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What Does It Mean to "Crash a Party"?

Dan Cavallari
Updated May 23, 2024
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To “crash a party” is an idiomatic expression that means to attend a party without receiving an invitation first. While the origins are unclear, this expression may have developed from the idea of breaking and entering. If uninvited guests want to find a way into a party, they would need to break in, probably resulting in the sound of a crash either through smashing glass or breaking furniture.

Depending on the kind of party one is trying to attend, however, it is unlikely that one would actually have to break anything in order to enter. Typically the term “crash a party” is used by teens and college students to describe going to parties without an invitation. These parties are usually large affairs where a few extra, uninvited people would hardly be noticed. Most adults rarely crash a party, although a famous exception occurred in 2009 when Tareq and Michaele Salehi made an uninvited appearance at U.S. President Obama’s state dinner for India. While many people thought their behavior was inappropriate, more people were concerned about the lax security that their entrance demonstrated.

A particular form of party crashing is wedding crashing. The popular 2005 comedy film Wedding Crashers also documented the story of two bachelors who routinely attended weddings without an invitation in order to pick up women. While some people might try their luck at finding a date, other wedding crashers simply sneak into a wedding reception to enjoy free food and alcohol. Cocktail hour is a good time to crash a party reception before the guests sit down at assigned seats.

Going to an official government or family function without an invitation is not recommended, but there are situations in which you might want to stop by a neighbor’s barbecue or house party without being invited. If you’re new to a neighborhood, crashing a party can be a great way to meet new people. If you do decide to crash a party, it’s important to be friendly and polite, talk to a few of the guests, and find out who is hosting the party. Introduce yourself to the host and explain why you stopped by. Bringing a beverage or snack to share will help the host know you’re not just taking advantage of their hospitality. Still, you should be ready to leave and apologize for interrupting the gathering if the host indicates it’s not a good time for uninvited guests.

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Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Shopmyst — On Mar 05, 2015

On a Saturday afternoon in the fall of 1982, I was walking on West 57th Street in midtown Manhattan wearing business attire. Cell phones weren't in vogue and I walked into a hotel to make a phone call. As I walked through the lobby I recognized several movie actors who came out of the elevator.

A sign in the elevator area said, "reception on the third floor," so I decided to investigate. A large ballroom area was on the third floor with lots of people milling about, some on line filling their plates with food. Open bars were also available so I ordered a drink and later helped myself to the delicious food. I found out this was the premiere party for the movie, Tootsie, with Dustin Hoffman. This was the first party I ever crashed and I was never told to leave. I sat down at a table with food and drink and chatted with actor James Woods.

After a few drinks and more food, I felt I had to tell someone what I had done, knowing I might be told to leave. I walked to the open bar and told the bartender. He said, "do you do this often?" I told him I stumbled upon this event and never crashed anything before. He said he used to crash parties, then he gave me his phone number and told me to call him and he would tell me about interesting events to crash at the hotel. This bartender didn't have any ulterior motives and he wasn't gay -- he was just a nice guy. I took him up on this opportunity and crashed several receptions including the hotel Christmas party.

After these experiences, I crashed events in other Manhattan midtown hotels, which included several corporate Christmas parties, a computer convention, the Yale Club near Grand Central station, and a college reunion at the Plaza Hotel.

By anon274637 — On Jun 12, 2012

I once went to attend a church at the park and pavilion where they have it every year. I saw a guy I know and said hi in the parking lot. I also saw a bumper sticker for a popular christian radio station.

Only after I made a new friend in line and had a plate of food did I look around to notice I knew no one there. I sat at an empty table in a dark corner next to the family of the guy I just met. I said, "this isn't the (xx) church picnic, is it?" He said, "this is a family reunion but your plate is full so eat up." The church had the picnic that year at another park. I ate fast, left and found the right picnic in time for dessert.

By bluespirit — On Sep 10, 2011

@alFredo - I also heard about that party crashing via social media site because the news covered it because it was so big. The party crashers actually had to be escorted off of the premises via the police.

Talk about not being able to make enough food secondary to party crashers - it would have taken an army to cook for all of those people.

Its amazing how people can organize large events simply through social media sites, I actually can't remember the last time I received a paper invitation for anything other than a wedding because of the social media's invitation capabilities (and apparently party crashing invitation capabilities).

By aLFredo — On Sep 09, 2011

If I were to crash the party, I would definitely bring something and I would not try to make up a connection to anyone at the party as the guys in the movie "Wedding Crashers" discussed in the article mentioned.

So while I would not suggest crashing a wedding in the same style they did, I would highly recommend the movie it is hilarious!

Another type of party crashing is via social media. If someone posts about a party and forget to make it private (so that only their friends on the site can see it versus *everyone* on the site), people who are also a part of that social media site have begun to organize party crashing within their groups of friends on the site.

