Have you ever attended a real formal dinner? I have learned that most of us have not, unless you have experienced evening at the Queen’s table. The term “formal dinner,” Americanized by the historically prominent Lady of Etiquette, Ms. Emily Post, does not mean “stuffy” as most might think; it means structured! She said in her 1923 book of Etiquette, “The higher the level of structure, the higher the level of service one will experience,” and this is where I entered the eloquent venue of Formal Dinners.
Starkey International began thirty years ago and I have hosted 12 formal dinners a year as part of our Household and Service Management curriculum. It has become a tried and true art form for us. I consistently have “Run the Table” over the years and have tried almost everything. We finally emerged with our current educational guide on Entertaining including tableware and settings, flowers, service timing and styles, entertainment, culinary menus, wines, conversation, apparel, and yes, only at the queen’s table, our mirrored service.
Where did the term etiquette come from? Why are fish knives the only pointed knife still at table? What are the international table service signs for “I am resting” or “I am finished”? Which etiquette matriarch taught us to utilize the Zigzag method of holding our flatware as opposed to the internationally accepted Continental style? These basic etiquette terms and to-do’s are not just old guard, diplomatic modes of behavior; they literally bring a level of graciousness to “receiving service” at table. That is, “eat with confidence the great culinary delights, drink and appreciate the rare wines that have been precisely married to the foods, fully experience the intimate interactive relationships at table, and follow the unwritten dance of service.”
Running a Formal Dinner has become a great and joyous experience for me in my travels around the world, whether I have Ted Turner, the Arch Duke of Austria, or you at my table. It’s the art of sharing the best of the best in food, drink, service, and each other. Starkey educates her employer clientele on running the formal table, their staff in serving at table; and hosts formal dinners regularly for non-profit and charity events.
Come Join Us!
Contact Ms. Debra Bullock, Director of Education.
Excerpts of Formal Entertaining Event Planning from the Original Guide to Private Service Management, Copyright 2009