Holiday Etiquette Tips

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Put down the smartphone, close the laptop and bid adieu to that stream of Facebook updates for a few hours. When heading out to a holiday party, it’s time to focus on being a good guest – face-to-face.

First, being a great guest and having a wonderful party experience starts well before the day of the celebration. “No matter how you were invited, whether by regular invitation or by email, RSVP to it even if it isn’t requested,” says Daniel Post Senning, of the Emily Post Institute, great-great-great grandson of Emily Post and co-author of the upcoming 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette” (William Morrow, 2011). “Even if you were invited to a party or to see a holiday movie with friends through an event invitation on Facebook, make sure they know you plan on attending.”

Once a commitment to attend has been made, Post says to make sure to arrive on time. “It’s a small, but important courtesy,” he says.

Never arrive at an event empty-handed.

“Guests should always arrive with a gift for their host, even something small like a bag of coffee, and then send a thank you note after the fact,” says Leah Ingram, author of “The Everything Etiquette Book” (Adams, 2005). “You can send a thank-you gift if you’d like, too.”

Now that you’ve arrived, it’s time to mingle. If you’re a bundle of nerves and don’t know how to “work” a party, do not rush in and head straight to the food or bar area, says Dorothea Johnson, founder of The Protocol School of Washington and the author of “Tea & Etiquette: Taking Tea for Business & Pleasure” (Benjamin Press, 2009).

Instead, Johnson says that a good guest greets the host first but doesn’t take up much of their time. “You have to be considerate that the host has other guests,” she says. “Then it’s your duty to mingle with the other guests and make your presence known.”

Once you’ve greeted your host, it’s time to turn your attention to the other guests. Johnson says she learned a lot from watching former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at parties. “Kissinger would come in, move to the right and look into the crowd,” says Johnson. “I always thought he was looking for someone, but he was making sure everyone saw him. He would greet people and move his way around the room until everyone was in the center with him. He made eye contact and never walked away without saying ’excuse me.’ It was brilliant, and everyone should do that.”

If you’re great at online chat, but talking face-to-face leaves you tongue-tied, Johnson suggests going straight to someone you know. “But don’t spend all evening with them,” she says Johnson. “You should expand yourself and your knowledge by talking to people you don’t know.”

While you’re enjoying the party, Ingram reminds you that you’re still a guest no matter how comfortable you are. “Understand that you are a guest in their house and don’t make demands of the host as if you were staying in a hotel – make my bed, turn down your music, et cetera,” she says.

If you’re the one hosting the party, Ingram suggests finding out ahead of time what food your guests like so you don’t find yourself in uncomfortable situations where the guests aren’t eating or complaining about the food (a no-no) because there isn’t anything they like.

Together, a great host and great guests are guaranteed to create a great party.

Tags: etiquette, party