Etiquette during the 19th Century tended to be more formal than today. Below is not only how to conduct these parties but the differences between them, along with the 'rules' of etiquette to guide you.
CLASSES OF SOCIAL ENTERTAINMENTS. These entertainments may be classed as
General Entertainments, including Receptions, Drawing Rooms, or "At Homes," Balls, Parties, Soirees, Germans and Kettle Drums, &c., and
Select Entertainments, including Dinners, Breakfasts, Luncheons, Coffees Teas and Suppers. The former embrace persons in social relations with the host and hostess. The latter are limited to intimate friends, or those whom it is desired to specially honor for some particular reason, and no person in society has a right to feel slighted if not invited.
HOURS. In all social entertainments, unless the houis are mentioned, the time of arrival should be from 8 to 10 p m., and the lime of departure from II p. m. to 12 midnight. Dancing parties usually end at 2 a m.
AT THE DOOR. Upon all occasions of receptions, balls, parties and the more elaborate social affairs it is customary to stretch a carpet, and often an awning from the carriage steps to the door. A footman or servant should be stationed at the carriage step to open the doors of the carriages of arriving guests, and to give them the numbers of their conveyances, and should aid them in securing their conveyances when they leave. The gentlemen should remember their numbers so as to avoid confusion and delay when they depart.
GENERAL RULES. There are certain rules of decorum which apply to all social entertainments, and should be observed by host, hostess and guests, in order to preserve that degree of harmony and propriety which are essential to the full enjoyment of all present. Thest may be summarized as follows:
ARRIVING Upon entering the house proceed directly and quietly to the rooms set apart fcr ladies' wrappings and gentlemen's hats and coats. To attempt to create a sensation is low. In ascending the stairs the lady should go first, and in descending the ger tleman should go first to be ready to receive his lady at the foot.
ENTERING. The gentleman should offer his left arm to the lady, which she should accept by gracefully and lightly resting her hand therein. The couple should then proceed to the drawing-room. Upon entering they should bow and address the host and hostess. After that they greet any of the guests they may meet in the course of the evening. It is not necessary to go through he entire party in regular order.
THE HOST AND HOSTESS. In your own house all your guests are equal for the time being, and have equal claims upon your attention. A host and hostess should not overlook their younger guests. Their appearance in society is attended with natural reserve and timidity, and an effort should be made to make them feel at ease. The relief and encouragement which such treatment gives to a young lady or gentleman, mingling with older and more experienced persons, will never be forgotten.
DON'T. Avoid being officious by assuming to do the honors in another's house, unless requested, and do not constitute yourself master of ceremonies unless asked to do so by the host or hostess.
Do not offer a person a chair from which you have just risen, unless there be no other in the room.
Never take the chair of the mistress of the house, even though she be absent.
Neve.- force yourself in a position to be recognized by another. If you desire recognition make it appear as if you met by accident.
AS GUEST. A gentleman shou'd always address his wife in company as
Mrs and never by her initial nor her Christian name, nor "my
wife." The christian name should only be used among relatives or very intimate friends. This rule will apply with even more force to a lady.
In a serial entertainment persons can open a conversation with each other without an introduction, as the place and circumstances indicate that none but persons of the same social class are present. The acquaintance, however, terminates with the evening, and no recognition is required thereafter. If the acquaintance is to be continued, the parties should be formally introduced.
It is the heighth of impoliteness to take any one to a social entertainment, no matter how intimate your relations with the host or hostess, without first inquiring whether it would be agreeable.
Lounging on sofas or easy chairs, in society, is impolite, and with ladies present, extremely vulgar. No one in good health should appear in society unless physically equal to the decorum of the occasion.
To be wandering about the room, in company, and handling articles of vertu is an evidence of vulgar breeding. Such things can be admired more appropriately by the sense of sight than the sense of touch.
Pride and display are never regarded as the evidences of consequence on the part of individuals, and generally inspires the contempt rather than the admiration of those whom it is designed to impress. Those most entitled to position make the least display of it.
It is the height of impropriety for persons to carry their whims into company. If they are not in the frame of mind to be agreeable, their absence would be more satisfactory than their company In a mixed company no one cares about the grievances, afflictions or notions of others. Exhibitions of emotion in company should also be repressed.
A person should never lose temper in company, and should not notice any supposed slight. If any one adopts an offensive manner, strive to appear not to notice it. If it should require attention do not disturb the entire company, but wait until the party retires.
DEPARTURE. Upon withdrawing after a social entertainment of any kind, it is proper before leaving the Drawing Room and while taking leave to express to the host and hostess the pleasure you have experienced during the evening. In taking your departure do so with as little commotion as possible.
RETURN CALLS. Those who have accepted social recognition in the way of invitations to social entertainments, should make a call upon the hostess on her first reception day after the event. If she has no day for receiving, a call should be made or a card left within ten days. This applies whether the invitation were accepted or declined.
Source: Hand-book of Official and Social Etiquette ©1889