Holiday party etiquette
You're not going clubbing. You're attending a holiday party. Whether it's a work-related affair held at a restaurant/hotel or a private gathering at someone's home, wearing a sexy, revealing outfit is a no-no. Dressing provocatively can pigeonhole you professionally and affect how others view you. When in doubt, channel Kate Middleton and avoid Lady Gaga.
Thank your host
It's a simple thing, but one you should do immediately upon arrival. Say hello to the host or hostess, thank them for inviting you, offer a compliment on the atmosphere, refreshments or venue (if it's an office party in a public setting), and then move on. Before you leave, seek them out again to say goodbye and thank them for a wonderful time. No, it's not silly or old-fashioned. It's good manners.
Bring a gift
More from the "Good Manners" file: when a party is held at a private home, bring a gift for the host or hostess. If food and drink are being served, you can't go wrong with dessert, a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. Present your gift when you greet and thank your hosts.
Don't get drunk
We laughed at The Hangover because most of us (at one time or another) have gotten smashed out of our minds. But life shouldn't imitate art. Whether you're at an office party, a friend's open house or a family gathering, drinking until you do stupid things isn't funny, especially during the holidays. Stop at a pleasant buzz and leave the blackouts to Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms.
Who doesn't like to flirt? But when mixed with alcohol and co-workers at an office party, it can explode in your face like a Molotov cocktail. A good rule of thumb: keep your hands to yourself, don't say anything you wouldn't say during a typical work day, and if somebody invades your personal space and makes you uncomfortable, tell them pleasantly but firmly to back off.
Leave the kids at home
Unless the invitation states that children are welcome, get a babysitter and leave them at home. Don't hide an infant in a front pack under a Santa suit. Don't pass your 6-year-old off as a North Pole elf. Don't mistake the coat check for in-house daycare, even if they take your toddler and give you a ticket.
Graze, don't gobble
So you missed lunch and dinner and there's plenty of food. It's a party, not a pig trough. Avoid chowing down large amounts of hors d'oeuvres or parking yourself by the food table and snacking non-stop. It's greedy and ill-mannered. Pace yourself to slowly satisfy your hunger without looking like a Hoover (vacuum, not President).
The holiday party is so ubiquitous that everybody attends, especially if it's an office party. That includes guests who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, you name it. Don't automatically assume that the person you just met is Christian and celebrates Christmas. Likewise, don't assume that someone is heterosexual, married or has children. Steer clear of such topics until they offer up enough personal details to guide you in your conversation.
Know when to leave
The party's over. Literally. So why are you still here? Unless you've arranged to hang around and help clean up afterwards, you should not be the last person to leave a party. Gauge your surroundings and when you see the crowd is dwindling, find the host/hostess, thank them, and make your exit. Like house guests, party guests can overstay their welcome. Don't be that person.
Send a note
Want to be a truly memorable guest and impress your host/hostess? Send a thank you note. Crazy, right? Not really. Since it's so easy to post or tweet thanks using social media, a handwritten card that arrives by mail is a rare and precious thing. Try to send it within 48 hours and keep it simple. It's the thought (and effort) that count. Linda Lowen is a freelance writer from Syracuse, NY, and a model party guest.