Acts of a private nature are organised according to precise social reasons and represent one more tool in developing diplomatic work. These, although they move within their patterns, governed by the general provisions of the social relationship, also come together in the essence of the official protocol. Both agree on different factors such as greetings, etiquette, precedence, ordering techniques, and others that must be considered to achieve the required success.


To achieve the respect those who attend our dinner deserve, we must celebrate these acts with significant signs of courtesy, the basis of protocol and inherent to education. For this, we use common sense in each particular situation. We consider the official regulations when attended by personalities who must be given the inescapable importance they require due to their rank, position or condition. In this sense, in Spain, in the official sphere, precedence is regulated in Royal Decree 2,099/83 of the “General Order of precedence in the State”. They also require mentioning other regulations, such as the Vienna Convention of 1961. Thus, for example, if two or more heads of mission attend our dinner, according to article 16.1 of the text mentioned above, the order of precedence between they will be determined by the date and time of presentation of their credentials in the country of destination.

As there are no regulations to this effect in the private sphere, the hosts at the said meeting must use social customs or general rules of courtesy to facilitate said work. Highlighting the following: of the priority of the right; of antiquity and age, both are a degree; of the alternation of sexes, referring to the placement of men and women alternately at the table; of marriage rest, marriages should not sit together; of the woman, she has the same precedence as her husband, except for those cases in which she is the one who holds a position; of respect for women at the table, the ladies should be served first, the hostess being the last of them, and then the gentlemen with the host being the last to be served; from the table service, the plates with the food will be served to the left of the diner and their withdrawal will be made to the right; of the presentations, in all presentations some forms must be taken care of, being presented first, the one with the lowest rank to the one with the highest; of the rank, in case of equality of rank, the preference is for the foreigner over the national; of foreign guests, two guests who speak different languages ​​should not be seated together; of coherence, people who have something in common have to be seated together; And a long etcetera to take into account so that our meeting is worthy of the respect conferred by the people we entertain.

In this context, special mention deserves the Ambassador D. José Antonio de Urbina y de la Quintana, one of the most prominent Spanish experts in the field and with whom I had the great privilege of learning this discipline in my master’s degree. “Protocol, especially everyday protocol, is not a corset; it is a means to an end.” This, therefore, is flexible and serves to facilitate coexistence and ensure the effectiveness of the event to be held by those who organise it, the hosts. It is up to them to discern how they want to organise their dinner since the flexibility of the protocol in this area allows them to orient it in their way, to their liking, without leaving the guidelines set to ensure the effectiveness of said celebration.

To conclude, I recall a few words from the former president of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Josep Tarradellas, which fit perfectly with the pattern that I believe should govern not only in this type of event but in life in general. “To do things well, you have to do them a certain way.”




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Writer by Maria Amorós Gurriarán, Expert in Protocol and Institutional Relations

23 May 2022, Spain 

Category: Business Protocol 

Reference: MA23052022BP

Re-edited in the English language by Eric Muhia

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