Blogmas Day 11: The Christmas Party Etiquette Guide (For Hosts & Guests!)
While reading, listen to Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michealson.
Ahh, Christmas parties. Great fun, but quite a lot of fuss.
Whether you are the host or the guest, there are countless things to think about, plan for, and consider. The calendar availability, the dress code, the guest list, the menu, the agenda, the space, to name a few. I personally love Christmas parties. There is just nothing like a festive gathering with friends, whether casual or elegant, to enjoy one another's company and close the year with a bang. I've attended a full range of Christmas parties: church, family, friends, acquaintances, work, roommates, etc. Each are different in their own way, but I have discovered that there are some etiquette rules - for both the host and the guest, that make all the difference.
Remembering these tips not only improves any kind of Christmas party, but it also gives the people around you the care and intention they deserve.
For Blogmas Day 11 (woo!), I've decided to compile an Etiquette Guide for the upcoming (and for some, already in motion), Christmas party season!
I hope you find this guide to be helpful, as you host parties of your own and attend those of friends and loved ones! Party on, people.
For The Hosts...
In the words of Shauna Niequist, "Present over perfect." First off, it is always more important to be present with your guests, making memories, hearing about their Christmas traditions, than to host the perfect party. We can throw ourselves into a frenzy trying to impress, but what our guests truly want, is a relaxed environment where they can be themselves and spend time with their friends (you)! Don't fuss over unnecessary place cards or prematurely rush to the dishes if it will keep you from enjoying the party. At the end of the day, you will remember the moments you laughed, not the tablecloth color you meticulously chose.
Preselect a suitable Christmas playlist. Save the Christmas piano instrumentals for an elegant gathering, and breakout some newer, Christmas covers (Justin Bieber's Christmas album is a guilty favorite), for a girl's night or friends get-together. Spotify has countless holiday playlists to choose from - and make sure you go Premium. No one likes an awkward ad during the Christmas toast.
I've got 2 Hacks for Small Spaces. 1) Youtube Fireplaces are genius and loved by all. They make everything more cozy! 2) Put small plates of appetizers and little ice buckets with drinks in each room to spread guests out a bit. Otherwise, things will get toasty, quick. Almost like there is a REAL fireplace in your apartment.
Favors always add a special touch. Whether it's setting a polaroid camera on your entry table for guests to snap some shots together and keep, or (for more elegant gatherings), ordering custom ornaments to remember the occasion by - there are countless ways to send a little party home with your guests.
Formal invitations apply to any party. Call me old-fashioned, but word of mouth or a Facebook invite just does not cut it! I'm not suggesting you have to mail out invitations for every kind of gathering, but sending out a cute, online invitation at least elevates the formality a bit, and validates all the work you have put in so far! Plus, you will need RSVP's to plan for food.
Speaking of food, make sure your guests know what will be served. I once arrived to a Christmas party at 6pm, and only desserts were served. This wouldn't have been a problem if I had known to plan ahead and eat dinner beforehand! Don't leave your guests wondering, and let them know if a meal, appetizers, or dessert will be provided. No need to detail the menu, but you do want guests coming hungry if you have prepared dinner!
If you're married, make sure each person's expectations are talked through beforehand. For Reed and I, it's important that we both feel supported as we host, and if we don't communicate expectations on what that looks like, little arguments can unnecessarily break out. (I.e. When should the party end? Do we ask about that guest's relationship status? Who's giving the toast? Who's in charge of music? Etc.)
Have a planned initial greeting and closing. I think it's so classy when a host opens the evening with a funny anecdote, greeting, and/or prayer, before food is served and the festivities begin. This makes each guest feel seen and welcome. It's also really helpful to have a closing toast or activity (i.e. group photo, icebreaker game, thank you), so that guests have a clear idea of when the party is coming to a close.
Prepare some non-alcoholic drink options, and few different salad dressings. You are not a short-order chef, but food allergies are a real thing, and there will almost always be someone at your party who doesn't drink. This is a small way to make them feel like they are just as much a part of things as everyone else.
