Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson X. Social Observances in Calling, at Weddings, and Funerals

Proprieties and Usages of Good Society — Lesson X. Social Observances in Calling, at Weddings, and Funerals

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 06, 2010

IX. Shopping
XI. Picnics, Excursions, Parties and Winter and Summer Outings (to be added when posted)

X. Social Observances in Calling, at Weddings, and Funerals

There are a great many social duties and obligations which belong to all organized society and which everyone, whether rich or poor, prominent or obscure, must necessarily take his or her share in carrying forward. Our simple pioneer people have not reached the stage of civilization where every duty of calling and receiving calls and even the size of the visitor’s card, is regulated by that arbitrary dame, Fashion, or, as fashion is now called in every sense of the word, “good form”; yet even in the humblest hamlet “Mrs. Grundy” lives and rules, and woe be to the luckless girl who offends the “Mrs. Grundy” residing in her particular locality.

Most of the rules and regulations pertaining to the ceremonies of formal functions in social life are founded upon good taste and good sense, and it is this which this lesson shall concern itself with, presenting some of the primary laws which should govern visiting or calling, wedding ceremonies and funeral observances. It is hoped that no Latter-day Saint will ever lose that sweet, gracious friendly intimacy which characterizes our people. Still, freedom should never descend to license. A true Latter-day Saint will be constantly studying how to please his friends rather than himself and how to avoid giving annoyance needlessly or infringing upon the rights of others.

It has been an established custom among us, an inheritance, perhaps, from our Yankee forebears, to go “a-visiting.” In the good old days when women had small houses and simple household duties to perform, and at a time when women’s organizations and clubs did not exist, their chief form of recreation was spending a few hours in a neighbor’s house performing the duty of the daily newspaper in disseminating the news of the neighborhood; but today conditions have changed, and our women are among the busiest and most progressive of the age. Let us, therefore, adopt some of the common sense regulations which govern society long established, and which frown upon practices which were sufficient to a day and time far different from ours.

If a young lady has time to go calling upon her friends, she should choose an hour and a day when they are presumably at liberty to enjoy her society and to make her visit agreeable. The old-time custom of “running into” a neighbor’s should be abolished, together with the gossip to which their visit usually gave rise. The time of all women and of all men in this last hour of the world’s existence is too precious to be frittered away; and yet every human being must have recreation, for it is as true today as it ever was that all work and no play is a bad thing for both Jack and Jill. It is a most pernicious and degenerating thing to waste time “talking over the fence,” or standing in the kitchen while all the processes of the housework wait upon the relation of the gossip and news of the moment. “The wise woman or the prudent girl will regulate her time with as much care and economy as she would her means.

She should plan to give so many hours of the day to work; so many to reading and study; and so many to social pleasures and obligations. And the wisdom and prudence of the woman and the girl is nowhere better attested than by the care with which this distribution is made. It is customary in the world for a lady to devote a certain afternoon once a week or once in two weeks as her calling day; she also selects a day or an evening on which to receive her friends. A little reflection will convince one of the great economy of such an arrangement. One knows then the precise time when she may call and find her friends ready to receive her. It is not necessary to become a slave to such habits and customs, but when regulated with common sense and strength of mind they are a blessing rather than a burden. Visiting cards are used on these occasions, and the size and shape, as well as the particular style of printing or engraving, vary with time and circumstances; but a modest oblong card with the lady’s name either printed, engraved or written thereon in a delicate handwriting, is always in good taste and can be used anywhere. In calling upon a lady at a hotel such a card is indispensable, although in the great hotels of the world one always finds blank cards and writing material in the waiting room with which to follow this observance.

Besides the visiting of social friendship, the customs of the world decide that calls shall be made after dinner parties, after weddings, and after funerals, and to congratulate on the birth of a child. The calls made to congratulate on the birth of a child are never anything but formal, the lady going no further than the vestibule or hall, and after making her inquiry, leaving her card, and sending up her messages, she departs at once, having the good sense to know that visits at such a time are a menace to the health of the mother. The practice in some localities of calling upon mothers when the baby is not two weeks old, is a dangerous and lamentable practice; all the nerves and physical forces of the woman are at the lowest ebb at such a time, and should be husbanded with the wisest care. After the child is two weeks old and the mother has done fairly well, a pleasant call of half an hour and some cheerful happy remarks, forgetting all disagreeable things that may have happened to caller or the mother, and indeed to everybody else for the time being – will be a great benefit. A whole article might well be given to the formality of calls on each separate occasion; but the limits of this lesson preclude that possibility.

