How To Gracefully End a Party, According to an Expert

Mark Yocca / Supercall

The scene: You’ve thrown a fantastic party, and now you have no idea how to get the lingering guests out of your house. You’re really not a party pooper, you’re simply pooped after prepping, socializing, pouring drinks and tidying up. You’re ready to call it a night, but it seems everyone else wants to keep the party going. Don’t fret because there are ways to kick people out of your house without coming off as rude.

To get the lowdown on proper party-ending etiquette, we sat down with expert Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post and co-president of the Emily Post Institute. She’s the co-author of three books about manners, as well as the co-host of the weekly Awesome Etiquette podcast, so she knows a thing or two about social graces. Heed her advice, and never feel awkward about calling it quits again.

Watch for Social Cues That the Party is Winding Down

Chances are that some of your guests are almost ready to go home, and there are specific signs to look for when determining if the time is right to start wrapping up. “Obviously, you’re not gonna call it quits as soon as the last bite of dessert has been served at a dinner party,” Post says. “But there are these moments at gatherings when you can collectively feel it. Everyone kind of goes ‘ahhhh,’ and you know it’s time, that people are satisfied.”

Whether it’s a dinner party or cocktail party, when the conversation starts to dwindle, guests are likely okay with you wrapping up the celebration. “A party is dragging when people are sitting at that dinner table for 45 minutes and no one really has anything else to say,” she says. You should always leave a party at its peak, and the same goes for ending one.

Coordinate With Your Co-Host So There’s No Miscommunication

Throwing a bash with a roommate or partner is great because two people can tackle replenishing food and drinks, socializing and cleaning up when the last guest has gone. But it can also be tricky if one person wants to stay and party and the other feels like hitting the hay. Post says in these situations, the best ally is communication.

“Once the main events of the evening have passed, there is kind of this moment where a co-host might just be off duty and let their partner know, ‘As long as you don't need anymore help with anything, I’m gonna head upstairs if that’s all right with you,’” she says. “And that might be a quiet conversation in the kitchen, it might be a glance or signal that you’ve worked out beforehand.” Post notes that the important thing is for one person to helm the gathering so no guest is left hanging.

Post also reminds us that courtesy counts when a party continues after one of the hosts has retreated to bed. “Now is not the time to do the loudest dishes,” she says. “Now is not the time to get really silly and loud with your conversation. Instead, respect the fact that it’s now in the after-hours portion of the party, and the household has quieted down.”

Don’t Be Afraid to End Your Own Party

As a party is winding down, oftentimes guests are looking to the host for cues that it’s okay to leave. “It’s not like guests just say ’okay, thanks a lot, goodbye,’” Post says. “In fact, that would be a little bit rude on their part. Guests look to the host to let them know that ‘this has been wonderful and thank you all for coming.’ This is great language for the host to use to indicate that it’s all right for guests to depart if they would like to.”

Maybe your guests are intuitive and take the hint, but sometimes it could take more assertive, albeit polite, language. If you’re washing dishes and sweeping the floor, but guests are still lingering on your couch, it’s okay to tell them that the party is over. “That’s when you say, ‘Listen guys, I absolutely have loved this so, so much. I hate to kick you out, or I’m happy to make up the couch or the guest room for you. But unfortunately, I have to pull the curtain on the night,’” Post says. “I really think that’s the best thing you can do, with a wonderfully gracious tone in your voice that lets them know you aren’t ticked off, but rather flattered they wanted to stay this long.”

As the host, put yourself in the guest’s shoes. You wouldn’t be upset if your host called it quits after generously entertaining for hours. If your friends are upset with you for ending a party, chances are they’re not great friends anyway.

Stay Positive but Firm, Even If Guests Don’t Take the Second Hint

You politely told your guests that the party is over, but then the unthinkable happens—they don’t take the hint, and you’re stuck with remaining guests as your eyelids get heavier by the minute. “That’s when you really have to keep your voice positive and say, ‘I really love that everyone is having such a fabulous time, but unfortunately I have to get to bed, so I am going to graciously kick you all out,’” Post says. “You say it with humor and you say it with love and you say it with gratitude that you have such good friends.”

Post also notes that this is a great time to plan your next get-together. “Ask who would like to come over for brunch the next day or dinner next week,” she says. This reinforces that you love hanging out, but at this very moment, you love your bed more.