The Best and Worst New Year’s Eve Party Etiquette
Learn these New Year's Eve party etiquette rules or risk being uninvited next year.
As the last day before those New Year’s resolutions go into effect, New Year’s Eve tends to be full of debauchery. People drink, they dance, they snag smooches under the mistletoe, and, in many cases, they leave their manners at the door. If you want to make sure your NYE behavior doesn’t make you persona non grata at next year's festivities, it’s time to learn these essential pieces of New Year’s Eve party etiquette before the big day arrives.
Do: Eat before you go.
"The saying is ‘Eat, Drink, Be Merry,' for a reason," says culture and lifestyle expert Suzanne Wexler, author of the upcoming book How To Swing Like A Southern Belle—Even If You're Frozen In The North. If you start drinking before having a few bites, "your night tends to go awry," she explains.
If it's not listed on the invitation as a seated dinner, you won't be eating a full meal, so make sure you have dinner before you arrive and the drinks start flowing.
Don't: Show up drunk.
While it might be tempting to have a glass of something to take the edge off before a big event, you shouldn't show up tipsy, says etiquette expert Jacquelyn Youst, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol.
"You always want to present yourself in a positive light," she explains, and showing up with alcohol on your breath—or acting drunk—is no way to show gratitude to your host or respect for their other guests.
Do: Bring allergy-friendly snacks.
While it’s nice to show up with some treats in tow, "be cautious about [bringing] chocolate, nuts, and fragrances due to potential allergies," says etiquette and modern manners expert Sharon Schweitzer, founder of Access to Culture.
If you're unsure of your host's or fellow guests' restrictions and dietary concerns, "ask mutual friends to discover what they like," she suggests.
Don’t: Bring an open bottle.
Between presents for friends and family and host gifts at parties, the holiday season can get expensive fast. However, that doesn’t mean it’s ever acceptable to show up at an event with a bottle of booze that you’ve already started.
“When you are a guest at a New Year's Eve party, bring a new, unopened bottle of wine,” says Youst. “The new year deserves to be started with fresh beginnings—and that includes the wine!”
If you want to stay in your host’s good graces going forward, make sure that you RSVP to their event before showing up.
RSVP “does not mean ‘respond only if you are coming,’” says Youst, who recommends replying to any invitation within 24 hours of receiving it, if possible.
“A timely response will enable the host to provide enough food, drinks, and party favors for guests,” she explains.
Don’t: Host a a party without letting your neighbors know first.
Holiday party etiquette isn’t just for guests; hosts have an obligation to make sure everyone at their event—and in the surrounding vicinity—is comfortable with the evening’s festivities, too.
“Be sure to let the neighbors know and apologize in advance for any disturbance it may cause,” says etiquette expert Marie Betts-Johnson, president of the International Protocol Institute of California. And if your neighbors aren’t on your guest list, you might want to go one step further: “It's a nice gesture to drop off a small gift as a thank you for their patience the following day,” says Betts-Johnson.
Do: Bring a gift.
While you don't have to shell out a ton of money on a present for your host, "arriving with a hostess gift is one of life's social graces," says Schweitzer.
Her recommendation? "Express your appreciation by bringing a small, thoughtful gift." A small succulent, an ornament for their tree, or a fun prop for the photo booth won't go unappreciated.
Don't: Bring slushy shoes inside.
Don't leave your host with a mess on their floors at the end of the evening by wearing your snow-covered boots inside.
In addition to asking your host if you should take off your shoes at the door, "if you want to wear snappy heels or Oxfords, best to tote a clean pair along," says Wexler.
Even if you’re on the shy side, make an effort to mix and mingle with new people at any event you find yourself attending.
“Take the opportunity to meet new people and socialize,” suggests etiquette expert Bonnie Tsai, founder of etiquette training program Beyond Etiquette. “You never know who you might connect with!”
Don’t: Abandon your date.
While hobnobbing with other celebrants may be a good idea, leaving with someone other than the person you came with definitely isn’t.
“The first hug of the new year should be reserved for the one you came with,” says Youst.
Do: Hold your plate or glass in your left hand.
You probably don’t pay too much attention to how you’re holding your plate or glass, but if you want to practice perfect party etiquette, you should.
According to Betts-Johnson, to be polite you should always keep plates and cups in your left hand so your right is “free to shake hands with new arrivals or departing guests.”
Don't: Ignore folks who are overindulging.
Not only is it important to moderate your own alcohol consumption when you’re out for the evening, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any guests who may have had a few too many.
“It’s good etiquette to look out for others and it's very important to make sure a drunk guest gets home safely,” says Youst.
Do: Allow your host to give the first toast.
"Traditionally, the host or hostess of the party offers the first toast," says Schweitzer, so don't steal their thunder by proposing your own beforehand. Wait until your hosts have delivered whatever they have to say to the crowd before jumping in with your own thoughts—you don't want to accidentally say what they were going to, after all.
Don't: Shame anyone into drinking alcohol.
Because guests may be refraining from alcohol use for all sorts of reasons, it's impolite to insist that they toast with alcohol, says Schweitzer. "The toast is about celebrating the new year, not about the liquid in the glass," she explains.
Do: Ask before posting photos to social media.
You may think that those party photos look fun and festive, but be sure to ask anyone in them before putting them online.
“You don't want to embarrass anyone and jeopardize their reputation,” says Youst. Considering that some jobs may even fire folks if they seem to be damaging the company image, it’s essential that you get the all-clear from everyone in your pictures before posting.
Don't: Dominate the conversation.
You may be excited to talk to new people, but if you want to maintain those friendships in the year to come, it pays to let them get a word in edgewise.
“Don't be remembered for having the loudest voice in the room,” says Betts-Johnson. “Give others the chance to talk and share their opinions.”
Do: Ask before giving someone a peck under the mistletoe.
Just because you find yourself under the mistletoe with someone cute on New Year's Eve doesn't mean you've got the go-ahead to plant a kiss on them.
If you find yourself wanting to kiss someone else, "personal space should prevail, with respect to the other person's wishes," explains Karen Thomas, a certified etiquette educator and founder of Karen Thomas Etiquette. "If someone declines, simply say ‘Happy New Year' and move on."
Don't: Show up in any outfit you please.
The words "black tie" on that invitation aren't simply a suggestion, so don't show up to a New Year's Eve without the proper attire on.
"Be glamorous or debonair, but do it in a classy way, and avoid showing too much skin," suggests Youst. If the invitation doesn't have a particular dress code on it, check with your host before assuming it means that jeans or sweats are on the table.
Do: Arrive with a plan for getting home.
Asking your host for a ride home at the end of the evening—or worse yet, asking for a spot on their couch to crash for the night—is anything but polite.
“Be sure to plan for your transportation beforehand, whether it is a designated driver or using a ride-share service, so you can enjoy the night and get home safely,” suggests Tsai.
Don't: Forget a thank you note.
The host of that New Year’s Eve party you’re attending has likely gone to considerable trouble (and expense) to have you as their guest, so make sure they know how much you appreciate it by writing them a thank you note.
“If you aren't already in the practice of writing thank you notes, make it a New Year's resolution!” says Youst.