It has become quite a pronounced habit of sending out wedding cards to the particular friends of the young couple, and the sensible custom informs friends at what time and place their calls will be acceptable. Weddings in and of themselves are delightful features of social life, both to the giver and to the partaker of the festivities; but where such functions are held by people who are not financially able to do so, where great sacrifices are involved or debts are saddled on the parents of the young couple, the custom is exceedingly foolish and harmful and will be avoided by the prudent Latter-day Saint. Young people are married only once in a life time, it is hoped, and where they are able to give some little party or reception which does not involve too great extravagance in the way of refreshment and entertainment, it is charming and highly appreciated by friends for them to dos. It is a pity that we have allowed our natural hospitable and generous traits to carry us to the great lengths to which many of us go in the matter of food and refreshment served on social occasions; and it seems that the thing which is easiest and simplest and least expensive in any certain locality is the least desirable. We must needs show off our skill in cookery or our style in entertainment by purchasing the most expensive things and spending the most time in the preparation of them with which to startle our neighbors. In localities where fruit is plentiful and meat is expensive, meat is provided at all cost, while fruit is forgotten and set aside; and in other places where chickens are cheap and fruit is rare, the chickens are looked upon with contempt and the fruit is sent for to a distant city. It is the spirit of the hospitality and the dainty delicate service of refreshments which makes the entertainment delightful and to be desired. It is considered bad form in the world to serve too elaborate and profuse refreshments at receptions and evening parties. One or two daintily prepared articles and these served in modest quantities form the basis of refreshments in entertainments in the world.

Another extravagant and much abused practice is the giving of wedding presents. Where such things are given by those who are able to spare the means and where no element of ostentation or spirit of doing things to be seen of men enters into the consideration, they may not be amiss. But as this practice is conducted among us today it has become a crying social evil and should be frowned down upon by sensible and consistent Latter-day Saints.

Some of our people have set the example of printing on the wedding invitation “No presents.” If young people realized how many obligations they would incur by accepting presents they would generally follow this example. Some cases have come within our notice where the young husband, struggling to establish himself in some profession, has been placed in a very humiliating position, being under the necessity of either borrowing money to make similar presents again or feeling that he will be considered close.

A little point of social observance which might well be mentioned is that no person should be invited to a social entertainment who is a guest in another’s house unless the host and hostess be invited as well. And it is always understood that the host and hostess may bring the visiting guest in their home or they should not go themselves.

Funerals among our people are usually held in public places or arranged in the home in such a way that all friends are invited. Moderation and simplicity should characterize these occasions as well as all other things in life. Many of our leading men have left instructions that they should be buried in simple wooden caskets. We commend their example and advise a lack of all show and ostentation.

In regard to carriages and flowers, we are often very extravagant. It is entirely wrong for the family to incur expenses which it takes years to pay. Nothing is more acceptable and beautiful in time of sorrow than flowers, but too many of us are falling in with the foolish idea that we must always send them, and some even go so far as to stay at home if they can not do so. Think of it! to refrain from testifying, by your presence, of your love, simply because you haven’t money for gifts! Never be guilty of that. Send home-grown flowers if you have them, they are all the sweeter and tenderer for having been cared for by your loving hands, but do not burden yourselves with debt.

Recently many wealthy people in sending out invitations to funerals add the words, “No flowers accepted.”

