Perhaps one of the most important skills that is of the utmost necessity to learn, but nearly impossible to teach, is that of mastering the social visit. Yes, the rules of etiquette and even good conversation can be studied and practiced, and the more common skills of baking, cleanliness, and good grooming are all qualities that the accomplished young woman may make use of to ensure a happy and successful social event.
However, no amount of training can prepare a woman for every moment that will occur during a social visit, and so I hope that with this miniseries to explore some of the finer points of visiting. From writing an invitation to setting the table to thanking a hostess, we will cover every aspect. We will begin this chapter of the Department with the most basic elements of a social call – the invitation.
How to Request a Social Visit
For better or for worse, we are no longer in a period that uses calling calls with any frequency. Although the trend of mom cards seems to be swelling, most of us will use a fairly informal method to invite a friend or neighbour round for tea. This doesn’t always have to be the case, however. Try sending a vintage-style calling card like the one below, or perhaps find a set on Etsy. If your guest is like-minded, she will be thrilled to bits to receive a pen-and-ink invitation, and your effort will set the mood of the visit ahead of time.
When calling calls were the standard form of invitation, there were many short forms that allowed the sender to relay their intentions for the visit. According to one guide, the Victorians took up the following French acronyms to denote the purposes of their visits:
- p. f. – congratulations (pour féliciter)
- p. r. – expressing one’s thanks (pour remercier)
- p. c. – mourning expression (pour condoléance)
- p. f. N. A. – Happy New Year (pour feliciter Nouvel An)
- p. p. c. – meaning to take leave (pour prendre congé)
- p. p. – if you want to be introduced to anybody, send your visiting card (pour présenter)
It’s doubtful that this form of shorthand survived much beyond Victorian aristocracy, but however a woman makes the effort to invite a friend or acquaintance to a social visit in her home, she ought always to remember that hospitality and good manners are all the hallmarks of a rewarding time. Although the initial invitation may seem like a passing moment in the social call, it sets the overall tone – if you decide to put care and consideration into the the invite itself, you will find yourself already on track to a memorable visit for both yourself and the invitee. Do you have any special traditions when it comes to inviting friends over? Do you subscribe to any vintage methods?