The Rules of Party Etiquette

Appropriate Behavior for Social Situations

In my opinion, etiquette is a word with a general definition and an elitist twist to it: n. The customary code of polite behavior in society…

Great. Thank you. That tells me almost nothing.

The thing about etiquette is that it’s not designated for black tie affairs or white glove galas. It’s the idea of being polite and having good social manners in any situation. To that end, here’s a loose guide to what is polite for five different but common social situations—everything from what to bring, to how to behave. After you’ve read this article, pick up The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette for a thorough look at good manners and decorum for every occasion.


• First and foremost, when it comes to attending a wedding, the “never wear white” rule always applies.

• Reply to the invitation well before the RSVP date, in the manner that the couple requests. Oh, and if you did not receive a plus one invite, it is not okay to ask for one.

• When attending the ceremony, if there’s a receiving line, don’t skip it; it’s perceived as rude not to greet and congratulate the newly-wedded couple.

• Do not join the dance floor during certain things, like the first dance, or parent dances.

• Getting “college drunk” at a wedding is a serious no-no.

• Show respect for speeches and toasts by not talking through them (even if it seems like they’ll go on forever).

• When it comes to social media, adhere to the newlywed’s wishes; if they request no social posts, then refrain. If they provide a wedding hashtag, then go nuts.

• Never post an unflattering photo of the bride. Ever.

Housewarming Party

• Never come empty-handed; bring cake, wine, a gift or all of the above.

• A housewarming party is the sort of event that warrants old-school expectations. For instance, don’t assume you can walk through their new home with your shoes on. Be courteous and ask if you should take them off at the door.

• Offer to help with dishes or any minor clean-up.

• Give lots of compliments on their home’s decor, and keep any negative thoughts to yourself—even if you wouldn’t have chosen that paint color for the living room wall.

Work Sponsored Happy Hour

• Always try to go. Declining after-hours work events that give you an opportunity to get to know your boss and the rest of your team in a more informal setting will make you look anti-social.

• Don’t drink too much, too fast. A great rule of thumb is to stay one drink behind everyone and to keep your wits about you.

• Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. Share funny stories but nothing too long or boring, and absolutely nothing embarrassing or self-deprecating.

• Do not talk badly about anyone.

• Don’t talk extensively about projects you’re working on unless specifically asked.

• When it comes to your boss, try not to intercept any conversations she or he is having just because you’re vying for one-on-one time. This isn’t The Bachelor,  and it will just make you look needy.

Bachelorette Party

• Here’s the thing everyone needs to remember about bachelorette parties, especially destination ones. The trip is about the bride, not you.

• If you can’t attend a bachelorette destination trip because of your finances, be upfront with the bride and politely decline. She’ll appreciate your honesty, and it’s far better than putting yourself in financial distress by spending precious money on dinners and outings that you don’t have.

• Remember, the entire reason you’re in Vegas/Miami/Mexico/New Orleans/Venice Beach is because of the bride. That’s where she wants to be, and you’re there to celebrate her.

Dinner Party at Your Boss’s Home

• This is another work-related social event you just shouldn’t turn down. It’s an honor that he or she would open up their home to you. It incites a better working relationship, and by saying no (without a very legitimate reason), you close the door on the possibility of a more personal alliance.

• Don’t forget to bring a gift: a nice bottle of wine or a dessert from your favorite local bakery.

• Be prompt, dress up and dress appropriately (this isn’t the club).

• Stay positive and upbeat, even if you’ve had a bad day. Nothing kills an evening like relentless negativity.

• Unless specifically asked, dinner conversation isn’t the time to voice office grievances or discuss personal work matters.

• Use this dinner as an opportunity to make a good impression and forge a lasting relationship with your supervisor that may lead to unexpected career wins.



Photo Credit/BraunS/iStock


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