This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
These are among the most informal entertainments given, and the difference between a large afternoon tea and an afternoon reception is little more than the name, though the latter is perhaps a shade more formal. They frequently take place at the same hour, and the character of the invitations and entertainments differ very little.
The day and hour of an afternoon tea may be written on a visiting card. For an afternoon reception, an " At Home " card is used. No answer need be sent to such an invitation, unless one is particularly requested, which is not ordinarily the rule.
It is necessary to speak to the host and hostess immediately upon entering the room, but owing to the constantly moving crowd it is not essential that guests should again address the host and hostess when they are about to leave.
The length of stay can vary from five minutes to an hour at an afternoon reception, but at an evening reception the time is usually more extended.
Only simple refreshments should be served at an afternoon tea. Thin slices of bread and butter, sandwiches, fancy biscuit or cake, tea, coffee, or chocolate, ice cream, and bouillon are offered. Punch and lemonade--but no wine of any kind—may be added if desired; and also salted almonds, cakes, candies, and other dainty trifles. English breakfast tea is now preferred, served with cream and white sugar, or slices of lemon for those who like tea made in the Russian style.
At an afternoon reception the table may be supplied with oyster-salads, pates, boned turkey, ice-cream, coffee, and bonbons.
For a reception music is desirable, as it adds greater brilliancy to the entertainment.
The hostess should shake hands with her guests and receive them cordially; any formality is out of place on an informal occasion.
If the number of guests is small, the hostess should walk about the room, talking with her visitors; if large, she should remain near the door, and have the aid of other ladies, who should entertain the guests, ask them to take refreshments, and make introductions when necessary.
At a large and elegant afternoon reception the windows may be darkened, the gas lighted, and musicians employed, if the hostess desires.
What is known as a high tea is a meal taking the place of a dinner, at which hot meats, cakes, warm breads, preserves and other sweets are served. Such teas are more popular in the country than in town.
At the informal tea, of which it is the custom to partake at about five o'clock in many households, a tray is brought in to the mistress of the house, and placed before her on a small table. This tray should contain a tea-service, cups, saucers, etc. The lady herself makes the tea, pours it out, and passes it to the members of the family or the visitors who may chance to be present. The servant brings in thin slices of bread and butter, cake, and, perhaps, English muffins, which are usually served with the cup of tea at this hour.