The Best Time to Arrive at Business and Social Events

The etiquette of what time to arrive can be tricky because often the right answer is counterintuitive. Read below for what time to show up at your most common business and social events!


By: Maralee Mckee, Manners Mentor

This week the spotlight is on the best time to arrive at business and social events. Should you show up fifteen minutes early to the meeting across town? What about the morning staff meeting down the hall? If the gathering is social and not business, like dinner at a friend’s home, do the same guidelines apply? Should you knock on the front door ten minutes early and offer to help, or ten minutes late so that you’re not in the way?

Here’s your quick list of six everyday situations and the most considerate times to arrive!

The Etiquette of What Time to Arrive

1. Out-of-office Meetings:

Arrive at the reception desk no more than five minutes early. Right on time is best. Why not earlier? Because once you arrive, the person(s) you’ll be meeting with feel the need (and even the pressure) to stop what they are doing to pay attention to you. Being right on time shows two things: that you’re considerate of other people’s schedules and that you manage yours well.

2. Inter-office Meetings:

Arriving five to ten minutes beforehand is best. Your early arrival gives you time to find your place, offer to help with last-minute details, and say hello to coworkers. Arriving more than ten minutes early (unless you’re running the meeting) sends a signal that you don’t have much on your to-do list.

If you find yourself in the awkward position of forgetting the name of someone in a business or social setting, here’s what to do.

3. Meetings in Homes:

For church, social, and civic-group meetings, it’s best to arrive about five minutes early. This way, the host doesn’t feel the need to entertain you before the gathering, but you’re there soon enough to say hello to fellow guests, help yourself to refreshments, and get settled in for the meeting to begin at the scheduled time.

If you’re asked to say grace or pray at the opening of a Bible Study or church home group, and the idea makes you nervous, (We’ve all been there!) How to Say Grace Amazing Well will put your mind at ease, calm your nerves, and help you know what to say.

4. Restaurants:

Whether the meal is for business or pleasure, if you’re the host, arrive fifteen minutes beforehand so you can ensure your table will be ready and greet your guests if they get there early. If you’re the guest, showing up at the agreed-upon time is ideal!

5. Dates:

Military precision is best! Never arrive early! If so, you’ll find her still debating about which pair of earrings to wear. Never come even a minute late! Sadly, she’ll begin doubting your enthusiasm for her! As my husband did before our first date, circle the block a few times and pull in the driveway precisely when promised! Trust me — she’ll notice!

You don’t usually want to pull out a cell phone at any point during a date, but there are ways that you’re cell phone can actually add to and not take away from your time together!

6. Parties and Meals at Homes:

Follow the “7-11 Rule.” Arriving between seven and eleven minutes after the time on the invitation allows the host or hostess to take care of all the last-minute details (lighting candles, setting out food and beverages, etc.) without interruption. If all the guests are considerate enough to arrive in the five-minute interval between “7 and 11” after, the hostess can greet everyone in a short amount of time and then enjoy her guests’ company without having to excuse herself to open the door every few minutes.

You’ll probably be meeting new people at the party, here’s How to Be Well-Liked — The Top 10 Habits of Everyone’s Favorite People.

The Best Time to Arrive Isn’t the Same Everywhere — Or, When in Rome

By the way, social customs about the best times to arrive greatly vary. What’s savvy in London is rude in Tokyo. When the party is just about over in the suburbs, it’s just getting started in the city. When away from home, ask a native what the norm is!

Blessings galore,

The Etiquette of Knowing What Time to Arrive at Business and Social Events


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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