10 Modern Party Etiquette Rules You Didn't Know You Were Breaking

Maressa Brown | Mar 10, 2015 Food & Party
10 Modern Party Etiquette Rules You Didn't Know You Were Breaking

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Unless you're attending a black-tie affair (and maybe even then), it's safe to say most events these days are far less formal than they used to be! Still, even at the most casual of get-togethers, we'd all do well to practice proper etiquette. But the customary code of polite guest behavior is always evolving, and given most of our fast-paced, multitasking 24/7 lifestyles, you may not even realize you're breaking the new rules of modern party etiquette!

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For that reason, we asked etiquette experts to weigh in on the rules you may not even realize you're breaking, and what you ought to do the next time you're invited to a friend's fete.

'Fess up: Which of these rules have you broken?


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  • RSVP Properly


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    "Replying to invitations has become a lost art," says Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert. "As soon as you receive the invitation, let your host know whether you plan to attend. Certainly send your reply at least a week before the party. How you reply depends on the information your host provides. In today’s world, there is often an email address and/or a phone number on the invitation. Follow the directions. In the absence of an email address or phone number, you are expected to reply in writing. Another lost art."

    More From The Stir: 7 Kid Birthday Party Etiquette Rules -- For Parents

  • Don't Arrive With Uninvited Guests


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    "There is nothing more insensitive than a guest who arrives with a party in tow," says etiquette expert Lisa Gache, CEO and founder of Beverly Hills Manners. Maybe it's your adorable nephew visiting from Duluth, or your work colleague whose husband just dumped her, notes Gache, but even the best excuses won't cover you if you don't inform your host in advance.

    "Don’t text or email," warns Gache. "Contact them by phone. Explain your situation and ask nicely. Give them permission to decline and bow out graciously if they say no."

  • Bring the Right Kind of Hostess Gift


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    "Your mother said, 'never show up empty-handed,'" explains de Lesseps.
    "Hostess gifts are great, but they shouldn't create work for the hostess! Think gifts that don’t require any work on the host’s part: wine, chocolates, candles, etc. Skip the flowers and perishable food items."

  • Keep Your Food Preferences to Yourself


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    "These days, everyone is on some sort of diet or detox, organic and non-GMO only, please!" says Countess Luann de Lesseps, style and etiquette expert and star of Bravo's Real Housewives of New York. "Keep your food preferences to yourself, and enjoy what your host is offering. Eat what you can and smile." Of course, you can always bring your own offering that suits your preferences (if it's that kind of party), or if you have a serious food allergy (like celiac disease), let your host know ahead of time.  

    More From The Stir: 5 Kids' Birthday Party Food Etiquette Questions -- Answered! 

  • Don't Be a Conversation Hog


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    "Unless it’s your own party, don’t usurp the conversation and hold court for all the guests to bow and listen," says Gache. "Parties are an opportunity to mix and mingle and have a multitude of conversations with a great number of people. They should possess a flow of give and take."

    If you have a tendency to take the floor, try asking thoughtful questions and being a good listener, advises Gache.

  • Don't Provoke Senseless Arguments


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    "There is nothing more uncomfortable than bearing witness to a heated discussion gone wild, where two guests with opposing views are so invested in an argument that they completely forget their surroundings and drag everyone down with the ship," says Gache. Better to keep any views that may create a conflict to yourself.

    And if someone else is the instigator? "Be agreeable to avoid further conflict," Gache notes. "Or, better yet, do like the Dowager Countess of Grantham at Downton Abbey and ignore it, then add some fabulous witticism under your breath!"

  • Use Discretion When Sharing Party Pics on Social Media


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    "Hosts and guests shouldn't post pictures on social media without prior consent from people they are tagging," advises Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas. "Definitely never post pictures of guests' children unless you have the parents' permission."

  • Don't Act Like a Debbie Downer


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    Given the opportunity to catch up with friends at a party, you may be tempted to moan and whine at some point. But avoid being that Debbie Downer. "Parties are for fun -- not for dragging in our laundry list of complaints, stress, and worry," notes Gache. "If you’re not feeling it, stay home. No one at the party is interested in hearing you drone on about your restrictive diet, your unfortunate attack of the runs, or your miserable lack of finances."

    But if you do want to attend, strive for a sunnier 'tude. "Pack up your troubles, put on your game face, and fake it 'til you make it," says Gache. "With any luck, you’ll be dancing with the rest of them in no time."

  • Don't Turn on the TV


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    "Don't touch the television remote," warns Gottsman. "If you can't stand to miss your favorite television show, RSVP your regrets and stay home and enjoy!"

  • Write a Thank You Note


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    We're all on our devices all day and shooting emails everywhere, but don't assume thank you notes are out of style, says Gottsman. "After the party, pull out a piece of your best stationary, and send a note to the host telling her/him how much fun you had."

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