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A Concise Guide to Being a Well-Mannered Holiday Guest or Host

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Being a good guest means putting your best foot forward and keeping it there. Whether you’re planning to give or attend business celebrations this holiday season, it’s always a good idea to carry your manners along the way.


To ensure that you stay in the good graces of others, here are a few simple, yet forgotten, tips.

For Guests

Arrive on time: Contrary to popular belief, it is important to arrive on time for a holiday gathering, especially business functions. Unlike personal parties, professional celebrations are normally scheduled between a specific start and end time. Besides, if you arrive late, you’ll miss all that valuable networking time.

Related: The One Habit That Can Make or Break Your Success

RSVP and mean it: If you respond to your invitation with a “yes,” be sure to show up. If your plans change prior to the holiday event, take a moment to let your host know. They may have others they want to invite from a waiting list, or be paying a per-head catering charge.

Go with the flow: To be a good guest, enjoy what is offered. Your host put time and effort into creating a gathering that would both entertain and encourage mingling among the guests. Don’t expect to be constantly entertained. Make it a point to introduce yourself to others, and join in the conversation.

Be clear about your food preferences. If you have food sensitivities or follow a special diet, share that information with your host. Ask your host if it's okay to bring your own snacks. This way, no one has to cater to your dieting habits.

Lend a helping hand: Even if the host says it’s not necessary to help, it’s always good manners to offer. If the event is catered, let the caterer handle the food and cleanup, but if the host is providing the party himself, look for ways to assist in little ways.

Don’t bring uninvited guests without your host’s permission: That includes your spouse, significant other, friend, co-worker or family member. If you’re permitted to bring someone, choose your companion carefully. An ill-mannered guest will reflect poorly on you.

Bring a small gift: Although professional get-togethers don’t require a gift, a small token at the holidays is always appreciated. Popular selections include a nice bottle of wine, a flowering plant, fine chocolates or handmade goodies. Bring something you know your host will enjoy.

Show your appreciation: If you want to leave a lasting impression, send a handwritten thank-you note as soon as possible. An email will suffice but doesn’t have the same impact. This kind gesture will help ensure you are invited back again.

Related: Maximize the Impact of Handwritten Notes With These 6 Tips

For Hosts

Hospitality is the art of making your guests feel comfortable, welcome and at home. Follow these tips to ensure your guests’ visit will be memorable.

Be on time: Be ready to warmly greet your guests as soon as they arrive.

Stock up: Make your guests feel welcome with a variety of snacks. Stock up on the essentials, too. You don’t want to run out of ice, chips or sodas.

Related: Avoid These Off-Site Work Party Mistakes

Tidy up: If your holiday gathering is at your office, make it as inviting as possible. Clear away the clutter, dust, sweep, and store any important or sensitive materials.

Buy good quality drinks and snacks: This is not the time to scrimp on cheaper brands. Spend the money on food and drinks that make guests feel appreciated and valued.

Show your guests a good time: Introduce your guests to one another, plan entertainment or background music and provide a small take-home gift in a basket by the door.  

Minding ones manners reflects on you, whether you are a guest or a host. Make sure your shine this holiday season.

Related: To Host the Best Holiday Party Hand Out Bonuses and Go Home

Jacqueline Whitmore

Written By

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).