A Holiday Party Primer

This is the time of the year when you may be asked to attend a holiday party of some type – as the invitee or as a guest.

While most of us have had at least some prior experience in these venues, the basic do’s and don’ts probably merit restating just in case.  As Suddenly Solos, we don’t want to make any social faux-pas!

Attire – No matter how “informal” the invitation says, wear a blazer. You can always ‘86’ it if necessary.  A plaid dress shirt, nice slacks (wool or flannel, unless you can pull off denim… not many of us can), leather belt and shined loafers.  An office holiday party pretty much requires a sharp suit, shirt and festive tie (which you can take off as the evening progresses). Lace-up leather shoes finish the outfit off.  A full-blown, black-tie shindig (most likely at New Year’s) requires just that – a fitted tux, pleated shirt, hand-tied bow tie (it really only takes a little practice to get it right, and then you can jauntily undo it at midnight!).  We’re not big on the long tuxedo ties as they seem like a “cheat” on a formal outfit!

Conduct – Don’t overdo the booze upfront.  Pace yourself and establish a two-drink maximum.  Holiday party drunkenness can follow you forever!  Hold the drink in your left hand so your right hand is warm when hand-shaking.  Never arrive early. Greet your hosts by name and make eye contact.  Mingle, don’t stand stationary, and practice the art of light conversation.  Holiday parties are fine for self-introductions.  Ask a stranger how they know the hosts to get things started.  Don’t over-stay (see below).  Be sure to write a thank-you note the next day!

Fast Exit Strategy – Okay, some parties are just not that great.  But before you decide to employ some of these following gambits, at least give it a try.  Challenge yourself to speak with at least 3 strangers in an hour.  That should give you at least some equity in the party so if you do leave, you can recount some background information to your host the next day or when you are asked how you enjoyed the event.  Who knows, you may actually enjoy yourself more than you figured! But if you are convinced that the evening will require an early bail-out, we got this from Esquire magazine:

  1. Never leave anything at the coat-check.  Tip car valets to leave your car close.
  2. Always introduce yourself to the host right away and thank them for the invitation.  Be very visible up front.
  3. Circulate.  Choose a pattern (i.e., clockwise around a room).  Check out the physical layout.  Start at the back of the event and work towards the door.
  4. Carry a drink that you “have to give to a friend/date, etc.” as a conversation ender.
  5. Don’t announce your departure with a lame excuse, just move to the door and if you are absolutely pressed for a reason, have a good excuse at the ready. Something involving your children or grandchildren is usually good.
  6. Then, just leave.  Send a thank-you to the hosts tomorrow.


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