Story and photos by Jean O’Brien

A graceful grouping of wine glasses and a lovely looking folded napkin can make a meal feel extra special. These are two delightful and pleasing presentations to enhance an elegant dining experience that may have guests smiling and happy to be included in what will be a memorable experience.

Wine glasses stand above many other pieces on the table, presenting their stylish appearance with a variety of shapes and sizes, and richness and grace that intrigues and delights guests. Perhaps we are thinking what is the correct etiquette to exhibit, how to best present our manners beautifully? Well dear wine-diner, here are a few clever actions for elegant solutions.

Identify or read the trail of glasses, they are telling you to prepare for multiple courses and in which order they will be served. The aperitif glass is there to stimulate your appetite, a first course may follow with a white wine and a main entrée with a red wine. The next larger glass is for water and behind is the lovely champagne flute.

Are you imaging the luxurious experience about to begin? The names for the four parts to each wine glass are: the base, stem, bowl and the rim. Sip from the same spot along the rim to best not affect the wine’s scent.

Hold a glass like a wine connoisseur. All stemmed wine glasses are held towards the base of the stem between your thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Your remaining fingers will naturally rest on the base. Do not hold the glass by the bowl.

All glasses reside on your right side. When standing, perhaps mingling, hold your glass in your left hand leaving your right hand ready for a dry handshake. When toasting, create the unique clinking sound by touching the largest part of the bowl, not with the thin and fragile rim. If the toast is in your honor, wait to take a drink after everyone has put their glass back on the table.

An exquisitely folded napkin has a rich, long history of elegance and impressive refinement. What a wonderful, delightful surprise and gift that once again asks us to exhibit your refined, tasteful manners and etiquette. Keep an eye on the host or hostess, the signal to begin dining is the removal of his or her napkin, others then remove their napkin and place on their lap.

If necessary to remove yourself from the table, place your napkin on your chair, not on the table for others to view something perhaps soiled. The end of the dining experience is signaled when the host or hostess places their napkin on the table. Neatly fold your napkin and place on the table.

Napkins are important, they cover our laps in case of an accidental dropping, to gently wipe your fingers and around your mouth. Sometimes napkins happen to magically slide from our lap, simply and gracefully gain the attention of a server for a quick replacement.

Elegant dining is a delightful and memorable experience offering many opportunities to be creative and have fun. Wine glasses and folded napkins are two charming and graceful contributions.

Jean O’Brien is a Certified Etiquette Consultant who presents manners and etiquette classes for all ages to build confident social people skills. She can be contacted via email at or via her

This article first appeared in the July 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.