(8 minute read)
We’re not just going to first base, we are going all the way – in rounding the corners of holiday party etiquette, that is. Not all holiday parties are created equally, though holiday party etiquette is fairly standard across the board (never losing sight of the degree in knowing your audience).
A simple guideline I like to use is the blue cheese barometer test when I’m unsure of selecting yes or no in any given situation (the classic holiday fork in the road). Blue cheese is generally an honest yes or a no for most people’s palette, not a maybe. A similar format might positively apply in relation to a yes or no be in commitments during the holiday season.
You can’t be in more than one place at once, and you cannot be everything to everyone. A) The physical impossibility of the situation. Booking too many events in one night, unless you live in a walking city, or have a black car and driver, getting around isn’t all that convenient. Drinks add up, as do the cost of cabs, and sparing availability.
You’re well liked! You know it. Your inbox and iMessage beget overflowing with colourful invitations. Well done, A-lister of your own personal mecca. Now it’s time to make some choices. Once you’ve made those choices for well thought out reasons, commit to them.
Not all events require an RVSP, though those that do ask for a reason and don’t wish to have to alter their feedback more than reasonably. Any host on their game plans for flexibility, though there’s nothing worse than creating a special evening or event among friends only to have guests not show up or cancel last minute. Time, energy, effort, heart and cost – put yourself in the other person’s position before making any dodgy decisions. You’ve been considered enough to be asked, show the consideration back since you’ve committed. You always have the option to forego and state a straight up thank you but no, in advance.
Understandably things come up last minute, though make a conscious effort to mindfully stick to what you’ve committed to, or – communicate your absence to your host. Bringing an extra guest? The more the merrier. Who doesn’t want to be included? Just give the host a heads up. You never know when you’ll be taking home a parting gift or dining within arranged seating. Save the host and the pop-up guest the awkward pause.
But you’re invited. Showing up empty handed isn’t an option in my world when I’m a guest, even when the host insists guests bring nothing. I’m not suggesting showing up to someone’s home empty handed is not okay, I’m stating that (I believe) bringing something is a universal norm. A bottle of wine, a non-alcoholic concoction, an appetizer, something pot luck, flowers, a hand written note – anything to express gratitude, share and thanks. No one said you need to break the bank and bring a top shelf Bordeaux, simply pick up some cheese and a few apples to slice. Both options, much loved.
Wait. You’ve showed up somewhere you can’t bear to be. Easy. Stay a while, converse with the host and a few guests, and gracefully bow out, though say good-bye to the host, at minimum. As a host, I would never ask you to stay somewhere you don’t want to be or you’re uncomfortable. I can love you from a distance and would rather you be happy.
Assess where you’re going, who else will be in attendance, and what’s appropriate. Cocktail party reaps cocktail dress, sky-high heels, and above average make-up. Work party warrants perhaps something a little longer than mid-thigh, average height of heel, and less is more in the make-up department, while still being polished. Gents, a five o’clock shadow works, paired with good hygiene. A jacket and collared shirt, signature scent – simple, a tie and dress pants seems a bit overkill (unless it’s black tie).
Matching to the hilt isn’t necessary either. Whatever you can pull off and feel comfortable in, do it. Easiest rule for both genders, own your style. If it’s LA, go for it. Country club, do it up. Country, hipster, sporty – get at it. Be you and go for at least mid-range comfort. Fidgeting is unbecoming. So you’re invited somewhere last minute and have no time to get ready? Go anyway. It would be a shame to miss out just because you’re not dec’d in what you wish you were. Experiences, not appearances.
On the attire note, if anyone needs a stylist – hit me up and I can point you in the right direction of who I feel’s style will capture or best create yours.
Ladies, in the accessories department – choose wisely, well, and don’t over do it. You’re not a Christmas tree, though if you want to reflect light as blindingly as possible, I support your style! Pick an accent piece (or two), though don’t make it four. Packing make-up in your clutch? Bring the basics, not the kitchen sink – someone else in the room will have what you might be missing should you need it. Concealer, lip gloss, a rollerball perfume, and maybe (maybe) mascara. Cap it at that. Bring a a couple safety pins, a few bobbypins, and an extra hair tie. Someone else usually needs these items and has forgotten them or already lent them out.
If you’re transitioning from day to night, bring heels if you wore flats during the day or vice versa – you’re tired of heels, toss on some flats. Layers work great when transitioning from day to night, also. Want to bring the sex appeal during the evening though stay work appropriate during the day? Wear a cardigan or shrug overtop of a nighttime worthy dress, or pack a camisole or skirt to switch up from a t-shirt under a blazer and pants. Gents, you’re way more versatile – I’m confident you’ve got this one.
Wear clothes that don’t require 10 sets of hands to get on and off. You’ll undoubtedly have to use the washroom at some point. I recently made the mistake while in Paris this September of wearing a bodysuit that had snaps. In the dimly lit ladies room after enough bubbly, doing up these snaps, alone – was a large feat! Don’t be me. No one wants to hear why you were in the bathroom for 15 minutes trying to get dressed again.
Thank you to all hosts, you are so damn appreciated. I love hosting when my guests appreciate the thought and end up having a good time. Simple, right? Things are a little more complicated in hosting these days vs. what they used to be.
FOOD. With a host of allergies and intolerances, a conscious effort in food-proofing must be made. Rather than harping on someone’s needs, or apparent needs, accommodating them is usually very appreciated. Someone can’t do gluten? Make a gluten-free tray of goods. If I’m having a dinner party with set guests, I’ll often email the menu in advance and ask who wants what in the ‘meat’ department (i.e. steak, fish, or a vegetable entree alternative), same with a choice of one or two salads, and most people can eat whatever vegetable is made. I’m sure at least one person is rolling their eyes at the pre-sent menu with choices, though on the west coast, it’s a thing – and a norm. I don’t expect anyone to do this for anything I’m invited to, it’s just something I like to do, especially if I know there’s at least one person who’d like the choice.
