Ramadan is almost here, which means over the next few weeks your calendar will be filing with iftar invitations. But before you show up at your host’s doorstep, it’s important to make a favorable impression and show courtesy to them and the other guests. While some dining etiquette is common sense – for instance, keep your napkin in your lap when eating and on the chair when you excuse yourself; salt and pepper are always passed together – others can be more nuanced. To help you sharpen your table manners, we tapped certified etiquette expert Dina El Selmy for her best dining tips. The Egyptian founder of Urban Etiquette has a host of dining secrets that are sure to secure you a second invitation.
Do RSVP to an iftar or suhoor invitation at least 48 hours before the event. Not responding is not the same as declining an invitation. By notifying your host ahead of time, they will be able to plan ahead and avoid any last-minutes chaos.
Do not ask if you can bring extra guests if the invitation does not offer.
Do make sure to arrive on time. No one wants to wait around on an empty stomach, so ensure that you arrive before the Maghrib prayer signals time to break fast. Polite table guests know that it’s important to wait for everyone to be served before they start eating, but a gracious host wouldn’t want to hold up the table while the food is getting cold – so if you show up late, you may miss the first few courses. But don’t show up too early either, unless it’s to help the host, who will most likely be scrambling around the kitchen and dining room to prep any last-minute details.
Do not be the eighth guest of the night to gift your host a box of dates. Chances are they already have a cupboard stocked with the sweet fruits. Instead, choose something more thoughtful and practical, such as a comfortable, on-trend kaftan or shawl.
Do not leave your smartphone on the table. It’s distracting and impolite. Keep your phone in your pocket or purse, along with your keys, and any other items that don’t belong on a dinner table.
Do not stick around after dessert, unless you’re helping to clean up. Your hosts are probably tired after a long day of cooking, or already have plans to attend Taraweeh prayer.
Do return the invitation.