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Holiday Ball - Etiquette at a Ball

General Rules for a Ballroom

A lady will not cross a ball-room unattended.

A gentleman will not take a vacant seat next to a lady who is a stranger to him. If she is an acquaintance, he may do so with her permission.

White kid gloves should be worn at a ball, and only be taken off at supper-time.

In dancing quadrilles do not make any attempt to take steps. A quiet walk is all that is required.

When a gentleman escorts a lady home from a ball, she should not invite him to enter the house; and even if she does so, he should by all means decline the invitation. He should call upon her during the next day or evening.

As guests enter the room, it is not necessary for the lady of the house to advance each time toward the door, but merely to rise from her seat to receive the courtesies and congratulations. If, indeed, the hostess wishes to show particular favor to some peculiarly honored guests, she may introduce them to others, whose acquaintance she may imagine will be especially suitable and agreeable.

When entering a private ball or party, the visitor should invariably bow to the company. No well-bred person would omit this courtesy in entering a drawing-room; although the entrance to a large assembly may be unnoticed.

Any presentation to a lady in a public ball-room, for the mere purpose of dancing, does not entitle the gentleman to claim her acquaintance afterwards.

Never wait until the signal is given to take a partner, for nothing is more impolite than to invite a lady hastily, and when the dancers are already in their places; it can be allowed only when the set is incomplete.

In private parties, a lady is not to refuse the invitation of a gentleman to dance, unless she is previously engaged. The hostess must be supposed to have asked to her house only those persons whom she knows to be perfectly respectable and of unblemished character, as well as pretty equal in position; and thus, to decline the offer of any gentleman present, would be a tacit reflection on the gentleman or lady of the house.

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Material compiled/excerpted from "Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society", Richard A. Wells, A.M., King, Richardson & Co., Springfield, Mass. c1893.

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