Monday, July 4, 2016

U.S. State Dinner Etiquette

Grover Cleveland, a bachelor when he first became President, had to depend upon someone other than a wife to preside over the White House during his first administration. His choice was his sister, Rose. Miss Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, was deemed a young woman of "fine culture, high attainments and superior character." 

At a State Dinner, the etiquette of the White House is exactly the reverse of the custom at a private dinner. The guests assemble in the East Room and await the President and his wife, who appear at the stroke of the clock. Woe betide the late guest! He has committed a national or international breach of etiquette. 

At the table the President is served first, his wife next, then the guests, in order of precedence. An invitation to the White House is a command, and takes precedence of all others, even of a dinner at one's own house. An infringement of this rule would be regarded as a shocking breach of the amenities. The President's sister may be at the helm of the Whits House, as Mrs. McElroy was during President Arthur's administration, and Miss Rose Cleveland (being a part of Mr. Cleveland's first administration); but her position is never like that of the President's wife. 

She has much more latitude, and although she follows in a general way the etiquette laid down for the President's wife, she has by no means the recognised official standing of the "first lady of the land." The younger and more inexperienced a woman is when she enters the White House, the more likely she is to succeed; since she is likely to do as she is told, without presuming to act upon her own judgment. This is one secret of Mrs. Cleveland's success. — The Sausalito News, 1897

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia