The role of formal etiquette comes into practice while interacting, mainly with people from different countries, backgrounds or cultures. As cultures differ, the feeling of discomfort may be dominant in such interactions. In such cases, if good etiquette rules are followed, it makes it easier to maintain a comfort level with unknown people.
Formal etiquettes is so involved that there are entire books on it, but there are a few tips for situations in which formal etiquette is required to follow:-
Appropriate dressing includes a decent attire in sober colors, of course. If the event is before six in the evening, a proper dress code for men would be, a dark suit with a white shirt and a tie. For women, it would be a late afternoon wear or a theater suit. However, if the event is held after six, a black tie, a dinner jacket would be more appropriate. Women can wear an evening gown with matching footwear and jewelry. Carrying a clutch instead of a handbag may look more elegant. It is a must that both, men and women wear polished clean shoes. If the party has a determined dress code, you should dress according to that.
Being punctual is extremely important. Do not make it later than five to ten minutes. On the other hand, do not arrive before time either. Open the door for the woman first and enter only after she enters the place. After entering the place where the event is being held, greet people as you meet them. Introduce yourself and the people who accompany you, with the others present at the venue. It would be wise to wait and try interacting with people for a while, after arriving. Do not start eating or drinking immediately after entering.
While greeting a man at the venue, offer your right hand with the palm facing sideways. While greeting a woman, offer your right hand with the palm facing upwards. Gently hold the woman’s fingers and lift it slightly. It is always safe to gift the host with something that matches the occasion. However, do not talk about business matters with the host as soon as you meet them.
Sitting before being asked to be seated, is considered ill-mannered. Wait till the host requests you to be seated. If you are with a woman, make sure you pull out her chair first. Only after having her comfortably seated, make yourself comfortable. When a woman leaves the table and arrives back, the men seated at the table, should stand up.
This is the main part where most of the formal etiquette rules are to be used. Wait for the host to unfold his/her napkin. Thereafter, place your napkin on your lap. The food should always be kept on your left, while the drink should be on your right. While food is being served, do not move your dining plate to the food. Wait until everyone on the table is served, only then start your meal. Also see that you do not make noise by slurping, burping or while chewing your food. Don’t speak while you have a morsel in your mouth. Use appropriate cutlery to lift the food. If you are uncertain as to which cutlery is to be used and how, wait for someone else to use it and then follow them.
Finally, once the event is over, thank the host for the hospitality. If you happen to leave early, or notice that the host is busy attending the other guests, leave him/her a thank you note, or make a courtesy call after the event.