How To Be a Good Guest: The Holiday Party Edition

November marks the beginning of the holiday season. As such, soon there will be dinner and cocktail party invitations flying around via email, Facebook and possibly even in the mail!

So what exactly defines being a good guest, or, at the very least, a good invitee? Here are some of the best tips we have gleaned from Real Simple and Rachel Ray Magazine.

Before the Event

* RSVP as soon as you receive the invitation. It may be considered “cool” in some circles to keep the host or hostess guessing, but it certainly isn’t courteous or respectful!
* Firm up your RSVP no later then 48 hours before the event. If you are one of those people who perpetually respond with a “maybe” or another non-committal reply, be polite enough to make your mind up at least two days in advance so that the host or hostess can be sure there is enough seating and refreshments (not to mention space). If it is a smaller sit-down event such as an intimate Thanksgiving dinner, firm up your RSVP no later than 3 days in advance.
* Unless the invitation specifies that you should bring a plus one or feel free to invite others, don’t! If you have a friend visiting from out of town, decline the invitation and explain why. The hostess might invite your guest, but you don’t want to put her in an awkward position by asking if you can bring someone.
* Ask if you can bring something. If food or drink isn’t necessary, volunteer to bring any extra chairs or even to pitch in afterwards to help clean up. Even if the host or hostess doesn’t take you up on the offer, the thought will be much appreciated!
* If the host or hostess takes you up on your offer to bring a food item, be sure to bring the serving pieces. For instance, bring a cake cutter with a cake or a cheese spreader and knife with a cheese plate.
* Map your way there. Nothing is more annoying to a host or hostess then answering a million calls or texts for directions. We live in a digital age, so utilize Google Maps or find out directions in advance.

During the Event

* Dress appropriately. Did the invitation specify that it is a “cocktail party”? Then don’t show up in blue jeans. If it is a more casual event, don’t overdress and make others uncomfortable. If you are unsure of the dress code, be sure to ask the host or hostess in advance.
* While ignoring familiar faces doesn’t make sense, huddling around them and only them also doesn’t make sense! Be sure to introduce yourself to at least a few new people. This can help put not only other guests at ease, but the host or hostess as well. A good guest mixes and mingles, even if it is only in moderation!
* Intimate or formal sit-downs usually mean long talks with the same people for long amounts of time. If this is the kind of event you will be attended, especially if it’s one where you don’t know a majority of the other guests, come prepared with topics of conversation, or at the very least, be ready to engage in chats with your seatmates so that long pauses don’t become stale and you seem impolite or uninterested/uninteresting.
* If you are not already bringing a refreshment to the event or have volunteered to help out in some way, a small token of thanks is in order! Most hosts or hostesses will appreciate a thoughtful gift such as a scented candle, a extra bottle of wine or a small plant or floral arrangement. If you opt to bring flowers, make sure they are already in a vase so that the host or hostess does not need to spend additional time arranging them in the middle of their party, or, offer to do it for them.
* Don’t overindulge! The last thing a party host or hostess wants to deal with is an out-of-control guest. Be sure to drink in moderation and know your limits. If you see that another guest has gone a bit too far with the “holiday cheer”, be a good friend and watch out for them or alert the host or hostess in a discreet manner so that they may be aware. Offering to share a cab or give a ride home to the guest is a sure way to score points with any party host or hostess so that they are not “babysitting” in addition to cleaning up after the event.

After the Event

* We no longer live in an age that requires a succession of hand-written and mailed out thank you notes, but that doesn’t mean that a thank you isn’t necessary or appreciated. For large, public events such as a raging holiday party, type a Thank You on their Facebook wall. For a smaller or more intimate event, an email of thanks would work just fine! The only exception to this rule would be if you already gave the host or hostess a small gift of appreciation at the actual event.
* What goes around comes around! Be sure to invite the host or hostess to at least one upcoming events or dinner that may be hosting. Not a host or hostess with the mostess? Keep them in mind for any future events that you are invited to where it is specified that you may invite additional people. Even if they are unable to attend, the thought of “returning the favor” is appreciate.