This means that someone (who is not involved in the case) must personally deliver the court documents to the other side. You can not simply tell the defendant that you have filed legal action against them. If you know their address, you can notify them in person or by mail (see Service by Mail).
Personal service must be made by:
A sheriff or deputy of the county where service is to be made
Any person appointed by the court to serve a summons
Any person authorized to serve process by the state where the service will be made (Private Process Server)
To complete personal service, you give a copy of the court documents to the server. The server gives the court documents to the party being served. It can be at the party's home, work, or anywhere on the street.
The server has to identify the party being served and hand the legal papers to him or her and inform him or her that the papers being given are court papers. If the party or person being served does not want to take the papers, the papers can be left on the ground in front of him or her. If he or she takes the papers and tears them up or throws them away, service is still considered to be valid. If the defendant is not home, the court documents can be left with a resident of the home, as long as they are at least 14. The court documents can not be left on the doorstep if no one is home.
The server then fills out an Affidavit of Proof of Service. This document details when, where, and how (in person) the papers were served. The server signs the Proof of Service and returns it to you to file in court.
This personal service is complete the day that the papers are served.