Etiquette Ed: Rules of the Napkin

Napkin Etiquette

Dining: whether it’s with clients, a first date or even meeting the parents—always try to put your best you forward. I’m not saying you have to be perfect but at least make an effort. Good table manners will help you look more put together. Proper etiquette shows you’re considerate of others.

The do’s and don’ts of the napkin:

Do: Place the napkin in your lap. If there’s a host at the dinner, wait for them to pick their napkin up first and then go for it. If there isn’t a host, wait for two to three people to be seated before you make your move.

Don’t: Tuck it in your shirt or tie it around your neck.

Do: Fold the napkin correctly. For starters, don’t do it above the table. Fold it under the table and just above your lap. If it’s a large napkin, fold it in half so it creates a triangle and then place it in your lap with the fold closest to your belly. Then take the folded end and fold it over once more to create a cuff. If the napkin is on the small side, unfold it completely. All you men out there…the napkin goes on the center of your lap. Not one leg. In upscale restaurants, servers often place the napkin in your lap for you. Always a plus.

Don’t: Accidentally leave it folded on the table throughout the entire dinner.

Do: Place the napkin loosely folded on your chair if you get up anytime mid meal.

Don’t: Place it on the table when using the restroom. Or even worse, forget it’s on your lap and track it throughout the restaurant. The napkin shouldn’t return to the table until you’re ready to leave the establishment.

Do: Use your napkin to blot your lips. Woman…not a lipstick blotter.

Don’t: Use it to wipe your mouth or to discard unwanted food. If you can’t chew your meat, discreetly return it to your plate. Otherwise a server may disclose your secret when you leave for the restroom and your napkin is refolded.

Do: Place the napkin to the left of your plate when the dinner is completely over. If your plate has been removed, put the napkin in front of you on the table.

Don’t: Throw it on your plate when you are finished.

Oh, and one more don’t: Can’t forget this one. Never, ever, ever use the napkin to blow your nose!

With the pointers listed above, you should be confident and ready to operate your napkin. Good luck out there!


Etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach
Aunt Diana Brown

— PM








26 thoughts on “Etiquette Ed: Rules of the Napkin

    1. Yeah, I was always confused about what to do with my napkin when leaving the table. I’m glad I found some reliable etiquette references to clear it up for me! Now it all makes sense.


  1. OMG … I love this… Everyone should be aware of how to use their napkins. It is so irritating when I am at dinner and people roll their napkin in a ball or BLOW THEIR NOSE!!! yack! Great post. Love it!


  2. These are so important! Loved the post, it’s quite sad that too often you see people who can’t behave properly.

    <3: Jasmin N |


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