Last updated: March 16, 2023
I’ve hosted hundreds of parties with a variety of start times. There’s one thing I know for sure: you must include both a start and an end time.
In this article, I’ll tell you why a 2-hour party length is the best for most situations. And I’ll discuss what the best time to start your party is.
Best Party Start Times
Most parties should start at 7:00 p.m. I’ll tell you why.
An event that starts at 7:00 p.m. gives you guests enough time to finish their workday. They can either come straight to your party after work, or they can eat dinner before arriving.
The 7:00 p.m. start time also allows people to handle some family responsibilities in the evening.
But this isn’t set in stone! You can adjust the start time to better suit your local customs.
Here are some common party start times that I’ve seen:
- Happy hour: 5:00 p.m.
This is best for a happy hour which takes place at or near your office.
- Happy hour: 6:00 p.m.
Best for an off-campus or non-work-related function. It gives people time to drive to the bar or restaurant or home.
- Cocktail party: 7:00 p.m.
- Birthday party: 7:00 p.m. on a weeknight
- Birthday party: 8:00 p.m. on a weekend
For example, when I lived in New York City, all of my friends worked late. It was common for a happy hour to start at 8:00 p.m.
When to End a Party
End your party two hours after the scheduled start time.
For a networking event or happy hour that starts at 7:00 p.m., you should end your party at 9:00 p.m.
See this article for tips about how to end you party!
Keeping your party length to only two hours has a lot of benefits. More people will arrive on time. More people will RSVP yes, because it is less of a commitment. And your guests get to go home early, which is especially helpful if you host your event on a weekday.
Other Party Times
While 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. works best for me, I know a few hosts who throw parties from 8:00 to 10:00 or even 6:30 to 8:30.
After your first party, you can experiment to find the time block that works best for you and your community.
If you want to have a bit of fun with the start and end time, you can pick a random minute around 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Sol Orwell, the co-founder of the scientific research database Examine.com, started hosting parties because he wanted to commiserate with his fellow entrepreneurs in Toronto. He always uses quirky start and end times like 6:57 p.m. to 9:02 p.m.
It sets his parties apart from boring networking events, and I have a hunch the novelty start and end times might encourage people to show up on time.
Why Two Hours?
Two hours is the perfect length of time for a cocktail party. It’s long enough for people to meet and talk, yet short enough to prevent the party from fizzling out.
Keep your party concise in order to:
- Encourage guests to show up on time and not be fashionably late.
- Make your parties easier to say yes to, especially on a weekday.
- Reduce your stress by setting expectations for when guests should leave.
The clear ending time tells guests that your party isn’t an opportunity for a blowout or a crazy long night. Everyone needs to get up for work, family, or school the next day.
How to End a Party
You might worry about what to do at the end of your party.
If your guests want to hang out and continue socializing after your party is over, congratulations! That means you’ve done a great job creating connections.
But that chatter and reluctance to leave doesn’t mean you need to continue hosting.
Recommend a nearby bar or restaurant that guests can go to, then finish the party at the time you stated in the invitation.
Read this article for more information: How to End Your Party.
Time plays a crucial role in determining the success of your events. Make sure to set strict start and end times so that your party maintains its structure.
It is OK if your party goes a little late. But picking a good start time, and always including an end time, will help your event be a big success.
Read my how-to guide, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, to learn more about how to end your party gracefully and on a high note.