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Sticky Situation: The ABCs Of Holiday Partying

It's party season! The happ, happiest season of all! Maybe you're hosting, or maybe you'll be doing a lot of "guesting" ... Regardless, of what your Yule tiding role will be, here is the alphabet to guide you on the twenty-six dos and don'ts of party etiquette.

Sticky Situation: Holiday Partying Dos and Don'ts for Hosts and Guests

It's party season! The happ, happiest season of all! Maybe you're hosting, or maybe you'll be doing a lot of "guesting" ... Regardless, of what your Yule tiding role will be, here is the alphabet to guide you on the twenty-six dos and don'ts of party etiquette.


Assigned seating

Place card holders can prevent disagreements, identify food restrictions and facilitate conversations. One of my favourite ways is to personalize ornaments that my guests can take home. The guest of honour is always seated to the right of the host.


If you are planning a B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Booze) celebration, state it on the invitation. As a guest, keep to your beverage of choice. Don't serve yourself from others' bottles, unless invited to sample. You host needs all his fridge space. If your beverage is best served cold, bring a small cooler with ice for your drinks.

Cleaning up

Wait until all guests have gone. Bring in used plates and utensils and leave them on the counter. If you need to wash dishes and utensils to serve all your courses, consider using disposable plates or accept a friend's offer for an extra set. Don't be afraid to "mix and match". I love it!


Attending the party solo and not sure how to mingle? Look for people that are having a good time. "May I join you?" Introduce yourself with your first and last names. Add how you know the host. Ask "How are you spending the holiday season?" and you will see your newly met acquaintance's eyes shine as he speaks about loved ones and favourite activities.

Electronic invitations

They are eco-friendly and perfectly acceptable. They also make party planning easy, quick and even economical.

Food dilemmas

Allergies are the guest's responsibility. Inform when accepting the invitation. Restrictions that are based on a medical condition on philosophical values should also be stated, especially if it is a small gathering. Preferences or dislikes should not be mentioned. It is just one meal. You can indulge in your favourites when you get back home or eat before attending the party. If you are contributing a dish, list all ingredients on a card and provide it to your host.


When your host pumps up the volume, encourages you to get up and show your moves, karaoke to carols or play Pictionary, be a good sport and make the effort. Don't be a party pooper.


We are Canadians, eh! We love being polite. It is perfectly acceptable to ask hosts if they need help. If they say "No, thank you. Let's just enjoy the festivities." Don't insist. When accepting help, be very specific. Demonstrate what you are expecting; cut a few bread slices or lay one place setting.


Presenting your spouse, children or friends, is gracious and can avoid awkward moments or questions about a person's link to you. Look at the person you wish to honour or the newly met and say: "I'd like to introduce, Firstname Lastname". Then turn to the other guest. Based on your current relationship, use their first name, Mr. or Ms. with their last name "This is ..." Add who they are in relationship to you, your host or another guest. To jumpstart the conversation,

complete the introduction with what the two may have in common, or state some cool facts about each other.


Should not discriminate or offend anyone in attendance or not. You should be able to tell your joke in front of your 77-year-old grandma and your 7-year-old nephew. Keep it "G" rated.

Kicking out lingering guests

This is a slow gradual process. 1) Move the party to another room. 2) Offer coffee. 3) Bring down the volume of the music. 4) Blow out the candles and increase the lighting. 5) Ask if anyone needs transportation. And 6), this last step is rarely needed "Well it's been a great party and tomorrow is a long day for us", while yawning and stretching.

Leaving graciously

Don't be the last to go. If fewer than three couples are left, do the full guest-by-guest good-bye round. When too many are still merrying, exit after thanking your host. Thank again the next day by calling or emailing.


Prepare topics of general interest, fun facts and positive news. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions. Find out about them and reply clearly. Chatting is like a cha, cha, cha. Your conversation should have good rhythm and go back and forth.

"No" to negativity

Don't make negative comments. Don't join in gossip. Point out positives. Compliment people.

Offering host gifts

This custom is to disengage you from having to reciprocate an invitation, within the season. Host gifts are typically perishable items or seasonal accessories. They should be opened in front of guests. A wine bottle will not be served, unless it was brought as a contribution to the meal, as in a potluck dinner. Flowers are best sent before, so they may be included in the decor, or afterwards as a "thank you" gift.

Posting comment and pics

Ask first, then click and post, on social media. Some hosts may not want you to post for fear of offending friends that were not invited. While other hosts may even create a #Hashtag.

Quitting a group or guest

Is as easy as waiting for a lull in the conversation "It was lovely catching up with you" and moving on. Don't say you are going to the washroom or bar. "Why?" you wonder. They may decide to follow you... Oh oh... You can also choose to introduce that person to another guest.


This is not an option. It is a must. Your host is waiting to hear from you to finalize plans and make purchases.

Simplify your contribution

Arrive with everything you need to serve your dish. This includes leaving behind newly bought serving dishes and utensils as host gifts.


Don't arrive early. Give your host all the time they need to open the door with a smile and unstressed. If you are running later than the usual 15 minutes' grace period, call, don't text, your host with your newly expected arrival time.


The 24-inch rule to set the table; there is 24 inches from the center of one plate to the others on each side. There is also 24 inches from the edge of the table to the back of a guest's chair.


Face-to-face moments. Silence your technology. Focus on making real time memories.

What to wear

Hosts, simplify your guests' choices by stating a dress code. Guests, in the absence of a dress code, use your judgment based on the occasion, the location and the time of day. When in doubt, find out.

X-tra guest

Never show up with an extra guest, pet or children. Check with your host first.

Yule DYK (Did you know)

Definition, as per the Merriam-Webster dictionary: The feast of the nativity of Jesus Christ: Christmas. Origin and Etymology: Middle English yol, from Old English geōl; akin to Old Norse jōl, a pagan midwinter festival.

Zest the party

Throw kindness around like confetti, spread the holiday spirit, be a party energizer not enervator.

Thank you HuffPost and dear readers HuffPost readers; this is my 150th post, since November 2011! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do what I love; teach you about modern manners.

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