Grand Ball Top Ten Rules of Ball Etiquette

Daniel's Top Ten Rules of Ball Etiquette

The most important thing to remember about being at a period ball is that your main goal is to make those around you as comfortable as possible. This seems counter intuitive in today’s culture, but it was the norm in the 19th Century. There are some more complex interactions, but the simple concept of the golden rule basically should guide you through the evening.

I got the idea of creating a list of do’s and don’ts from We Make History.

I will state the period rule from “Hillgrove’s Ball Room Guide” by Thomas Hillgrove New York; Dick & Fitzgerald Publishing, 1863 and then state what we would like to follow:

  1. Avoid all unfriendly or generous criticism, ridicule, or satire, (p33) This rule should be adhered to more than all others. Once, accepted by the hosts of the ball, all should be accepted without regard to lack of period apparel or mannerisms. This will be the first period event for several guests. Educate through example only.
  2. In social intercourse, place all at ease in your presence. (p28) loud conversation, profanity, stamping the feet, writing on the wall, smoking tobacco, spitting or throwing anything on the floor, is strictly forbidden. (p29) No one should be made to feel uncomfortable with the language, innuendo, or even demeanor. Everyone wants to have a good time, and others may not enjoy an unsavory comment no matter how funny it is.
  3. If you receive an indignity, or even a gross insult, resent it not at the moment by sign, motion, or if possible, by any expression of feature; but pay every attention to all present, so as not to mar the pleasure of the entertainment. (p28)Without a doubt someone is going to do or say something stupid or unpleasant. Just walk away. Don’t be that person that makes everyone uncomfortable.
  4. On entering a public ballroom, the gentlemen merely conducts the lady to a seat. (p31) This is more than fine, although Becky and I will be at the door to greet guests if they so desire. We will definitely be talking with friends and acquaintances as they enter but we most assuredly want to get to know those who we have not had the pleasure to meet before.
  5. A gentleman should not dance too frequently with one lady. (p32).Dancing with the same person repeatedly is considered very rude. A dance is a social event meant to engage everyone. In our modern-day society having multiple dance partners is not a common practice. There are some who do not wish to dance with anyone but the person they attend with. Again, we go back to the golden rule. We don’t want anyone to do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable.
  6. As ladies have not assumed the privilege of asking gentlemen to dance, it is the duty of gentlemen, to see that their ladies do not long wait for partners. (p32) Gentlemen are to ask ladies to dance, not the other way around. If the gentleman doesn’t know the lady he wishes to dance with, he should be introduced through a third party familiar with both. This may not be possible, and I know ladies would much rather dance than follow this rule verbatim.
  7. When a young lady declines dancing with a gentleman, it is her duty to give him a reason therefor. (p33-34) A lady should never turn down an offer to dance unless she has a very good reason. If a refusal is necessary due to fatigue or some other issues it is a breach of etiquette to accept another offer for the same dance.
  8. It is not considered proper to ask a married lady to dance, when her husband is present, without having previously ascertained whether it be agreeable to him. (p36) Since period etiquette might make it difficult for her to decline when she is uncomfortable due to modern influences, you might be saving yourself and the lady an awkward moment if you ask her husband first.
  9. While dancing, the performers should endeavor to wear pleasant faces; and in presenting hands, a slight inclination of the head is appropriate and becoming. (p33) Again, our goal is to make those around us as comfortable as possible. When engaged with someone please let them be your focus. A compliment or two is always welcome.
  10. When the dance is over, the gentleman conducts his partner to her seat; …, bows and withdraws. (p37) Never ever, ever leave a lady standing on the dance floor.
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