Relationships

How to Say Goodbye at a Party

Last year, we threw a holiday party, and fifty friends squeezed into our teeny apartment. We drank sparking wine, ate kettle chips and climbed onto the fire escape to tell stories. Everything was going well, but then something started happening…

For the entire second half of the party, polite friends kept coming up to say goodbye as they put on their coats and wished us a happy rest-of-the-weekend. For the entire second half of the party, most of our conversations were goodbyes. Finally I turned to Alex, perplexed, and asked, “Why is everyone leaving?” And he pointed out that dozens of people were still there; it just felt like a mass exodus because we were consumed with saying goodbye to every single person who was heading home. It felt like the party was over halfway through.

The next morning, we made a decision: We would never say goodbye to the hosts of parties. We would simply slip out the door.

“Goodbyes are, by their very nature, at least a mild bummer,” agrees Seth Stevenson in this Slate post, and he encourages people to leave parties without saying goodbye. What if your friends wonder where you’ve gone? “This is key,” he says, “They probably won’t even notice that you’ve left.” You can then send a thank-you email to the hosts the next morning.

Would you do this? Do you already? Or do you think it’s rude? Would love to hear your thoughts…

(Via Kottke)

  1. Julia says...

    How about a warm, yet quick goodbye, since the host is most likely in the middle of a conversation: “Hey, I dont want to interrupt, but we are heading home, so thank you for this really wonderful evening!”

  2. Alana says...

    I never thought of doing this i will have to try it next time I go out.

  3. Chelsie says...

    Ahhh, the ole “Irish Goodbye”, or as my family calls it, “The Connolly Sneak-away”. My dad uses the line “I’m going to go make a fried bologna sandwich”. And he was the one who taught me, just bounce. It makes people miss you more! But seriously, it takes up way too much time saying goodbye, and you only spread more germs with cheek kisses and and handshakes. Peace!

  4. Sacha St. Germain says...

    I enjoyed this discussion-provoking post, this is a conversation I’ve had with dear friends. From the perspective of both a guest and a host, I can say I’m an advocate of ghosting. Making a production of saying goodbye seems contrived and distracting. I agree it is possible to pull off a discreet farewell with a nod or a glance. However, it’s not always possible to do this well or effectively. When in doubt, I say disappear and the party will go on without you.

  5. Victoria says...

    In my Italian-American family, saying good night or goodbye is a 30-minute ritual! If people were to simply slip out, it could cause culture shock!

    I don’t know ANY immigrant culture whose members would be comfortable doing this, and I don’t believe their hosts would welcome it.

  6. Interesting. As a hostess, I don’t see guests saying goodbye as an intrusion on my evening, or as an interruption. It’s a nice way to insure that I’ve interacted with everyone, and thanked them for coming. As a guest, it seems rude to leave without saying goodbye, and I wouldn’t think of it. I take my cues from the hosts – a quick wave or a quick chat. Judging by many of the comments, I think one is risking hurting the host’s feelings if they ignore this courtesy. Some exceptions: Huge parties (eg, a huge wedding), or maybe a group of friends where it is the agreed upon convention.

  7. prudence marule says...

    Oh my gosh no!! you have to say goodbye… people mysteriously disappearing at my party until there was one person left(me) would make me so very paranoid! – why wouldn’t they say goodbye? did i offend them? was the party that bad?? no! please don’t let these questions keep your poor hostess who’s party you actually did enjoy up at night! – i have a friend who says hes going to the bathroom when he actually means he leaving… he says he hates goodbyes and getting the “why are you leaving” question…

    I get to a point at parties where i just want to go home but i always say goodbye, its an opportunity to say thank you for the effort that went into putting this together because even the most causal get-together takes effort to pull off successfully.

    please say goodbye to your host – the shock of a group of people at once leaving wears off and the party continues who the people who are sticking around…

  8. You know what? Before my Sunday night wedding last october, I would have thought this was rude. But, I spent probably at least an hour total of my reception saying bye to people, having small chit-chat, when I could have been having fun on the dance floor with my hubby or spending time with the people that were staying (like grandparents and out of town guests!). I totally agree with this one.

    If it feels rude, a quick wave might be nice–people understand that you might need to get home for some reason. But it doesn’t take up 10 minutes of the host’s time for “goodbye talk”.

