Holiday Party Etiquette: 4 Tips to Know

By Sarah Koller

You’ve looked forward to your holiday party all year. And we don’t blame you! What’s not to love about festive food, dancing and dressing up? As the event approaches, make sure you’re ready to put your best foot forward as a guest — especially where eggnog is involved.

From company gatherings to ugly sweater parties alike, here a few pointers to ensure you bring your “A” game as a holiday party attendee. Starting with appropriate gifts for the host, to making introductions in a crowd, keep a few essential items top of mind this season.

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  1. Arrive with a hostess gift. Whether the occasion is formal or casual, be sure you don’t arrive empty handed. After all, a gift is the best way to show your appreciation for time the party-giver put into the food, decorations and entertaining. When it comes to choosing which gift to give, make sure it reflects the setting. For new friends, or events where you’re traveling out of town, consider giving wine with a handmade gift tag. Note: If you bring this, make sure the host knows it’s not for dinner, as the host has likely already chosen an accompanying wine.

    For gatherings with family and friends, opt to go with something more personal. A DIY ornament is a thoughtful handmade idea, or something customized, like this engraved cheese board, is a special way to invest in those closest to you.

  2. Stay social. Once you’ve made your way through the door, it’s time to put your best foot forward. Regardless of whether you have a plus one or are riding solo, make a good impression — for both yourself AND the host — by staying social at the event. If you’re arriving individually, it can be helpful to prepare a party intro (re: how you know the entertainer, what you do for a living) or find out who will be coming ahead of time. Once you’re there, stay approachable by remaining off your phone, and making eye contact with others as you head around the room. If you’re really stuck, offer to help the host with serving or setting responsibilities.
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  1. Eat and drink in moderation! Speaking of maintaining a good appearance, eating and drinking can be game changers at the party. After all, the last thing you want is to be the sloppy or overindulgent guest that people are talking about! For beverages, set a limit ahead of time and stick to it. This will prevent you from making too many trips to that appealing holiday bar cart once you arrive. Throughout the night, spread glasses of water or club soda between each drink.

    For eating, avoid arriving at the party with an empty stomach. This will help suppress the effects of alcohol AND save you from snagging one-too-many hors d’oeuvres. Lastly, save room for dessert. After all, you won’t want to miss out on the host’s famous apple pie for being too indulgent during the rest of the night.

  2. Show your gratitude. When the event comes to a close, be sure to approach your host to express your thanks before heading out the door. Where possible, avoid being the first one to leave. While not required, a thoughtful thank you note is a great way to express your appreciation for the evening — while potentially scoring you another invite to their next soiree.

Party etiquette applies to guests and hosts alike. If you’re the one hosting a party, check out our list of 5 Most Common Mistakes Hosts Make, as well as expert tips on how to be the perfect host from party stylist Natalie Mayhew. Or preview our Holiday Party Plans to get all the inspiration you need.

Cover image by The Knot

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