Fundamentals of Being on Time For an Event

Posted by Liam, 01 Nov 18

How fashionable is being 'fashionably' late? Is there anything wrong with arriving a bit too early? Where do we draw the line? Are there guidelines people need to follow about how late or how early is acceptable?

Honestly, the rules about arriving on time aren't quite clear cut. In fact, they get more confusing based on the event - especially the social ones - a date, a bridal shower or a barbecue...

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Diane Gottsman spells it out for us in her article: "The Etiquette Rules of Being on Time". In the article, Gottsman comes up with scenarios and tips that serve as guidelines on the right time to arrive for a specific event so that you can save yourself some embarrassment.

1. A Cocktail Party

Here Gottsman is referring to informal cocktail parties which could be both social or professional. In this scenario, she says as a guest, you have a window of 15 minutes. You don't want to be the first guest to arrive at the event. At the same time, you also don't want to be too late that you leave the host wondering if you got the details of the location wrong.

2. A Fundraiser or Gala

The above lie in the formal category. So the main question is: Is the cocktail hour before or after the main event. This can be quite tricky. Do you arrive on time or a bit later?


"Aim for a happy medium. If check-in time is 6:30 PM and the presentation starts at 7:45, plan to arrive by 7 (unless your boss or host has told you otherwise). You won’t be so early that you’re standing at the bar by yourself, but you’ll have enough time to thank the host, say hello to your boss, and greet professional contacts right away.

That said, if you’re attending an event in another country, always do your homework. Customs vary from country to country, and you don’t want to offend anyone."

3. A Dinner Party

This is one of the events with clear-cut rules... Be on time! If its 7 PM, then be there at 7 PM. Being 'fashionably' late doesn't cut it here. If you are late for a dinner party, you will find yourself missing out on some of the dinner courses. At the same time, guests at dinner parties get to mingle and make small talk before dinner and this is one of the most important aspects of the dinner.

Party hopping is also a no-no. If you have been invited to more than one event, stick with one otherwise, the hopping in between courses for different parties won't leave a good impression on your part either.

4. A Bridal or Baby Shower

Here is what Gottsman advises:

"If you’re invited to a social occasion where there will be multiple cars, a slew of people, and you’ll be carrying a large gift, arrive on time to ensure you get a parking spot and can get settled without interrupting a game (or worse, the new mom or bride-to-be as she’s opening gifts).

Also remember that it’s never okay to be early to a shower (or dinner party, or cocktail hour) unless you’re part of the set-up crew. It puts more pressure on a host, as she’ll feel as if she needs to start entertaining while still finishing last-minute details before the party."

5. A Wedding

A wedding is one one of those events where being late doesn't really mean you broke the etiquette rules of being on time. However, if you don't want people to give you 'THE LOOK", you don't wanna be so late that you find yourself walking down the aisle with the bride. You also don't want to walk in during exchange of vows either.

The advice Gottsman give is to arrive 15 minutes earlier so that you can secure a good seat. And if you find the bride walking down the aisle already, chill out or sit way at the back once these highlights of the wedding program are over.

6. A Play or Theatre Performance

With a play, you have no excuse for being late. Gottsman says;

"It’s rude, disruptive, and says that you’re not respectful of your surroundings. Even if you have a valid excuse, the disruption of making others shift and stand up to let you by in a dark theatre is never a good move. Instead, plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early, find your seat, and get settled and ready to enjoy the show well before the lights go down. And if you are late, wait until intermission to grab your seats, and hang out in the back in the meantime."

There are so many circumstances beyond our control that may interfere with one's ability to arriving on time. However, no matter the occasion, being on time, or within a reasonable window goes shows the host or the other person you are meeting just how much you value them. Plan ahead to accommodate the traffic among other things that make us get late. And if you find you are too early, you have the option to hang in your car for a bit so that you are not too early to harass the hostess.

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