Experts Say These Are the 5 Most Common Mistakes We All Make as Party Guests

It's time for a refresher

woman holding a gift

Gillian Vann / Stocksy

After a year-plus of largely socializing through our laptops and phones, it’s safe to say that even the most experienced party guests could use a bit of a refresher as it pertains to etiquette when gathering *gasp* in real life. As your calendar begins to fill up with neighborhood potlucks and weekend cocktail parties, you’ll want to make every effort to avoid the most common mistakes that people make as party guests. We spoke with two etiquette experts who shared what these frequent errors are as well as methods to avoid them. Thank us later when you’re the most well-mannered event attendee on the block. 

1. Not Asking If You Have Permission to Bring a Plus One

Seeing an influx of visitors lately? Just because your sister has decided to pay you an impromptu visit or your college roommate and her family are passing through town doesn’t mean that they’re automatically entitled to pop by Mrs. Smith’s barbecue down the street that evening. “Because of the fact that we're into the summer season, we may have out of town guests that are visiting us,” said Elaine Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol. “If you decide that you do want to bring someone along, double check with the host. Don't bring a plus one unless you get cleared on that plus one.” 

Don't bring a plus one unless you get cleared on that plus one."

2. Forgetting to RSVP

In a world filled with texts, emails, and Instagram DMs, it’s easy to forget about the traditional RSVP. Plus, Swann added, “We got so used to either not showing up or forgoing things altogether.” Still, it’s still critical to confirm or decline your presence at an event. Why? Simply put, “Hosts need to make plans for the size of their location, food, drinks, and how many people they can expect, Colleen Rickenbacher, founder of the Global Protocol, Etiquette, and Civility Academy explained in an email. 

Of course, your decision to attend or decline may be informed by whether or not you’re able to secure childcare—but don’t expect your party host to serve as babysitter. “Be mindful of the kid factor and double check in advance to find out whether it's an adult only affair,” Swann urged. The best way to do so? Simply by asking the host directly whether or not children are welcome at the event. Straightforward and to the point! 

3. Declining to Bring a Gift 

By no means do you need to spend an exorbitant amount of money in the process, but “it's always a nice gesture to bring a gift to the host,” Swann shared. At a loss for ideas? Swann enjoys selecting a token that goes along with the theme of the occasion, and she also appreciates giving the gift of an experience. After all, presenting your hostess with a voucher for an online cooking class is much more exciting than your standard bottle of wine (and is an excellent option for hosts who may not drink alcohol). Still, Swann noted, there is no need to spend more than $15 to $20 in total. 

After wrapping up your gift, don’t forget to attach a card that includes your name on it, Rickenbacher said. “This will allow the host to know of your kind gesture in case it was placed on a table upon your entrance or other people also brought gifts with no gift cards.” 

4. Not Paying Attention to Attire

Before selecting your outfit for the evening, consult the party invitation to determine whether there is a theme or dress code, Rickenbacher noted. “You do not want to arrive in jeans and a T-shirt while all the other guests are in business casual or even cocktail dress,” she explained. After all, she added, “You want to be noticed, but for the right reasons.” 

5. Arriving Too Early

Sure, you may be head over heels to see your pals, especially after so much time apart this past year. But do not arrive at an event ahead of the time noted on the invitation. “Your hosts may not be ready for you,” Rickenbacher stated. That said, you’ll want to be punctual and not late. “If it is a flow type event, then you should still arrive within the first 15 minutes,” she shared. “Stay at least for 45 minutes of a cocktail party or get-together that is scheduled for an hour and a half.” Upon arriving at a gathering, say hello to your host and thank them for the invitation before helping yourself to food and drinks. And last but not least, Rickenbacher added, “Never come in and plop down on the first chair that you see. Mingle and meet everyone there—even for just a brief hello.”