    Great post!

  9. I am a HUGE fan of just leaving (why take up their time?).

  10. Oof, just read the comment about someone who didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to a brother who later died. Yeah, another case in point. Some token of a appreciation, a good time, something. Send a large group text, whatever, but something, I feel is called for or it becomes weird. Don’t make it about you or rob someone of time with others, but send a text or something as you walk to your cab, shut the door, something to put the people you left behind at ease me thinks.

  11. Anonymous says...

    TOTALLY understand where this is coming from as a host, but truly think it’s a major bummer. Granted, I don’t have or often attend larger parties and it’s quite possible that it’d make more sense with larger crowds in smaller spaces and departing. Gotta say, though, that it’s actually perceived as rude and does often makes people feel like something was wrong. We have a couple in our group who often do this exact thing and it leaves all of us perplexed and wondering if everything was okay. It’d likely be fine it they’d just say it was their m.o. and hope they didn’t offend anyone and thanked us for a good time, even if they said something the next day, but they do not. So, it just comes off as selfish and rude. Even a quick text would suffice, but they say nothing, so it feels kind of weird and little gross, honestly.

  12. Upon first reading this, I thought this concept was absolutely brilliant . A lingering awkwardness almost always accompanies a goodbye, and so avoiding that uneasiness all together is lovely. However, I went to a party the next Sunday, after I had read this, at my oldest brother’s home. All my family, consisting of 7 siblings, all of our kids plus our parents attended. I left without a thank you or our usual hug goodbye.
    Unfortunately, my brother unexpectedly died the next morning due to an undetected atrial fibrillation and more than anything I wish I had taken the opportunity to give him one last thank you and hug goodbye.
    My case in point: Never skip a chance to show appreciation and love to those who mean the most to you…even if leaving a large gathering.

  13. I do this all the time! I find it easier than tracking the host down (when they’re usually in conversation with someone else already), and then bursting their happy bubble with a goodbye. I always send a hand written note the next morning to say thank-you. If they did notice me slip out the door without saying goodbye, their joy at receiving a handmade thank you card eclipses any upset that may have been caused!

  14. I think this is a great idea! I completely agree that good byes are typically a downer. Unconsciously I have been doing this for years even with big good byes. Living abroad I realized that having my mother drop me at the airport to return to Spain was a disaster for all of us. Tsa questioning if I was “ok” to fly was never fun. Yes I was ok, can’t a girl miss her momma????
    So from a small party like yours to a going away party I have always snuck out. I always send some sort of text email or card that encompasses my sentiment that would have been the formal and in person good bye.

  15. I had no idea that so many people slipped out of parties without saying goodbye! I would find it extremely rude if someone left a party I was hosting without a goodbye. It can be a quick wave and thank you if I’m busy but just slipping out would make me wonder if something was wrong! So naturally when I’m leaving someone else’s party, if the host is busy, I’ll do a quick wave and mouth ‘thanks’ but if they’re not, then sometimes that’s the best time to have a little conversation with them before leaving. I think that people who leave without saying bye probably haven’t hosted too many parties themselves. I hope this isn’t a trend that is going to catch on!

  16. I live in Spain and here you can easily spend an hour saying goodbye. at a friends, at a party, restaurant even if you just meet for a coffee, they spend MIN 15 minutes saying goodbye. I try to stand up, say bye and leave, but most people think I am rude but say “she’s english, she’s different”… so I kinda get away with it. In any case, I always try to sneak out, not making people feel that since i have to gi, it’s time for them too. great.

  17. As a recent bride, I have to say I am totally grateful that our guests did not say good-bye before leaving! That being said, I always thought drawn out good-byes were perfectly normal, based on my family gatherings (on both sides!)… the price to pay with large families!

  18. so fascinating to hear everyone’s thoughts!! thanks for these comments:)

  19. An interesting concept. It makes me wonder how people who have huge weddings deal with this–their entire night would feel like a goodbye instead of a fresh start! I had a small wedding 33 people and we never once said goodbye that night because it was a destination wedding and everyone had a room at the chateau that entire week. I will rethink about saying goodbyes now however, when I am invited to a larger party for the sake of the host.

