The Victorian Era had so many rules for proper behavior in social settings including the use of calling cards that allowed the butler to properly introduce your entrance to any home. That is so far from the reality of today but what has replaced it?
During the Victorian days, the butler would announce all guests of their arrival of the home of the host and hostess for any occasion including a dinner party. We no longer have the Victorian dinner party etiquette rule book with all the rules laid out easily for us when hosting or attending such a dinner. Mind you, the Victorian days had butlers and it was proper to speak delicately about domestic issues. When the staff removed finished plates they moved about silently as if they were wearing soft ballet shoes. Their job was to complete their jobs with a touch and attitude, that made them as unnoticed as possible. Guests treated the staff with an air of pretending that they were not even there let alone people.
Today we no longer place any importance on the pretentiousness and rules that came with the Victorian era. It is much more important to make sure that all of the guests and the hosts are relaxed and comfortable, easily enjoying the food and company that the host has lovingly prepared with their own hands. Etiquette is just as important as it was during the olden days but are we as prepared as our ancestors as to what those rules are?
The necessity for inviting guests to a dinner party used to require that they were engraved on beautiful stationary and hand delivered by a servant. For a guest to respond to the invitation it was required that you respond immediately to the host with a formal response as well. Today we do not require that level of formality for anything other than a wedding or other formal affair but that does not mean that we have been reduced to the lack of consideration by using email for our invitations either.
It was customary to dress in your finest during Victorian times, but now, many dinner party invitations now stipulate a more relaxed atmosphere and may say that it is casual dress. We have retained, though, the etiquette that one should never dress in a manner that one ups ones host or hostess.
The etiquette in days gone by were very easy to follow in regards to the requirement of a hostess gift. Manners and the correct etiquette also covered areas like when to arrive to a dinner party, how long to stay and how to behave while in attendance. Men knew their roles on how to behave with a lady including holding her seat out before sitting themselves and a lady was very aware of which utensils to use when and how use fold your napkin. Today we have more open and vague rules but do not be tempted to think that the rules have been abolished all together.
The act of a man standing when a lady rises from the table is not an outdated custom and still considered polite today. An area of custom that was never part of the etiquette rules are how we address technology. When entering a host’s home it is polite to turn off your ringer of all cell phones and only accept emergency phone calls. If you are expecting a potential emergency call it is polite to inform your host upon your arrival. Keeping your phone on vibrate in case of potential issues with babysitters is acceptable but keep in mind that should a call come in during your dinner party you are required to excuse yourself to a private location and not take the call in the presence of others.
Hosts need to be as ready as possible, anticipating that the food service will be taken care of properly, and if you need to adjust whats being served for special diets, do it graciously. Neither host nor guest should ever drink to excess.
Everyone commits a social blunder or faux pas every once in awhile. The trick when an error occurs is not to allow it to ruffle your feathers but instead make amends quickly and then move on with the occassion. Maintaining good manners as a guest will ensure that your social calendar is constantly being added to and you can enjoy all social occasions without any stress or worry.