In the context of swinging, "couples" need not be married. They should, however, have at least a little history together and familiarity with each others' emotional needs, and be comfortable approaching others as a "couple." The general rule of thumb is that swinging works best when couples view swinging as an enhancement to their existing sexual relationship, rather than as a replacement for a failing one.
As one would expect, good communication is critical in any attempt at swinging as a couple. There are many, many different forms that swinging may take, and whichever one you choose is fine as long as you and your partner are clear about what you are doing and why. Sex has the potential to be an emotionally-charged area, and the pleasures that may be found in swinging can generally be reached only when both partners are sensitive to each others' needs, and put their partner's comfort first. From a more pragmatic point of view, there will always be another party, another personal ad, another dance, another convention; there may not be another chance to salvage an exploration into swinging if one partner becomes overwhelmed in "the garden of delights" and forgets to treat his or her primary partner with sensitivity and respect.
It's important to keep in mind that swinging is primarily a SOCIAL activity. The ordinary social customs of meeting people and initiating a conversation are really not that different than at any other type of social gathering, and the process by which acquaintances become close friends is not that different either. The key social traits that tend to be appreciated in the swinging community are responsibility, friendliness, flirtatiousness, open-mindedness, and most importantly stability with regard to one's primary relationship.
As is the case with almost all human social endeavours, if you already know people in a particular community you'll probably be happier if you attend your first few events with these people so they can introduce you to others. Waiting a little while and watching how others behave is also a good idea, as it is in almost any new social situation. Common courtesy, of course, is as welcome in the swinging community as it is in any other community; we're all just people, after all.
There are several different styles of swinging which you may see in the swinging community. Some people may prefer not to be around when their partner is having sex with someone else ("closed swinging"), while others may insist on it ("open swinging"). The term "soft swinging" refers to trading partners just for the purposes of heavy petting and then switching back to one's primary partner for any actual sex. It might be valuable for you to think about whether there are any potential situations that you feel you would be more or less comfortable in, and discuss these with your partner.
Although not all couples find it necessary to do this, some couples feel more comfortable having social "codes" that only the two of them know. Examples might be discreet phrases or gestures which mean a) one of you is attracted to the people or person he or she is talking to and wants to know if you are interested in swinging with them, b) a reply to the above, either affirmatively or negatively, and c) one of you is not having a good time and wants to get away from things for a while.
At off-premises events such as dances, it's common for people to dress up or else wear fairly sexy clothing. Dress at on-premises events tends to be more casual, since nudity is a common outcome of the evening for many. At on-premises clubs it's a good idea to bring something like a robe so you don't have to put all your clothes back on after sex, and to avoid wearing lots of jewelry that might get lost. If there's a dress theme for a particular event, go with the theme.
By the way, it is not necessary to actually have sex with other people to have a good time in the swinging community. Off-premises activities such as dances can provide a wonderful opportunity to flirt and be flirted with in a non-threatening yet sexually-charged atmosphere, which can be fun in and of itself. On-premises activities can provide an opportunity to appreciate the sights and sounds of sex as an enhancement to sex with your primary partner, whether you two decide to have sex at the party or after the party.
We hope you enjoyed our 'General Hints for Enjoyable Swinging' page and that it met up to your expectation.