The Etiquette Scholar blog answering you dining etiquette questions.
Whether you serve cold or hot food is dependent on the season.
In summer, offer light dishes like seafood salad and chilled marinated vegetables.
In winter, serve something hot.
Mix and match your courses for a well-balanced meal.
Have a pitcher of iced water or glasses of water ready.
If your lunch is a buffet, make a pitcher of each beverage available close to the buffet table.
Unless the lunch is a business or club meeting, wine is often served with lunch.
One wine is sufficient, and it should be a light one such as sauvignon blanc or a champagne.
Wine spritzers (chilled white wine with club soda) are also a nice light choice.
A glass of white wine, a white wine spritzer, a Bloody Mary, or a mimosa (champagne and orange juice) are typical prelunch drinks.
- The table setting for a formal lunch is identical to that of dinner.
- Carving is done in the kitchen, and except for dishes of fruit, candy, and nuts, no food is set on the table.
- The plate service is also the same as at a formal dinner.
- Place settings are never left without plates, except after the salad course when the table is cleared and crumbed for dessert.
- At a less formal lunch, you can have your guests serve themselves family style from large bowls or platters.
- If there is no first course, the salad may already be on the table.
- Rolls, butter, and iced water and any other beverage can also be put on the table beforehand.
- Remove any bread-and-butter plates before dessert, along with salt-andpepper shakers.
- During dessert, bring out the coffee tray and pour coffee for anyone who wants it.
the lunch buffet
If you don't have help, make your formal party a buffet lunch.
The food is set out as for a buffet dinner, on the dining-room table or on any table with sufficient space..
- Courses offered before the entree should already be on the table when your guests arrive.
- Guests should be seated and finish these courses before going to the buffet table for the main course.
When there is no serving staff to help, the guests take their empty plates and leave them on a side table as they go to get their next course.
Then, while they are helping themselves, you can remove the soiled dishes to the kitchen.
The same procedure is followed when guests are ready for the salad or dessert.
When they have finished they can either drink their coffee where they are or leave the tables and sit on comfortable chairs in another room, perhaps. This gives you a chance to clear away glasses, silver, and cloths from the table, and, if bridge is to follow, to set out the cards.
Combination of breakfast and lunch held closer to the usual hour for lunch.
Because a brunch is held on Saturdays and Sundays, guests should linger at the table for a leisurely meal. Invitations may be made by telephone.
Bloody Marys are a good brunch drink as is the mimosa, a mixture of champagne and orange juice.
Provide pitchers of fruit juices, pots of coffee or tea, and sodas.
The menu should offer traditional breakfast and lunch dishes.
Many hotels are offering afternoon teas, with tea sandwiches and desserts.
Invitations to an informal tea are telephoned.
You can serve from a dining room table or a tea table set up in any room.
Guests should be able to sit and/or move about.
- Set two large trays, one at each end of the table, one for tea and one for coffee.
One tray is for serving tea:
- a pot of brewed tea,
- a pot with boiling water,
- tea bags if the tea is not made with loose tea,
- a small pitcher of milk or cream,
- a sugar bowl,
- and slices of lemon.
Include a selection of herbal and decaffeinated teas.
The coffee tray:
- a coffee pot or urn,
- a pitcher of milk or cream, and
- a bowl of sugar and sugar substitutes.
- Cups and saucers are usually placed to the left of the tray.
- At each end of the table, place stacks of small tea plates with little napkins fold on each one.
- Arranged behind these plates, the plates of food and silver.
- If the table is not large enough to hold all the plates, place some on a sideboard or a small table.
A tea bag should never be served in a cup of tea. Preferably, tea is steeped in a pot and then poured into cups and served.
If the hostess brings you a cup with the tea bag inside
- lift the bag from the cup with the spoon,
- hold it at the top of the cup while it drains,
- and place it on the saucer under the cup.
- Do not wind the string around the spoon and squeeze the tea bag dry.
tea time food
The food is
- cookies, cupcakes, scones, or slices of cake.
- tea sandwiches, generally small delicate cold sandwiches on thin bread.
Our tea section has more tea party etiquette information.
- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
If you find any typographical errors, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies, or if you just have something to add, please email us.