The Best and Worst New Year’s Eve Party Etiquette

RSVP'ing on time is only the tip of the iceberg.

The Best and Worst New Year’s Eve Party Etiquette
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Everyone loves a good New Year’s Eve party, what with all the sparkly dresses, fizzy drinks, and, of course, the noisemakers and party favors. But just because the holiday revolves around fun doesn’t mean you can leave your etiquette behind.

On the contrary, you should hold yourself to the same standard you would at any other party—and then some, says Jacquelyn Youst, an etiquette expert and owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. It may only be one night, but—as Youst explains—it tends to “carry its weight all year round.”

So before toasting to “Auld Lang Syne,” make sure to check out the most crucial dos and the most inexcusable don’ts for the evening’s festivities. And to behave your best in the year to come, check out these 20 Social Etiquette Mistakes You Should Stop Making by Age 30.

unhealthy snacks

1
Do: Bring Snacks, No Matter How Much Will Already Be There

“It’s always polite to ask, ‘What can I contribute to the party?’, says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Director at the background check company BeenVerified. “Even if your host says they’re all set with food and drinks, it’s polite to bring a simple snack or a drink,” he explains. If they don’t decide to serve it that evening, they can always enjoy it on a later date.

kid bad fashion

2
Don’t: Bring Your Kids

“Kids create a different vibe at a party,” says Lavelle. “Consequently, it’s poor etiquette to bring your children to a party that was organized for adults,” she explains. Either hire a babysitter in advance or inquire with your host as to whether there will be kid-friendly spaces at the gathering.

man in suit with cufflinks

3
Do: Check the Dress Code

“Different from other holidays, the dress code for a New Year’s Eve party can greatly vary,” says Lavelle. Whether it’s themed, black tie, or casual, the host will typically have a good idea of how they want their guests to dress. Therefore, it’s important to ask beforehand what that standard is, as well as whether the party is indoors or out, he warns. And for a dress code to follow for the rest of the year, check out these 35 Clothing Choices That Are Making You Look Older.

Buying presents

4
Don’t: Show Up with an Anonymous Gift

Bringing a gift is great—but only if you get credit for it. To make sure your host, who may have been busy when you arrived, knows that you did not show up empty-handed, “make sure to include a small note on the gift that includes your name,” says Lavelle. Otherwise, you may find your invite rescinded the following year.

thank you note

5
Do: Thank the Hosts Before You Leave

Even if you’ve only been at a party for 7 long minutes, it’s imperative that you say goodbye to the host in person on your way out. And if you’re nervous about ditching early, don’t be: simply thank them, apologize for having to dash quickly, and then go.

But if you can’t find them, it’s OK to leave and follow up later. “If it’s a large party and you’re not able to find the host when it’s time for you to leave, you can leave without announcing your departure,” says Lavelle. The next morning, send them an email thanking them for a great evening.

couple partying

6
Don’t: Engage in Any Malicious Gossip

“Whatever you do, don’t gossip about someone who is actually at the party,” warns Wexler. “Whispers and darting eyes in the corner are a bad buzz for everyone. We can tell what you are talking about!” And for better conversation topics, check out how to Dazzle Any Gathering with These 14 Savvy Small-Talk Tips.

RSVP card etiquette rules

7
Do: RSVP

“Failing to RSVP to a New Year’s Eve party can be disastrous for the host planning the event,” warns Lavelle. Due to the extensive preparation that goes into the evening, “the success of the party is influenced by the host knowing in advance how many guests to plan for,” he explains. Make sure to RSVP at least two weeks in advance of the gathering in order to give your host ample time to plan accordingly. And for more holiday party musts, check out The Best and Worst Holiday Party Etiquette. 

toast, beers, cultural mistakes

8
Don’t: Propose the First Toast

“Traditionally, the host or hostess of the party offers the first toast,” says Schweitzer. Don’t steal their thunder by proposing your own beforehand. If the gathering is a small dinner party or table of friends, however, it is OK to propose the first toast to thank the hosts for organizing the event.

Man Eating Small Portion Anti-Aging

9
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. Instead, “make a solid meal plan before the big bash, and stick to it.”

