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Business And Personal Etiquette:
Habit That Annoy
Personal Appearance
Faring Forth To A Tea
At Dinner
Voice And Conversation

How To Act At Formal Teas And Other Events

( Originally Published 1940 )


Teas are given for various purposes. The hostess may wish to honor a house guest, a friend who has just moved to town, or a prominent person who is in town for some special occasion. Sororities give teas so that the members may become acquainted with prospective pledges.

The hostess-or, in a large or a formal tea, the butler or maid-admits the guests as they arrive and tells them where to place their coats, if it is the season of the year when coats are worn. Women remove their coats but should keep on their hats and carry their gloves.

Street clothes are correct at a tea, but a costume may be more elaborate than one ordinarily worn on the street. Clothing must be suitable to the season. Fall clothes must be worn to fall teas-no matter how warm the day, summer clothes are not worn. Men wear business suits, well pressed, with all furnishings carefully selected.

You may be seated, or you may move from one group to another meeting friends. Men, of course, do not seat themselves if women are standing. Sometimes this means that you will stand all during your stay at the tea. A tea is supposed to be a friendly gathering; so talk with the guests nearest you. If you are a stranger, the hostess or the assistant hostesses will see that you meet other guests.

You should go to the table where tea is being poured when you are ready to be served, unless friends of the hostess are serving the guests. Be sure to indicate a preference if you are asked concerning cream, lemon, and sugar; and help yourself to sandwiches, cakes, nuts, and mints in small quantities.

How Long to Stay

You should stay at least twenty minutes at a tea; and if the tea is being held between three and five, you should not arrive later than four-forty. After you are served, you may leave at any time. It is not necessary to say good-by to the hostess if she is receiving guests when you are leaving. If one of the friends of the hostess is near the door, you may tell her that you enjoyed meeting the guest of honor, that it has been a pleasure to be there, or whatever you wish to say on leaving.


A luncheon is generally set for one or one-thirty o'clock. Women remove their outer wraps but do not remove their hats or gloves. They remove their gloves at the table or just before going to the table. Women do not wear elaborate clothes at luncheons. According to the type of luncheon, they wear street clothes or afternoon dresses. On a weekday men wear business suits, but on Sunday they wear whatever they wear to church. A guest should stay at least thirty to forty-five minutes after luncheon unless there is to be bridge or other entertainment. Of course this rule does not apply to business luncheons, which usually extend only through the luncheon period.

Many luncheons to which only women are invited are informal. If the hostess is entertaining in her own home and the afternoon is to be spent informally, guests usually remove their hats.


A woman wears a hat in a restaurant during the day, and in the evening if she is in street clothes. Hats are not worn with evening gowns. If the woman is in evening dress, the man should dress accordingly.


If there is a headwaiter in the restaurant, he leads the way to the table. The woman follows the headwaiter, and she is followed by her escort. If there is no headwaiter, the escort leads the way to the table. The headwaiter or the escort helps the woman to be seated in the choice seat. If her coat or wrap has not been left in the dressing room, the woman partly removes it and places it over the back of her chair, assisted by either her escort or the headwaiter. The man checks his hat and topcoat at the entrance or hangs them near the table.

When a man is with two women, the headwaiter leads the way to the table, followed by the two women, then the man. The headwaiter assists one woman to be seated and helps with her wraps, and the man assists the other. If there is no headwaiter, the man leads the way to the table and first assists the older woman, then the other.

If two couples enter the restaurant together, the two women follow the headwaiter, and they are followed by their escorts. If there is no headwaiter, one man leads the way to the table, followed by the two women and the other man. Each woman is assisted to her seat by her escort.

A woman who is entertaining several women follows the headwaiter so that she, as hostess, may indicate where her guests are to sit. The seating arrangement should be planned in advance.

At a small, narrow table the man usually sits opposite the woman; but at a wide or round table, she sits at his right. If the man is with two women, he sits between them. If there are two couples, the women sit facing each other. In a booth, women sit next the wall.

If a man is with two women, one a relative, he sits by the one who is not a relative. A man sits opposite his wife.

A la Carte or Table d'Hote

After the diners are seated, the waiter or the escort hands the woman the menu card. The menu may be a la carte, which means each dish is priced separately; or table d'hôte, a set price for the meal. The man may make suggestions, but the woman makes her own selections. By making suggestions the man gives some idea of the price range of the meal that the woman is expected to order. The man gives both orders to the waiter-the woman's first; then his own-or he writes both orders.

When women are dining together, each, if paying for her own meal, gives or writes her own order; but if one is the guest of the other, the one acting as hostess gives or writes the order for both. When men are dining together, each gives or writes his own order.

A woman should never put her purse and gloves on the table. They may be kept on the lap or, preferably, on a chair, as they invariably slide from the lap, causing awkward situations.

Cover Charge

Some restaurants require guests to pay a cover charge. This charge is in addition to the price asked for the meal and pays for service, the privilege of dancing, or other entertainment.

A Man Rises

When a woman stops at his table, a man must rise and remain standing regardless of how long the woman stays. He rises, too, if a man stops at his table. A woman does not rise, however, unless an elderly woman stops at her table. A man half rises and bows if a woman speaks or bows to him as she passes his table.

Tips and Leaving the Table

At the conclusion of the meal, a tip is left for the waiter. This tip is usually 10 per cent of the meal check; however, the amount may vary according to the type of restaurant and the affluence of the one tipping. In a college town, it is not customary for students to tip unless they are giving a special dinner party.

Some restaurants add a 10 per cent service charge to the bill, in which case no tip is left.

If the man's hat and topcoat have been checked at the entrance, the minimum tip for this service is 10 cents. If the woman leaves her wrap in the dressing room, she, too, leaves a tip after the maid has helped her with her wrap.

