Table napkins allow plenty of creative freedom. According to the art de la table rules, cloth or linen napkins are necessary for formal dinners and are held in place by a silverware ring.
When setting up a table, I always view napkins as decor. I’ve used them as a base for a menu, wrapped them in a loose knot, and tied them with velvet ribbons, a rope, and lavender. Sometimes I even use napkins to cover a small surprise for each guest.
For lunch, the napkin is placed over the salad plate. For dinner, the forks lay on the plate’s left and the napkin on the forks’ left.
To place your napkin on your lap, bring it with your right hand to your right side. Under the table, open it discreetly with both hands, and place it on your lap with its crease facing upwards.
If you want to leave the table momentarily, once you have excused yourself, place the napkin on your empty seat (and push the chair under the table). When you return, put it on your lap as before.
When the dinner is over, fold the napkin gently and leave it on the left side of your plate.
- Remove the napkin from our plate after the wine has been served.
- Please wait for the host to unfold their napkin first. The same applies at the end of the meal when you should wait for the host to leave their napkin at the table first.
- Bring the napkin gently to your lips instead of leaning towards it.
- Always wipe your mouth using the inner upper corner of the napkin so that its outer corner covers any stains.
- Do not toss the napkin while unfolding it at the beginning of the meal. Try to be gentle and elegant.
- The napkin’s use is not for wiping your nose or tears.
- Do not clean the table, glasses, or cutlery with the napkin.
- In ancient Greece, banqueters used pieces of bread to wipe their fingers.
- The first cloth napkins appeared during the Roman period.
- In the 15th century, napkins were warmed up and scented before being distributed to the table.
- During the 17th century, an informal rule began to apply: the highest-ranking hierarchically would unfold his towel first.
- Napkin rings once belonged to individuals; their objective was to mark a family. After a meal, new guests would reuse only the napkin whose ring belonged to their family.