The Strict Rules Celebs Have To Follow At Award Shows

The glitz and glam of award show season is something people look forward to every year. We eagerly await to see A-list celebrities walk down the red carpet and surprise us, judging everyone's wardrobe as if we were haute couture know-it-alls, and break out in cheers when our favorite stars win it big.

On television, prestigious award shows such as the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes appear to be an exciting night for celebrities. Women in Hollywood get to dress in lavish and expensive designer gowns while the men look unrecognizable in full-on tuxedos. Celebs like Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Emma Stone mingle with one another, and the night looks more like a soirée than an esteemed award show. However, award show night isn't all that it appears to be. Celebrities have to adhere to a number of strict rules, and it starts way before they enter the building.

When it comes to the Oscars, stars must follow a stern dress code, meaning white tie ("the most formal of all the dress codes"), per Vogue, and they even go "hangry" at other award shows that don't offer food or drink. Before you think there are any exceptions, these rules apply to every celebrity, no matter how famous they are. Oh, and there are rules for the after-party, too. Just take a look.

If you aren't an A-lister, you'll be walking on another 'red carpet'

We love watching big-named celebs walk a red carpet. Will Lady Gaga wear an over-the-top costume or dazzle in a stunning Alexander McQueen number? What will Billy Porter come up with next after wearing a gold-feathered bodice and print skirt at the 91st Academy Awards? Depending on their star status, not every "celebrity" gets the opportunity to showcase their wardrobe in front of hundreds of photographers. 

The red carpet, which is technically burgundy to "flatter" all celebrities, is pretty much divided into two lanes, according to ABC. One lane of carpet is for major stars like Cate Blanchett and George Clooney, and another is for "common folk" and even celebs who aren't "right lane" worthy. Separating A-list stars with non-a-list stars helps photogs get the perfect shot, and they'll even politely ask a star to step away from their not-so-famous date by simply stating, "Okay, can we get a fashion?" The cue for their date to get out of the way, reports LA Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin for Vanity Fair.

It's also important that those non-famous people strictly stick to their red carpet lanes. In a piece for 11., Sam Greenspan walked the red carpet as a non-famous person and not only was bombarded by fans yelling out to celebrities walking on the "right lane," he was also being yelled at by security guards to keep walking without any pauses.

Celebs must adhere to a strict dress code, especially at the Oscars

A white tie dress code is enforced for celebrities attending the Academy Awards. This dress code is way more formal than a black-tie, with women favored to wear full-length gowns, while men "must wear a tailcoat with a white bow tie and wingtip collar" (via Vogue). However, we've seen several stars break these rules, opting for black-tie formal, which is called "Hollywood black tie," and deemed acceptable by the Oscars. This means men don't need to wear a tailcoat and can wear either a tie or bow tie. As for the women, they might have a little more options in the dazzling gowns they choose, but if it is couture, all the better, Vogue explains. 

Over the years, we've seen a few celebs break these strict dress code rules and wear almost next to nothing. In 1974, Cher wore a scandalous midriff-baring ensemble that showed a lot more than her toned stomach, and in 1974, actress Edy Williams famously wore a leopard bikini under a fur coat. A few questionable looks also stood out on the red carpet, like when Bjork arrived wearing a faux swan draped around her neck at the 2001 Oscars and when South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker spoofed Jennifer Lopez's famous green Grammy's dress and Gwyneth Paltrow's pink Oscar gown at the 2000 Oscars.

Luckily, the stars who chose to break the rules didn't get the boot.  

Stars are asked to make sustainable choices when it comes to their attire

Sustainability has become a huge topic of conversation at award shows. To reduce waste, many shows, including the SAG Awards, BAFTAs, and even the Oscars, have asked attendees to make sustainable choices (there is a sustainable fashion guide), before buying something new, like re-wearing a tuxedo from a previous engagement, renting from a designer or choosing a vintage dress.

At the 2020 SAG Awards, Jennifer Aniston wore a vintage Dior spring/summer 1999 white satin dress, while actor Joaquin Phoenix chose to wear the same Stella McCartney tuxedo to the Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice Awards, the SAG Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Academy Awards. According to the Independent, guests at the BAFTAs were asked to either re-wear an old gown or show off their creative side by reusing excess fabric to make something new to help make "a carbon-neutral awards ceremony."

Lady Bird actress Saoirse Ronan perfectly executed this initiative by wearing a Gucci gown with a bodice created using excess fabric from her dress at the BAFTAs at the 2020 Oscars, according to Elle. Even Kim Kardashian West joined in on the green efforts by wearing "a deconstructed Alexander McQueen gown from his SS04 'Shipwrecked' collection for the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party." And, actress Penelope Cruz made 90s fashion cool again when she wore a vintage Chanel dress from their SS95 Couture show.

Celebs don't have much break time

One of the least glamorous things about attending an award show is that commercial breaks are never as long as they seem. Having to get up to use the bathroom means rushing past other celebs and non-celebs and finding that there is a long line ahead of you. To make matters worse, you've exceeded your 15-minute break and cannot go back to your seat because cameras have begun to roll. According to E!, strict rules are put in place for celebs who are late to their seats. A seat-filler will gladly sit in your warm chair to take your place as you wait behind closed doors until the next commercial break.

E! also reports that producers are "notoriously heavy-handed" with not allowing people to go back to their seats once break time is up. Producers wouldn't want viewers to see several empty seats when cameras scan the room of celebrities, so they are very strict when it comes to being on time or making sure seat-fillers are doing their job.

Harry Styles had an unforgettable moment at the 2014 Brit Awards when nature called and he answered, only to find out it was the same time his former band One Direction won the Global Success Award. The four other men made their way up the stage without Styles, however, he eventually made his way up there too, apologizing for "having to wee." This is a big reason why producers are so strict with breaks. 