Remember one of the most important rules of partying: If it’s not a seated dinner, you won’t be eating a full meal—period. So if you’re looking at a party with finger foods and tons of alcohol, it’s always wise to scarf down some dinner before you go.

10
Don’t: Shame Anyone into Drinking Alcohol

“Toasting is about the sentiment of the NYE party,” says Schweitzer. Because guests may be refraining from alcohol use for all sorts of reasons, “it is impolite to insist” that they consume the chosen drink of the evening—even if it is only one sip. “The toast is about celebrating the New Year, not about the liquid in the glass,” she explains. And if you’re going to indulge, here’s Exactly How Much Alcohol You Should Drink.

Sad Woman Pretending to Smile {Body Language Cues}

11
Do: Smile

No matter what mood you’re in on the night of the party, it’s important to smile and be gracious to your host. “Open your heart and send your last vestiges of love into the air,” says Wexler. “Magic might just be waiting for you.” And if a gloomy holiday feeling just won’t go away, check out The Best Thing to Do When You’re Feeling Sad This Holiday Season. 

winter superfoods, Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels

12
Don’t: Bring Allergy-Laden Gifts Or Snacks

“Be cautious about [bringing] alcohol, chocolate, nuts and fragrances due to potential allergies,” says Schweitzer. If you’re unsure of your host’s or fellow guests’ restrictions and dietary concerns, “ask mutual friends to discover what they like,” she explains.

wrapping presents

13
Do: Bring a Gift

“Arriving with a hostess gift is one of life’s social graces,” says Sharon Schweitzer, an etiquette and modern manners expert and founder of Access to Culture. “Remember your mother’s advice to never arrive empty-handed?”

Avoid ostentatious displays that embarrass other guests, but be sure to “express your appreciation by bringing a small, thoughtful gift,” she explains.

Pick-Up Lines So Bad They Might Just Work

14
Don’t: Deliver Any Monologues

Don’t be the party bore. “Strive to keep your conversation ratio at  80:20—listening 80 percent of the time and responding to questions 20 percent of the time,” says Schweitzer. “Keep your own talk to a minimum,” she recommends, and move from conversation to conversation throughout the evening, not getting bogged down in one interaction. And to master the art of party-going, check out these 8 Genius Ways to Be the Life of the Party.

open wine without a corkscrew

15
Do: Keep Gifts Simple

“Don’t overthink it,” says Wexler. “Bring wine, champagne, or a basket of edibles,” she recommends. If you decide to bring flowers, deliver them either well before or after the party, so your host doesn’t need to go vase-hunting during the festivities.

don't be a grinch at the holiday party

16
Don’t: Be Negative

“Stick with positive topics such as upcoming travel, best-selling books, children, sports, pets, and movies,” says Schweitzer. It’s best to avoid sex, religion, and politics, as well as complaining and bragging.

“The party is intended to be a time to celebrate,” she explains. “A cheerful mood is in order!” And if you’re having trouble getting there, check out The 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters.

smart word

17
Do: Bring Indoor Shoes

“Whether the pavement’s slushy or dry, many people won’t allow outdoor shoes inside,” warns Wexler. “If you want to wear snappy heels or Oxfords, best to tote a clean pair along,” she recommends.

new years ball party

18
Don’t: Show Too Much Skin

“Dress appropriately,” says Youst. That means showing off your style without crossing the line. “Be glamorous or debonair, but do it in a classy way, and avoid showing too much skin,” she warns.

19
Do: Respect Personal Space

“If you are single at midnight and another guest offers a kiss it is OK to decline,” explains Karen Thomas, a certified etiquette educator at Karen Thomas Etiquette. If comfortable, you may offer a hug or a handshake instead.

If you find yourself wanting to kiss someone else, “personal space should prevail, with respect to the other person’s wishes,” she explains. “If someone declines, simply say ‘Happy New Year’ and move on.”

party flirt

20
Don’t: Show Up Drunk

“You always want to present yourself in a positive light,” says Youst. “Do not show up to the party already tipsy.” Otherwise, you risk having some serious regrets by the time midnight strikes. Additionally, a buzz could interfere with your initial greetings, and everyone knows how important a first impression is.

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