books, it was acceptable to give a wedding gift up to 12 months after the wedding! Nowadays most couples expect to have received their gifts long before their first anniversary! With so many brides having wedding websites and gift registries, there really is no excuse for waiting. Ideally send the gift a few weeks before the wedding.

I have to spend a lot on travel and accommodation to attend the wedding, can I give less as a gift?
Yes of course it’s okay to gift less but make sure that you do give something. The couple will understand that you have made the extra effort to attend the wedding.

Do I have to bring a gift to the wedding shower too?
When invited to any wedding-related event, a gift would usually be expected. I recommend that you budget before hand and stick to it. Know what you plan to spend on the couple and allocate an amount for each gift. Smaller gifts for engagement and bridal showers and a larger gift for the wedding present, or a more personal gift for the shower and a gift from the registry for the wedding would be best.

I won't be able to attend the wedding, do I still need to send a gift?
A gift would usually be expected and certainly appreciated.  You could send a gift of a lesser value if you prefer to, the couple will still be happy.

Now that you've mastered the gift giving process you can start navigating the wedding guest dilemmas!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Styles of Eating... American, Continental, European, British... which is correct?

I recently had the pleasure of giving a private dining etiquette session and I was asked the question “Is it better to eat using the American or Continental Style?” I have heard this question many, many times and always wonder why people think there are only two styles of eating.

There are various styles of eating throughout the world, and each style will be correct for the culture it belongs to. Everyone knows that in many countries chopsticks are used and that in other countries knives and forks are used. However, there are many variations in between. Whether it be using chopsticks, or using spoons and forks together, or using fingers only, each culture has it’s own etiquette for eating. In some cultures it is considered rude to leave food on the plate at the end of a meal, yet in others it is considered rude not to! You may consider it very rude to listen to someone making noise while they eat. Someone else reading this may consider it rude when no noise is made during eating. The variations are endless when it comes to styles of eating and manners at the table.

In the Western world where the majority of countries use a knife and fork, there are also various styles of using cutlery, including the American style, Continental style, British style and the European style, which actually has some slight variations according to country. So is there a preferred style? Is one style of eating more “correct” than the others?

Simply put…No! Each style of eating is correct. However, there are certain situations when one style of eating may not be appropriate. I encourage people to choose a style that they are comfortable with and use it daily. I also encourage people to be aware of other styles of eating and use them when necessary. For example, if you plan on travelling abroad for business, I would recommend using the Continental style of eating.  This is the style of eating which is considered a happy medium for all cultures. Consider that in Britain, when dining the hands are kept below the table during the meal when the cutlery is not being used, but in France this is considered rude, and hands should always be visible at the dining table. So if you are visiting a country for the first time and expect to be invited for dinner by an acquaintance or client, I would recommend some research beforehand. You wouldn’t want to use your knife and fork in a manner that could unwittingly cause offence.

So what is the Continental Style of Eating?

This method is considered the most “diplomatic” style of eating. It is a style of eating that is recognized internationally, particularly by business people and diplomats. It is the least likely to cause offence anywhere in the world. If you use another style of eating, or mix different styles of eating, those around you may think that you don’t know how to eat politely and will judge you.

How to eat Continental style

The main consideration is how to use the utensils. This style of eating shouldn’t be too difficult for Europeans. It is harder for Americans who switch their fork between hands throughout the meal. With continental style the fork always stays in the left hand, with the tines pointed down, and the knife is always held by the right hand. The food is then speared by the fork and brought to the mouth with the tines facing down. The cutlery never changes hands.

Of course there are other differences to be aware of when using the Continental style of dining, including cutlery placement throughout the meal and at the end of the meal but if you remember to keep your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand, you can’t go too far wrong.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant