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8 Little Party Etiquette Rules You Need to Follow If You Ever Want to Be Invited Back

You don't always have to arrive on time and fresh-cut flowers are not the perfect house-warming present. Whether it's a backyard BBQ, a formal wedding or a dinner party for ten, here are all your must-follow modern etiquette rules.

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Dress the part

Sure, some things are easy to figure out: an afternoon BBQ is casual, an evening wedding at a fancy spot is formal, but what about those in-between events? “If the invitation mentions or indicates ‘festive attire’ or ‘dressy chic’ you are welcome to free up your color choice by including less formal and lighter, brighter hues and accessories, says Thomas P. Farley, a New York-based etiquette expert and founder of What Manners Most. And that particularly holds true when the affair is held in the morning or during warm-weather months. When it’s unclear just how dressy or casual an event is, however, you can’t go wrong with a LBD. “A little black dress is a great go-to,” says David Tutera, a Los Angeles-based celebrity wedding and event planner and TV host. “For a less formal daytime affair, accessorize delicately and don’t go too heavy with your makeup. For a more formal evening look, go with bold statement jewelry, an up-do hairstyle, and a smoky look for makeup.” Make sure you are always following these little etiquette rules.

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Don’t go broke giving a gift

Be it a wedding or a baby shower, it’s always tough to figure out what to give—and at what cost. “When it comes to weddings, your relationship with the couple and your financial situation should be your guide to figuring out how much is appropriate to spend,” says Tutera. “What may be a suitable gift amount for a distant friend or co-worker will always be different from that of a close relative or friend. And when it comes to budget, everyone’s financial circumstances are different.” The old adage that you should “cover your plate” at a wedding is no longer true. “No guest should have to take out a loan or go into debt to buy a wedding gift. Give what you feel in your heart and what you can afford,” says Farley.

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Stick with the registry

Trying to give someone a “unique” gift can sometimes backfire with the guests wondering what the heck you were thinking. “Purchasing from a registry is your absolute best bet for giving a gift that is truly wanted and needed,” says Farley. If you’re going to purchase from the registry remember that while it’s fine to bring a bulky gift for a party at someone’s home, don’t do it for a wedding. “Save yourself, and the couple, the hassle of lugging it around and choose to have it shipped to them directly instead,” says Tutera. Also, make sure you always follow these wedding etiquette rules.

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Skip the flowers

What about hostess gifts for housewarming and other casual parties? “A lovely bottle of wine, particularly one you know the party-giver enjoys, is often the best choice,” says Farley. But don’t assume this will be consumed on the night of the event; it’s up to the host if they choose to share it with other guests. A no-no? “Do not bring fresh-cut flowers; while lovely, arranging them will take the host’s time away from other important tasks on the night of the party,” explains Farley. If you’d like to send flowers, do so after the occasion as a thank-you, delivered by a local florist. Here’s what you should do to impress your host.

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Be on time to a wedding

If it’s a wedding: “Always arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled ceremony start time. You don’t want to be walking in when the processional has begun or when the bride is about to make her big entrance,” says Tutera.

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And fashionably late to everything else

The rules are different for dinner parties or housewarming affairs. “Never arrive early—unless the host has specifically asked for your help before the event,” says Farley. In fact, a little late is a good thing. “For a dinner party, arrive within 15 to 20 minutes of the designated arrival time, to give the host a bit of a buffer,” Farley explains. If it’s a sit-down dinner party, you are obligated to remain until all courses have been served (it’s considered rude to leave before dessert). “That being said, know when the time has come to depart. If you are consistently the last person to leave, you may well be overstaying your welcome,” says Farley.

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Don’t bring a +1

“Do not show up with a guest if you were not invited with one,” says Tutera. This goes for weddings, housewarmings, dinners and other parties. Remember to always RSVP before the deadline. It’s rude to keep people waiting.

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Go easy on the booze

When it comes to drinking, be it at a wedding, BBQ or casual dinner, make sure to do so in moderation. “You don’t want to be that guest,” advises Tutera. Next, read about these table etiquette mistakes you’re probably still making.

Judy Koutsky
Judy Koutsky is a New York-based writer and editor covering health, lifestyle and travel. Her award-winning articles have appeared in over 30 publications including RD.com, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Oprah.com, Parents, Forbes.com, Shape, USA Today, Prevention, Good Housekeeping, Web MD and Scholastic. You can see her writing at JudyKoutsky.com or follow her on Instagram at @JudyKoutsky