9 Totally Outdated Rules of Entertaining Etiquette
When I found the hardback, navy-blue 1945 edition of Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage by Emily Post at a library sale a few years ago, I immediately snatched it up. As a modern hostess who prides herself on following etiquette rules (I always RSVP and never show up to a party empty-handed!), I couldn’t help but wonder how entertaining was in the past.
Aside from the obvious differences (invitations weren’t emailed!), there’s a surprising amount of outdated material to be found in its pages. For example, there is a seven-page chapter entirely devoted to flatware, beginning with “the most complete list of flat silver possible in a perfectly equipped house includes the following articles,” then proceeding to list 19 different utensils including an orange spoon and after-dinner coffee spoon. It’s crazy to think that so much importance was once placed on silverware, an item that many people don’t even register for today. Interested in hearing more outdated rules of entertaining? Read on.
“It does not matter whether the hostess knows what the menu is. Her cook is more than capable of attending to it.”
The modern-day house, unfortunately, does not come with a full-time cook, so this is virtually impossible nowadays. Also, with so many different dietary needs and people’s extreme interest in food, a hostess could never throw a party today and not know what she was serving.
“Two of the requisites at every dinner of perfection, whether a great one of 200 people or a little one of four, are a cordial and hospitable host and a hostess of charm.”
The idea that each party needs a host and a hostess is just so antiquated. I’m so glad to be living in 2015, when single girls, divorcées, and widows can openly throw their own parties!
“Silly people should never be put anywhere near learned ones, nor the dull near the clever, unless the dull is a young and pretty woman with a talent for listing and the clever is a man with an admiration for beauty and a love of talking.”
Everything about this is just wrong! These days, most people skip a seating chart and rarely think about who should sit next to whom for the sake of conversation. Although I am in the minority and actually love a seating chart, I think this phrase should be rewritten as such for now: Never invite anyone dull to your party, and if you feel so inclined to create a planned arrangement for seating, think about who would have fun with each other. A silly person will most likely make a learned one laugh.
“The turning of the table is accompanied by the hostess, who merely turns from the gentlemen (on her left probably) with whom she has been talking through the soup and the fish course to the one on her right. As she turns, the lady to whom the ‘right’ gentleman has been talking turns to the gentleman further on, and in a moment everyone at the table is talking to a new neighbour.”
“One of the real problems is that of answering your front door.”
I’ve hosted hundreds of parties in my life, and I don’t think I’ve ever once thought about who will answer the front door. I, as the hostess, will answer it, and if I am busy, hopefully the person who is close to the door will open it!
“At a buffet, a man seeing a woman sitting and not eating naturally asks her (whether he knows her or not), ‘Can I get you something to eat?’ If she says, ‘Yes please,’ he fills a plate and a glass and takes them to her.”
I hate to say it, but chivalry is basically dead. No guys are noticing girls they don’t know at buffets and offering to bring them food. Besides, how would they know what the women want to eat? How would they know what the women eat and don’t eat?
“The best recommendation for a picnic is everything neatly wrapped and labelled, and then everything has been used burned.”
Perhaps the term picnic really meant camping in 1945? As fires are restricted in most parks, burning all the utensils and servingware used at a picnic might earn you a citation. Plus, these days you’ve got to go reusable. Govino cups, plastic plates, compostable forks: These are the items that make a modern-day picnic etiquette-correct.
“At a tea, tea and chocolate may be passed on trays or poured by two intimate friends of the hostess. The ladies who ‘pour’ are always invited beforehand, and are always chosen because they can be counted on for gracious manners to everyone and under all circumstances.”
“Would you do me the honour of being a tea pourer at my tea party?” is not something that anyone would ever text a close friend these days. It’s funny, though!
“At all balls there must be two orchestras, so that the moment one finishes playing the other begins. At dignified private balls, dancers do not stand in the middle of the floor and clap as they do elsewhere because the music does not stop until the ball is over.”
Balls are like cassette tapes: they no longer exist, so devoting an entire chapter to this topic is, as Mrs. Price Post would put it, silly.
What rules of etiquette do you think are past their prime? Tell us in the comments below.