DRINKS. Usually the hosting party has refreshments, though not a large enough watering hole to serve a party for an entire evening. BYOB is always a good idea. Bring a bottle of wine for the host, and one or two (if you’re going as a couple) to have and share yourselves. Don’t show up somewhere and complain that the host doesn’t have what you want. Problem solve in advance and bring what you need.
GUESTS. Disclosing the guest list in advance shouldn’t be necessary. If guests need to know who else is coming, they’re making the decision to attend or not attend for the wrong reasons. Even if there’s someone that might not be your favourite, you can be civilized. People you don’t know that will be there? Great opportunity for new conversation. Extract the positive and be grateful for the invite. Sharing the company of others is a blessing.
AMBIENCE. When hosting, set the mood with great music, good lighting, and candles. Three simple keys to changing a mediocre setting into a magical one. I call this creating texture.
RULES OF THUMB
Life experience, education, and theoretically, being socialized from a young age, most of us are familiar with the following few points – though who can’t use a few pre-game reminders?
BE PRESENT. Don’t be on your phone the whole time you are in the flesh and presence of others. It’s simple tact. You may miss a call or text real-time – though if it’s an important one, more than likely you’ll have an awareness of it in advance, and be able to schedule the communication appropriately. Meeting someone afterwards? Text or call them before your current engagement and let them know what time they can expect you afterwards. Be a proactive communicator in order to mitigate poor presence.
BE INCLUSIVE. Undoubtedly there is always one lone ranger at a party who did come with someone, though isn’t a crowd regular. I.e. a significant other who hasn’t met anyone previously and is now meeting friends/co-workers for the first time, someone new to town who comes as the guest of a friend, someone who is part of the usual mix – though is an introvert. My point, make an extra ounce of effort to make these people feel warmly welcome. Be kind not pretentious. You aren’t better than the next person no matter what your parents say.
KEEP OVERINDULGENCE AT BAY. True, it’s easy to sample one of everything when it’s right in front of your face, and it’s Christmas (so calories are temporarily invisible), not to mention it’s giving season, “another bottle of Veuve, which now makes three, please”.
Create a slight cognizance that the token Christmas “lunch” can quickly transition into the early evening cocktail party you are to attend without blinking an eye, and BAM. There you are 5 glasses of wine in, and everyone else is just showing up. Pace your consumption in general, whether it’s one event you’re attending or a number of them consecutively. Self-control, it’s a thing.
FOREGO CONFRONTATION. So you’re in the same room as someone you haven’t seen in a long while and now appears the time to strike up that confrontational conversation – since you want to settle what has yet to be discussed from five years ago. Wrong thought pattern. Confrontation is only appropriate in very calculated settings; a public setting with friends and strangers – not being one of those settings. Timing is much. Save that confrontation for an email or rescheduled coffee date in private, daylight hours – and sober.
Better yet, why not forgive the be said. Make forgiveness your super power around those who need it most. Letting go of something, or someone that does not serve you will create space for something else that does! Perhaps that something you’ve just created space for is something that smells great, has toned arms, and a beaming personality. Just sayin’. To forgive vs. confront. Consider it 😉
KNOW WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM. You’ve came, you saw, you did – you’ve basically bought the tee-shirt by whatever ungodly hour we are hypothetically speaking of. It’s time to wrap it up. If you are that guest who is lingering until the bitter end of a gathering, and your host is unengaged, putting away the hors d’oeuvres that are drying up within their once fresh shell, or the band and roadies have left – it’s well beyond your cue to go home. Yes, go home. Wait. There’s an after party.
Before committing to an afterparty in a state of inebriation, ask yourself a) who else is going, b) if there’s going to be food, and c) if you’ll be able to get a cab/ride home whenever that blessed moment strikes and you need to go home and plunge into your comfy 900 thread count sheets, or let’s be real – the couch with your makeup and coat (you’re exhausted)!
More often then not it’s tough to find cabs in a timely fashion into the wee hours of the morning. Food? Unless you’re going to someone’s home and they have freshly stocked cold press juice, or someone is volunteering to whip up a killer feast of whole foods – it’s unlikely you’ll be ingesting anything remotely gut-friendly. Screw doing anything the next day.
LITERALLY. GO HOME.
Time flies when you’re having fun, but how many conversations must you pack into one night with the same group of people? Isn’t getting together again another sound option? Leaving something to be desired for upon next encounter is better than wearing people down to the point they feel they have nothing left to say to you until next quarter. Only my experience.
You are well aware of this one, though in the spirit of safety – prearrange you ride home, or at very least, arrange a safe ride home in the moment. You can’t find a ride? There’s no excuse for driving. Check into a hotel downtown (or wherever you be), sleep on a friend’s couch, or wake someone up to come get you. There is no reasonable alternative.
ETIQUETTE & REALITIES?
Be yourself. Try your best to make good choices, and if you can’t be error free (who is), aim to bat 500 at very least, a decent percentile in execution.
Own that mistletoe and bring the highest vibe you’re capable of. Shake hands, hug, embrace. The holidays aren’t a time to be stand-offish. If you’re not a touchy feely person, that’s okay. Share the love the best way you know how. Make eye contact for frick sakes!
When sharing conversation, be interested. There is no point to conversing if you’re checked out. If starting to drift, change the conversation – and to one that most parties can relate to and participate in. Going into stories of yore around new people is only sustainable for so long.
Make the most of every moment, there are no second chances and each moment only happens once. Cherish.
Lastly, please watch this video – it will put a smile on your face. Derek Blasberg never disappoints.
Love, Light and Good Times be had – always.
photo source: Livingly