The largest crashed party secondary to social media that I have heard of is when 1500 people crashed a girls 16th birthday party! Could you imagine?

By orangey03 — On Sep 09, 2011

I once threw a tea party so that I could meet all of my neighbors. I invited them all by sticking cards in their mailboxes, and I didn’t know their faces or names.

Two women from out of town decided to crash the tea party. I had no idea that they were crashers, because I didn’t know most of my neighbors by names or faces yet.

I had a limited number of cakes, scones, and gift bags made. I was confused when I ended up not having enough. I just assumed that more people lived in some of those houses than I had planned to accommodate.

The two uninvited guests departed before anyone else did. After they left, everyone asked each other who those women were, and I found out that no one knew them. I felt better about not having enough party supplies, because no one would blame me now.

By Perdido — On Sep 08, 2011

I actually welcome party crashers. I figure that if they are hungry, thirsty, or simply seeking human interaction, then they need a good time.

My parties are all about providing fun to guests. Crashers tend to have even more fun than those who were invited. If they are having fun, then they are adding something to the mood, which becomes contagious.

I rarely ask people their names at my parties. I don’t want anyone to feel put on the spot if they are there uninvited. I just strike up a generic conversation with them that doesn’t involve exchanging names.

By StarJo — On Sep 07, 2011

My sister used to crash parties at restaurants so that she could get seated quicker. She would drag me along so that she didn’t look suspicious sitting all by herself.

We would park outside of the restaurant and look through the window to the party room. If it was really full of guests, then we would go inside and tell the hostess we were with the party. We would get a seat immediately, and the waitress would come quickly and take our order.

We never got called out for not belonging. We made sure to only crash those parties that had so many guests that no one knew every person there.

By cloudel — On Sep 07, 2011

My friend and I are really good singers, so we liked to crash parties where karaoke was a part of the festivities. We found a lot of these parties in our suburb just outside of Nashville, where everyone is a musician.

Often, people would hold their karaoke parties outdoors. My friend and I could hear people singing just by stepping out on our front porch. We would walk down to the party and sign up to sing.

People were always amazed at how well we sang, and they asked us who we were. We weren’t ashamed to say that we lived just down the street and heard the music, so we wanted to come and sing. We made lots of friends that way, and the hosts never got mad at us.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Sep 06, 2011

I had a party last year that got crashed by three guys that no one there knew. But here is the strange part, they were really cool guys and they added a lot to the party.

Sure they didn't bring anything to drink and they ate a ton of chips, but they had tons of energy and they livened up what was honestly kind of a drab party. One guy played the guitar. Another was really into free styling and the third guy was really really funny.

I didn't know until days later that they were crashers. I just figured that they were friends of friends. It's a shame because I've wanted to invite those guys to other parties I've had but I have no way of getting in touch with them. I'm just hoping that they will crash another one of my parties.

By jonrss — On Sep 06, 2011

I have a funny story about crashing a party. Me and a buddy were in Manhattan. We were walking down the street, kind of tipsy when we hear lots of laughter coming out of these big shaded windows a few stories up. It sounded just like a party.

We were feeling bold so we rang the buzzer and without a voice coming over the intercom or anything we got buzzed into the building. We rode the elevator up and we could hear the music from the party the minute we stepped off. We go down the hall and open the door with our biggest and best smiles on.

That is when the needle scratched across the record. Every single person at the party was a woman. Not a single man and this was a pretty big party. It was immediately obvious to everyone that we had not been invited. God, it felt like every eye in the room was staring at us. We just backed out the door and ran down the hall laughing the whole time. It would have been cooler if we had found a great party but it still makes for a good story.

By whiteplane — On Sep 05, 2011

I have crashed a few parties over the years but it only seems to happen when I am on vacation or in another city. I have never crashed a party in the same place where I live.

I think there is a fear that you will run into people you know or that you will get recognized by people after the fact. You don't want to develop a reputation as some kind of mooch or socially desperate dude.

By julies — On Sep 05, 2011

I don't think I would ever be able to crash a party and get away with it. There have been times when I see a big wedding reception at a hotel and wonder what it would be like to crash the reception.

I know there is no way I would ever feel comfortable doing this, but I know some people who have done it.

I am sure this would be easier to do if it was a big party as opposed to a smaller party where everybody knew each other. I have never hosted a party where someone crashed it, and don't know how I would respond if it happened.

By subway11 — On Sep 05, 2011

I know that some people will crash a party and not think twice about it, but I wouldn’t. I would feel self conscious about it and would be too uncomfortable to attend. I like to receive an invitation to a party before I will attend. Sometimes people that throw parties are on a budget and those few extra people that show up do make a difference. You really have to look at things from the host’s point of view.

If they would have wanted to invite you they would have. When I throw a party if a few extra people show up, I always have extra food just in case, but not everyone does this. This is why I don’t go to a party unless I personally get invited. I rather be safe than sorry.

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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