12/17/2013 05:34 EST | Updated 02/16/2014 05:59 EST

Seven Sticky Situations: Home for the Holidays

"There is no place like home for the holidays..." so the song goes. For that reason, you and your sweetheart have decided to make your house Christmas-central this year. You are hosting and all are taking turns coming to celebrate with you and your family.

To make sure that your vision of "the most wonderful time of the year" comes true in your home, here is your cheat sheet to some of the seven of the season's sticky situations.

1. Little sis' wants to bring Fluffy and you don't want pets in your home.

Plus one -- bringing an uninvited guest, is never appropriate, even if it is a cute and fun little fur ball, on four legs. Inform your sister ahead of time. Call her and tell her how much you are looking forward to spending time with her. Add that you have decided not to have any pets in the house for the holidays.

If one of your family members is allergic, you can give that reason, but you do not have any obligation to do so.

2. Your son's new girlfriend is a vegetarian and you are planning a traditional Christmas turkey feast.

As a host, asking guests, especially first timers in your home, about dietary restrictions and reactions is a gracious gesture that will save embarrassment to both parties.

Don't forego your turkey tradition. Make sure that you have plenty of other foods that she can enjoy, like meat-free stuffing, vegetables and salad.

Should she offer to bring something, serve it with your accompanying dishes.

3. One of your guests is a little more than tipsy.

Hosting means serving alcohol responsibly and making sure that all are safe and secure in your home.

Give a festive thirst-quenching appeal to pitchers of water by adding apple or citrus slices. Regularly offer them to your guests. Place sparkling water bottles on the table. If you have to stop serving alcohol to certain guests, inform them privately. If your guests are not sleeping over, make safe ride arrangements like with Operation Red Nose.

4. Your guests won't leave.

Use gradual signals. Start by moving the party to another room; from the dining room to the living room. Stop serving alcohol. Offer "a last call" for coffee or tea." Glide the light dimmer up a notch and bring the volume of the music down a notch. Yawn. Say how late it is getting or how tired you are. Lastly, get up, offer to get coats and call taxis.

5. Grandma goes on and on.

Simply let her be. You will miss her someday. Listen to her stories and invite her to share them with your other guests, especially with the younger generation of the family.

6. You received a gift at the office that you don't like. Can you re-gift it to your sister-in-law?

With our environmental concerns and desire for practical recycling, it may be acceptable if you are foremost sure that you will not hurt the giver's or the receiver's feelings. Your officemate will not be looking for it and your sister in-law will appreciate it.

If you decide to re-gift make sure that the following conditions apply. The gift is:

  • not homemade or made especially for you.
  • new, recent and still available in stores. Just in case your sister-in-law wants to return it.
  • in its original packaging and the instructions are intact.
  • freshly wrapped and a new gift tag is added.

Remember doubt means don't. If you feel guilty just thinking about it, don't do it.

If you really are not comfortable offering a re-gift but know that the person would enjoy it, just offer it, for no particular reason. Tell the person that you are re-gifting because you thought it was just perfect for him or her.

7. The teenagers in the family are barely making eye contact with the other guests. All you see are the top of their heads. They are constantly interacting on their smartphones.

As a host, you may ask your guests to come to the table "techno-free." To ensure maximum participation inform them ahead of time and solicit the help of their parents.

Depending on your family's dynamics, you may even put a fun twist on it. When all get to the table announce that you are playing "phone stack," family style. All gadgets go in the centre of the table, on top of one another. Whoever reaches for their phone has to help with the dishes.

Breathe in, breathe out, keep calm and merrily make memories.

Have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Check out Facebook, Twitter and order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities.


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