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When most people think of the Victorian era, proper etiquette and manners are some of the first things that come to mind. Many of the etiquette standards set in that era are still in use today and hold cultural relevance.
Of course, some things have changed. But, it’s interesting to see the influence the Victorian era had on the things we consider normal today, especially when it comes to hosting and basic etiquette.
So, what are some of the lessons that have stood the test of time? Everything from how you greet and treat your guests to how your home is decorated has a deeper background than you might realize.
With that in mind, let’s dive into this interesting section of history.
The Host With the Most
Entertaining guests and hosting dinner parties are standard practices today. Whether you’re getting your extended family together for a meal or inviting friends over for something more upscale, certain things make for a good host/hostess, including:
- Making sure everyone is comfortable
- Being prepared
- Making your home visitor-friendly
- Helping everyone find what they need and get around
- Making everyone feel welcome
- Taking care of everyone’s dishes and offering refills for individual glasses
Invitations are still the norm in many cases, too. That’s something that goes well beyond the Victorian era, but one thing that has changed is the casual nature of invites. In the Victorian age, invitations had to be formal, or they weren’t taken seriously. Today, it seems like creating an online event is enough to get more people to attend your event. Setting a date and time and explaining what to expect in your invitation is proper etiquette and can get more people to attend your event. But, it’s interesting to see how the formalities have changed.
If you’re a guest at a party, there are also things expected of you – many of which stem from the 1800s, including:
- Letting your host know how long you’ll be staying
- Bringing a gift
- Conforming to “house rules”
- Lending a hand
- Being grateful
When it comes to how to be a good host or guest, many of your actions will reflect on proper etiquette. So, how has that changed since the Victorian age? What has stayed the same?
Mind Your Manners
It’s easy to assume people had better manners in the 1800s, but so many of the etiquette rules put in place during that era are still used today. Some of those rules, especially when it comes to attending events, include:
- Not coming by unannounced
- Dressing for the occasion
- Being your best self in front of others
- Striking up conversations
That said, some basic etiquette rules have changed dramatically over the years. It’s rare to see a gentleman “bowing” to a lady in the street these days. According to the 1875 publication the Manual of Social and Business Forms, this type of bowing was acceptable. But, it also might cause rumors and gossip to start.
Interestingly enough, that same manual takes a somewhat criticizing tone when it comes to small talk, suggesting that “no topic of absorbing interest may be admitted to polite conversation” for fear that it might cause discussion. Imagine if that rule still rang true today! No one would have to worry about heated political debates at their next dinner party. Perhaps it’s a rule that should come back around!
Hosting and Houseplants
When you’re hosting a get-together, you want your house to be clean, decluttered, and accessible for everyone. Most people also put a bit of extra effort into making it feel “homey” and decorated the way they like.
In recent years, there has been a boom in houseplant popularity when it comes to home decor. The COVID-19 pandemic caused another rise in plant-palooza as people were spending more time at home and got into new hobbies and endeavors. There are actually many benefits to bringing nature indoors. It helps to reduce stress, improve air quality, and boost your mood. Plants are also a great way to make people feel more comfortable and welcome in your home.
But, plant fever is nothing new. It was going strong in the Victorian era, with certain exotic plants seen as prized possessions – many only fit for royalty. If you live in a small home or apartment today and you have plenty of plants, know that once upon a time that would’ve been a prominent status symbol!
Whether it’s decorating, hosting, or simple etiquette and manner lessons, the changes and similarities between today and the Victorian era are interesting to look at. So much of what was done in the past is still relevant today. Even though some of those old rules have fallen away, they have undoubtedly influenced our culture, society, and the way we interact with each other.