Every hostess will be called upon to entertain occasionally it luncheon or dinner where more or less formal service will be in order. The numbers that she can handle successfully will depend first of all upon the size of her dining table, and the number of place settings that she has acquired, but a dozen persons should be the limit for such occasions.
Except to celebrate a special event, the number in the group will usually be smaller, as guests up to eight can be handled with one extra helper if the hostess has done most of the preparation of the meal in advance, while a larger number calls for two aides if service is to be formal. For semiformal service, such as the bride’s first family dinner and luncheons and dinners for close friends, one or two members of the group can be called upon to aid the hostess with the service.
Certain preparations can be made a day or two in advance of the day of the party. A lace or embroidered tablecloth with appropriate napkins that will be used for a dinner may need pressing. Luncheon cloths or place mats will be chosen for use at luncheon and their condition should be checked. The silver may need cleaning and the best dishes, unless they have been stored under special covers or used recently, will certainly demand washing.
When these operations are completed, silver and dishes should be placed on trays ready for use. In setting the table, a service plate should be arranged first at each place so that plenty of room will be allowed for the silver, an inch in from the edge of the table. On the right should be the knife, cutting edge toward plate; the spoon to its right; and the forks on the left, beginning at the outside in the order in which they will be used for the first and main courses. If salad is to be served with the main course, the fork for this may also be in place, or it may be brought in with the salad. Dessert silver will be reserved until the time of service.
The water glass should be placed at the right in line with the knife, while bread and butter plate, if used, with spreader across the top edge, will be at the left in line with the forks. A wine glass, if used, should be placed at the right of the water glass. The napkin should be at the left beside the forks, folded so that the edge will be toward the fork. Flowers should be arranged in a low bowl in the center of the table.