Ladylike Laws: To Hug or Not to Hug?



While hellos and handshakes used to be the way to greet and goodbye, hugs have become the new norm in recent years. I think it’s interesting because, to me, hugs signify affection, not “hello.” I hug close friends and family, but nowadays that’s not enough. After researching the topic of “hugging” for this blog, I learned quite a few unwritten rules about hugging etiquette. Here’s what I learned:

When it comes to good friends… If you are good friends and haven’t seen each other in while: hug. The same goes for saying goodbye. If you are not going to see the friend for a long time, give them a hug. If you see one another regularly, hello and goodbye will suffice.

When it comes to acquaintances… A simple hello or handshake will do. However, if you spend an extended period of time with an acquaintance, it makes sense to depart with a hug.

When it comes to greeting a big group… If you arrive somewhere to find a big group of friends and acquaintances, shake the hands of those you are just meeting and hug your friends.

When you are in a professional setting… It’s best to err on the safe side and not hug unless you are at an after-hours function or holiday party and the occasion seems appropriate. Regardless, it’s always best to ask when you find yourself in a work-related setting.

When you are the host of a party… It’s generally expected that you hug friends upon arrival and departure and greet new faces with a kind and inviting handshake.

General Rules of Hugging

  1. Never assume.
  2. Take a cue from body language.
  3. Consider the setting and the frequency.
  4. Be considerate of other peoples’ boundaries.
  5. Types of Hugs: For family and close friends, two arm hugs are fine. For everyone else, it’s best to give a one-arm hug. Be careful not to linger with one-arm hugs–2 to 3 seconds is perfect.

Have you had an awkward hugging moment before? Tell me about it in the comments below…

XO Lauren

P.S. Going on a first date soon? Click here for my full breakdown on the dos and don’ts of first date etiquette!

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Photo: Flickr

Categories: Etiquette, Grow, Relationships
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  • Sarah Heckle

    These are good tips – I definitely know some people who could uset his advice, haha. I’m a hugger when it comes to family and close friends, but I think it can get awkward when it’s someone you don’t know all that well.


    weekend snapshots!

  • Sarah Teutsch

    CRAZY. I am from Ohio and one of my roommates is from the Pasadena area in Cali. I went to visit her this Summer and noticed that literally ALL of her friends would hug to greet each other (and even hugged me!) and to say goodbye. I actually thought it was a very warm and nice gesture. I wanted to bring back the “”hug”" to Ohio. So perhaps hugging is also geographically acceptable in some places and not others…although I think it should be adopted everywhere (well, maybe not professional)!

  • veronicag

    I dont like hugging people unless it is for comfort. Most of my friends know that. French people have this two kiss on the cheek thing and that is what I usually do with my friends. When I am at work or I meet someone new I like giving a hand shake. I might sound cold but this is how I usually roll. Last month I became really close to one of my college and she is a really good friend of mine now but before oh god! It was so awkward everytime we would meet! Never know what to do… and It felt really awkward. We went in this hug kiss on the cheek phase … It looked as if we were doing this weird dance when we were seeing eachother. It looked pretty bad. Now I know its better to be confident and go for one specific thing than let the person decide. They are probably confused too!

  • aviana wyall

    When I was in 8th grade, I had on the boy I liked sweatshirt. I told him, I’m not going to give it back unless you hug me! we hugged and we practically ran away from each other because we our faces were so red. hahaha

  • Liesl

    I was just thinking about this exact thing the past weekend! I’ve always been good at assessing the situation and only hugging family and friends.

    I’ve never had an awkward hugging experience, but definitely weird random kissing experiences. What’s with strangers greet-kissing me? Yuck!! I can’t turn my face fast enough!

    Liesl xxx

  • Michelle C.

    I had an awkward greeting incident a couple years ago. I met up with my male friend from England who I hadn’t seen in ages, and his friend whom I had only met via Facebook. I obviously hugged my friend, and without thinking, I ended up going in for the most awkward hug ever with his friend. We were both a bit like — O.o — afterwards! HAHA.

  • Melissa Panici

    I love this post:) I have akward hugging situations all of the time with my boyfriend’s friends. Most of them are older considering my boyfriend is a little older than me. There are a couple of friends of his that like to hug me and it’s soooo uncomfortable! They need to consider rule #4!! I only like to hug family and close friends. I consider his friends acquaintances and I respect my boyfriend so the hugging gets to be too much. Thanks Lauren!

