Ten Tips For Perfect Holiday Etiquette

The decorations are dazzling, the shopping is a drag. But entertaining and socializing with those you love (and those you’re, um, hoping to love) should be the most wondrous aspect of this annual extravaganza of a season.

It’s also a great time to show off all that refinement you’ve been carefully cultivating, on your way to becoming that most charming of holiday guests that everyone wants on their list–or that host whose party no one wants to miss.


“Etiquette is just as important today as it was decades ago,” stresses Myka Meier, founder and director of NYC-based Beaumont Etiquette (she’s also worked with members of the British Royal Family). “It’s all about being gracious and considerate in business and social situations, which will always be relevant.”

Wynne Dalley, author of Be Cool & Confident: A Guide For Girls (and its companion, A Guide For Guys), handily agrees: “During the Festive Season it is even more important not to gross others out by bad behavior. Being a generous host is kind. Being an appreciative guest is essential.”

Wynne Dalley Book Image

Ten Holiday Etiquette Tips

WD RSVP immediately to give the host an idea of numbers to cater and plan for.

MM The best time to arrive to a holiday dinner party hosted at someone’s home is from the invitation time to 20 minutes after. Never arrive early. If it’s a cocktail party either at a home or venue, 20-30 minutes after the start time is recommended. At a dinner party, only stay 30 minutes past the dessert and coffee.

WD Dress appropriately, show up on time, know your alcohol limit. Don’t flirt with the first attractive person you see, since that could cause conflict, but always make a good impression by being polite and attentive.

MM As a host, remember to try and introduce as many people in the beginning of the party as you can to set a social tone and create a buzz in the room. Try to introduce one person to the other with an interesting fact or common link, “Mark, please meet Jessica, she is also working at a gallery at the moment.”

WD Be prepared to ‘help’ the party along by your social attitude. Being ready to mix and mingle is always a relief to hosts. Do not take a bad day at the office along with you to any event.

MM When entertaining, remember that wine should be poured to just underneath the widest part of the glass. As much as guests may love a generous pour, the wine will not stay at its correct temperature when it sits in the glass for too long.

WD Don’t hold your fork in one hand and your glass in the other; make a choice. Be ready to stand up and hold a chair for a woman and don’t start eating before she does.

MM Always hold your martini, cocktail or wine glass in the middle of the stem. If you hold the glass by the bowl, your hand will heat the wine or drink, changing the taste.

WD Originality is the key to a perfect gift since it shows thoughtfulness. Knowing the host’s lifestyle or habits will help you make that decision. Why take a five-pound box of Belgian truffles to someone who is battling a weight problem?

MM Always remember to send a thank you note to the host after – If it’s an email, write it the next day. If it’s hand written, make sure it’s sent out within three days of the event.

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