Party Guest Etiquette

Denise Hale
Denise Hale
Dede Wilsey
Dede Wilsey

I had so many questions about party etiquette that I went directly to etiquette expert Lisa Grotts, for a guide to the whirlwind that is the holiday party season. 

 Q.  If I have more than one holiday party on the same evening, should I tell the hostess beforehand, or should I just make a “graceful” exit?

R.  It depends on the type of party.  For a cocktail party you’re in the clear, you can arrive and stay anytime in between the given time.  If it is a sit down dinner, there is no way to make a graceful exit other than to decline the second invitation.


Q. If my significant other is all “partied out,” is it OK to bring one of my girlfriends instead?  

R.  If it is a cocktail party given by a good friend, by all means.  If a small dinner party, it is likely best to decline and hit the town with your girlfriend instead.


Q.  Is “fashionably late” still considered fashionable? 

R.  Better a few minutes late than early for a private cocktail party or dinner.  Often hosts are handling last-minute details and praying the doorbell does not ring on time. 


Q.  If I’m attending a party in which I will only know the hostess, do you have any tips on mingling?

R.  Be well informed.  Read at least one daily newspaper, or Web news source, and a weekly news magazine.   Current events are perfect for small talk.  Don’t forget the sports and arts pages. 

Be ready for a conversational lull.   Ask people about themselves.   

Remember: party talk is anything but serious or long.  Leave your troubles at home. 



Current events, news




Mutual friends


Styles & Trends



Any family issues

Anything personal such as health


Off color jokes



The costs of things

Work issues/office secrets


* Lisa Mirza Grotts is the author of the new book A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette.