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Party Etiquette in a Nutshell

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Emily Posts Etiquette 19th Edition - Manners for Today

Party Etiquette in a Nutshell

With the holiday season in full swing, PartyIdeaPros thought it might be helpful to review holiday party do's and don'ts.  The basic rules of etiquette apply to all parties, all year round — it matters little whether you are hosting the party or whether you are a guest at a Christmas party, birthday party, bachelor or bachelorette  party, retirement party, office party, dinner party,  or even a tea party, mind your manners and remember the whole point of a party is to connect with other people in person.  So even if you are not innately social, set a goal for yourself to make a real connection with just one person.  This does not mean you need to glob onto that person for the whole night, it just means there was at least one fleeting moment in your interaction with one person when you felt emotionally bonded, unguarded openness,  gave or received unsolicited appreciation, or was lucky enough to experience a genuine smile.

Years ago, when studying law, I discovered law students rely on something called the nutshell series of books that basically break down complex concepts into more simple bite sized pieces of information. Today there is a “Dummy” series for just about any topic you can imagine but maybe because we are party planners, we prefer the nutshell analogy .

1. The Guest List and Invitations

Host:     Specify on you invitation exactly who is invited.  Do not address an invitation to the Jackson Family unless you are prepared for the Jacksons to bring their children, parents, cousins, and any other stray relative who happens to be in town.  When inevitably your guests do bring an invited guest, be a gracious and welcome them all with a genuine smile.  Always plan ahead for a stray or two.  Prepare extra food, and have extra place settings and chairs available, if needed.

Guest:     Do not bring uninvited guests to a party.  Do not ask to bring them.

The proper way to write, address and send the stationery

2. The Greeting

Avoid the awkward greeting moments by picking up on personal clues. According to Lisa Gaché, of Beverly Hills Manners, “the kiss”  is suppose to be an air  kiss (right cheek to right cheek – with the kiss blown into the air – no wet smacks on the lips!)

If you are not feeling well, do not attend the party.  If you are in attendance, be there whole-heartedly. Refusing to shake hands or hug  is simply rude.

3. The Hostess Gift

It is often customary for guests' to bring a small hostess gift as a gesture of thanks. Flowers and bottles of wine are always nice. It is perfectly appropriate to send flowers in advance of your visit or even afterwards with a short note of thanks.

Our first stop on the search for a fabulous hostess gifts is always  In addition to flowers and wine, here are just a few of our favorite gift choices

   Robin's Egg Glycerin Hand Soaps in a Nest   Hand Poured Copper Candle

Robin's Egg Soap in a Nest | Hand Poured Copper Candle

 Lucia Soap Set   Dinner Party Table Topics

Lucia Soap SetTable Topics Dinner Party


Party Idea Pros rule of thumb is do not re-gift unless you would buy the exact gift for a particular recipient.  If you do re-gift be sure the gift is brand new,  in its original packaging with all instructions.  Make sure you have removed any previous cards or other tell-tale signs of the re-gift. A bottle of wine is a perfectly fine re-gift so long as the recipient actually drinks wine or at the very least, serves wine to his or her guests.  It is an inappropriate gift (or re-gift) for an alcoholic,  a Morman, or anyone under 21!

4. Party Topics and Conversation

Check your tech at the door.  Need we say more.  Just this last weekend we hosted a dinner party where two of our guests whipped out their iPhones and spent at least 30 minutes discussing apps — BORING!  Parties are a time to connect with people not your technology.  We believe that a good guest is one that has something interesting to add to the party.  It is fine to discuss apps so long as you are also conversant in current events, pop culture, and classic and contemporary arts.

Guest:  The general rule of thumb is to avoid religion, politics, and money.  We actually welcome informed and civil discussions of two of the three topics – absolutely never discuss money.  Know your audience; heated conversations are definitely a no, no and no guest should ever attempt to “convert” another guest to their point of view.

Host: Be sure to navigate between your guest.  Be aware of the conversations and if necessary jump in to deflect any inappropriate or awkward moments.

5. Photographs

Never ever post pictures online or on facebook unless you have the permission of both the host and pictured guests.  And even if you do have specific permission, please do not post photos that you would not want your grandmother or grandfather to view.  The same rules apply for tweeting and other sharing on social media.

6. Food and Drink

Host:     Think variety.  With so many people on  restricted diets, whether for health, religious, or moral reasons, you may not be able to accommodate everyone's fancy but offer enough variety in your food and drinks options so that everyone can find something to eat and drink.

Guest:  Do not come to a party famished.  Consider having a light snack before the party so that you will not gulp down handfuls of every appetizer offered or if the food is delayed, you will not get cranky from hunger.  Also, if you are imbibing in alcoholic beverages, a good rule of thumb is a 2 drink maximum — any more and you move from social drinking to power drinking, whose main purpose is to get drunk. Most importantly, please, please, never drink and drive!

7. Leaving the Party

Guest: If you need to leave the party early for any reason, please do not announce your departure because other guests may follow suit.  Use what social primers refer to as “the French leave”  — literally slipping out the door unobtrusively. This exit is not considered rude so long as you follow up with a thank you acknowledgement. In fact, whether you bid your hosts goodbye or not, always follow up with a thank you note, email, or phone call.

Host: If you have a particular “witching” hour in mind, please let your guests know the party hours ahead of time.  Do not expect your guests to know that you like to go to bed by ten unless your invitation specifically says “Join us for cocktails and dinner from 6:00 to 9:00 pm”

Classic Etiquette Books

 Etiquette For Dummies    Emily Posts Etiquette  Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior    The Modern Gentleman- A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice 

Emily Post’s Etiquette | Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated  | The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice | Etiquette For Dummies

Party Hearty!

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