  20. I always heard of Irish Goodbyes, which is where you just leave.

  21. So I read this and shared your idea of not saying goodbye with my husband who loved it but I found it incredibly stressful. I think you really need to take in to consideration who your hosts are. As an introvert and a people-pleaser, it is deeply important to me to connect with all my guests and when some slip out and don’t say goodbye (especially when I have no idea how long they actually stuck around) I will worry for days that I did something wrong or offended them in some way. Even if they send a thank you later. But I also don’t mind all the little goodbye conversations. I think you just need to consider who it is.

  22. I find that saying goodbye is one way to be acknowledged at the party by the host. Depending on the guest list, some folks never even get a chance to have a conversation with the host so the ‘goodbye’ is an informal way of tying ends together.

  23. I think it would be cute to slip out from a party unnoticed, but leave behind and little thank you card for the host(s) to find

  24. I most always slip out of large parties or events but feel guilty for doing so. I love your post, gives me permission and I totally agree. I hate the long good byes. I also like the followup “thank you”.

  25. I most always slip out of large parties or events but feel guilty for doing so. I love your post, gives me permission and I totally agree. I hate the long good byes. I also like the followup “thank you”.

  26. ahh i cannot leave a party without saying goodbye and thanks! but i personally like to keep the goodbye short and non-distracting, and i follow up with an email the next day. but i totally hear you about feeling like you’re saying goodbye to everyone at your own party and not being able to enjoy just partying it up!? perhaps it’s one of the wish-we-didn’t-have-to-but-have-to jobs of the hostess, to know you’ll be spending a while both greeting and saying bye to people that we have to suck up … people just don’t want to seem impolite by fading like a party ghost out the door.

  27. I can’t believe this is even up for debate!

    You might find it tiresome but I think it’s bad manners to leave without saying thanks and goodbye to your host. Simple as that.

  28. This suggestion is absolutely mortifying to me. As someone who’s hosted many parties, I would totally notice and never forgive my friends for just “slipping out.” Not to say that goodbyes need to be drawn out and said to every single person left at the party, but I think a quick “thank you I had a lovely time” to the host is necessary and expected.

    I feel like the mere suggestion of this kind of disappearance being acceptable reflects the diminishing courtesies and general good manners in the digital age.

  29. I’ve only heard of the lingering goodbyes referred to as the Jewish goodbye. Not just in reference to Jewish weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs, but any sort of social gathering, such as the oneg reception following Friday night services. It takes forever to leave b/c you end up chatting with everyone in your path on your way out the door. You just have to decide what time you really want to be in the car on the way home and “leave” about 45 minutes before that time. ;-)

  30. I call this “Ninja Bombing”. I’ve been doing this for years! I think it’s less intrusive on conversations :) Key is to definitely follow up the next day!

  31. I think it depends on the size of the party and how close you are with the hosts. If it is a large wedding, you can generally get away with slipping out unless you are close friends with the bride or the groom. Also, if the hosts of the party are your closest friends and you may have helped plan to party, you may want to say bye. BUT generally I’m a fan of just slipping out. No host ever wants anyone to leave :)

  32. I don’t really see why it has to ruin any conversations or be a big deal to catch the host’s eye in between (don’t interrupt!) conversations they’re having, and just wave or say a discreet “bye!” or “we gotta get going, thanks!” – I would be a little bit concerned or annoyed if I was hosting a party and guests started to mysteriously disappear. Like, “Was I too busy talking to one person while that person felt neglected? Was the food I spent time/money/effort on so awful they had to escape? ” If you tend to get antsy at parties it’s always an option when you arrive to casually slip in that you’re happy to be there, but may have to run off to another engagement later, or go relieve the babysitter, etc. so that if you do wind up slipping out, they’d have an idea of why you’re gone without taking it personally.

    With a gathering of family or smallish circle of friends I think would be rude to leave without making a small, quick effort to say goodbye and maybe give your favorite people hugs/kisses.

  33. I always bring a little gift (usually a candle and pretty matches) and tuck it where the hosts will find it later. It’s my way of saying thank you and nighty night.

  34. I agree. I loathe saying goodbye. I’d much rather give a cheery wave and kiss and then send a thank you. And I’d rather people did it to me as well. Must try it.

