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Party plans are underway and lucky for you, society has decided on what is appropriate behaviour at social gatherings. Here’s how to get with the programme


If you’ve got your slew of invites for New Year’s dos, clearly you have a boast-worthy social life. Let’s work on keeping that around and not making party faux pas that might get you blacklisted in the years ahead. If the world survives that long, that is. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to turn an impression south by treating a party too casually, or too formally, and have your hosts and their guests mock you behind your back. Even if you’re not aware of it, there is an unwritten code of party etiquette, especially tailored for both a casual house party and a more formal do. Mithila Sampat, party planner and life coach, gives tips on how to mind your party manners.

To begin with, a casual party is one where you were invited late in the afternoon and asked to turn up in shorts at your friend’s house in the evening for barbecue and beer; or an impromptu trip out to a friend of friend’s holiday home. Basically, it reeks of comfort and you’ll need to work hard not to enjoy yourself.

A slightly formal gathering would be anything that involves the family, in-laws, office parties and anything with parents or children. This is where one needs to mind their Ps and Qs and being aware of public behaviour.


No, landing up empty-handed isn’t okay. And a last minute dash to the wine shop isn’t a saving grace either. Now, there is nothing wrong with spirit as a gift, but just put a little more thought into it. If it’s a formal affair you are heading to, flowers for the lady and something classy for the house is always appreciated. You are being welcomed into someone’s home and they’ve taken the pain over making sure you have a nice time. This is a courtesy you will need to extend. A nice bottle of scotch, cognac or an after dinner liqueur would suffice, if you insist on heading to the wine shop.

If it’s a casual party, be sure you turn up the funk and quirk quotient. Be goofy and creative with your ideas but don’t get carried away. Balloons, cakes, party caps, embarrassing T-shirts, funky home décor options — just about anything that spells your personality or theirs.


It’s an unwritten norm that for a formal function, taking one guest along is acceptable. House party or otherwise, ensure that you inform your host in advance about who you are bringing as a matter of courtesy and so that they can be catered for. Spouse or partners are an obvious choice, but you could also take along cousins or an old friend. Basically, keep with the intimate feel of the evening and try and avoid dragging your loud easily-drunk friend or an awkward first date.

If you’re going casual, feel free to flaunt the number of people you can muster up on short notice. Not really, but yeah, the field is rather open for guests. Take someone who you know is easy to get along with and gregarious enough to enjoy any party. Try taking that boy/girl you’ve been dying to impress. Even a short heads up on the head count will suffice as far as RSVP is concerned.


It’s not a party unless enough alcohol is had. Even an amateur host knows, directing guests to the bar or bringing the server to them is one of the first things to check off the list as someone comes in. If you’re hosting and didn’t know this already, that’s what you do. So typically, just wait long enough for someone to offer, and stick to your choice of beverage or you’ll be buzzing sooner than you expect. If for some reason, an oversight has been made and you haven’t been offered a drink in a while, feel free to make your way

to the bar and ask for one, since clearly, the hosts missed that one out. Avoid at all costs, drinking more than your known capacity, no matter how delicious the sangria is, or how exclusive the Scotch is. Slurring at a formal gathering is a sure-shot gossip-starter.

If friends are who you’re hanging out with, there is no limit to what you can chug down. Keep it coming and keep it fun, as long as you are not driving yourself home. Either have a designated driver, or call for a partyhard driver. If it’s a bring-your-own-booze party, don’t be the one to take two cans of beer and polish off a bottle of rum instead.

In matters of the stomach at a formal do, unless you are with a child or have a pregnant woman by your side, avoid being the first one to hit the buffet.

In a casual party, offer to help out the host to lay the table and if you are really starving, let them know you would like to serve yourself a plate.

Be it a casual or formal affair; pay your respects to the host before leaving. In a formal gathering, if you find yourself bored to death and dying to make an early exit, use a safe and trusted excuse such as feeling under the weather and be sure to thank your host for a lovely evening. Make your way gently around the room without attracting too much attention, and politely excuse yourself from the party.

In a casual event, no matter how buzzed one is, let your hosts know that you’re leaving. If, of course, they are still lucid.


Keep the festive spirit in mind and remember to be respectful to your hosts if it’s a formal gathering. It’s not just no shorts and T-shirt, be careful of the footwear as well. Open toed shoes or flip flops are clearly not the way to go.

A jacket and a tie for men, is always a safe option. If it’s too hot, a button-collar Oxford and khakis suffice too. For women, rules are more lenient, just keep it clean, ironed and nothing too jarring. Also, a respectable knee level or just above knee level skirt or dress is a safe way to go. Too short or too tight, and you’ll get the look. Keep the bling down to respectable measures with an accessory or two.

If it’s an outdoor party, carry a warm shrug or shawl. If you are a gentleman, don’t forget to offer your jacket to the ladies who are feeling cold.

Going casual? Wear a wig if you can find one. Or something fun and festive like a streamer around your neck. Casual doesn’t have to be drab and faded old T-shirt.

If the party is a formal affair, flowers for the lady and something classy for the house is always appreciated. If it’s a casual bash, take something quirky, like a bouquet of balloons

If you would like to enhance your professional or social etiquettes manners and personal presentation, please connect at

Disclaimer: This article appeared in Mumbai Mirror dated 26th December 2011 and is written by the author mention in the article, I have not written the same and claim no right to it. I have re-posted the article for general consumption and understanding

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