Party Etiquette: 13 Do’s and Don’ts

Party etiquette rules are usually common sense: be sure to RSVP, show up on time and don’t outstay your welcome, and use good manners. Be polite, respect the host’s home, and try to engage with the other guests.

1. Be Sure to RSVP!

When you receive a party invitation, be sure to RSVP if you can make it or inform the host if you cannot. Planning a party is a tricky business. You must ensure enough food, drinks, and entertainment for all the guests!

This is much easier with an accurate indication of how many people will be coming. So make sure you always RSVP whether you’ll attend or not, and let the host know if you’re bringing a plus one!

If you have to cancel at the last minute, always let the host know, as they might be able to adjust the party and make sure nothing goes to waste.

2. Dress To Impress

Women at cocktail party
Women at cocktail party

One of the most important party etiquette tips is to ensure you accurately follow the party’s dress code. If you arrive in jeans and a t-shirt to a cocktail party or in a suit and tie to a chill out by the pool, you will likely stand out negatively and could make the experience uncomfortable for you.

Most party invites will state the dress code, but it’s usually possible to work out the correct vibe, even if nothing is explicitly stated.

For dinner parties, smart is usually a good idea; for balls and galas, you want to go formal; and for informal hangouts, casual is the way to go. If you’re unsure, smart casual is always a good bet: slacks, smart jeans, and a nice top are unlikely to stray too far off the path!

3. Gift Giving

It is usually a good idea to bring a gift to thank the party host for having you. Small bottles of wine, bunches of flowers, or boxes of chocolates can make good host gifts or hostess gifts for a party guest.

4. Punctuality

It is good manners to arrive at the scheduled start time for a party. Though the old adage advises being ‘fashionably late’, in fact arriving later than expected can throw spanners in the works for the host, especially if the party is heavily structured.

For more casual events, invitations will often state ‘arrive from 6 pm’ – in these cases, try to arrive between half an hour and an hour after the scheduled start time.

It is also bad manners to arrive early unless the host specifically asks you to help set up. Arriving early can pressure the host to be ready sooner than they expected, so be a good guest and try not to show up before you’ve been asked to!

5. Be Helpful

Modern etiquette dictates that offering to help the party host at a get-together is polite. This can be as small as an offer to lay out drinks, clean up the dinner table, or help organize a game at a holiday party.

However, remember that many hosts or hostesses enjoy the act of catering to their guests and don’t want somebody pushing in. Politely offer, and if they turn down your help, return to enjoying the party!

6. Mind Your Manners

Kid eating pizza from the box
Kid eating pizza from the box

Make sure you show good manners at a party, just as you would at any formal event. Table manners are particularly important as nobody wants to be put off their dinner by somebody eating with their mouth open!

Other important manners to be mindful of for proper etiquette are to say please and thank you, avoid playing on your cell phone while at the table or engaged in conversation, and try not to dominate the conversation or be too loud.

7. Be Aware of Dietary Restrictions

Ensure you know dietary restrictions if you’re bringing food or drinks to a party. Check with the host first, and clearly label everything you bring with any allergens that might be present and whether or not it includes meat or dairy.

8. Don’t Overindulge

group of people grabbing drinks
Group of people grabbing drinks

Be sure not to overindulge to the point where you detract from the experience for the host or other guests. Parties are supposed to be fun, relaxed events where everybody can cut a little loose – but know your limits and try not to push them.

Overindulgence can take many forms – try not to eat more than your share, as this can mean other guests don’t get their fill. Be especially careful with overindulging. Being drunk can cause embarrassment or discomfort for yourself or other party guests.

9. Be Social

When at a party, try to be social, and not just with your already close friends. Engage in conversation with people you’re meeting for the first time, and take an interest in those around you. Not only does this help the host create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, but it can also lead to brand-new friendships and connections for you!

10. Be Respectful

Remember to respect their home and property when visiting somebody else’s house for a party. This means cleaning up after yourself, not making a mess, and being careful with their belongings.

At a party, especially one with alcohol, mistakes do happen, and things can be broken. If you are involved in an accident, apologize profusely and replace the item you broke (or at least offer to do so).

11. Don’t Outstay Your Welcome

It is rude to arrive at a party late but equally rude to linger after it ends. At the end of a party, the host often has a lot of cleaning up and packing away to do, which they can’t start until after the guests have left.

12. Send a Follow-Up

After a party, be sure to send the host a thank you note thanking them for the night. It is polite to show your appreciation for the work they have put in and is more likely to result in you being invited to future social gatherings.

13. Don’t Bring Uninvited Guests

Always check with the host first if you want to bring a plus one to an event. Bringing uninvited guests can mean there is not enough food or drink for everyone.

Moreover, bringing the wrong person can make others uncomfortable at the party. Always ask, and respect your host’s wishes if they say no!

Is it okay to host a party and ask the guests to pay?

It is usually never okay to ask your guests to pay to attend a party. Under some specific circumstances, you might be able to ask for a contribution towards the expenses. However, asking your guests to pay you to attend makes it seem like a business rather than a social event and will likely be considered rude.

Is it okay to bring your pet to a party?

Pets should usually not be brought to parties, especially those that are slightly more formal. If you know that your host has pets that will be present or specifically likes your pet, you can ask to bring them along – however, you should ALWAYS ask first and respect their wishes if they say no.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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