  35. it’s called the “Irish Exit” and it’s awesome

  36. It’s called the “Irish Exit” and it’s awesome.

  37. Depends on the cirumstances. Personally, if I was at a family gathering, visit with friends (where there wasn’t such a large crowd) I would find it rude and frankly, odd to slip out without saying goodbye. I think it’s important to thank the hosts and show your appreciation.

    The only times I feel comfortable slipping out are the following: a wedding (the night flies by so fast as it is you don’t want to waste their precious time saying goodbye along with 100 other people!), a large party where I don’t know the hosts very well.

    Good manners are so few and far between these days…a simple Thank You takes little of your or anyone else’s time.

  38. Depends on the cirumstances. Personally, if I was at a family gathering, visit with friends (where there wasn’t such a large crowd) I would find it rude and frankly, odd to slip out without saying goodbye. I think it’s important to thank the hosts and show your appreciation.

    The only times I feel comfortable slipping out are the following: a wedding (the night flies by so fast as it is you don’t want to waste their precious time saying goodbye along with 100 other people!), a large party where I don’t know the hosts very well.

    Good manners are so few and far between these days…a simple Thank You takes little of your or anyone else’s time.

  39. This has become the norm in my circle of friends. We tell a “couple” not the host that we must leave and exit. It is very common and accepted. I agree with the mild bummer and think its always awkward to interrupt a host/hostess just for formality.

  40. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  41. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  42. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  43. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  44. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  45. I’ve always said goodbye to the host or the person being celebrated (if it was a baby shower or something) but I never thought about it from the host’s point of view! It does seem like a bummer when it feels like you’re saying goodbye to guests for the latter half of a party. I don’t mind slipping out and the sending of a thank you note the next day sounds respectful, but I’d probably gauge it by the person or event on how many goodbyes I say.

  46. I have a natural tendancy to just slip out not wanting to interrupt and it seems most people don’t like it. I always get a message later “where did you run off to? why didn’t you say good-bye?”…

  47. At big parties I always duck out, saying goodbyes to whomever happens to be close to the door/coat room/hallway–basically whoever I might pass on my way out. Then I always call or email the next morning with thanks. Smaller parties are a different story, of course, but it’s too hard to track people down, break into their conversations or distract them from the fun just to say a silly goodbye. Slipping out is way better!

  48. At big parties I always duck out, saying goodbyes to whomever happens to be close to the door/coat room/hallway–basically whoever I might pass on my way out. Then I always call or email the next morning with thanks. Smaller parties are a different story, of course, but it’s too hard to track people down, break into their conversations or distract them from the fun just to say a silly goodbye. Slipping out is way better!

  49. I think it is really rude to leave without saying goodbye! Slipping out the door without saying goodbye is sketchy! And yes, people will wonder where you went and think that you are rude/weird for just taking off secretly.

  50. we call just slipping out “the irish goodbye”. it’s great as a guest, but as a host i don’t always have the chance to talk with everyone and i’d be bummed out if i didn’t get to at least say goodbye to one of my friends!

  51. Seems rude to me. Like, you’d never slip out of a wedding without talking to the bride and groom…so why hosts?

  52. That’s a tough one. I think if it’s a larger gathering, it’s ok, but I would never leave a good friend’s party without a quick goodbye…especially if it was a smaller crowd…seems so rude and ungrateful of their hospitality.

  53. I’d do it at a work/business gathering, maybe if there is a huge party (like a wedding) so not to annoy the bride and groom but never at a friend’s or family party. No thanking the host is rude !
    And being able to understand that your guests are leaving and being polite without it creating some “people are leaving, omg !” anxiety in you is called “being a good host”

    Btw I am French, my husband is Irish… and I don’t see the point

  54. Did you every hear of an “Irish Goodbye”? In my family we are known for quickly sneaking out of parties. Just disappearing. The party goes on and everyone knows where you are…. Irish Goodbye.

  55. My husband and I almost never say goodbye at parties. The drunks never want us to leave! So we just casually give each other a certain look when we have both agreed it’s time to exit and make our way to the truck without being seen. It’s kindof our little game but works fabulously for us.

  56. very Intresting but I was educated for years by my parents to go and say goodbye.
    It’s intresting what you are saying but I believe it is concernng only parties with many people and not few so when you are disappearing no one will notice.

