In the midst of Thanksgiving with family, office holiday parties, Christmas with your loved ones, and New Year’s bashes with friends, the final two months of the year can feel like an endless party. And unfortunately, it’s easier than you think to forget how to be a standout guest. Yes, everyone knows the basics of how not to be a total Grinch, but it’s easy to accidentally be a terrible guest without even knowing it. Luckily, we have all of the tips, tricks and guidelines of basic etiquette for being the best holiday guest ever.
Did you know you technically have just a day or so to RSVP? It’s true. Everything at parties, from the amount of space provided to the food and alcohol, depends on numbers. Sending your RSVP in early is particularly important during the holidays, when both guests and hosts have packed schedules.
Remember how everything at parties comes down to numbers? That’s why you don’t just bring a random friend along as a plus-one. If you really want to bring someone along, ask your host when you RSVP, but whether you can bring a guest or not is entirely at the host’s discretion.
Holiday foods are full of allergens such as dairy, wheat and nuts. So it’s important to let your host know if you happen to have a gluten intolerance, are a vegetarian or need some other special meal. It’s a party, so you know there’s likely going to be food and alcohol, but no host wants their guests to go hungry. If you have particularly restrictive dietary needs, ask your host if you can bring an allergen-free dish to share.
Though the host likely already has a menu in mind, offer to help them cook before the party or offer to bring an appetizer, salad, side dish or dessert to help out. Just be sure to clear the dish with them beforehand so you don’t show up with a tray of stuffing when they’ve already made one. If nothing else, you can always make some delicious and easy Christmas cookies.
It’s the holidays, so don’t be afraid to dress on-theme. Christmas vests, Santa Claus hats and reindeer antlers are perfectly appropriate for the holiday season. If the event you’re going to is more of a formal affair, consider wearing more subtly themed holiday clothing, like a crushed velvet cocktail dress or a bowtie with snowflakes on it.
Arriving “on time” actually means getting to the party 15–30 minutes late. Though that may seem counterintuitive to being the most polite person, this actually gives your host a little extra time to finish up those last-minute details and gives them wiggle room in their schedule. Arriving before everything is finished being set up is awkward for everyone.
A small token of appreciation for your host is the perfect way to show your gratitude for being invited. A bottle of wine is the classic host gift, but the best holiday guests will bring something more personalized. If you’re coming from out of town for the season, bring a specialty item from your area. Tree ornaments, holiday decor and homemade baked goods are also fitting for this time of year.
Listen, you’re not going to love everyone you meet or be thrilled to see everyone during the holiday season. That’s just a reality of life. But avoid starting fights, saying passive-aggressive things at dinner or wearing your discontent on your face. Avoid problematic people, and spend the holiday party with those you truly enjoy being around. Save your rants for the car ride home.
The holidays are stressful. There are expensive gifts to buy, snowy roads filled with traffic and difficult family members that need to be dealt with. But when you’re attending a party, leave those worries behind. Be in the moment, relax and just enjoy yourself. Your positive attitude will spill over to your fellow guests and make you instantly approachable and likable.
If your children are with you at your holiday party, don’t make them the responsibility of another parent or family member. They are your kids, after all. Even if there is a separate party space for the young ones, pop in every now and then to make sure they’re safe, fed and enjoying themselves.
You may want to upload that gorgeous photo of your plate of cookies to Instagram ASAP, but put the technology away for the duration of your holiday party. Whipping your phone out is a way you’re being rude without even realizing it.
Come to the party equipped with a fun attitude and a willingness to be an active participant. If there’s a game of Christmas Pictionary going on, join in. If Santa is meeting with the party guests, grab a photo with the jolly ol’ guy. The holidays come but once a year, and there’s no need to be a Grinch.
To really help your host out and get to mingle with everyone at the party, why not take a turn tending bar? Mixing festive drinks, passing out beers and refilling waters may sound like a menial task, but it can actually be a really fun experience.
If there’s holiday music playing at the party, get on the dance floor and bust out your best dance moves. Feel free to offer to be the DJ, too. Not only will you get to play the music that you really want to hear, but you can help with the flow of the party.
Making small talk could help you avoid some really awkward conversations and pauses. Not sure how to make small talk? Here are a few tips. Have topics in mind, ask plenty of questions and listen to your conversation partner. From there, the conversation can flow with ease.
Practically any party you’re attending is sure to be filled with familiar faces and old friends. While you should, of course, chat with them, it’s also important to introduce yourself to people you don’t know yet. Parties are a great time to connect with new people, make friends and network. Be especially sure to socialize with people who seem a bit shy; try to loop them into the party to give a sense of merriment to everyone.
Don’t forget to make sure the host is enjoying their own party. If the person who invited you into their home seems frantic or stressed, ask them if they need help with anything — or a drink. Of course, don’t forget to have a genuine chat and have fun with them. It is their party, after all.
Nobody likes that guy (or gal), so keep your alcohol intake in check at the holiday party. Whether you’re among coworkers, family or friends, nobody wants to take care of you or hear your nonsensical drunken chatter. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, pace yourself and know your own limits.
If there’s a gift exchange at the holiday party you’re going to, don’t be a Scrooge. If there’s a price range, aim for the top of the scale (or go just a couple dollars over). If you’re playing White Elephant or another gift exchange game, follow the rules and have fun.
As the party comes to a close, help your host tidy up. Gather dishes, help put leftover food away and make sure there aren’t any big spills or piles of trash. Cleaning is a small gesture, but one that can help your host immensely.
You don’t want to be the first to arrive, and you don’t want to be the last to leave, either. Read the room. If the coffee has been served and most of the party has already left, it’s probably time for you to go, too.
When you say goodbye, be sure to give your host a big hug and thank them for a lovely evening. You wouldn’t believe how many people “ghost” and leave without saying goodbye or thank you. It’s a small gesture that can mean so much to a host. If you want to be exceptionally polite, send a small thank you note after the party thanking your host for a good time.
Don’t turn around and throw another holiday party the following weekend, but be sure to invite your hosts to any future gatherings that you have in order to build and maintain a close relationship. For instance, if you go to a Friendsgiving, consider throwing a holiday party in December. Partying your way through the New Year is just one of those classic holiday traditions.
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