Why You Should Avoid Arriving Early To A Dinner Party

Rule of thumb: Show up to a dinner party right on time or up to 15 minutes after the scheduled start time. This is the optimal window for dodging any uncomfortable lateness or earliness — both of which can be unpleasant for the host.

Arriving early puts your host in an uncomfortable position. For introverts or folks with social anxiety, an early guest means the host has to be "on" sooner than expected, which can be a pretty unwelcome change of plans. Don't make your host feel like they have to rush to get things done, either. Maybe they were banking on those final 30 minutes to finish washing dishes, and now you've shown up a half hour early, and so they're washing dishes in front of you and feeling obligated to make conversation while doing so. 

Frankly, when it comes to dinner parties, you really shouldn't arrive on time, either. "No matter what, even if you need to drive around the block seven times, deliberately arrive at the dinner party a little less than 15 minutes late," Belle DuChene, an Iowa strategic communications adjunct professor, tells Southern Living. "The French refer to it as 'le quart d'heure de politesse,' which translates to 'the 15 minutes of politeness.' It's a code of conduct to graciously offer the host a bit more time to complete any unforeseen tasks or freshen up." (Bonus points: Arrive with a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a dessert to share).

Later is better than earlier

A polite guest shows up a few minutes late, but 20 minutes late at most. If you find that you are running later than expected, be upfront with your host about it and text them your E.T.A. If Google Maps says you're 20 minutes away, tell them you're 30 minutes out. An overestimation makes for a pleasant surprise when you roll in early, versus crossed arms and a tapping foot when you're an additional 10 minutes later than you said you'd be.

To that effect, a good guest also knows when it's time to leave. Don't bolt for the door as soon as you finish your last bite of dessert, but don't overstay your welcome, either. Read the room. Some friend groups like to hang out all night, sipping wine and spinning records in the living room until somebody exclaims "Midnight already?!" Other groups will expect you to be out by 9:00 p.m. — even if they're too polite to say so out loud. Be aware of your surroundings and don't make it weird for the host. (This is also how you get another invitation next time).

Even if you're thinking "Oh, I'll just arrive early and help," do not do this. Instead, text your host at least several hours before the designated start time and ask "Is there anything I can help you with to get ready for dinner tonight?" Then, your host can politely decline or graciously accept your offer.