Met Gala Rules That All Attendees Must Follow

The Met Gala, fashion's biggest night, is an event shrouded in secrecy and tradition. From its humble beginnings in 1948 to the star-studded extravaganza it is today, the Gala has undergone significant changes over the years. "I would say it's unrecognizable from what it was when Anna [Wintour] started planning it in 1995. They didn't even have a carpet on the steps! And it was really mostly the fashion industry attending — models, designers — along with society people," Amy Odell, journalist and author of the book "Anna: The Biography," revealed to Grazia in 2023.


Over time, Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor-in-chief, has transformed the Gala into a prestigious affair attended by the biggest names in the world of fashion and entertainment. "It's very secretive," Plum Sykes, a contributing editor at Vogue, told the New York Post of the event. "[Wintour] doesn't want anyone to know what she's planning or what she's up to until the minute they walk down that red carpet and through the door." Despite the Gala's popularity, one thing remains constant: the strict rules that all attendees must follow. From the always eagerly anticipated dress code to the carefully curated guest list, Wintour herself meticulously approves every aspect of the event.

Phones, selfies, and social media are a big no-go

According to a notice all guests receive, taking pictures on your phone and using social media are strict no-nos at the Gala.  As the mastermind behind the event, Anna Wintour prefers a traditional approach, hoping to encourage more conversation by banning digital distractions. Sylvana Ward Durrett, who's involved in planning the Gala, explained, "Anna is sort of an old-school traditionalist. She likes a dinner party where people are actually speaking to each other." While the staff doesn't hover over guests, they do subtly monitor phone usage. "We aren't sitting over people's shoulders, but if it's an obvious thing, we might gently remind them," Ward Durrett revealed (via the New York Post). 


Of course, the Vogue employees that are spread out throughout the venue have to follow this strict rule as well. "They were told very clearly that they weren't allowed to be using their cellphones, and if they were seen using their cellphones, they would be escorted out of the [ball]," Andrew Rossi, director of the documentary movie "The First Monday in May," told the New York Post. However, despite the strict policy, some celebrities manage to sneak in a selfie or two. One place where photos do tend to be taken quite a bit is the Met Gala bathroom, where stars often gather for a brief break from the festivities.

Smoking isn't allowed — especially in the bathroom

In 2017, photos emerged of Bella Hadid, Paris Jackson, Lara Stone, and Ruby Rose sharing a cigarette while hanging out on the bathroom floor of the Met Gala. Of course, this caused quite a controversy, as smoking indoors has been banned in New York City since the early 2000s. After the pics went viral, a donor to the Met Gala expressed their frustration to Page Six, stating, "As a donor to the Met, I was so insulted to see all these 'celebrities' smoking and taking selfies of themselves in the bathroom. Mostly, it's disrespectful to the art collection, which needs to be kept 100% smoke-free. I would honestly like to see these people fined by the city."


Following the complaints, the rules were made even clearer. Those attending the 2018 Met Gala were informed that they were by no means allowed to smoke inside the museum. A source told Page Six in 2018, "Guests were told that it is illegal to smoke in the museum," and this rule was also mentioned on the invitations. To ensure full compliance, guards were stationed outside the restrooms, and it was even rumored that some smoke detectors had been hidden in the bathroom stalls.

You can't go to the Met Gala unless you've gotten an Anna Wintour-approved invitation

You can't just decide to go to the Met Gala; you need an Anna Wintour-approved invitation, as the Met Gala is an invite-only event. So, what increases one's chances of getting an invite to the prestigious ball? Well, since 1995, Wintour has approved all of the invitations, and those are usually based on a person's current status in the eye of the public. The more famous and talked about in the world you are, the higher your chances of snatching an invitation. "We're always interested in trying to reflect a cultural moment and what we feel is happening in the world at any given time," Wintour told CBS News. "We try and curate the guest list in a way that makes sense for whatever the theme of the exhibition is ... So, you know, there's always another year, and every year we try and make it different, have different people come. So obviously, there's always next year."


Now, if you thought tickets to the Met Gala were free, think again — it's a charity gala, after all. However, celebrities themselves rarely pay for their tickets — usually, designers and brands will buy tickets for a whole table. Of course, the celebrities the brand chooses to invite need to be pre-approved by Wintour. And just in case you're wondering how much the tickets can go for, Page Six reports that some were sold for as much as $50,000.

