Practically all rules for laying the table and all methods of
serving have been formulated to bring about neatness, convenience,
and order. The standard of living, the occasion, the size of the
dining room, the number of guests, and the attendants, all have to
be taken into consideration in dining room service. Therefore the
method of serving must be governed by conditions. It is possible
here to give only general suggestions.
Table padding, or a silence cloth, should first be placed on the
table, then the table-cloth should be laid straight and smooth.
Table Laid for an Informal Luncheon
Note the position of the silver, napkins, bread-and-butter plates,
and tumblers. Also note that a low bowl of flowers is used as a
Napkins should be folded simply and laid at the left of the plate. A
dinner napkin is folded four times, a luncheon napkin is folded
twice to form a square, or three times to form either a triangle or
If desired, the table-cloth may be omitted for breakfast or
luncheon. Doilies with pads underneath them, lunch or breakfast
cloths, or table runners may be used instead of the table-cloth. The
two latter coverings are especially practical, since they are more
quickly laundered than table-cloths. Their initial cost is also
usually less than that of a table-cloth.
Doilies may be placed on the serving tray. They are also often used
on plates containing crackers, bread, and cakes. Baked potatoes,
corn, and hot breads may be served in a folded napkin.
China And Glassware
The term "cover" means the space, with its china, silver, and
glassware, allowed for each guest. At least twenty-two inches of
space should be allowed for a cover.
The quantity of china on the table depends upon the occasion and the
style of serving. In any form of service, the first course, if cold,
may be placed on the table before the guests are seated. If the
first course is a hot food, it is always placed on the table after
the guests are seated. For informal occasions, and sometimes for
formal occasions, the bread-and-butter plate is used. It is placed
beyond the tines of the fork. Glasses are placed beyond the tip of
the knife. A sugar bowl and cream pitcher, salts, peppers, etc., may
also be placed on the table. A salt and a pepper shaker should be
placed so as to be accessible to each two covers. Dishes containing
olives or nuts are sometimes placed on the table before the guests
For breakfast, the coffeepot, hot-water pitcher, milk and cream
pitchers, spoon tray, and cups and saucers may be placed so as to
form a semicircle about the hostess's place. The coffeepot should be
placed at the right, and the cups and saucers at the left. If tiles
or stands for the coffeepot and hot-water pitcher are used, they
should also be a part of the table service. A large tray may be used
to hold all of the coffee service.
If the serving is to be done without a maid, it is advisable to
place all the china, glass, and silver to be used for the meal
either on the table or on the serving table.
Convenience and order have determined the customary way of placing
the silver at each cover. At the right of the plates place the
knives, the spoons, and the forks that are to be used without knives
(as for oysters, fish, or salad). At the left, place all the forks
that are to be used with knives. Many prefer, however, to place all
the forks, except the oyster fork, at the left of the plate. Enough
silver for all courses, except the dessert course, is usually placed
on the table; it is permissible, however, to place the silver for
all courses. If the silver for any course is not placed on the table
before the meal is announced, it may be brought in on a tray and
placed at each cover just before serving the course; or it may be
laid on each serving dish of the course.
While a general rule for laying silver is to place each piece at
each cover in the order of its use, the knives are usually all
grouped together at the right of the plate and the spoons laid
together at the right of the knives. It is advisable, however, to
place the spoons and knives in the order of their use, i.e. place
the spoon that is to be used first farthest to the right and the
knife that is to be used first, farthest to the right of the group
of knives. Since only forks are placed at the left of the plate,
they should be laid in the order of their use, that first to be used
being placed farthest to the left.
All silver should be placed from one half to one inch from the edge
of the table; the sharp edges of the blades of the knives should be
turned towards the plates; the spoons and forks should be placed
with their bowls and tines turned up. The butter spreaders may be
laid across the bread-and-butter plates. Generally when soup and raw
oysters are served, the oyster fork is laid across the soup spoon.
If the silver that is to be used in serving a dish of food is placed
on the table, it should be laid beside not in the dish of food.
A low bowl of flowers or fruit, tastefully arranged, makes a
pleasing centerpiece. A centerpiece, however, should be a real
source of pleasure; it should not obstruct the view of guests
Place cards afford a graceful means of seating guests. When used,
they should be placed on the napkin. Menu cards, sometimes used for
occasional dinners, are also placed on the napkin.