Sure, many of us would like to marry a prince, live in a palace and spend our days doing charitable works, practicing Pilates and playing with the third- and fourth-in-line to the throne. Even if (repeat after me) that's never, ever going to happen, we can at least try to emulate the best parts of Kate Middleton's fabulous life.
Although I've purchased a couple of Kate's favorite shoes and dresses in my own attempt to mimic her graceful style, behaving appropriately in my royal-approved attire is another story. (My grandmother regularly compares my walk to that of a male wrestler.) Cue royal etiquette expert Myka Meier. She's attended finishing schools in the United Kingdom and Switzerland and trained in London under a former member of the royal household. With an inside track to the type of rigorous education Kate Middleton underwent while dating Prince William, Meier attempted to teach me how to sit, stand and carry myself like a Duchess.
Hosting seemed like the best opportunity to show off my newfound grace—and imitate Her Royal Highness. "The Duchess of Cambridge is known to be an excellent hostess," says Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette. "She loves to cook, host and is known to personally serve her guests. While she may love to throw a party, Catherine also must be the perfect guest, as she attends many parties annually, personally and professionally, and spends long weekends with the royal family or Christmas lunch as a guest of the Queen at the Sandringham Estate." To get us—and our homes—in royal shape, Meier shared some tips to hosting and rules that even the Duchess of Cambridge follows.
Nobody likes spending the whole day setting up. On the day before your event, decorate, set the table and cook anything that's possible to do ahead of time. You'll be far more relaxed when it's time to meet your guests—and not rushing around the kitchen. Then on the day of, you can focus on preparing the food (and see what, if anything, you are missing!).
Place a plate or charger about 1.5 inches from the edge of the table, then line up flatware with the bottom rim. It doesn't matter how far apart they are as long as they're evenly spaced. Stemware is above and to the right of the dinner plate; bread-and-butter plates sit above and to the left. Use the flatware on the outside first and work toward the plate.
To greet people, the Duchess follows local customs. With friends and close acquaintances, Middleton prefers a cheek kiss, which is always right cheek to left cheek—one kiss in New York, two in London. She's also know for having a firm grip. (Want to be a good guest? Never arrive early: For cocktails, the correct timing is 10-15 minutes after the party begins. For a sit-down dinner, 5-10 minutes after the start is ideal. If you're tardy, Meier advises, "Give people two minutes' notice for every one that you are going to be late.")
"If you have nine guests, you should serve a selection of at least three foods," explains Meier. Include a vegetarian option, and make them small enough to eat in one bite. Serve with cocktail napkins and offer toothpicks for oily foods. (Nobody wants to shake hands with greasy fingers.)
"As the host, your job is to speak to and engage each of your guests, making sure everyone is happy, comfortable and feels welcome," says Meier. Find common ground or other connections between them, and move on to the next guest so that all introductions are made before dinner starts.
First off, purses are for loose change. It's a handbag or a clutch. When the Duchess is at an event, she holds her bag in front of her in both hands when shaking hands might be awkward. Or she can place it in one hand to have the other free. It never gets tucked under an arm or placed on the ground or table. If there's not a stool available, slip it between your back and the back of the chair.
Posture makes a Duchess. "Typically 'the Duchess Slant' is used when a lady has to sit for an extended amount of time while keeping poise and posture," says Meier. Sit straight, with an egg-width between your back and the seat, and your chin parallel to the ground. Keep ankles and knees together, heels always on the floor, even when ankles are crossed in a "Cambridge Cross." The slightly slanted knees create a zig-zag effect, Meier adds, which keeps anyone from seeing up your dress—and makes your legs look longer.
This is to avoid heating the liquid. Remember that wine should only be poured to just underneath the widest part of the glass. And if you are wearing lipstick, be sure to drink from the same place on the glass each time in order to not create a "lipstick ring" around the glass.
Don't place your napkin in your lap until the hostess does, as soon as they sit. When you need to wipe your hands or mouth, wipe inside the fold so the mess doesn't get on your clothes.
The Duchess takes three bites (four, max) and puts her silverware down. For soup, the Duchess always scoops away from her.
Yes, even when you're taking a bite. Put food on the backside of the fork to eat. (The Queen is known for her skill of putting peas on the back of her fork, Meier shares.) Same rules—three bites, then rest—apply. When the Duchess is finished eating, she lays her silverware diagonally across the plate: handles at 4:20 and knife blade facing in.
Instead, simply excuse yourself. As you get up from the table, lay your napkin on the table gently.
If you want your bathroom to be welcoming—and up to etiquette, declutter and follow Meier's rules (left). "The Duchess will also probably have lightly scented soap and paired hand cream," Meier says. "Many upper class British homes prefer bar soap to liquid, so the duchess may use that in her private quarters." Skip unhygienic reading material and candles; hide a diffuser. To note: Kate would never call it a bathroom unless there is an actual bath in it. She likely says, "the lavatory."
The same rule applies for a coffee cup. For tea, hold your cup by pinching your thumb and index finger together and then resting your middle finger underneath the handle. For coffee, your index finger may loop through the handle. (Tip: Keep your pinkie down; it feels pretentious sticking in the air.)
"A good guest should always offer to help; however, an even better hostess would never accept," says Meier. "Hosting is hard work and your goal is to make sure your guests are relaxed and feel taken care of at all times. They should not be helping in the kitchen or cleaning."