Guest Guide: Top Tips for Holiday Party Etiquette

[Post updated for 2018]

Whether you’re a host or a guest, holiday entertaining can be a little nerve-wracking! In part two of our ultimate holiday party guide, we’re revealing the key to being at the top of everyone’s guest list.


Respond quickly to invitations. A prompt RSVP says you’re excited for the party. Plus, it shows you’re not just waiting for a better option to come along. However, if sometime comes up that requires you to cancel, let your host know as soon as possible.

Timing is Everything

Be timely, but never be early! It’s the rare host who couldn’t use an extra moment to breathe before the doorbell rings. Cocktail parties have a more flexible timeline than sit-down dinners, but a good rule of thumb is to arrive no later than 15 minutes after the party begins

Host and Hostess Gifts

Don’t arrive empty-handed. Unless you moonlight as a sommelier, picking out a bottle of wine for someone can be overwhelming. Candles and gourmet treats are fail-proof options that can be enjoyed at your host’s leisure. We especially love giving Woodwick candles and diffusers to friends and family. They last forever and come in a wide range of fragrances, including woodsy, floral, culinary and herbal scents. Plus, with prices starting at just $12, you can stock up and be set for the whole season!

Etiquette 101

Talk the talk. In a perfect world, your host would be able to introduce you to every other guest and list several things you have in common. Since that’s not often the case, come prepared with several interesting topics to discuss. Err on the side of caution and avoid debating politics, religion or other sensitive subjects with new acquaintances. When in doubt, ask them about themselves, and show genuine interest!

If you have any dietary restrictions, let your host know well ahead of time. Offer to bring a dish that complements the menu, and if your host accepts, bring enough to share. That said, if your eating habits are out of choice and not necessity, fellow guests may not appreciate you extolling the virtues of your algae-only diet while they devour a rich, traditional holiday feast.

Ask if your host would like any assistance in the kitchen, refreshing beverages or cleaning up. Even if they decline, the offer is always appreciated. However, if they do turn down help, listen to them! Ignoring your host’s explicit requests is a major faux pas, and overstepping boundaries is a sure way to take yourself out of the running for a repeat invitation.

Don’t overstay your welcome. If things are winding down, there’s a lull in the conversation and people are yawning, it’s time to call it a night. Be sure to thank your host for a great evening, and make tentative plans to reciprocate.

Send a thank-you note to your host (handwritten is always lovely) within the next few days. Mention how much you enjoyed the party, and be specific. Maybe your host served the most incredible croquembouche, or perhaps their new home is worthy of an Architectural Digest spread. Everyone loves a nice compliment!

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