Why Showing Up Early Is Not Always “Polite”

Is there such a thing as being too prompt?

Being prompt is one of the core tenets of etiquette, without any doubt. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to something as important as a wedding ceremony or graduation, or a more routine occasion such as a salon appointment or lunch with a friend. Showing up on time is not only about following through on your commitments, but also respecting others’ time and effort. 

In short, everyone typically agrees that being on time is a basic courtesy, but some tend to take that sentiment even more seriously. There are those who prefer to show up habitually early as a display of both promptness and politeness, even when it’s not necessary. That begs the question: Is it ever rude to show up early? 

Arriving Early

Getty Images/The Good Brigade

We all have that friend or family member who gets ready hastily and arrives at every event or appointment at least 10 to 15 minutes early, sometimes more. Usually, it is linked to a feeling of worry around accidentally being tardy somewhere, and we can certainly sympathize with trying to avoid any mishaps. At the core, it’s kindly intentioned. However, there are some instances in which arriving early can actually have an adverse effect. 

For example, the 15-minute period before the start of a party is often crucial for a host to do last-minute cleaning, cooking, or other tasks. Therefore, you could be walking in at a moment when the host desires a few minutes to put on finishing touches in lieu of beginning hosting duties. (Unless, of course, you are close enough to the host to offer help and not require “hosting.”)

That also goes without acknowledging the amusingly unspoken agreement that most people will actually show up a little bit after the designated “start time” of a social event. So, while showing up perfectly on time is still completely acceptable, arriving too early doesn’t offer much in politeness at most occasions. While not outright rude, it can put unnecessary pressure on the host, or leave yourself feeling a bit awkward. It’s best to aim for around the start of the dinner party, birthday celebration, cookout, or holiday soiree rather than early. 

Similarly, while it can be recommended to arrive early to doctor appointments, it’s less recommended when considering hair salon etiquette, since stylists’ schedules are often packed tightly and you’ll be left waiting around or putting undue pressure on the stylist to finish early. Typically, you can simply call ahead, and the receptionist will be able to let you know if showing up 15 or more minutes early is worth it. For extremely formal affairs, such as weddings or graduations, being a few minutes early ensures you won't walk in after proceedings have begun (a big no-no!), and so in those instances, it's good to perhaps be overly prompt.

Overall, if you really prefer to show up early for your own peace of mind, live your truth. No matter if it’s not appreciated as much in some instances over others, it’s certainly always better than being late.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles