This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
It is in the evening party that society puts on its gayest aspect, and is on its best behavior. Here everything is regulated by a strict code of observance, any departure from which opens one to critical remark. It is necessary, therefore, that the etiquette of the ball-room should be fully understood by all who claim admission to society.
These entertainments always include dancing and a supper. If large, they are called balls; if small, simply dances or parties. Balls are of two kinds, public and private, but there is no essential difference between the etiquette required on the two occasions.
As regards the giving of private parties or balls, the rule is, that ball-goers should make one return during the season. In doing so, it is in good taste to restrict the number of invitations as far as social obligations will permit, that the guests may not be overcrowded, and the unpleasantness of the "crush" may be avoided. To gain this desirable end, however, it is always safe to make the invitations in excess of the number desired, as some are sure to fail to come. One-third more than the room will comfortably hold may usually be safely asked. And experience shows that more gentlemen than ladies should be invited, in order to secure an equal number of dancers of both sexes.
Invitations may be sent out from two to three weeks before the time fixed for the party. Less than two weeks is usually considered too short notice.
The hour for balls has, unfortunately, been made very late by the absolute dictum of fashion. Unless specially indicated on the invitation, a hostess cannot hope to assemble her guests before half-past ten, and in large cities the rooms are often not filled till an hour later.