In the 19th century, wine, entertaining and feasting was widely practised, as tradition in an English home was banqueting and/or hosting such huge events.
In Western European culture attending parties was almost like the law. It was a British regulation, and part of high society. In the late nineteenth century, a wealthy family would always serve their feast on exquisite china followed by silverware.
Although you have the working class to lower and upper middle class, all classes celebrate at some point.
I would love to one day specifically do a blog on “Victorian Englands Social Hierarchy” but I don’t want to get too carried away and off topic, but I just want to give you a bit of a background to the topic we are going to be covering.
The idea of banqueting is actually found in ancient times, but the definition of it is: a large meal or feast, completed with main courses and desserts. It is also known as an elaborate and formal evening meal.
For example, you have ‘state banquets’ held at Buckingham Palace. The English have “Dinner Etiquette” when it comes to formal dining. If you have been invited to a dinner, always make sure to RSVP at least within a week whether it is lavish or not. This is out of general respect. Your response should always be handwritten or printed on a correspondence card.
Manners and Etiquette in general should still matter these days and proper manners allow us to be comfortable in front of others and society. It is used in todays aspects, in a world of social media. Social Media etiquette is something I really would like to cover and is a whole other topic and should be used when posting on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, etc. I believe that when you use the correct manners you will always be highly regarded and more respected than those who don’t.
- A formal dinner requires a lady to wear evening attire, such as a slim black dress that flatters or accentuates your body. In the eighteenth century the dinner dress code was a corset, bodice, stockings, petticoat, a gown, ruffles and shoes. (With formal evening attire make sure you dress classically and appropriately. If you are not sure about the appropriate dress, ask the host before attending)
- Never serve for yourself, unless stated
- Do not pass dishes around, to avoid any trait of clumsiness
- When there are butlers, they do all the service and table clearing If there are serving dishes or utensils placed on the table then you may ask the hosts if you can serve yourself, otherwise, I always wit until I am told that i can serve myself. Wait, watch, look and see what other people are doing as well
- It is not your local coffee shop where you can just sit down wherever or whenever you like – there is specific seating arrangement, especially in a royal household!
When serving a formal dinner
- Forks go on the left
- Salad fork first
- Dinner fork beside the plate
- On the right side of the plate, knife, appetiser, salad knife, spoon or soup spoon.
- The dessert fork and spoon are placed on the table above the plate, fork pointing right, spoon pointing left
At a formal dinner, the host/hostess or the guests do not assist with serving meals. Formal dining, you should know, does not allow you to have second helpings as well.
A full course dinner can consist of several dishes. Even 16!
- Appetisers – These canapés would be served in the drawing room before entering the dining room
- Soup – A cream coup to help digestive systems prepare for heavier courses
- Fish – Can be served as a platter hot or cold
- Entree – can consist of poultry or vegetables
- Removes – This is a portion of a meal
- Sorbet – This is a palate cleanser
- Roast – The final heavy course
You can also include number 8 as a salad which is greens with a light dressing.
If you want to Eat like an Edwardian with a meal plan like the Crawleys of Downton Abbey, this is the way to go! You can also include fruit and cheese! Here is an example from Prince William and Catherine Middletons wedding:
Traditionally, after the whole course menu there is some form or entertainment, typically in the 19th century it was dancing and playing with cards – like you see in those period costume dramas.
Getting involved in these activities will benefit you socially and people will love you for it!
Lastly, don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ to the host/s for such a wonderful evening, or for holding such a great party! The nicer you are, the more respect you get!