Until you throw multiple parties, you won’t know that all the real prep happens 15 minutes before the festivities are scheduled to begin. Many are under the assumption that if you watch enough Martha Stewart you are going to suddenly pull off a party with minutes to spare and your lipstick on. Sadly, this is not going to ever be the case. Those who entertain regularly realize that and know how important those final minutes can be to throw a party to be remembered.
When you find yourself running early and you are considering arriving before you are expected, as yourself if there is a set start time. Was a specific time listed on the invitiation? Did your host say something to the effect, “I’ll see you at 7:00?” If the answer is yes, then stick to the time. For the sanity of your host, don’t arrive early.
If you do, in fact, knock on the door before the party is beginning, there are some specific things you definitely should not do. Whether is significantly early, or even within 30 seconds of the start time, don’t:
Ask for a drink
Ask someone to take your coat
Start eating when the food is still being prepped and brought out
Sit on the couch and talk on your cell (you could have done that outside)
There are many things you can do if you ring that doorbell before the festivities begin. If you arrive early be prepared to:
Acknowledge being early
Offer to help with open arms. There’s nothing worse than someone crossing their arms and asking, “Can I help?” You posture alone is saying help is the last thing you want to do
Look around and do something
If you have arrived with a hostess gift, find out where to put it and place it there. If you have flowers, put them in a vase. Offer to open wine bottles or light candles. Then get to work. If the host is flustered or acts like there’s nothing left to do, ferry food out to the table.
With the general busyness of our lives we all tend to run a bit late. Running early is something we all strive for. If you find yourself being one of the fortunate few who have a few spare moments, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do before ringing that doorbell early. Did you pick up a hostess gift? Do you have a call to make? If there’s nothing left to do then knock on that door and be prepared to assist in whatever way you can. This occasions and others are addressed in Kate Spades's book "Occasions". Occasions (New Series of Lifestyle Books)