When we were living at home my mom hosted a black-tie event. She said that she had to make up for the Barbarian Dinner where we ate all our food with our hands, so we had an etiquette dinner as well. We all got dressed up in our finest clothing and had a lovely dinner that was served to us in several courses.
My mom made the table look beautiful. She brought in a beautiful vase of flowers for the centerpiece and then brought out her crystal candlesticks for some more decorations. She also set the table with her fine China that she had received as a wedding gift, and her silver silverware. All of these things are reserved for special occasions, like Easter and Thanksgiving, so it really set the mood for the meal. My mom also used fabric napkins as a design element by placing them inside the crystal glasses. I thought it looked beautiful.
During the meal mom would explain to us which utensils to use, where to place our forks when we were done eating, and where to place our napkins. Dad talked to us about how the meals in Europe were, and explained how they literally last for hours. In France, when they are having a special dinner they always start off with soup. Once everyone is finished with the soup, the hostess leaves the table and starts making the salad. Everyone else is expected to stay and converse at the table until she is done and then the second course begins. The courses continue on this way until they finally finish with dessert. He says that though the meals last a long time, its still enjoyable to talk with one another and they don’t mind that the meals last for hours. This is very unlike Americans, however, who don’t want to spend too much time eating because we have so much to do.
Our etiquette dinner was a big success, though the boys did start to get a little antsy after the second course was served. My brother Alan was a wonderful waiter and enjoyed helping mom out with the meal.
If you want to do something like this with your family but don’t know all the “etiquette” rules, a great place to start with your research is Emily Post. She has a lot of formal etiquette rules that can make the meal a lot of fun.