  • Amy Breckenridge

    i am not a big hugger unless it’s my boyfriend or family members! i think everyone who knows me knows that though :)


  • Hillary Johnson

    I was meeting my boyfriend’s mom for the first time, & she initiated a hug so I went for it, but we accidently both faced the same way so our cheeks were touching… by the I realized how unbelievable awkward this moment had gotten, it was too late to turn my head the other way.

  • Diamenrose

    This post is awesome :)

  • Amira

    In france, we kiss each other on the cheek haha it’s a lot different, but I find it less awkward than hugs. Hugs are not something you can give to everyone.

  • Kellie Norton

    This is too funny!! Being raised in the south, I think a little differently! If I’m meeting one of my friends and she/he brings a friend along and introduces me to him/her I hug her (I’m pretty sure every southerner thinks this way haha) We like to make others that are friend’s of our friends feel just like a friend. We are very affectionate in the south! However, we do keep it professional and do not hug random strangers we do not know, especially in a professional setting :-) but I loved seeing these rules!!

  • Tiffani Stuart

    Awesome! I love this, and am so happy I matched the protocols! LOL When we met at your book signing, I wanted to hug you, as well– b/c you’re so relatable, then I realized you don’t know me! ha ha. ;0) Just b/c we’ve seen you grow up on tv, doesn’t mean we know you, you know? I’m glad we shook hands, though ;0)

  • Crystal Rainville

    I was hugging a guy friend good night, and I was pretty sure he had a crush on me but hugged to be polite, and he started sniffing my hair, That friendship did not end well needless to say. I have a ladylaws question, thank you notes, is an email sufficient nowadays, or should you still make sure you send a written one? I’m sure my mom dropped the ball on thank you notes, we never sent them for presents, or much of anything, a list of appropriate events for thank you notes would be awesome!

  • Megan M

    On Easter my boyfriends mom (who is not the hugging type) said hello when I came in and I gave her a gift I brought and she thanked me and asked how I was. A few minutes later after I had walked away his dad came in and said hello to me and gave me a hug. While this hug was going on I could see my boyfriends mom out of the corner of my eye watching the hug her husband was giving me. So as I was walking to the kitchen after the dads hug his mom stops me and out of nowhere gives me a hug and says Happy Easter – super awkward b/c she had already not given me a hug and then when I wasn’t even speaking to her she walks up and hugs me.

  • Beth Schilling

    Oh wow, this is a great post because I am very frequently at a loss as to hug or shake hands. I had an extremely awkward moment at my boyfriend’s Christmas party last year. We were leaving and my boyfriend’s co-worker was saying goodbye to us. He shook hands with my boyfriend and when he got to me, it was apparent that we both had no clue what to do so we very quickly and awkwardly HIGH FIVED each other! It was so cheesy and weird and we both laughed it off but as I turned to leave, I knew that it was super awkward. Now every time I see him I think of that moment and laugh but I really hope he’s forgotten it! :)

  • Martin M

    Im always very open when I meet new people and try to get to know more about them. I love to meet new and inspiring people cause everybody has a story to tell. Thats why Im a blogger as well :)

  • Petra Zeller

    Great Post and really good tips. Thank you
    xo, Petra take a look ;)

  • Larissa Wilhelm

    This is such a useful post to me! I never know when to hug or not. My graduation party a couple of years ago was pretty awkward on this particular situation.

  • Shannon Santoyo

    My husband has a big family and when we get together some of them like to hug and some of them like to only air kiss..and it seems like I am always doing the opposite of what they are going to do!

  • Lizzie

    I am going to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks where everyone greets each other with a kiss on the cheek! No matter if you are just meeting or good friends. I think a lot of how you greet is cultural, greeting strangers with hugs is not a big deal in some cultures. Here in the US we are definetly less touchy feely. But hey more hugs might make the world a happier place!

  • Rachael Yanta

    great post! i hate those awkward situations when you aren’t sure if you’re supposed to hug or not!


  • Kelley {Keep Sitting Pretty}

    Hugs signigy affection for me too! I think it is always great to be respectful of boundaries and noticing body language is key!

