Etiquette for introducing strangers
Presenting persons to each other is one of the little courtesies of daily life so simple that it should be done correctly without effort. The rules are inflexible, chief among them being that the man is always presented to the woman — that is to say, the form is such that the woman during the presentation is usually asked if Mr So-and-So may be introduced to her.
The introduction may be put in the form of a question, as “Mrs So-and-So, may I present Mr Smith to you?” or, “Mrs So-and-So, I wish to present Mr Smith to you.” The hostess never says to the man: “I wish to present Mrs So-and-So.”
It is a rule that the younger woman is always presented to the older one, and an unmarried woman to a married one. A young man, of course, is always presented to an older one. It is the courtesy due to age.
One making the introduction cannot be too particular in mentioning names, and they should always be given clearly. It is exceedingly trying for two persons not to know what to call each other.
In the case of a married woman presenting a person to any of her relatives, the greatest care should be taken to call the name, but altogether to often one hears the matron say: “I want to present you to my sister,” or “aunt,” or “mother,” quite failing to say what the name of the relative is, and the stranger knows that it is not that of the married woman.
It is not necessary nor, indeed, expected that a woman shall rise to speak to the newcomer, unless the latter should be older. Youth always rises for age if one is courteous. The hostess stands to welcome a new arrival, but the others merely bow as they sit. A woman never rises to greet a man unless she is hostess or unless she wishes to pay him a special compliment. The only exception in this is when the woman is very young and the man many years her senior.
Shaking hands is a custom much fallen into disuse and is omitted at the usual first meeting, if the two people being introduced are intimate friends of the hostess they are apt to have heard of and have an interest in each other, and express cordiality by shaking hands.
A man should never offer his hand first to a woman, but should he do it a woman should take it. To refuse is more than awkward. A hostess or host is apt to shake hands with the guests of their house simply because it makes their greeting more hospitable, but it is not obligatory if it were possible to sum the thing fixedly, one would say that with friends one shook hands because one wished to, and to acquaintances merely bowed. But this is not a fixed principle of etiquette. There is much leeway.
It is quite unnecessary to introduce a newcomer to the guests already assembled during an afternoon call. She should be presented to one or two near her, but the whole room need not be broken up by her arrival, as it would be were she to meet all those present.