The following information is supplied by a gentleman well-known in the City, and thoroughly au fait in such matters.
When given by an association.
Saluting the hosts.
When dinner is announced.
The order of the ceremony.
Public dinners may be classed as those given by associations, or public bodies, and those given by institutions, such as some of the great City companies. When given by an association, the function is generally managed by a committee, who have the arrangement of all the details, such as choosing the menu, the wines, preparing the programme of music, instrumental or vocal, and arranging the due sequence of the speeches. A guest invited to such an entertainment who may not be of the few highly placed personages who sit at the cross-table or on the daïs, and from whom speeches are expected, will, on arriving at the hall, hotel, or public institution selected, find that the first thing required of him will be his invitation card. In exchange for this he will be handed a more or less elaborate menu card, which will also contain the list of music and a sketch showing the positions of the guests seats at the tables. After depositing his hat and overcoat in the cloak-room, receiving a numbered ticket for them, he enters the reception- or drawing-room, his name is announced, and he passes into the room, goes up to the members of the committee, who stand by themselves to receive the guests, bows or shakes hands, and passes on to join the other guests who are either sitting or standing in groups engaged in conversation. When dinner is announced the hosts and the highest in rank of the guests file into the dining-room and take up their position by their chairs, followed by the rest; any clergyman present says grace on being asked to do so, and the banquet commences. Strangers sitting next to each other soon fall into conversation, and after the dispatch of the solid portion of the repast come the speeches. Music is played at intervals, perhaps a few songs sung by professionals, then dessert, cigars, and coffee, after which the guests find their way to the drawing-room for more general conversation, some preferring to leave without reentering the drawing-room. In such large gatherings it is not necessary to take leave of their hosts, as a rule.
Dinners given by City companies.
Dinners given by City companies are very much on the same principle. The guest has but to don his evening clothes and carry himself with easy composure, not always quite a simple matter to the inexperienced, if one may judge from the hurried steps and the sudden bob that many give on entering the reception - room after arrival.
Dinners for charities.
At dinners given on behalf of charities, it is well to go prepared with a subscription, as a collection is often made on these occasions. If not prepared to subscribe, it is more discreet to stay away.
With regard to tips the only ones really recognised are those for which the plates on the cloak-room table are laid ready in expectation of small silver coins. Though no fees are actually necessary at table, the initiated person is well aware that the man behind his chair can administer to his wants and see that he is liberally provided with viands and wines or other matters without keeping him waiting longer than necessary. A tip, quietly conveyed before the dinner is under way, is not by any means wasted.
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