So, the last box has finally been unpacked, or at least tucked away in the garage. The shelf paper has been laid, and the hardwood floors are gleaming.
Now it’s time to throw open the doors, pour a drink, and summon your favorite people to come admire your fabulous new digs. Bonus: Maybe they’ll bring a few things to help the place feel like home!
Not so fast.
You’ve no doubt navigated the complicated home-buying process with aplomb. But now you must navigate some tricky etiquette rules around being a new homeowner. How do you pull off a housewarming party without the whole shindig looking like an awkward gift grab?
We consulted a few etiquette experts to find out what’s considered tacky—and what’s perfectly appropriate—when it comes to celebrating this enormous life achievement.
Who throws a housewarming party?
I was startled when a friend mentioned that another friend had invited her to a housewarming for their new home. I had always thought that a housewarming party was thrown for one by others, like a bridal or baby shower. It just seemed sort of … self-congratulatory.
The etiquette experts I chatted up fired back with a (mostly) resounding, “Relax! It’s fine.” In fact, throwing yourself a housewarming party—that is, inviting friends, neighbors, and family over to check out your place—isn’t just acceptable; it’s expected, the experts tell me.
“It’s incumbent upon new residents to set the tone for how they’d like to be welcomed into the community,” says Jennifer Porter, a Seattle-based designer and party planner at Satsuma Designs. “Chances are, it will be reciprocated in fun and unexpected ways.”
Is it rude to ask for housewarming gifts?
The short answer: Yes, asking for gifts for your new home is considered impolite. (Even though you just shelled out a boatload of money on the house and would love to have a little help filling it with the essentials!)
You can throw yourself a housewarming party in good faith, but this isn’t the time to hope for—or hint at—gifts you need to finish getting the place in order, says Elaine Swann, a Los Angeles–based etiquette expert, who urges new homeowners to focus on good times with good friends—not getting the goods.
“If you’re throwing a housewarming, that should mean you’re unpacked, decorated, and ready to entertain,” Swann says. “If that’s not the case, then it’s sort of like asking someone on a date and not bringing enough money to pay for it.”
That means you definitely shouldn’t throw a link to your painstakingly curated gift registry on the invitation. And even if guests insist on some ideas of what to bring, Swann urges hosts to maintain that no-gifts-please stance to sidestep any mixed messages about the intent of the party.
“Your presence is my present. I already have everything I need for the house,” Swan suggests as a response.
Invariably, most guests will show up with something in hand—a bottle of wine or a potted fern—which you should accept graciously. Just avoid suggesting specific ways your friends and family can spend their money on your new home.
How to gracefully host a housewarming party
Still feel a little weird about navigating the whole gift-receiving/hosting thing? Rachel Wagner, an etiquette consultant in Bixby, OK, suggests enlisting a close friend to help with logistics and greeting guests at the door.
If not handled carefully, she acknowledges, a self-hosted housewarming can come off as “drinking a toast to oneself”—and not in a charming way.
“Have the friend ‘host’ accept gifts at the door or indicate to the arriving guests where to place them,” Wagner recommends.
It all boils down to steering the vibe from “strutting” to “sharing.” Keep reminding yourself that this is all about hospitality—less about you, more about making others feel welcomed.
She suggests mixing up a special signature cocktail named with a nod to some feature of your home (Red Door Rum Runner, anyone?), offering tours of the house, and maybe even sending guests on their way with a cute parting gift or favor like a specialty cookie decorated with your address.
“You want to create an atmosphere for people to have a good time,” Swann says. “You’ve reached a milestone, and it’s only natural to share that with the people who matter most to you.”