Holiday party tips help ensure you're the perfect host or guest
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11/27/12 at 5:31 AM
Entertaining this holiday season? Whether at a country club or in the comfort of your own home, here are some tips from Jana Christian, president of The Etiquette School of Oklahoma for putting on a memorable evening and leaving a positive impression.
The ideal host
Guests come first
A good host keeps in mind their guests first, Christian said.
And because the evening you want to throw is all about the guests, a great deal of planning is in order.
Keep in mind who will be there, whether some attendees are vegetarians or have dietary restrictions, making sure these guests are just as accommodated as everyone else.
Also, be mindful of your event's location, Christian said. "Everything should be centered around the convenience of the guests."
Sending them out at least two weeks in advance is always a good rule of thumb.
"Unless it is an event where spouses will be invited, as well, and more planning into attire will take more time to prepare," Christian said. At the point, you can send invitations out as early as a month in advance."
Expect the unexpected
Christian said that as a host or hostess it is extremely important to prepare extra for those guests who show up but may not have been on the original guest list or were invited but didn't RSVP.
That goes as far as, if you're planning on playing "Dirty Santa," you have tucked away a few prewrapped gifts you can simply bring out and integrate into the game so the unexpected guest or guests can participate.
In keeping with Christian's "keep your guests first," whatever you're doing for that evening, you need to prepare for the person who comes unprepared.
Keep your body language open and be pleasant.
Good hosts will make sure they introduce guests to one another - the idea being to help them connect so they can start having conversations. With a smaller group, this could be as easy as going around in a circle and having everyone introduce themselves. If it's a larger party, then introducing your recently arrived guest to a small group of guests that are already chatting is good.
"We just want everyone to feel welcome and feel connected," Christian said.
Playing host, especially at a more intimate function such as one in your home, means wearing many hats - entertainer, planner, orchestrator, connector. Be aware of that. "(Guests) are watching you for clues as to when its time to transition, when it is time to leave; you are the person who sets that evening, what is going to happen."
The great guest
State your intentions
"Unfortunately, that is one of the major complaints we hear today from hosts and hostesses, and that is people do not RSVP," Christian said. "And people commonly have the mindset that an RSVP is required only if they are planning to attend."
Unless the invitation designates "Regrets Only," you need to let the host know if you are or are not attending the event so he or she can prepare accordingly.
Timing your arrival
Few people like being the first to arrive to a party. Christian recommends if you're not planning on arriving at 7 p.m. on the dot for instance, stepping in 10 to 15 minutes after for a cocktail party is acceptable, but anything later than that is not. Always arrive on time for dinner parties.
Bring a gift
"Giving the host a gift has not gone out of style," Christian said, "And that really is just a touch of class in my opinion."
Your token of appreciation for the host need not be expensive. It can be a potted plant, a stationery set, something as simple as a box of chocolates. A bottle of wine is always a great choice. Just keep in mind your audience, Christian said. And if you're bringing food as a gift, don't expect the host to integrate what you made into their menu for the evening. Your gift of food is for the host's enjoyment.
Get to mixing and mingling
Chat, but don't monopolize people's time. If you're having a great conversation with someone, indulge, but generally keep your small talk to about five minutes and then move on to the next person, Christian suggests.
Be a great conversationalist, Christian said. "And part of being a great conversationalist is being a great listener."
Be sociable. If games are being played, join in, Christian added. Even if your first inclination is not to, just jump in.
"Go along with what the others are doing at the time. It's part of being a good guest," Christian said.
"We all have been around the guest with inhibitions so lowered that they create a spectacle of themselves," Christian said. "It just makes people feel uncomfortable, and no one likes to be the person who says 'you're acting a little out of line here.' That puts the host or hostess in a poor situation."
You know what your limits are - stick to them.
Enjoy the party food at the party
"I have had guests say, 'Oh my child would love one of those cupcakes or whatever it is, would you mind if I took one home to them?' " Christian offered that as an example of what not to do. Always avoid asking if you can take food home. "You just don't do things like that."
Know where you exit
Don't be the last to leave the party when it's over.
Say thank you
Be sure to let the host know you enjoyed the evening and thank them for it. And, Christian said, even after this is done, she encourages people to send a thank-you, as well.
"Within three days or a week, you need to have sent a handwritten thank-you note to the (host)."
Original Print Headline: Welcome to the party
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Always put your guests first for a successful holiday party. "Everything should be centered around the convenience of the guests," said Jana Christian, president of The Etiquette School of Oklahoma. Tulsa World file photo
Be sure to drink responsibly at the parties you attend. "We all have been around the guest with inhibitions so lowered that they create a spectacle of themselves," said Jana Christian. "It just makes people feel uncomfortable, and no one likes to be the person who says 'you're acting a little out of line here.' " Tulsa World file photo