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You may have just stashed the Halloween decorations…but, holiday dinner parties are just around the corner. Whether the party is in the home of your boss,  friends, or  neighbors, you will set yourself apart as a gracious and thoughtful guest if you follow these holiday dinner party etiquette tips:

8 Holiday Dinner Party Etiquette Tips

  1. RSVP. Call the number on the invitation to let the hostess know whether or not you plan to attend. The hostess needs to know how to plan food, beverages, and seating. Never take uninvited guests with you.
  2. Arrive at the time stated on the invitation, or within 10 minutes of it. If the invitation is casual, and says arrive between 6:30 – 7, then split the difference and ring the door bell at 6:45. If the invitation says cocktails 7:00- 8:00, dinner at 8:00, then arrive anytime during the cocktail hour, but at least 15 minutes before dinner. You don’t want to arrive just as everyone is being seated at the table.
  3. What about a hostess gift? A hostess gift is a nice gesture for a small party, especially if you know the host well. It’s a way to show appreciation for the dinner invitation. But this ritual varies in different parts of the country and in various circles of friends. So, learn what’s appropriate where you live and with your friends. You don’t want to be the only one not taking a gift, and you don’t want to be the only one who does.
    • Appropriate hostess gifts include flowers, decorative candle, food, or wine. While flowers are lovely, they do obligate an already busy hostess to find a vase and arrange them—so take them already arranged in a vase.
    • Take a bottle of wine only if you know the host and hostess’s wine preferences. The host and hostess are not expected to serve the wine at the dinner, as they will have already planned wines suited for the meal.
    • Better yet, if you do take something, make it personal, for example, monogrammed paper beverage napkins, with a jar of hummus and a spreader, or homemade jam with some fresh bagels for your host’s breakfast the next morning.
    • Another thoughtful gesture is to send a thank-you gift after the party – flowers to enjoy, wine, or chocolates.
    • If it’s a large formal party—and especially if you don’t know the host well, do not take a hostess gift.
  4. Enjoy mingling with other guests if there are cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before dinner. Introduce yourself to those you don’t know. Make small talk by asking how they know the host and hostess and about their holiday plans.
  5. When dinner is announced, if there are several tables set up with place cards, find your spot and stand behind your chair until the hostess sits down. If there are no place cards, the host will indicate where you should sit. And it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to seat the woman to his right.
  6. Do not ‘eat and run.” Generally you’ll want to stay an hour after dinner. It’s hardly a compliment to the host and hostess if you exit just after the meal is finished. Often when the hostess rises from the table at the end of the meal, she’ll suggest everyone get comfortable in the living room for coffee or after-dinner drinks. A good indication that the evening has come to an end is when the host is no longer offers refills.
  7. After getting your coat, thank your host and hostess and leave. Don’t be one of those guests who take 30 minutes to leave after getting your coat on!
  8. It’s not necessary to send a thank-you note to your host and hostess if you thanked them verbally, but it’s a nice gesture and makes you stand out as a thoughtful guest. Or, you may phone the hostess the next day to again express your enjoyment of the party.