Seating at the Met Gala is strictly assigned

At the Met Gala, every detail, down to the seating arrangements, is meticulously planned. "A lot of thought goes into who sits next to who, if they sat together last year, if they've sat next to each other at other events, so much goes into it, it's shocking," Sylvana Ward Durrett explained in "The First Monday in May," giving us a glimpse into the complexities of organizing this star-studded event (via E! News). Figuring out who will be seated where is everything but an easy task. "[Wintour] wants it to be as near [as] possible [to] a perfect party. She wants to mix people up — the dazzle glamour of Beyoncé next to Kim Kardashian next to Lady Gaga with Alexander Wang," added Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley (via the New York Post).


Wintour's focus when working on the seating chart is to prioritize the ability to engage in conversation. "For Anna, it's not just about a pretty face. It truly is about what you have to talk about and how you can hold a conversation and hold a table," Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, former head of events at Vogue, revealed (via the New York Post). Another fun rule that Wintour imposes is that partners won't be seated next to each other. "Never seat spouses next to each other," Ward Durrett admitted (via E! News). "The whole point of these things is to meet new people and to be interested in what others are doing. What's the point if you come here to hang out with your husband?" This means that celebrity couples don't actually end up sitting next to each other, no matter how famous and influential they might be.


The event always takes place at the same location on the first Monday in May

While its history dates back to 1948, the Met Gala — which has always been held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City — wasn't always held on the first Monday in May. In fact, it's a rather new tradition for the charity event — one that started in 2005 when the exhibition was a tribute to the French fashion house Chanel. Since then, the event has stuck to this schedule, becoming a fixture in the fashion calendar — with the exception of 2020, when it was entirely canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, and in 2021, when it was postponed and took place in September instead of May.  


Fashion's biggest night requires meticulous preparation from celebrities, stylists, and designers alike. "Sarah Jessica Parker is the perfect Met guest because she takes the theme of the night unbelievably seriously and plans it out for months and months ahead," Anna Wintour revealed in an interview with Vogue. And the annual event's fixed schedule gives everyone a chance — and a clear timeline — to perfect their red carpet garb, long before the Gala takes place.

You have to be 18 to attend the Gala

The Met Gala is an exclusive event, and one of its lesser-known rules is that attendees must be at least 18 years old. This rule became a hot topic when then-15-year-old model and dancer Maddie Ziegler expressed her disappointment at not being able to attend. "I can't go, because I'm not old enough," Ziegler told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018.


A spokesperson for the event later confirmed that the rule had been established as the exhibit is "not an appropriate event for people under 18" (via the Independent). The Met Gala is known for its rich displays of fashion and celebrity, and the organizers believe that the event's atmosphere and themes are best suited for adults. While many young celebrities may aspire to attend the Gala, they'll have to wait until they turn 18 before they can grace the Met's iconic red carpet — if they get an invitation, that is.

The dress code is a crucial part of the event — but there is some leeway

The dress code for the Met Gala is a crucial aspect of the event, setting the tone for the evening and providing attendees with a chance to showcase just how fashionable they truly are. However, while there's a theme each year, and it's highly encouraged that everyone follows it, attendees can get away with completely ignoring it. While there's always room for personal interpretation of the theme, occasionally, some celebs seem to miss the mark completely. For example, in 2015, the Met Gala's theme was "China: Through The Looking Glass," and according to Anna Wintour herself, the theme caused a bit of confusion, with many attendees asking for additional explanations of what the theme entailed. 


One celebrity who attended that year's Met Gala while completely ignoring the theme was Hollywood star George Clooney. In a 2015 appearance on "Late Night With Seth Meyers," Wintour explained that Clooney basically had a free pass. "First of all, he has Amal [Clooney] on his arm, and he's George Clooney," the editor-in-chief of Vogue said (via E! News). "He doesn't have to wear anything," she joked. While Clooney may have bent the rules, his star power ensured that he still turned heads on the red carpet. However, we fear that failing to deliver on the theme might result in not getting another invitation for other, less high-profile attendees. After all, Wintour is a fan of the Gala's extravagant looks — no matter how bad they might end up being. "A lot of people have criticized the Gala for becoming too much of a costume party versus a black-tie event," Amy Odell revealed to Grazia in 2023. "But Anna — who, remember, is a huge theatre fan — enjoys the theatrics."