    XO Kelley

  • Michelle LaPorte

    Haha, I actually did about two years ago. I thought an acquaintance was going in for a hug at a restaurant when he was working. He was actually just trying to show me to my seat. Pretty embarassing!!

  • laura sacco

    i love hugging people! close friends home from school who i haven’t seen in months, my bestfriend who’s there for me through everything, my family, and especially my boyfriend (his are the best!) awkard hug? in 7th grade where a girl dared me&this weird boy to hug…jeeze

  • danielle virnelson

    This is such an interesting post. I always find it awkward when people I hardly know (usually girls) automatically go in for a hug. I thought maybe it was me that was being unapproachable or cold, but I guess those girls just don’t know their hugging etiquette.

  • Maddie Giffin

    Oh boy.. some french exchange student who were leaving to go back to france left and there was this really cute boy I kind of crushed on so he cued a “”hug”" and I went in for a hug but he went in for two kisses on the cheeks… everyone saw me blush really bad.. but he friended me on facebook and we still keep in contact!! <3

  • Ale Colmenero

    You have no idea how many times I overthink this situation!! Haha so glad you posted this =]

  • Leanne

    I’m not a hugging fan, don’t enjoy it when you get those people you aren’t too close with draping their heavy arm over you. A “”hello”" is much better.

  • Karla Peach

    I have had a few awkward hugs, the most awkward was a christmas dinner for work. The first one we ever had after working there for 4 years it was not something i was accostumed to. Well my managers make it a point to say there should be a clear zone between them and us ( sales floor) like not facebook friends or after work hang outs. Seems reasonable, so of course I am going off the fact that these people are non huggables . Then it happend I went over to say hi then she went for the hug.. it just felt awkward and forced and extremely unnecessary. haha but it awkwardness was over withen a few mintues after the incident.

  • LB

    I think some people are waayyyy too hug-y and I’m relieved I’m not the only one! A guy I went out with on a blind date started to hug me as an introduction instead of a handshake and it totally weirded me out! First time meeting someone it’s not appropriate, unless he’s male model gorgeous and super nice I dont want some strange guy hugging me!

  • Morgan Page

    Just recently, I went to Japan. I was staying with a host family as it was for school. When I met my host student I was really nervous and she opened up her arms as to hug me. I’m not really a hugger so it was like I crash tackled her!

  • Ivana Laura Decuzzi

    well, i live in argentina and our hellos and goobyes always include a kiss on the cheek, even when you’re just meeting someone new. that’s something we got from our italian and spanish roots but it’s not always good. honestly, i don’t personally enjoy kissing people i have never seen before. it has been changing a little bit lately and now a simple hello does well, though still you maybe considered a little conceited or rude. around our culture, hugs are only for those you love and for those you love and haven’t seen in a while.

  • Katy Siu

    Hugs used to be a really awkward thing for me. I come from a family of people who aren’t very affectionate in that way.

    The most awkward hug ever was from a guy who I thought had a crush on me…I didn’t feel the same. Then one time I was departing from a party and went around giving my goodbyes with hugs and such. It came time for his and I went for the one handed hug. The only problem was that when I went to let go he still held on and proceeded to say “”I’m not done yet…”"


    So i gave one of those awkward pats on the back and left quickly after that… who does that?

  • danie86

    I have a friend who always hugs way too long. It’s awkward when you pull away because this person never let’s go. It’s funny at times when I think about it, but honestly it’s just NOT ok. Should I tell this person? I’m sure that this person does this with everyone she knows. Other people have also commented on how this person holds on too long. Should I just let it go??

  • Kendall Phelps

    That moment when you’re a Freshman in highschool & the cutest junior walks up to you and is talking with you and your group, leaves, comes back to give you a hug and you are so awe struck that you stand there not even moving your arms all the way. LC, I could use alot of help from you.

    XOXO, Kendall Phelps <3

  • V

    In my country we all hug and kiss… hugs are more between friends tho. But we kiss each other in the cheek with everyone. :)

  • Lauren Conrad

    Love all of your funny stories! I have too many awkward moments to name :-) Hope you guys enjoyed this post!

  • Hanna

    In France we kiss each other on each cheek when it comes to friends, family, and even friends of friends or people we only know a bit. If it is professional, we use a handshake :) i think it is much less awkward than hugging a friend and then giving a handshake to the person standing next ahah

  • Bridget McElvain

    Thank you for writing about this! I am a bit naive when it comes to ettiquette in any situation, really. Articles like this REALLY help me out as I am trying to break into the fashion world!