Celebs sneak in food even when it is forbidden at award shows

An award show can last upwards of four hours, according to Vox, and during that time, a celebrity can get pretty hungry. From the moment they arrive at the show, are on the red carpet taking photographs and giving interviews, and later, sitting in their seats for what feels like forever, a celeb might experience hunger pains.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, unlike the Golden Globe Awards, where stars are given dinner options, dessert and drinks are flowing constantly (7,500 glasses of champagne have been drunk each year), the Oscars is a little bit different. While it isn't entirely a "dry" award ceremony, the bar is located outside the auditorium, as Bustle states, and it could be daunting to go back and forth, climbing over a whole bunch of celebrities to get there. As for food, ceremonies like the Oscars have always been a free-food affair, reports Chowhound, which makes for very hungry celebs.

Stars are forbidden to bring in their own food, but some celebs break these rules, hiding energy bars in their date's pockets or hiding a turkey sandwich in their purse, like 10-year-old actress Julia Butters did at the 2020 Oscars. At the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres even poked fun at the no-food policy and had pizza delivered to the show.

Lip-syncing is not allowed at the Grammys

Numerous artists have been accused of lip-syncing during their performances; even megastars like Mariah Carey and Beyonce have been caught miming lyrics instead of using their actual vocals. But, several stars have admitted that they needed to do so because they were either sick or because of "technical limitations," states Insider. However, if a celeb wants to sing at the Grammys, they absolutely have to sing live.

Lip-syncing has been banned at the Grammys since 2012, thanks to one of the biggest lip-syncing controversies to date — Milli Vanilli's disastrous performance on MTV in 1989. The R&B group even returned their Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The award show's veteran audio coordinator Michael Abbott outlawed lip-syncing but shared (via TV Technology) that "some performances are so demanding in terms of sound design that there has to be some of what we call track augmentation," or some playback during a performance. 

This might have been the case for Cardi B when she took the stage at the 2019 award show and bent some rules regarding lip-syncing. While the star's performance was impeccable, many people were convinced that the rapper lip-synced her song "Money." At the 2020 Grammys, people accused rapper Lil Nas X of lip-syncing his hit "Old Town Road" when he took the stage with BTS joining at the second half of the track. 

Speeches cannot exceed 45 seconds

We've all seen it – a star walking up to the podium to accept their award and producing a folded up piece of paper with over 50 different names on it to thank. Their speech, while heartfelt, is way too lengthy and cues for the orchestra to start playing sends them the signal to please wrap it up.

The Oscars have become very strict on time limits for a celebrity's acceptance speech. According to The Hollywood Reporter, an acceptance speech cannot be longer than 45 seconds, and, in 2016, producers even asked stars to send them a list of all those they would like to thank, and they will then list the names on their website, ABC News shared. 

So, why was a time limit enforced at many of these award shows? Well, taking a look back in Oscars acceptance speech history, in 1943, actress Greer Garson famously spoke for over five minutes, leading the way for other stars to make some of the longest acceptance speeches ever heard at the Academy Awards. When actor Adrien Brody won for Best Actor for his role in The Pianist, not only did he speak for three minutes, he acknowledged the time limit flashing, continuing to speak. A minute later, when music began to play, he asked the producer to "cut it out," with his celeb peers cheering him on.

Even seat-fillers have rules

Have you always wondered about all those non-famous faces at award shows? While some of them could be a celeb's date or their parents, most of them are non-paid seat-fillers, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Seat-fillers are used for just about every major award ceremony whose job is to play "musical chairs," as one former seat-filler named Maya Tribbitt likes to call it. They are used to fill seats when celebrities need a bathroom break or have left the ceremony before it has ended so that the room looks full.

There are extensive rules to be followed if chosen to be one of 300-600 people selected to fill the seats of celebs when the camera pans the audience. Some of these rules include not wearing bright colors or anything that will outshine a star, no selfies or talking to celebrities, and "no looking at the camera." Tribbitt also notes that another good idea is not to wear heels as much as you'd like to at a prestigious event like the Academy Awards because you'll be doing a lot of running around looking for those empty seats.

Anyone can become a seat-filler, from college students to working actors and models, and Tribbitt even shared that she got the chance to sit next to the cast of Stranger Things and Jimmy Kimmel's wife, Molly McNearney, who was "really nice," when she was filling seats at the 2018 Emmy Awards.

Strict rules apply for those after parties, too

When the Academy Awards has given out its last award for Best Picture, most celebrities won't end their night there. Stars will change into something a little less extravagant (via The Hollywood Reporter), whether it's a loose-fitting dress or even something that shows a little more skin, to attend one of the biggest celebrity after-parties – Vanity Fair's Oscar after-party. The after-party has been around since 1994, but, as The New York Times puts it, "its roots really extend to the 1960s, when Irving Paul Lazar ... began hosting Oscar gatherings for the crème de la crème of Hollywood."

But, there are rules for this renowned after-party, and celebrities must strictly follow them before entering the party. According to entertainment reporter Angela Bishop who spoke to Kiis 1065, every celeb has a strict arrival time that they must follow. "So say it's like 9:11 till 9:13 p.m. and if you do not arrive at that time and stand on those circles for that time, you don't get in," she revealed, adding, "you have to go right to the back of the line and you don't get in until everyone's in because it is absolutely done with precision." Bishop also added that most celebrities follow these rules, and if they don't, they're unlikely to get an invitation again!

Just imagine being the person having to tell Queen Bey and Jay-Z that they're late and have to get to the back of the line. Yikes!