When should you show up for a party? I recently read an article claiming it is always bad to be late, and while I agree about business interactions, I think parties are a bit more nuanced.
|Michael Scott shows up when the hostess is still in her robe for a work party in season 3 of the Office|
As shown so well by Michael Scott, showing up early to a party can be just as awkward or more than showing up late. Emily Post says never to arrive early, but be close to on time. I am not one to disagree with Emily Post, but I feel it is nuanced based on party.
So, here's a handy guide for when you are unsure.
When to Show Up for Parties:
A Sit Down Dinner Party: Or any other sit down meal. Show up at, or within a few minutes of the start time. A few minutes early may be ok, depending on relationship with hosts. Someone is serving a meal, timing is involved. If you are late you hold everything up and food can get cold. That's rude to everyone.
A Dinner Reservation: Or a brunch, or any other meal. Show up 5-10 minutes early. (If you are the host aim for 15 minutes early). You want the whole group to be there for the start time and to have found each other. At some places you can lose the reservation if not everyone is there within a few minutes of the start time. And at many, nobody can sit until everyone is there. So by running late you make everyone stand around. Not nice.
Train Station Pick-Ups: This is probably a city phenomenon. If you are attending a party where you take the train out somewhere and then get picked up at the train station, try very very hard to be on the recommended train. I just missed a train recently The next one was an hour and a half later. In a party situation this means the host needs to leave to come get you, the straggler, an hour and a half into the party. Or if it's a long drive from party locale to train station, everyone attending has to sit around at the train station waiting for you.
Everything Else: For all other types of parties, including meals that aren't sit-down meals, don't show up early. It is actively inconsiderate, because it doesn't consider the host(s) who planned to have that as getting ready time and are now trying to entertain while doing finishing touches, which can often involve attire touches or taking out trash. Unless you are the kind of friend who has been there when they are getting dressed before and vice versa, don't show up before the start time. I default to not showing up early unless expressly asked to.
And for non meal parties, don't show up within 10 minutes after the start time if you can help it. Give people that buffer to finish getting ready.
|You want to show up after the cream puffs are out, but before they are gone.|
(Golden Age of Hollywood Party)
...I once showed up for a party with some friends and upon realizing we were slightly early, insisted on circling the block until after the start time to give the hosts a chance to finish setting up, I think to the annoyance of the people I was with.
Of course, there is a certain amount of late that is still rude, but that's a much more complex algorithm. You need to take into account length of gathering, closeness of friendship, social conventions of your group, etc. but as long as you have over an hour until the party officially ends you should be fine. And if it's more than 45 minutes after the start time, it's nice to let the host(s) know you will be late.
As with most etiquette issues, timeliness is a question of making other people as comfortable as possible.
Disagree? Think I'm being a jerk? Let me know!