The holiday season is brimming with occasions to indulge in sweet treats, exchange gifts, admire seasonal decor and of course, gather together for festive parties.
“As a guest at a holiday party, you are invited because the host wants you to be included in their celebration,” Diane Gottsman, the author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, told HuffPost. “They think you have something to offer fellow guests, with great conversation and your friendly demeanour.”
But your invitation to a holiday party isn’t an invitation to behave however you’d like. We asked etiquette experts to share some common rude behaviors at big seasonal gatherings like holiday parties and their advice for avoiding these faux pas.
Bringing An Uninvited Plus-One
“Unless your invitation specifically says you may bring a guest, you should not arrive with a plus one unannounced,” said Jodi R.R. Smith, the president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “If you are seriously dating someone and your hosts did not know, be sure to let them know in advance to see if they want to extend your invitation.”
The same goes for bringing your dog or child. If they weren’t explicitly invited or you didn’t clear it with the host ahead of time, this is a faux pas.
“You strolling in with an uninvited guest, more than likely, will place the host in an awkward position,” said Jackie Vernon-Thompson, the founder of From the Inside-Out School of Etiquette. “Always keep in mind, there is a budget for every event. The host has in mind a certain number of guests who they have invited. Food, entertainment and everything else included in the party are for those invited.”
Hiding A Mess
Accidents happen, and that’s OK. What’s not OK is trying to ignore or hide your broken lamp or red wine on the carpet.
“If you spill something, or break something, let the host know immediately,” Gottsman said.
Ignoring The Schedule
“While it is fine to arrive fashionably late for a cocktail party or open house, it is not acceptable to arrive late for a seated dinner party,” Smith said. “Know your timing.”
Similarly, you don’t want to show up before the host is even finished setting up.
“A holiday guest should arrive on time, not early,” Gottsman said.
Flouting The Dress Code
“Follow the dress code if one is provided by your host,” said Nick Leighton, an etiquette expert and host of the weekly etiquette podcast “Were You Raised by Wolves?” “If the theme is ugly holiday sweaters, it’s important to wear an ugly holiday sweater.”
Ask the host if they have a preferred dress code before the party and put your best foot forward. In general, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed at a holiday party.
“Dress according to the dress code to feel comfortable, inclusive and in respect of the host,” Vernon-Thompson said. “If there isn’t a dress code, make every effort to dress up and not down.”
Critiquing The Party
“Never compare your way of preparing food or your way of doing things to what the host has done or is doing at their party,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Show appreciation for the efforts made and don’t compare taste, preparation style or anything else. Relax and have fun. Be in the moment!”
Rather than analysing every aspect of the party, ask the host if they need help with anything and otherwise, do your best to make the party enjoyable for all.
“Be sure to express your gratitude to the host the next day,” Leighton said. “Besides being kind, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re on the guest list for next year.”
Engaging In Heated Arguments
“Guests in any situation should always remember to behave with respect and restraint,” said August Abbott, an etiquette expert with JustAnswer. “Of course this sounds terribly stuffy and no fun, but bear with me. Respect means to not argue when it’s a real argument. Argue about streaming services, movies, books, the new restaurant going in down town, but do not argue politics or religion.”
Remember this is a light, festive event. If someone else starts trying to argue with you about politics or religion, make an excuse to go talk to someone else or otherwise relocate yourself. Keep your personal drama to yourself as well.
“No arguments with your spouse or partner,” Abbott added. “No flirting with anyone under any circumstances if you are there with someone or the person you’ve been eyeing is there with someone.”
Only Talking To People You Know
“Guests should mix and mingle with people they do not know, or are not familiar with rather than only speaking to those they talk to regularly,” Gottsman said.
Making conversation with new people also gives you a chance to get away from certain friends or acquaintances who grate on you over time. Help the host make their party a success by bringing different people together and having nice conversations.
“Try not to raise a topic that excludes any one person,” Vernon-Thompson said. “Doing so causes them to feel unwelcome, which is certainly not proper etiquette.”
Showing Up Empty-Handed
“Even during the holidays, if you are attending an event at someone’s home, chances are you should bring a gift for the host,” Smith said, suggesting a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, gourmet treats for the pet or books or toys for the children.
There’s no need to be too extravagant or overthink your host gift. It’s the thought that counts.
Getting Too Drunk
“One of the most common faux pas is when a guest consumes an amount of alcoholic beverage that they clearly can not handle,” Vernon-Thompson said. “This can be embarrassing for that guest and offensive to those in their presence.”
Resist the urge to overindulge by spacing out your drinks and having water in between.
“If drinking, know your limits,” Leighton said. “It’s also perfectly OK not to drink alcohol at a holiday party. For office parties, the key word is ‘office.’ Be sure to keep your wardrobe, conversation and behaviour professional. Don’t be the only thing people talk about on Monday.”
Overstaying Your Welcome
Pay attention to any hints that the evening is wrapping up and your host would like you to leave.
“If the host is asking you to take the trash to the curb, you have overstayed your welcome,” Smith said. “Note when the lights come up, the drinks are put away, and the music is turned off. Be sure to thank the host and say your goodbyes when the party is winding down.”