    I am a server and one of my teachers for the current semester came to the restaurant I work with a large group of friends. When they were finishing up, she came over and said “”Working hard, I see?!”" and gave me a reassuring smile. My first instinct was to give her hug and say hello, so I did in an excited manner. I remember thinking later that I hope I didn’t make her feel uncomfortable by doing so. Also keep in mind, this is the south and we all love huggin’ down here! ;)

    Now that I have read your article and also I am paving a career path for myself, I will be much more conscientious when it comes to my actions. Next thing up, words and conversation!

  • Monica Lopez

    I actually work for a church organization and it is part of the culture to hug people EVERY time you see them. Now, I am not always comfortable with this, especially with the dudes. So, I started my own form of greeting people to avoid the often dreaded hug. When I see someone I know (but not a close friend), I waive almost profusely while gigving a big smile – still awkward but less awkward than a hug. And I either give high fives to the dudes, pats on the shoulders or a quick handshake for older gentlemen. This is the best I have come up with so far. LOL

  • gaile tompkins

    Hi Lauren, this is such a great article!..

    I really love hugging people especially my firends and relatives, and to those who I haven’t seen for a while.

    But sometimes, there are just people who are confident enough to hug me and yet they are quite stinky hahaha That’s really one of the awkward moment because of course you don’t want to turn them down :D

  • Valerie Briones

    An awkward moment for me is when I think someone is going to hug so i just turn my head to lean for the hug but then the other person is thinking the same so we just bump heads and no use of hands its happen twice to me!! lol O___o

  • Bethany Hollingsworth

    What if you two had a past fling and aren’t sure where you stand? Having this kind Friday.

  • Julia

    It’s always very awkward when you are hugging someone you’ve just met- so I think this article is perfect. It describe each type of hug and everything!

  • Raidersfan

    I took a nice gal on a date and she didn’t give me a hug at the end of the date. I felt if I tried to reach over to hug her it would have been awkward since her body language was her leaning towards exiting the car. Hope I did the right thing by not forcing it.

  • Monica Wach

    lol… Yes, with my partner’s mother!

    My boyfriend and I had been together over a year and we don’t get to see his family too often because we live all the way across the country from them. At Thanksgiving last year we went over there and I hugged his immediate family members, including his grandparents. Afterwards, his mother, very bluntly told me that I don’t NEED to hug anyone because they don’t in his family(in my family it is considered rude not to). From then on it was super awkward doing the hellos with the family because I thought I had completely crossed the family etiquette line. I later found out that his grandmother just loved that I gave hugs when I showed up and always looked forward to seeing me!

    I guess it really depends on the people!

  • Lyn

    I think you know. It’s a general feeling of comfort for me. If I have a close relationship with the person, I will hug them, if Im just meeting them, I say hello, nice to meet you, and if its work related, I keep it professional, unless im close friends with certain colleagues, then a hug is acceptable.

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  • thesassylife thesassylife

    I love this! I never thought there was etiquette for hugging, although I would always be confused as to whether it was appropriate to hug someone or not. I’m saving this for future reference :)

  • Maddy

    Walking around and someone calms up from behind you and gives you the awkwardest hug ever in from if everyone….

  • Emily Chapman

    I had one of the awkward mismatched-arms hugs.. it was more than slightly uncomfortable.

  • Lakin Hayes

    The one arm hug when the person is hugging you but doesn’t say a word & keeps talking with their friends… rude

  • E G

    I have several acquaintances that always expect hugs, even though I don’t know them very well. It makes it very awkward because I try to avoid the hug but it never works out. =/ I like the idea of high fives though.

  • Revenwyn

    I have Asperger’s syndrome and am pretty much uncomfortable with hugs. People in the South assume you must hug everyone… especially at church. I am okay with a side hug sometimes, but hugs are just awkward…

  • Vanessa White

    That awkward hug also comes with an awkward laugh!!!

  • Savannah

    I have had plenty of awkward hugs. I’m known around school as the girl who loves hugs. My favorite awkard hug happened probably about a month ago. I hugged my friend who I’m really close with, and then this other guy started asking if we were together, but really loudly.



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