Category Archives: What Parties looked like in the past

What did a Victorian coming out party look like?


The idea of a lady entering society, in Victorian times, represents the time when the girl ‘blossoms’ into a lady and is looking to become a bride.



In Victorian times the role of women was restricted and for the “well to do” this meant playing a supporting role (wife and mother) to a successful man.



For the upper and middle classes, finding a suitable husband or wife (marrying well) was of paramount importance for the individuals to be successful and accepted in Victorian society. 



Victorian ‘society’ consisted of a group of people that were considered superior (or upper class). Although the term Society (in the UK) was applied to royalty and others closely connected, the new middle class (Doctors, Lawyers, business owners etc.) operated on the same model as the upper class in that society represented an exclusive privileged  ‘club’ that had rules (etiquette) for inclusion and remaining a member of.



The idea of a lady ‘entering society’ meant that at a certain age, typically 18, a young lady would be introduced to the eligible bachelors of ‘society’ (be that the upper or middle class flavor of the term).  In fact, for the upper class (society, with the capital S) the lady’s ‘coming out’ began with a visit to Queen Victoria herself. There was a whole procedure for this ritual, which began the young lady’s ‘introduction to Society’.



Whether or not the young lady ‘coming out’ was of upper or middle class, at some point during the ‘season’ (a term used for the season of events that society took part in) the young lady would have her own ‘coming out’ party.



The Victorian coming out party could be equated to a coming of age party today (i.e. 16, 18, 21) but for the Victorian lady the party was more than just a coming of age but the chance to display her virtues as a suitable wife to society’s most eligible bachelors.



What did the Victorian coming out party look like?


The party itself would usually take place as the form of a ball; this event was referred to as the debutante’s coming out party (the term debutante refers to the young lady entering society).



Greeting guests would be the first opportunity the eligible bachelors had to be formally introduced to the debutante. The guests would arrive and a host (or hostess) would introduce the guests to the family members and other dignitaries that were in attendance. The last person in the ‘receiving line’ would be the debutante and her mother would introduce her to the guests.


Having been ‘formally introduced’, the eligible bachelors might then ask for a dance (using dance cards to reserve a given dance). The ball would then proceed with the debutante being the center of attention.



Following the coming out party formal ‘visits’ or meetings would be set up, followed by a formal courtship, engagement and hopefully a wedding. There were many rules and points of etiquette (behavior) to be followed by both the bachelor and debutante, including being chaperoned, during the courtship and engagement but at the end of the season the aim of the lady coming out would be to become engaged.



If the unfortunate debutante did not attract a suitable bachelor she could enter society a second and third time. After 3 tries, however, she was tagged a failure and would typically not be formally re-introduced to society again although (I am guessing, given human nature) she might still find a suitable mate down the line.

Although it is difficult to recreate a formal coming out party today (given the essence of the event itself) an authentic Victorian Tea Party can be hosted which follows the traditions, manners and etiquette of those bygone, elegant times.



UK Birthday Party games of the 1950′s and 60′s


The birthday party would always feature a lunch, which consisted of sandwiches, jelly and cake. Everything would be homemade, including the cake which was typically a chocolate cake decorated with just candles. The time of the party would be from around 1pm to 4:30pm.

The party would usually begin with ‘hunt the thimble’ or the kids amusing themselves with ‘hide and seek’ or tag, until all the guests had arrived.

The first organized game would typically be musical chairs, which looking back I surmise that the parents wanted to get out of the way before the kids loaded up with sugar. Even with parental guidance the musical chairs tended to get a little rough although all of the guests were well behaved (the expression ‘wait till your father gets home’ seemed to keep order back then!).

Following musical chairs there would be a game of ‘pass the parcel’ where a gift wrapped in several layers of paper would be passed in a circle (of the seated guests). Each time the music stopped the person holding the parcel would take off a layer of wrapping paper until the final layer revealed the prize which went to the person who took off the last piece of wrapping paper.

A game of “Simon says” would follow, where one of the guests gives commands (such as “stand on one foot”) and only if this command is prefixed with “Simon says”, the guests need to obey. Anyone not following the instruction when “Simon says” or doing the instruction without the pre-fix “Simon says” would drop out of the game.

We would then play a game of London bridge is falling down, where the guests go under an arch made by two other guests. There are variations of this game but the song “London bridge is falling down” is sung and the arches collapse on a guest who is underneath them at a certain time. When this happens the captured guest goes behind one of the guests holding up the arches to make a human chain. When all the guests are on each side of the arches a tug of war finishes the game. Having researched Victorian children’s games I am now aware that this game was played in the late 1800′s all over England.

The reason I can remember these games so vividly is that they were always played and if any of these ‘standards’ was missed the guests would demand it to be played. More often than not these games would be repeated, especially musical chairs and London bridge is falling down.

Lunch would normally follow and if it was not raining the party would go into the garden to run off the remaining energy.

Outside games included “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” which consisted of one person trying to catch the others when that person answered ‘lunch time’ to the question. When caught the person would join the Wolf, catching the others until all were caught. There were many variations of games that involved trying to catch each other. We also played a game that involved trying to stand still, the game was called “statues” which, looking back, was a welcome rest for the hostess.

Other outside games were played until the parents came to collect their children. We dropped off our presents when we arrived and they would be opened after all the guests had gone home, unlike a tradition I see in the US where the presents are opened for all to see during the party.