Tuesday Tip - Holiday Etiquette With Etiquette Amy

My go-to etiquette gal, Amy E. Stevens from Etiquette Southwest Missouri is back, helping us navigate some sticky wickets that may come our way this holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving on Thursday. I asked her a few questions that have been thrown my way and perhaps they can help you navigate through the various social minefields that the holidays always seem to bring.
The holidays are upon us, which means it's time for all types of holiday gatherings, including family get-togethers which means the inevitable. Uncle Bob comments about your dramatic weight gain/loss, Grandma Yetta wants to know if you've found a man yet. Any tips for getting around the busybody relative and still being gracious?

AS - When it comes to relatives, it’s inevitable that there will be at least one intrusive busybody in the crowd. Come prepared! You know the issues that bother you and, most likely, even who will bring them up. So have a humorous, brief, topic-ending answer and get-away strategy ready.

For example, Uncle Bob makes a comment about your weight, tell him all discussion of weight is banished for the holidays. Grandma Yetta wants to know if you’ve FINALLY found a man? Tell her she’ll be the first to know. THEN excuse yourself from the conversation with your pre-planned getaway strategy, “Excuse me, I’m going to go grab eggnog … or play with my nieces … or help mom set the table.” Hopefully, they will get the message by your quick departure! (It would also be appropriate to be a bit bolder and say, “Oh Grandma, you always ask me the same question.”) Photo

The ubiquitous office party is always a cringer. What are your top 3 suggestions to surviving and having a job on Monday morning?

AS - 1. Don’t drink yourself into a dancing-on-the-table scenario. These are still coworkers and bosses, so limit yourself to a couple drinks to avoid hearing the stories of your escapades for the rest of the year!

2. Avoid shop-talk. Nothing kills a party like discussing the quarterly report. If you know you tend to fall back to work topics, come up with some conversation starters ahead of time.

3. Don’t dress for a night club. While a party is an opportunity to break out of business casual, you shouldn’t wear an outfit that will shatter your reputation.

Bonus tip: This is a great opportunity to network! Don’t forget to take a moment to talk to the leadership of your organization – this is a time when they’re more approachable.

What are your thoughts on 'boss gifts'?

AS - When it comes to bosses, it’s always safe to just give a holiday card. You can never go wrong with a card! However, if you do want to give your boss a gift, keep it inexpensive (under $20 is best). Also, don’t make the gift overly personal and definitely don’t buy a gag gift. If you’re new to the office, ask some coworkers if gifts are given – each office has their own holiday culture! Photo

Do I have to invite someone to my holiday party because I was invited to theirs? We aren't really good friends, but we run in the same social circles and they will eventually find out.

AS - Unless there is a really good reason NOT to invite a person to your party, if they invited you to their party, it would be best to reciprocate with an invitation to yours. News travels fast within a social circle and by inviting your acquaintance you prevent hurt feelings.

If you do have a solid reason to withhold an invite (perhaps they’re several years younger than your crowd or they flirt with your spouse), then don’t invite that person but don’t make it a big deal about your reason with other friends. It will be discussed but it’s not your responsibility to give an explanation for who is and isn’t invited. Photo

Many people are hosting holiday open-houses, and the biggest concern is always when you don't have guests contribute, but your neighbor shows up anyways with her famous Lime-Jello And Marshmellow Surprise. Do you have to set it out?

AS - Unfortunately, if someone brings a perishable food item, the easiest thing to do would be to serve the dish. Otherwise, you will have to explain to them where it is which can be awkward and embarrassing for them.

However, if you’re hosting a sit-down dinner and can’t stand to serve someone’s Jell-O Surprise alongside your carefully planned meal, you can very politely say, “I’ve already planned out and prepared all of tonight’s meal but I know my family is going to love your Jell-O Surprise tomorrow.” The moral of the story is that, as a guest, you should not bring a dish unless you’ve coordinated with the hostess beforehand! photo

And on that note, if guests do bring you consumables like wine or dessert are you supposed to set it out?

AS - No, you absolutely do not have to set it out – especially if you’ve already purchased wine that coordinates with your dinner and have prepared a dessert. photo

If you are attending a gift exchange should you bring a hostess gift in addition to the gift exchange gift?

AS - I think it’s still a wonderful idea to bring a hostess gift to any party, even if there is a gift exchange. The hostess gift is your way of thanking the hostess for the time and work that goes into the planning and preparation of the event. Photo

Is it necessary to write thank you cards to guests who attended a holiday party or just send to those who brought you a gift (hostess gift, etc.)?

AS - No, you do not need to write thank you notes to your guests for attending your party. In fact, they should write you a thank you note for hosting the party. Also, if you have thanked the guest in person for their host/hostess gift then there isn’t a need for an additional thank you card. The gift is their way of thanking you so you don’t need to essentially say, “thank you for your thank you.” However, if you feel the gift was expensive or particularly thoughtful, (even though it may not be necessary) it’s never WRONG to write a thank you note.

Wise beyond her years, you can visit Amy's blog, Etiquette From The Trenches for more etiquette tips and strategies from her life and experiences!

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