Etiquette for Holiday Parties

Etiquette for Holiday Parties

The season is here for holiday gatherings.  The ho, ho, ho buzz is in the air and some of you are planning to attend or host a party.  While many schools, businesses and social organizations prepare for their holiday socials, you also must be prepared to exhibit the highest degree of party decorum.  Here is some etiquette advice to help you shine.

Be the Perfect Guest
  • Upon receipt of an invitation, reply as soon as possible to allow the host ample time to plan for the party accordingly.  For those with dietary restrictions, this is also a good time to let the host know what they are.
  • Since the Christmas season is a great time for giving, bring the host a small gift of appreciation.  My suggestion list: movie or restaurant certificates, picture frame, candles, homemade desserts, poinsettia, tree or table ornament, fruit basket, or flavored teas and coffees.
  • If the party is big and the host does not answer the door, locate him/her immediately to say hello.  As you are ready to leave, please remember to always seek out the host to bid farewell and express thanks for inviting you.
  • During the party, don’t pile a lot of food on your plate.  Eat and drink in moderation. When eating hors d’oeuvres, spoon sauces on your plate; do not “double-dip” foods.  If you spill something, tell your host immediately, apologize, and offer to help clean or pay for the cleaning service.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note after the event.

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Hosting a Holiday Party
  • Finalize all party arrangements at least 15 minutes before your guests arrive.  Be prepared to greet each guest at the door with a warm and welcoming smile (not a tired look).  Introduce arriving guests to friends and add something that might spark a conversation between them.
  • Do not require your guests to remove their shoes.
  • Make arrangements for pets. Some of your guests may have pet allergies or feel uncomfortable around animals.
  • Be available to mingle with your guests.  This may require that you assign someone to replenish foods or hire help.
  • If serving buffet style, identify the food with placing cards by the dishes.  Also, don’t place scented candles near the food table.  The candle sent can interfere with the food aromas.
Office Parties

At an office party, you may be inclined to “let down your hair,” or “loosen your belt buckle,” however, be sure to maintain professionalism.  Keep in mind, you are attending a company- sponsored event and you never know who is watching.  To ensure that your good reputation remains intact, I suggest the following guidelines:

  • Dress appropriately for the occasion.  Choose an outfit that reflects the festive season.  Men, it is okay to wear a holiday tie.  Ladies, you may finally be able to wear that evening dress; just remember not to reveal too much.
  • Avoid in-depth discussions about business, especially if clients are in attendance.  Here are some conversation suggestions:  current events, holiday traditions and travel, sharing of holiday recipes, shows at the theater or holiday concerts.  Also, avoid negative discussions and comments about the party and other employees.
  • Do not drink excessively. It is okay to have non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Express appreciation to management for hosting the event.  In addition, thank the planning committee for coordinating the party.

Whether you are the host, an invited guest, or attending your company’s holiday party, the most important thing that you can do is enjoy the time you spend with others.  Don’t attend the gathering just to eat and drink, but mingle, meet new people and engage in the activities.


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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.