The dinner takes first rank among entertainments and usually involves more or less formality. Invitations are sent out at least two weeks in advance of the entertainment and should be answered immediately. The formal invitation is engraved; the Guest's name, hour and date written in by hand.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Anderson request the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. James Brown's company at dinner on Wednesday, April the fourteenth at eight o'clock A; West Burton Place March the thirty-first in a house built after the English pattern this dining room is effective. Though somewhat daring in its color scheme, the effect is harmonious.
For a less formal entertainment a note in the first person may be sent:
My dear Mrs. Brown:
Will you and Mr. Brown dine with us informally on Thursday evening, January the eighteenth, at eight o'clock?
Elizabeth Smith Anderson. 14 West Burton Place, January the fourth.
Early English Dining-Room
The dinner in this case may be quite as formal as that for which the third-person invitation was sent, and evening dress is required.
For a very informal little dinner an unconventional note is sent a week or less before the date set; and dinner dress is not required.
For the formal dinner, guests are expected to arrive at the hour appointed and courtesy does not demand that the hostess wait more than fifteen minutes for a tardy guest. At large dinners each gentleman finds on a tray in the dressing-room a small addressed envelope containing a card on which is written the name of the lady whom he is to escort to dinner and "R" or "L" in one corner to indicate on which side of the table they are to sit. If he does not know the lady, the hostess should see that he is presented to her.
The hostess stands near the door and receives the guests, making such introductions as are convenient. In general, the "roof introduction" is considered sufficient - especially at large dinners. Introductions, however, should be given wherever possible, for they make intercourse among one's guests easier. Where one knows to whom one is speaking one can sometimes more readily find subjects of interest.
On the other hand, it is not considered good form for a hostess to interrupt a conversation between guests for the purpose of making an introduction, or to introduce a guest upon his entrance to more than one other at a time.
In making an introduction the gentleman is always presented to the lady, and the names should be pronounced as distinctly as possible: nothing is more discourteous to one's guests than a muttered introduction. The ordinary form is: "Mrs. Brown, allow me to present Mr. Smith." In the same way a young woman is presented to an older one, an unmarried woman to a matron, a young man to an older one, though these rules are sometimes modified in deference to age or station. For instance, a young, unmarried woman would be presented to a very old gentleman or to a dignitary of Church or State.
In introducing two women the form mentioned in the preceding paragraph is used, or simply "Mrs. Brown, this is Mrs. Smith." The latter form is preferable where there is doubt as to which is entitled to the presentation.
The tactful hostess usually adds to any introduction some remark which will enable the guests to converse more readily.
She may say, for instance, "Mrs. Brown, allow me to present Mrs. Smith, who has just returned from London"; or, "Mrs. Smith, this is Mrs. Brown: two such ardent bridge players should know each other." There are very few persons who will not be grateful for some such hint.