The Best Time to Leave for a Party

Illustration: Angelica Alzona (G/O Media)

There’s a party, it’s tonight, and you want to go. But as with love, timing is everything—arriving at the wrong time, either too early or too late, can be ruinous for a good time. You want to be, and forgive me but this is the term we apparently landed on, “fashionably late.” So when do you leave? If you are plagued by this question every time you go to a party, hear me out.

This method has been fine-tuned over my approximately 15 years of party going. It is a rule of thumb best applied to your garden variety “party,” mostly likely at a bar, at night, that you’ve been invited to and want to attend. I’m not talking about anything resembling formal, like a birthday dinner or a work event, when you should always be punctual and not being so can have dire, even financial, consequences. I’m talking about the ones where the invite says, “bring whomever!” Put another way: When asked by your co-workers what you did over the weekend, you would describe this party you attended as, “Oh I went to a thing at [NAME OF COOL BAR] with some friends.”

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OK, got it? So here it is: The perfect time to leave for a party, in my opinion, is when it is scheduled to start. Invite says the party starts at 8 p.m.? That’s when you leave for the party.

Here is what leaving at that time does for you: you avoid showing up way too early, when no one is really there, maybe not even the hosts or person being celebrated; and you avoid showing up too late, when everyone is already drunk, high, or both, and you feel like you walked into that part of Eyes Wide Shut.

In my experience, this method maximizes your potential for having—another industry term here—a “good time.” Leaving for the party right as it’s scheduled to start, assuming a standard 30–45 minute travel time (adjust accordingly for proximity; if you live really close, just tack on 30-40ish minutes to the start time), allows you to arrive just as the party is warming up but also not quite in full swing. You get to enjoy the full arc of the “good” part of the party, where the conversations are still pleasant enough and no one is too drunk. And you’ll have been there long enough that by the time the party takes its inevitable turn, you’ll have put in sufficient face time to bail without anyone giving you shit about it later.

There will always be mitigating factors and only you know your friends best and their tolerance for lateness, “fashionably” or not. Do what feels right. But if you keep finding yourself arriving at shindigs at the “wrong” time, give my method a spin—I think you’ll have a good time.

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About the author

Aleksander Chan

Editor-in-Chief, Splinter