Don't place any party planning stress on your guests. Anyone ever been to a party, and all the host talked about was how much work it was? Your guests shouldn't feel like a burden or like they owe you something. Put simply, if it's too much work and not enough fun, don't throw a party. But if you do decide to host, whatever stress the preparation entailed is not your guest's problem, and will only steal the joy from your experience.
For The Guests...
Never arrive empty-handed. No matter how tight your budget is, going the extra mile to bring your host a gift is extremely thoughtful. My favorite little host gifts include: a bottle of wine, flowers for the hostess, a festive candle, a Christmas ornament for their tree (if it isn't too themed), or baked bread/breakfast for the morning after. Your host is giving you a beautiful evening, and a gift of appreciation is a great way to say thanks. And I'm just saying...you will always be invited back.
Bring Poo-Pourri. If you don't know what Poo-Pourri is, watch this, and then come back to this guide. Now, laugh all you want, but whether the party you're attending is in a large home or a little apartment, stinking up the bathroom is basically the worst thing you can do. Apart from belching at the table. Gross.
Put your phone away. No need to obsess over the perfect picture in front of the tree, or mindlessly scroll because small-talk got weird. Resist the urge to disconnect, and engage, for one night, with the people in the room. Being present, not just as a host, but as a guest, speaks volumes.
Do not bring an unannounced or uninvited guest. Your host has planned for just enough food and space for everyone, and bringing an extra friend or a significant other without any warning, is taking their hospitality for granted. If you are unsure whether or not your other half is invited, simply ask before the week of the party. In this situation, it is much better to ask permission, than to say sorry.
Mind the attire request. If it's a Christmas pajama party, don't be lame, and wear some flippin' Christmas pajamas! If it's formal, don't show up in flip-flops. This may seem like basic knowledge, but believe me, it's not. Adhering to the dress code is a great way to honor your host. Unsure what to wear? Pinterest it up, baby. Or text around to some avid party-goers (not your host), to see what they are donning. But only ask friends you trust! We do not want a Legally-Blonde-I-Thought-It-Was-A-Costume-Party-Situation. Elle Woods was a really cute bunny though.
Now is not the time to be picky. Hosting a Christmas party is enough work as is, and your host is not your personal chef! Unless it is a dietary constraint, refrain from asking for substitutes, and just do your best to quietly avoid the things you absolutely cannot or won't have. No matter what, thank your host for what they have prepared, and eat something. As a daughter of someone whose love language is cooking for people, nothing can burst a bubble quicker than the words, "I don't like that" or "I don't eat that."
Leave your breakup story, bad work day, and other drama at the door. Christmas parties are meant to be fun and light-hearted, and you do not want to drag down everyone's spirits with a sob story. Save it for one on one conversations elsewhere, and redirect your attentions on others. You don't want to feel like you've burdened others, and it is just always better taste to ask fellow guests about the good in their lives and to share your own.
Graciously consider your host's time. It's important to not overstay your welcome, and to consider how long your host will be cleaning up or how early they need to wake up for work in the morning. End the night on a high note, with hugs and thank-you's, instead of having to say, "Well I guess we'll get out of your hair."
RSVP! This is one of the easiest things to do, yet it is so often overlooked. Don't make your host call you or follow up. Be diligent about checking your calendar, talking it over with whoever, and getting back to your host within the requested time frame.
Send a day-after thank you text, or week-of thank you card. Have you ever felt post-party worry? It's root is insecurity, and it shouldn't be overly played into, but after throwing a party, I often think about whether or not my guests had a good time. Again, it's more important to be present than to be perfect, but because I've had those post-party thoughts, I figure other people have to. So I always send a thank-you text, noting something I loved about the party, to the host the day after, or for more formal gatherings, I send a little thank-you note in the mail. Hospitality is not a right, it's a gift, and the people who host you should feel appreciated. (Ex. Hey friend! Still thinking about how great last night's Christmas party was. You really know how to get everyone in the Christmas spirit! That cheese plate was dreamy. Thank you again for including us in your festive celebration! I love when we can get together. Merry Christmas!)