In coming out of the restaurant, the woman precedes the man.


Tickets to theater parties are usually sent to guests in advance, so that they may go to their seats as soon as they arrive. If tickets have not been sent in advance, the guests generally meet the host or hostess in the foyer at a stated time. It is the height of rudeness to be late. If no time for meeting has been mentioned, the guests should arrive at least five minutes before the opening of the performance. The seating arrangement must be planned in advance by the host or hostess and the guests informed of it, so that they may follow the usher down the aisle in the order in which they are to sit. If there are several couples, the woman of the first couple follows the usher down the aisle. If there is no usher, the man of the first couple leads the way to the seats; then steps back for the woman to precede him into the row where the seats are. If the party has started down the aisle with the man of the first couple leading and is met by the usher coming back to them, the man hands the checks to the usher and steps back to let the woman precede him the rest of the way. The man of each couple sits nearer the aisle.

When two women and a man are together, the usher leads the way to the seat, followed by the two women, then the man. If there is no usher, the man precedes the women down the aisle; then steps back for them to enter the row first. If one seat is the aisle seat, the man sits there; otherwise, they may sit as they wish.

Passing Those Seated

If you must pass people when you are taking your seat, press against the back of the row ahead, so you will not greatly disturb those you are passing, but be careful that you do not brush against those in the seats ahead. You should face the stage when you are passing in front of strangers. It is generally possible to pass people who are seated if they will turn their knees sideways, but sometimes they have to rise to let you pass. Be sure to get in or out as quickly as possible, for you are cutting off the view of those behind you. Say, "Thank you," or, "I am sorry," to those who have let you pass; and if you have brushed against anyone, say, "I beg your pardon."

The man removes his topcoat in the foyer and carries it over his arm to his seat. The woman wears her coat into the theater and partly removes it when seated. A woman always wears a hat if she is in street clothes, and removes it when she is seated if it obstructs the view of those behind her.

Leaving the Theater

When leaving the theater at the end of a performance, each person moves to the aisle in the order in which he has been sitting; but as soon as the aisle is reached, each man steps back to let the woman precede him, or walk with him if the aisle is sufficiently wide.


Dancing is a very popular pastime. If you plan to dance, you should learn to dance correctly before you invite anyone to go to a dance with you. It is unfair to a partner to extend or accept invitations to a dance if you are just learning and are making the occasion a chance to practice. There is no surer way to make yourself everlastingly unpopular. Take some lessons and practice with your friends in private until your dancing is a pleasure rather than a trial to others.

Be sure you know the type of dance you are to attend-formal, informal, or sports-then dress accordingly. As soon as you arrive at the dance, speak to the hostess or the chaperons. If there is a receiving line, the woman precedes her escort in going to it. Give your name to the first person in the line; then turn slightly and introduce your escort. Each person in the receiving line will introduce you to the next one in the line.

The man dances the first and last dances and the ones before and after the intermission with his partner. At a formal dance, the man attends to filling his partner's program. He dances with her all the dances that are not taken by someone else.

If a man has been brought to meet a woman who has no partner, after the introduction he asks her to dance by saying, "May I have this dance?" or, "Would you care to dance?" (Never, "Do you have this dance?") The woman will answer, "Yes, you may," "Yes, I'd like to," or, "I'd like to very much."

After the dance, the man takes her back to her seat and says, "Thank you," or, "Thank you, I enjoyed the dance."

The woman answers, "Thank you, too," or, "I enjoyed it, too:"

If the man has the next dance with someone else, he should say, "Excuse me, I have the next dance." If the man, however, asks for the next dance, she may accept or may say, "I'm sorry, but this dance is taken."

If a woman feels tired and does not care to dance when she is asked, she may say so. She generally says, "Thank you, but I'm going to rest during this dance." If it is her escort who has asked her, she should ask him whether he cares to dance with anyone else; if he does not, she should sit out the dance with him.

A woman must not refuse to dance with one man and immediately dance with another, and she must not refuse to dance with someone who has "cut in: " The man must not "cut back" on the one who takes his partner from him. It is very rude for a man who has not brought a partner to select two or three of the best dancers in the room and continue to "cut in" on them, or repeatedly "cut in" on the same man.

In forming for a march or escorting a partner to or from the dance floor, the man walks at the left side of his partner. He may offer his arm if the floor is so crowded that she needs his assistance.

If punch is being served, the man serves his partner; she does not serve him.


Be courteous to the chaperons. If a woman without an escort is the chaperon, she should be called for and taken home. If she dances, see that she is asked to dance. If she does not care to dance, arrange to have various couples sit with her during the evening so that she may have as pleasant a time as possible. After all, she is there just to accommodate you. If there are several chaperons, have a bridge table set up for them so that they may play bridge if they do not care to dance. If they do not care to dance or play bridge, plan some other entertainment for them.

Before you leave the dance, bid the hostess or chaperon good night and say that you have enjoyed the evening. Thank the chaperon for being with you, and, above all, be sure that you do not let her go home alone.


To church, women should wear street dress, which of course includes hat and gloves. Men remove their hats and topcoats in the vestibule. The woman follows the usher and precedes her escort down the aisle. If there is no usher, the man precedes the woman to the pew selected; then steps aside to let her enter the pew first. He sits nearer the aisle. After the service, the man steps back at the aisle and lets the woman precede him from the church. All conduct in the church should lend dignity to the service.


When walking with a woman or with two women, the man walks on the side nearer the street. If a woman is walking with two men, she walks between them. A man should not hold a woman's arm unless she is old and needs his help. In traffic, a man may offer his arm until he has guided the woman through the crowded street.

A cultured person does not use toothpicks, chew gum, or eat while on the street any more than he would in a business office.

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