If you reject the invitation, don't expect to ever get another one

If you decline an invitation to the Met Gala, don't expect to receive another one in the future. According to a source for Page Six, those who decide not to attend the event for any reason may find themselves excluded from future guest lists. "I know people who decided not to go one year because they weren't around or didn't like the theme. Once you do that, you're not invited back unless you're triple A-list," the source said. The strict yet elusive invite policy ensures that only the most high-profile and committed attendees are included in the exclusive guest list year after year.


The same source also added that the event is so star-studded that we'd be surprised to hear that someone decided not to go without a justifiable and Anna Wintour-approved reason. "There are no bad seats in that room," the source added. "It's the Oscars of New York. When you turn around and you see Kanye at one side and Taylor Swift and every celebrity you've ever heard of every time you turn your head, it's hard to be disappointed."

Everyone works on the event until the last minute

The work doesn't stop until the very last minute at the Met Gala. "We'd be in our gowns and picking up tables and sweeping the floors ... if there's garbage on the floor," Stephanie Winston Wolkoff explained to the New York Post. "Anna does that, too." 


This dedication to ensuring the event runs smoothly means that everyone is expected to pitch in and help out until the very end, if necessary. Anna Wintour clearly sets the standard by rolling up her sleeves and getting involved in every aspect of the Gala's preparation — even if most of us can't really imagine the industry icon picking up garbage off the floor. But because Wintour isn't afraid of putting in the work, we wouldn't be surprised if the celebrity co-chairs of the year were also expected to lend a hand, even if it means doing so while dressed in their Gala best.

Certain foods aren't allowed on the menu

When it comes to the Met Gala menu, there are strict rules about what can and cannot be served. Former Vogue employees revealed to the New York Post that Anna Wintour has forbidden certain foods to ensure that guests don't encounter any embarrassing mishaps during the event. Parsley is a no-go "because you don't want that stuck in your teeth," while onion and garlic are also off-limits due to their well-known potential to cause bad breath. Even appetizers such as bruschetta are banned, because, according to a source, "[i]t can fall easily on your gown."


During a tasting session for the 2015 Met Gala, Wintour and filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, the event's creative consultant, weren't satisfied with the food options. "They thought that the food didn't look particularly sophisticated, and they wanted it to look better," director Andrew Rossi revealed (via the New York Post). "We see Anna literally going on her phone to look up the presentations of different food," he added. "The level of detail is shocking."

No touching the art — after all, it's a museum exhibition

While we mortals remember the Met Gala because of its stunning red carpet fashion moments, those who attend actually get to witness a stunning exhibition that's in accordance with the theme each year. Once the stars walk the red carpet, they get to talk to each other and tour the displayed art — all while holding a drink in their hand. 


However, attendees must remember that they are guests in a museum, and this means respecting the art on display. As Andrew Bolton, the curator behind the exhibitions, pointed out to The Washington Post, "It's one of the difficulties of museums, that you can't touch things." This rule is especially important to always keep in mind during the Gala, where guests are surrounded by priceless works of art. While the event is undoubtedly a celebration, it's essential to remember that it takes place in a museum setting, and the art on display should be treated with the utmost respect. After all, touching the art can lead to damage that may be irreversible, and with so many people in attendance, the risk is even higher.


You can't bring a plus one unless Anna Wintour approves them

It's clear that at the Met Gala, every detail is carefully curated. One of the most important rules for attendees is that you can't just bring a plus one unless Anna Wintour personally says yes to them. "[She has] total control. No one gets into the event unless she approves them," Amy Odell revealed to Grazia.


This means that even if you're a celebrity, you can't just bring anyone with you. Wintour carefully selects who is allowed to attend, ensuring that the guest list includes only those who meet her impeccable standards. "I know people who get really frustrated that they can't bring their husbands. It becomes a very expensive girls' night out." Cameron Silver, founder of the vintage shop Decades, revealed to Page Six. Overall, this rule serves as a reminder that the Met Gala is not just a party — it's a perfectly planned event where every single person serves a purpose.