Ask the Past: Introductions

I'm in a polyamorous relationship, and I want to introduce my two partners to each other. What is the best way to do that?

This can be quite a ticklish subject, but with the right advice, you can proceed with confidence. The basic principles are spelled out quite clearly in Mrs Beeton's Cookery and Household Management:

The two important rules are: pronounce everyone's name quite clearly, and introduce the less important person to the more important one.

That seems clear enough, but if you're having difficulties deciding which of your partners is the more important, here are a few hints from Etiquette for Moderns:

1.Introduce a gentleman to a lady.

2. The two exceptions to the above rule. When the gentleman is a person of exceedingly high rank, such as the President of the United States, a foreign monarch, a person of unusual fame and renown, or a much older man, the lady is presented to him.

No doubt you will know if any of those exceptions applies, but if you're not sure, do check with both of your partners beforehand.

If either of your partners is a member of a royal family, then things become very easy. Etiquette for Moderns says that:

The list of those to be presented is offered and passed on beforehand. At the actual presentation, the name of the person is repeated from one court functionary to another, and all that is said to the ruling monarch is "Mrs White."

Australian Etiquette offers slightly more useful general advice if you aren't dealing with royalty or minor celebrities.

The proper form of introduction is to present the gentleman to the lady, the younger to the older, the inferior in social standing to the superior. In introducing, you bow to the lady and say,  "Miss C, allow me to introduce you to Mr D. Mr D, Miss C." It is the duty of Mr D. upon bowing to say, "It gives me great pleasure to form your acquaintance, Miss C," or a remark of that nature.

If two gentlemen are to be introduced to one another, the form is, "Col. Blank, permit me to introduce to you Mr Cole. Mr Cole, Col. Blank."

The National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms echoes much of the same advice, but it does include these words of warning:

As a rule, gentlemen should not be introduced to each other until their wishes on the subject are ascertained by the person making the presentation. The reasons for this are obvious. A man may be very agreeable to you, and yet not so to your friend. A stupid person may find a man of learning and taste a delightful acquaintance, and yet be positively unbearable to that man.

I'm sure that will help.

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