  57. If it’s a small party I say goodbye to everybody, but if it’s a big one, with a loooot of people, I just say goodbye to the people around me, with whom I am having a conversation and to the ones I meet on the way out and of course to the host if he/she/they are very busy, just wave and smile.

  58. Just plain rude!

  59. Just plain rude!

  60. I try my best to leave a party without anyone noticing. I spend some time with the host during the party not at the end of it. And when I’m about to leave, I inform a friend of the hosts (I know they will remain until the end). And go. Because I always feel that when people start to see that others are leaving, it will create a sort of goodbye movement while the good mood could have lasted longer/better if it was just for them. And I send a thank you note/sms/call the day after.
    Precision: I am a French girl living in Italy, where goodbyes can last more that the actual party!

  61. THis is pretty funny. Where I live, a total of three kisses(each check then first cheek a second time) are sort of expected when you arrive and leave a party. for a party of 50 people, for coming and going that means 150 kisses for just hellos and good byes! Yeah, slipping out seems like a good idea when it is a big party! But if I were hosting I would notice and think it is a bit rude too….

  62. I think it’s rude! I always say goodbye when I leave a party. I don’t say goodbye to everyone and make it a big to-do, but I at least let the host(s) know that I’m leaving and thank them for inviting me.

    If I hosted a party, I would want to know when my guests are leaving, too.

  63. One party that I felt was going to drag on late, I just felt compelled to get up and dance my way out of the door, wave goodbye to the beat of the music and make a fun, quick exit. Everybody laughed and cheered as I closed the door. It made my exit fast, and my exit was upbeat. I wish I could replicate that every time, awh.

  64. for me, it depends on the party. if it’s a large party, lets say a party that goes throughout the whole house, in which i don’t see very much of the hosts, i always take a quick look when i’m leaving, but if i don’t see him/her/them, i just go. if it’s a more intimate get-together, i will definitely say goodbye.

    i guess it also depends a bit how well i know them! my closest friends will always get a goodbye, no matter what. not that i don’t care when its a different kind of friend hosting, but it is a bit dependant of the situation. :)
    xo, cheyenne

  65. I quite disagree. Part of saying goodbye at a party is thanking the host/hostess. Manners are always acceptable :)

  66. I like it when people say goodbye. It is like a moment with that person that you might not have given them while they were there. When someone leaves without saying good bye I hope that everything is OK. A nice goodbye means they enjoyed themselves and that the party was a success. I do agree though that goodbyes at weddings should be a no no. I film weddings for my job and the couple is never happy to stop the fun to say goodbye to early leavers.

  67. Another thought…. if it is a large gathering… a wedding for example then perhaps its okay to slip out…

  68. I did this recently for the very reason you’re recommending it. It wasn’t because I felt awkward leaving, it was because I didn’t want to make anyone feel like it was time to go. My boyfriend and I just slipped out the door. I felt a little guilty, but later talking to people found out the party went on until 5 in the morning (!! as it was like 30 people at the beginning) so I obviously didn’t cause any stir :)

  69. Well meaning but rude… As a guest one must thank the host for a lovely evening. Buck up…be polite…be quick…out the door you go and everyone is still smiling. :D

  70. Slip sliding away……

  71. I guess it depends on the size of the gathering. In general I am a big proponent for just slipping out- I will say bye to those nearby and then call it a night. I don’t like goodbyes in general. They can very easily turn insincere even with your best of friends. So, I say keep it short and sweet. If it would simple and easy to say goodbye to the host then fine, but otherwise, just exit quietly.

  72. I guess it depends on the size of the gathering. In general I am a big proponent for just slipping out- I will say bye to those nearby and then call it a night. I don’t like goodbyes in general. They can very easily turn insincere even with your best of friends. So, I say keep it short and sweet. If it would simple and easy to say goodbye to the host then fine, but otherwise, just exit quietly.

  73. We (my husband and I) always slip out for this very reason. It’s kind of like buying the first round of shots for your buddies, not the last — you want people to remember the good stuff, you know ? We send a note or email thanking the hosts the next day. Obviously, if its a small gathering you bid your hosts goodnight, but at a large party ? No.

  74. In my city it would be very very rude to not say a fast goodby and thanks. You also need to send a thank you note the next day.