Tis the season for parties! Between office holiday socials, fun family dinners and festive celebrations with friends, the final two months of the year can feel like one giant party. Whether it’s a simple get-together with a few loved ones or an all-out end of the year bash, it’s important to remember etiquette basics for being a party guest. From when to arrive to what to bring and how to act, we’ve put together the ultimate holiday party guest guide to ensure your host invites you back again and again.
Even if you weren’t asked to RSVP, it’s important to let your host know whether or not you’ll be attending. And respond as soon as possible. A delayed reply can disrupt the host’s planning and preparation. Should something come up after you’ve already responded yes, call the host to cancel and express your disappointment in missing out on the party.
Be (Almost) on Time
Punctuality can vary between events, but as a general rule, plan to arrive 10 to 15 minutes after the party starts. This lets the host finish up any last-minute prep and time to get everything set before guests arrive en masse. Never arrive early unless the host asks you to help get things ready.
Bring a Small Gift
Give the host a gift to show your appreciation. This can be a nice bottle of wine (don’t grab the cheapest vino on the shelf), a bouquet of flowers, decorative candles, a Starbucks gift card, etc. Make sure to take something your host will like and truly appreciate.
Bonus tip: If you don’t know the host well, it’s best to avoid gifting alcohol in case they don’t drink.
Converse with Others and Participate
Parties are meant to get to know people. Step away from the small group of friends you know well, talk with others and have fun. If the host has games to play—like get-to-know-each-other ice breakers or a laugh-out-loud round of the latest party card game—participate and enjoy yourself.
Offer to Help
Ask the host if there’s anything you can bring to the party—perhaps a bag of ice, a pack of napkins or even a side dish or desserts. While at the party, look for opportunities to help the host. Offer to carry serving platters to the table or help fill water glasses. As the party comes to an end, take dirty dishes to the kitchen and throw trash away. These simple gestures can alleviate the host’s stress and help them have the best time at their own party.
You know your limit. Don’t be that person who gets drunk and wreaks havoc at the party. Pace yourself. Switch to water later in the evening. And never drink and drive! If you don’t feel sober at the end of the night, don’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Instead, call a taxi or ask a friend to take you home.
Say Thank You
Express your gratitude. Thank the host for being invited and let them know you had a great time. For informal events, a phone call will suffice. For more formal parties, send a hand-written thank you note.
By following these tips, you’ll be a party guest pro and a welcomed addition to future holiday gatherings.