Tea Thyme Rituals - Victorian Picnic Etiquette
Picnics were very popular with the Victorians, perhaps because it supplied them the opportunity
to escape from their formal dining rituals. However, etiquette manuals suggested that the rules
of etiquette at a picnic should not be any different than at a dinner party, and society demands
that one should be loyal to these rules whether dining under the tree or under the chandelier.
Picnics were a way for Victorians to escape from their daily civilized routines, but that didnít
mean they were without servants. Often the food was delivered in a separate carriage ahead of the
guests and catered by no more than two or three servants.
According to etiquette manuals gentlemen were instructed to forgo their own needs and consent
to become the waiters, guides and servants to the ladies and must perform any feats to suit a
ladies fancy even if she desired a lovely flower at an impossible to get at place.
Etiquette manuals reminded a gentleman that women have more tender nerves and more rapid
imaginations and that consideration should be taken when chosing a picnic site, and so a
site set above a cliff selected for its splendor view may alarm the female diners. Care
must also be taken to see that the guests are not seated upon an ant hill. There should
also be certainty of shade as it is quite impossible for a lady to hold her parasol during
lunch and nothing is more uncomfortable for a lady than to be exposed to a merciless sun.
Each gentleman should endeavor to do his utmost to be amusing and entertaining. Once the
last bite of pie or cake was eaten should a gentleman have musical talent and have with
him an instrument, such as a cornet, which is barely tolerated in the enclosed walls of
the drawing room, should be perfect to perform out-of-doors.
Usually games were played such as, croquet, blind man's bluff, or even tag and afterward
the guests would break into separate groups, and, perhaps, into pairs. Some would explore
the general area collecting flowers to hang and dry, or into the woods to search for wild
mushrooms or moss. Others may wander off to sketch, or explore a nearby castle or ruins.