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Question: What time should you arrive at a party?

Answer: That depends.
Sarcastic Response: Wow, thanks. That’s so helpful.

The right time to arrive at a party is a common etiquette question, and there isn’t a set time that works for every situation. It depends, in part, on the type of party and the other attendees.

That said, here are some general guidelines to keep you from making a social gaffe:

  • For an event at a specific time, like a restaurant reservation or play, do your friends a favor and arrive early. Showing up even a few minutes late could cost you the table or make you have to wait in the lobby until intermission.
  • For an event on a schedule, like a dinner party or a book club, arrive within 15 minutes of the start time.
  • For a casual event, like a barbecue or house party, consider the people invited to assess whether they’re likely to show up on time or roll in a few hours later. If you’re still unsure, ask the host what time they suggest.
  • For a house party, do not show up early unless the hosts have explicitly said you can. They will be in the shower. And even if you offer to help (no, not in the shower), you could still be in the way.
  • Hint for party hosts: If it’s important to you that guests arrive at a certain time (like before the guest of honor at a surprise party), make that crystal clear in the invitation. Don’t just assume the stated party time will get the point across.