Holiday parties are just around the corner and being a great guest is part of one’s duty when a host invites you to an event. As a guest, you have certain duties but where do you draw the line? Here are a few questions I have received lately on fall party etiquette to “kick off” the holiday season.
1. Is it appropriate to offer to bring a specific item when you are invited to a potluck dinner party?
Absolutely. If you are famous for your killer holiday green Jell-O salad with little dots of cottage cheese floating throughout, by all means let your host know what you plan to bring. She (or he) always has the option of re-directing you if there are several other guests signed up for the same dish. As a host, it is your job to make sure that there are not multiples of the same item. Keep a checklist so you will know who is bringing what.
2. Since it’s a potluck, should I feel obligated to bring a hostess gift?
A gift is never an obligation and bringing one should be left up to your own discretion. If you have spent a great deal of time and money preparing multiple side dishes for the party, your host should thank you with a little take home sussie! If you are inclined to bring a small token of appreciation for the invitation, feel free to show your host your gratitude.
3. Where do you draw the line when you are best friends (or a family member) with the host and you end up bringing the majority of the food, running last minute errands, cleaning up her kitchen or watching her children while she enjoys her party and entertains the rest of her guests?
If this scenario has become the norm, you are no longer a guest but rather an employee and should be compensated for your efforts – okay, that’s a little harsh but you should at least be proactive and make the decision to back up on some of the tasks or opt to decline the invitation all together. If you decide to say something, you can diplomatically express your feelings; “I would love to come to Serena’s birthday party but I am going to be coming straight from work. I am happy to bring a side dish but will either have to drop it off the night before or bring something that doesn’t require prep work. May I bring the chips and dip or some decorative napkins and dessert plates? By the way, I’m looking forward to relaxing after a very busy day – thanks for including me.” Subtle but direct.
4. Is it okay to tell my host about my food preferences? I eat gluten free and want to make sure there will be food items that I am able to enjoy.
The word preference is the operative term. If you do not like a food item, stay silent. If you are allergic to a certain food, you may mention that you would like to prepare a dish that is “peanut free” or “gluten free” for those, like yourself, who have a dietary restriction. A sensitive host will pick up on this comment, make a mental note and offer foods accordingly. However, it’s always best not to rely on others when it comes to your health. Eat before you go so you will not be famished (or surprised) when there is only one dish that you can enjoy and that dish happens to be the one you brought to the party.
5. I happen to be a great outdoor griller and my sister always expects me to bring the brisket and turkey, and then man the grill. How should I respond this year when she asks me to smoke the meat?
Just be honest. You can say; “This year I’m going to hand my apron and grilling utensils over to someone else. I’d really like the opportunity to enjoy the holidays with the family without spending most of my time outdoors alone.” You might even suggest that your sister relinquish the role of host and you all can go out to dinner where everyone can be served their favorite meal, or agree to contribute to a fund with the rest of your family to have the brisket and turkey professionally smoked. You can even offer to pick it up on your way over to her house!
6. If I want to skip a party do I have to give a reason or can I just “accidentally” forget to RSVP?
If your host sent out an invitation, you may not skip the RSVP but you don’t have to offer a specific reason. You can just decline and say “I’m sorry I will have to miss the party. I have another commitment but it sounds like it will be a lot of fun.”
7. How long do I have before I need to RSVP?
You have one week before you start to look like you are either waiting for a better option or are not very interested in attending the party.
8. I’ve been invited to a holiday party and the invitation says “and guest”. Am I required to bring someone or can I attend solo?
I am sure the host was attempting to show good will by allowing you to bring a friend or family member. If you would prefer to attend the party alone, let the host know so she will be able to plan table seating accordingly.
9. I have been invited to a holiday party that is “black tie”. What exactly does that mean?
A man is required to wear a tuxedo and a woman should wear a long dress. While you will see all kinds of dress lengths at holiday events, if you host took the time to state “black tie” on the invitation, she (or he) knows the proper definition and that is a very formal, long dress. Wear a cocktail length dress at your own risk!
10. I have been to several parties where the host requested that we remove our shoes. Is that normal or should I be offended?
No and no. While I wouldn’t call it normal, the request is often due to a particular culture or a health reason, such as asthma. I would hope that a host would take into consideration that most people are not comfortable traipsing around in bare feet and would offer some type of inexpensive (new) cotton slipper or holiday socks to take home as a party favor.