Tips on Proper Guest Etiquette

Tips on Proper Guest Etiquette

Attending a big event for the first time can spark anxiety for some. It can be pretty overwhelming when you are unsure what to wear, who to mingle with, or what to say. All of these worries tie into appropriate guest etiquette. ⁠Being a good guest at an event is a lot easier than you think! Here are a few tips to help you get past those pre-event nerves and be the best guest you can be.

Dress Code

The common question for many attending an event is, “what should I wear?” Finding that perfect outfit can be pretty discouraging and often nerve-racking. There is unease around not being dressed up enough or too dressed up. The first step in deciding on a party-ready outfit is checking the invitation. The host will often specify what dress code they want for the event. It can be anything from casual to white tie. If the invitation states the dress code, the next step is to decide what outfits fall into that category.

Types of Casual

Casual refers to a clean and professional style but very informal and comfortable. This is what you would wear to go shopping at the mall, attend a backyard BBQ, have lunch with friends, visit a fair, etc. Try avoiding the baggier lounge outfits you would wear at home. Anything from athleisure, graphic t-shirts, sweats, and beat-up trainers are a no-go. 

Women can wear sundresses, skirts, jeans, cute shorts, plain shirts, strappy sandals, white sneakers or a button-down blouse. 

Men can wear jeans, shorts, plain shirts, loafers or sneakers, or button-down shirts.

On the other hand, Dressy Casual is just as simple but a little more of a balance between your casual wear and formal wear. Dressy casual is the perfect dress code for having dinner at a nice restaurant, socializing after work, or attending a smaller fundraiser. Women can wear a dress, skirt, dress pants, or nice jeans with a blouse or dressy top. Men can wear a sport coat or blazer, button-down with or without a tie or a polo.

Business Casual is a prevalent work dress code but can be used for an event. This is a more comfortable and low-key balance on business dress and casual. This includes a skirt or dress, khakis, dress pants, blouse, collared shirt, or sweater with no low-sitting necklines or spaghetti straps. A sport coat or tie is optional.


Semi-formal is the in-between of informal and formal wear. It is more dressy than what you would wear to the office but less formal than what you would wear to a gala. Most times, semi-formal is the optimal dress code for school dances, holiday parties, weddings, or fine dining restaurants.

Women: A dress or suit paired with nice heels or flats is a perfect outfit for this type of dress code. Pairing sparkly gemstones and flashy jewelry can be appropriate but make sure it is still elegant.

Men: Dress pants with a dark dress shirt is the best way to go. If you are unsure, you can pair it with a vest or tie, as these can be taken off if deemed unnecessary when you arrive.

Black Tie

If you are asked to wear a black tie to an event, it must be very fancy. Black tie is more formal than business attire and, most times, the optimal choice for weddings, prom, formal dinners, and galas.

Women: Floor-length evening gown, cocktail dress, and dressy “little black dress.”

Men: Tuxedo, cufflinks, bow tie, vest, and black dress shoes.

These are just a few of the standard dress codes you may have to dress for. If you are still unsure about one, want to look into what to wear a little more, or the invitation doesn’t state a specific dress code, don’t worry! There is so much information online that can help you determine which outfit will match and be appropriate for the event.

Invitation etiquette

First and foremost, you want to start your journey of being a good guest by responding to the invite immediately. Most invitations will include a section on where and when to RSVP. This term comes from the French phrase “répondez s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” This is simply asking you to let the host know if you will be attending. If there is an RSVP date, that is how much time you have to give them an answer. Delayed replies can often be stressful for the host as they may need to take a headcount for food, beverages, favors, and seating arrangements. Even if there is no RSVP request on the invitation, it is still proper to give your host a heads up that you are indeed coming. 

Besides The RSVP request, there may be other rules and recommendations that you will need to follow listed on the invite. Things like how many guests can you bring (plus one, family, etc.), what to bring (present for Secret Santa), and so forth. Make sure to take a close look at the invite, so you don’t miss anything.

In-person Etiquette 

An important thing to remember when you are at the event is to be social with others. Sometimes it is easy to stick with your plus one, but networking and socializing can make your night better too! You were invited to this event for a reason, whether that be a work event so you can network or because you all have something in common. Many people make unexpected friends at events, and so can you. Just keep in mind when discussing topics with new friends, make sure to avoid the Big Three: Religion, Politics, and Gossip.

Some events will have an open bar. This means that anyone can order a drink at any time without having to pay a fee. This can be a fun experience for some but can lead to overindulgence. Avoid getting super intoxicated at the event, as this may set an unwanted image and ruin the event for others. 

The last thing to remember is what you should do on your way out. You had a great time at the event that the host put so much time and effort into making for you. Make sure to thank them for the beautiful event, and the great time you had!

These are just a few things to remember when attending an event, but they are essential. Hopefully, these tips will help ease your pre-event nerves and help you be the perfect guest at your next event. It will be hard to enjoy if you are stressed before the event. So relax and have a great time!