Have you been imagining what it would be like to be in the midst of Leila Rasheed's new book, Cinders & Sapphires? If so, then be sure to pay attention to this useful guide to 1900s British etiquette—you wouldn't want to be caught doing the wrong thing now, would you?
How to host a private ball
Set aside seven rooms in your home. You will need: two cloak-rooms, drawing-room for the reception, a tea and refreshment room, ball-room, card and supper rooms. While you might not be able to change the sizes of your rooms, do keep in mind that a square room is optimal, especially for the ball-room, as a rectangular room can be absolutely fatal for dancing. So as to not fatigue your guests, a wood floor is a must for dancing, and a highly polished one at that.
Nothing will tank your ball faster than poor music. For a ball of respectable size, one or two instruments as well as the piano are necessary, such as violin, cornet, or harp, varied by the addition of bells and triangles. If your musicians are amateurs it will be readily apparent to your guests, so do not make this grave error.
All rooms should be well-lit. Wax candles are a hazard at balls because all of the dancing and fanning may cause wax to drip on your guests’ finery. Make sure to use French lamps, placed on brackets at short distances, and high enough to be out of the way. They shed the softest and most pleasing light, but remind your servants that they will need to be refilled at least once during the course of the evening.
It is customary for balls to begin at 10 pm. Have the staff unroll a carpet reaching from the hall door to the carriage-way. Guests should be seen into the cloakrooms, where a maid must be stationed at the ladies’ and a footman at the men’s. The maid should see to it that each lady’s hair and attire receives the attention they require, as wardrobe malfunctions from the carriage ride over may well occur.
A programme, also known as a dance card, is passé and unnecessary. However, a lady must keep track of the dances she has promised. And a man must always claim his dance with a lady or risk causing terrible offence.
Supper should be served at 1 am. The lady’s most-recent partner will escort her to supper.
Accepting so many dances with the same partner as to attract attention is a faux pas. After the dance, the gentleman should offer his partner a refreshment, and escort her to the tea room. He should then bring her to her chaperon. Too much walking about together may cause unwanted and unwelcome scrutiny.
The ball should end around 3 am. It is customary for your guests to bid you good night quietly so as not to impact the rest of the guests’ good time.
And now we all know how to throw a party in 1900s Britain—what a relief!