It is hoped that the strong sentiment which has set in amongst our people against the assuming of mourning garments and especially that abomination, a widow’s cap and veil, will grow stronger with every year, for the Latter-day Saints have no sympathy with the feeling that death is another word for gloom and darkness. Let our women set an example to the world in this matter which shall be felt throughout Christendom. And with mourning would necessarily go all mourning stationery, mourning cards and all such practices. In connection with this also might be mentioned the customs of choirs who carry on the traditions of the world in singing mournful hymns and doleful music. True religion has taught us that the victory of the grave and the sting of death is lost in the Resurrection and the Life. Therefore, let the character of our music be such, on these occasions, as to express rather the hope of the future than the gloom of the present.

Another custom connected with funerals in the world which should be set aside amongst the Latter-day Saints is that of retiring from all pleasure and social life for a certain length of time. If ever a human soul needs encouragement, good cheer and bright beautiful thoughts, it is when the separation of death has surrounded the individual with every physical and mental power of depression to which the human soul is susceptible. After a funeral is a proper time to make calls. And even visits are acceptable at such a time, but above all things avoid gloomy conversation, sad references and tear-provoking suggestions. Brightness and cheeriness should be the characteristic of every caller or visitor at such a time; therefore let every Latter-day Saint observe the law of light in connection with these matters rather than the law of darkness.


1. Who is “Mrs. Grundy”?
2. What forms regulating social functions can you think of that are founded on good sense? What are hollow and arbitrary?
3. What is the main social difference between the Latter-day Saints and the people of the world?
4. What was it that mainly occupied the woman of earlier years, and why was she so occupied? Where lies the difference now-a-days?
5. What regulations should a lady establish in her calling and visiting? What reason impels her to make such regulations/
6. Why is “all work and no play” a bad thing?
7. State some pernicious habits which some women indulge with reference to visiting; and suggest remedies therefor.
8. How may you regulate your time so as to accomplish the most in the day? And why is it better to be systematic in so doing?
9. What does it mean to have on your card, “At home on such and such a day or evening”? Or merely the name of a day or an evening?
10. What sort of a visiting card is always in good form? What is the use of such cards?
11. On what occasion should calls be made, and when?
12. What can you say about social observances at weddings: invitations, presents, calls, receptions, etc.? Give your reasons for such. In what way does common sense play an important part in these matters?
13. What should you be governed by in serving refreshments at all evening functions? And why?
14. What are the proper forms to observe with respect to invitations given or received by a host or hostess?
15. What can you say of the etiquette of funerals? What do you think of mourning garments? Of sending flowers? Of expensive caskets? What other features of mourning do you know of, and express your thoughts on the subject?
16. What does the gospel teach in relation to mourning and death?



  1. It is a most pernicious and degenerating thing to waste time “talking over the fence,” … while all the processes of the housework wait upon the relation of the gossip and news of the moment…

    Well, I guess that’s as far as I’m going to get in this post! I’ll return and read the rest after the housework is done.

    Comment by Researcher — May 6, 2010 @ 6:51 am

  2. If you want actual, good, advice, Ms. Manners has it nailed for funerals.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — May 6, 2010 @ 7:29 am

  3. Gee! Somethin’ tells me this chapter is a bit of a troublemaker.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2010 @ 7:35 am

  4. All my daughters are married, so I’ll just kick back and enjoy life, as soon as the wedding debts are paid off. : )

    And, I washed last night’s dishes (this morning–“I forgot”) and cleaned up after the dog, so I’m free to gossip to my heart’s content.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 6, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  5. I think Mormons are somewhat conflicted about worldliness. Today it’s between trying to convince everyone we’re a mainstream Christian denomination while at the same time being a peculiar people. But this article seems to indicate we’ve been conflicted for quite some time.

    For wedding refreshments, do what the world does; for funerals, do the opposite. And so on. It strikes me as an interesting contrast.

    Comment by Clark — May 6, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  6. I’ve got to make sure whenever I call on a lady friend at a hotel to make sure I use only the best calling cards–engraved if at all possible.

    I hear that Governor Spitzer always did.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 6, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  7. boy howdy have we come full circle from “no presents” on the wedding invite. These days my envelopes arrive in the mail with a confetti of tiny scraps of paper falling out with all the names of the stores where bride + groom are registered. All those social obligations they thereby incur! if only they knew!

    Comment by jeans — May 6, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

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