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We know that the Casa de Suna community is united by a love of entertaining.

But with every great dinner party comes a great responsibility: making sure your table manners are on point.

While we’d like to think we’re a team of well-mannered women, we wanted to make sure–so we tapped Nikesha Tannehill Tyson, etiquette coach at the world-famous Swann School of Protocol, and asked her to tell us exactly how to set a table.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Question 01

Introduce yourself! How did you get into etiquette coaching as a career?

I became a certified etiquette consultant in 2018 after years of reading all of the etiquette books I could get my hands on! I love what I do because I love giving people the tools, resources, and skills they need to represent their best selves.

Question 02

Wonderful! Now, let’s get into the details. What are some rules to keep in mind when it comes to setting a table?

Some basic rules to follow:

  1. Have your audience in mind. Who are you hosting? Table settings will differ if you’re having a formal dinner, as opposed to a casual one.
  2. Remember this acronym: BMW. BMW stands for: bread plate, meal plate, water glass, from left to right, which is how every table should be set.
  3. Work from the outside in. If you’ve ever been seated at a dinner with two forks and struggled to remember the proper piece of flatware for each course, just remember this. The salad fork, which is typically smaller, goes on the outside. The fork you’ll eat your meal with goes on the inside.
  4. The knife’s edge faces the plate. Knives are absolutely always turned in, facing the plate.

Question 03

Where does the napkin go?

There’s no set rule for where the napkin goes–so many options! Sometimes it’ll be set up under the fork, other times it’s across the plate in a napkin ring. The only hard and fast rule when it comes to napkins: put it in your lap as soon as you’re seated, with the fold facing forward.

Question 04

Any dinner party etiquette customs you’d like to see more of?

Name cards–oftentimes, people will separate couples so they can mingle and converse with different guests. This is a lovely way to get to know someone new. A gracious host or hostess will often seat people with similar interests, careers, or backgrounds together so they have lots to talk about.

Question 05

Any major dinner party faux pas to avoid?

Don’t move your name card, even if you don’t know your tablemate. Your host put thought into seating arrangements and you want to respect that.

Don’t put too much food on your fork–take smaller bites, so it’s easier to converse. And never talk with food in your mouth.

Elbows off the table, unless you’re finished eating. It’s actually okay at the end of the meal, but while food is still being served and eaten, it’s a major faux pas.

That’s all from Nikesha! We hope you’re as inspired as we are to mind your manners!

If you want to learn more, pick up the Swann School of Protocol’s book on Modern Etiquette.


Be sure to tag Casa de Suna on social media if you were inspired by our table setting ideas by using #casadesuna.

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