Dining at Buckingham Palace can be challenging even for those who think they have impeccable dinner manners. If you were one of the 300 special guests invited to the wedding dinner here is some advice that I would offer to you.
Wait to be seated at the table. Stand behind your chair and allow the Queen to be seated first.
Don’t start eating until the queen starts. When the queen stops eating, everyone stops eating.
The royal family eats Continental style, not American style as most people do in North America.They hold their fork in their left hand and knife in the right. Food is conveyed to the mouth with the fork in the left hand tines down. They don’t transfer the fork to the right hand as we do in North America. In Britain when they are finished they place the fork and knife parallel to each other in the 6:00 position on the plate with the tines up.
If you are served a fish course don’t look for a fish knife or fork. They do not use special fish knives or forks when eating fish, unlike what we may see at a formal dinner in North America.
Each guest will have an individual menu card in French (no translations) outlining the menu and wine. For the royal wedding dinner you may see a pudding on the menu named after the bride, which seems to be a tradition.
Don’t look for the salt shaker, as it probably doesn’t exist. Instead you will probably see a salt cellar which is a tiny bowl with a spoon. Season your food only after you have first tasted it.
The table will be very elaborate and you will not have to pass anything. The footmen will serve the different courses. Everything you need will be laid out at your place setting. Each dinner guest will have their own butter dish, salt cellar, mustard pot, and pepper caster.
Use the lavatory before sitting down for dinner. It is considered poor form to leave the table during dinner.
You will notice that there will be fewer eating utensils laid on the table than what we may experience at a formal dinner in North America. The royal table is laid with the utensils for the first two courses, and the other utensils are brought in with the subsequent courses.
For stemware there will be a water goblet, white wine glass, red wine glass, port glass and two champagne glasses – one to be used for toasts and the other for the pudding course. Hold the stemware by the stem. When toasting raise your glass but don’t clink and definitely don’t clink glasses to get the newlyweds to kiss.
Don’t be confused by the pudding course and dessert course. The pudding course is what North Americans call dessert. The dessert course follows the pudding course and is what we would call the fruit course.
When the dessert course is about to be served you will be presented with a dessert plate which will have a finger bowl placed on a serviette and a fruit knife and fork. Take the knife and fork and place them on the sides of the plate and then lift the finger bowl and serviette to the left of the plate. After the dessert course is served and eaten you will use the finger bowl.