Dining Etiquette Q&A – The Charger Plate

Most of the time, my etiquette email, etiquettebyemily@gmail.com, is fairly light on the inbox side. However, a few times throughout the week, I’ll have a reader’s question waiting to be answered. Today is such an occasion!

The charger plate – How do you use it? When do you remove it? Do you eat off of it?

Ok, first things first. You never eat directly off of the charger plate. When you remove it is quite dependent on what course you begin with. The charger may remain in place until the entrée course PLATE is finished.

Traditionally, the charger dictated the width of a place setting. Since plates were oftentimes dishesfrom the kitchen and then brought out, the charger helped the host know where to set the flatware, glassware, etc.

Personal story: The year from Christmas Eve I decided to tackle the Feast of the Seven Fishes. However, after our Candlelight Service, which went nearly an hour and a half, we didn’t have much time to stuff our pieholes (classy, huh?) before heading off to Midnight Mass. Instead of attempting to wash the salad/dessert plates or soup bowls between courses, I decided to serve everything off of the entrée plate – the main plate, that is.

In some restaurants, they will occasionally remove the charger completely before you begin the meal. That’s perfectly acceptable. The only rule with chargers is they MUST be removed by the time the dessert plate hits the table.

Here is my favorite etiquette expert’s take on formal table settings. I’ve used this guide regularly, and it always comes in handy! http://emilypost.com/advice/formal-place-setting/ Note: For the most formal of meals, salad is served after the main course, so the salad fork is closer to the plate than the dinner fork. Also, in this illustration it is mentioned that the napkin can go under the forks is space is very tight. In her earlier books, this was a major no-no for Mrs. Post. It just shows how etiquette changes over time!

Thank you for reading!!