Indy Style

6 Cocktail Party Faux Pas and How to Fix Them

Get a lesson in Etiquette 101! Maggie Oldham, Modern Etiquette Coach and Etiquette Expert and Blogger, shares SIX cocktail party faux pas and how to fix them.

1. Faux pas #1: Wearing the wrong attire! Being under- or over-dressed!

Solution: Check the invitation. Does it have a dress code? Does it say casual, semi-formal, formal, black tie? If nothing is stated on the invitation, call the host or hostess if you’re friendly with them. For most cocktail parties, err on the side of semi-formal. For men, this means dress pants and tucked in button-down shirt with an optional blazer or suit jacket. No need for a tie. For ladies, semi-formal means knee length (not floor length) dress or a skirt. A quick Google search for “semi-formal” or “black tie” will pull up loads of images of appropriate attire.

2. Faux pas #2: Letting our nerves get the best of us!

Solution: Some of us can get nervous when we’re with a crowd or at a party where we don’t know a lot of people. A great way to handle pre-party nerves is to arrive to the party right on time. If you’re one of the “early birds,” you allow yourself time to adjust to the party setting, to order yourself a cocktail, and to just breathe! It is much less nerve-wracking to allow the room to fill up around you, as opposed to arriving late and walking into a loud, crowded party!

3. Faux pas #3: Arriving hungry! When we show up to a cocktail party starving, we can sometimes be more focused on the food than on the people there. Remember, the host didn’t invite you just to feed you! And there could just be canapes or light hors d’oeuvres.

Solution: Have a snack or a small meal before the party. That way, you’re not drinking on empty stomach and you won’t be ravenous at the party. Something like a sandwich or an apple with peanut butter.

4. Faux pas #4: The cold and wet handshake! When we hold our drink in our right hand, and then have to wipe it off on our pants. Eww!

Solution: Keep you drink in your left hand, and wrapped in a napkin!

5. Faux pas #5: Struggling with your plate, napkin, and glass!

Solution: Take your napkin and place it between your fingers, put the plate in your hand, then put your glass on top of your plate and secure it by pressing your thumb down on the stem!

6. Faux pas #6: Overstaying your welcome!

Solution: If you’re at someone’s home and they start cleaning up (hint hint!) or start yawning (hint hint!!), that’s your cue to say thank you to hosts and call it a night!

To learn more, visit and Instagram: @ModernEtiquetteCoach with 6,500+ followers and