Modern-Day Party Etiquette NPR's Michel Martin talks with Olivia Harrison, a lifestyle writer at Refinery29, about modern-day party etiquette.

Modern-Day Party Etiquette

Modern-Day Party Etiquette

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Michel Martin talks with Olivia Harrison, a lifestyle writer at Refinery29, about modern-day party etiquette.


Millions of Americans will be on the move next week for Thanksgiving, which means it's the beginning of the holiday party season and time to begin stressing about etiquette questions that previous generations never had to consider, such as how to respond to an e-vite. OK, so that's an easy one. Just make sure you do reply - hint. Olivia Harrison has been tackling questions like that one. She's a lifestyle writer for Refiner29, a web-based publication. We spoke earlier today, and I asked her about a real-life scenario she shared recently in her column. Somebody went to a friendsgiving, brought a dish and then got a Venmo request from the host asking for $40. So how to handle that?

OLIVIA HARRISON: First of all, potluck - the expectation is that you're contributing by bringing something. So you really don't need to contribute money. But I think also, the Venmo situation, people really have very specific ideas of how you're supposed to use that app. So I think that it's really not appropriate to request money from someone through Venmo without first discussing it with them, whether that's like you text them and ask them if it's OK if you request it or just, like, ask before everyone leaves the party. Hey, I'm thinking about Venmo requesting. Would you guys be OK with it? Just something about opening your phone and having the request on there just feels, like, very aggressive.

MARTIN: I noticed that there were also a lot of questions about weed. And state laws about cannabis vary from place to place. So in some places, it's legal for personal consumption. In some places, it's legal for medical use. And I noticed that you had a number of questions about whether you can bring it, and if you bring it, do you have to share? And what if you're not comfortable having people use it in your home? So let's deal with the whole question of let's say you're hosting and you would really rather guests not. What did you recommend?

HARRISON: Right. So I think that if you are bringing marijuana to someone's house, it is really good etiquette to talk about it first. So Lizzy (ph) kind of used the example of, you would not really go into someone's living room and, like, light a cigarette. So the same thing, you wouldn't really walk into someone's living room and toke up without asking.

So as the host, if you feel like you really wouldn't rather have people use cannabis recreationally in your home, even if, you know, laws say that it's legal, you should totally feel comfortable setting those boundaries. But maybe offer a solution. So you could say, I'd rather you not do it here, but you're welcome to step outside in the backyard. Or if you'd like, I'll take a walk with you. Just so you offer a solution and move away from the negativity and move into a more positive space with your friend.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, we saved this one for last because this is one of these - something that has occurred before but that I think our feelings about how this should be handled possibly have changed. And this is the question of somebody making jokes or comments that are offensive to others. I get the feeling that - maybe you agree with me - back in the day, if it was like an elder in the community, you would feel you had to tolerate it. Do you agree with me?

HARRISON: Yeah, definitely.

MARTIN: Whereas now, I'm feeling people feel a little differently about that. So what's your guidance about that? How do you think that should be addressed?

HARRISON: So with stuff like that, it's really important to talk to your guests privately. Like, if someone is saying an off-color comment or something that's making someone else uncomfortable, it's easy to just pull them aside. You don't have to humiliate them. Be honest and be willing to speak up. I think in this climate, like, more and more, we are getting to where we're not going to tolerate that kind of thing.

MARTIN: That was Olivia Harrison. She is a lifestyle writer for Refinery29. Olivia Harrison, thanks so much for talking with us. And Happy Thanksgiving to you.

HARRISON: Thank you. You, too.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.