The Game Plan

Christmas Countdown: Holiday Party Etiquette

Posted by Carten Cordell / Friday, December 16th, 2011

Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

Well, people, only nine more days until the day we’ve all been waiting for! Between now and then, I’m sure you have quite a few holiday festivities in your game plan. You’ve probably racked up one work party–maybe two if you get the honor of being someone’s ‘plus one’–two or three get-to-togethers with your church, neighbors, old family friends, etc., and probably at least one shindig per each side of the family.

I don’t know about you, but all these social outings are enough to get me stressin’. What gift do I bring? Do I even bring a gift? What if I run out of things to talk about? What if I get stuck next to someone awkward at the dinner table? Well no fear, my dears. I have answers!

Don't be like this guy... (Photo: Shutterstock.com/Jaimie Duplass)

Holiday Party Etiquette

Office Party Manners
• Being 30 minutes late is acceptable, but the max is 45 minutes.
• Keep an eye on how much business talk you are doing and on how much you are noshing throughout the night. Also, keep your drink limit set firmly at two.
• Don’t use an office party to curry favor from your boss, but you must thank him before you leave.

House Party Manners
• Be no more than 15 minutes late.
• Be an active participant; when the host says the food is ready, put aside your fear of looking greedy and head to the table immediately.
• Never switch place cards. Sit where the host has asked you to sit.
• Stay out of the kitchen unless you are invited in, but do offer to help with a specific task: “Can I load the dishwasher for you?”
• You may be tempted to snoop in medicine cabinets and back rooms—resist the urge. It’s not allowed!
• Don’t linger no matter how much more you think the host likes you than the other guests. When the masses start to head out, follow their lead.

RSVPs
• RSVP immediately even if no RSVP was requested (unless the invitation reads “Regrets Only”).
• If you have severe food allergies, let host know when you RSVP so he or she can plan the menu accordingly.
• If you are vegetarian or have another specific food need, alert the host when you RSVP and offer to bring a dish you can eat.

Toasts
• Formal parties: The host will make a ‘Health & Happiness’ toast!
• Casual parties: A guest can stand and make toast. Include a thank you to the host. Tell a short, relevant story or joke, but keep it clean! Remember that sincerity is more important than eloquence.

Small Talk
• Brush up on your current events before the party. Take some time to form your opinions beforehand so you don’t fall back on agreeing with everyone else. Check Twitter on your way to the party to get any last minute updates on the world!
• Think back to the last time you saw the other guests. Where did you leave off with them? Prepare some questions for them and be ready to give them a life update, but limit any complaining or gossiping.
• Don’t hide behind your cell phone. Turn it off and make yourself look available for conversation. When you are talking with someone, don’t let your eyes wander around the room. Give them your full attention.

Great gift idea! (Photo: Shutterstock.com/Hintau Aliaksei)

Thank You’s & Gifts
• Thank your host twice—once when you leave (you must seek them out on your way out the door) and again via a phone call. A written thank you note is only necessary after a formal dinner or an overnight stay.
• While gifts are not expected for formal dinners, do bring a small gift to a casual dinner party. Houseplants and flowers are always a good choice, but make sure you present the flowers in a simple vase. If you bring wine, don’t expect the host to serve it at the party, and never bring food unless you have been asked.
• Perhaps your host is a golfer. You could bring him some personalized golf balls. Other options are a Best Seller book, an herb & spice set, some Virginia peanut brittle or an unusual kitchen item such as a pasta lifter. A more personalized gift option is a picture frame. You can mail a photo you took at the party to the host later.
• Gifts may be presented either wrapped or unwrapped, but if you are set on making the best impression possible, go ahead and wrap it!

For last-minute gift ideas, check out the S.W.A.G. Holiday Gift Guide! And if your holiday game plan isn’t packed already, take a look at a few of the holiday parties going on in NoVA! Check back here on Monday for the next Christmas Countdown post to find out the best places to look at lights this season!

P.S. To unwind from all these social gatherings, pop in one of Forbes’ “Ten Best Christmas Movies Of All Time!”

-Rebekah Lowe

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