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Mind Your Holiday Manners

10 Tips For Being the Perfect Guest & Host
by Atlanta etiquette expert Patti Davis

The holidays are here – magical, snow-dusted and full of fun.They’re also a hotbed for stress. Here are a few simple tips to help you breeze through December, so you can enjoy yourself, whether you’re hosting the party or just attending.

The Perfect Guest

1. Always bring a gift. Always. Get creative. I even find inspiration at The Dollar Tree. You can pick up four wine glasses, a nice gift bag, pretty tissue paper and have only spent $6. Never bring anything that needs tending to (i.e., a puppy or a bundle of cut flowers that need a vase).

2. Be on time. Being late says, “Your time is not as important as mine.” This is how food gets cold, souffles fall and hostesses get weepy. Be on time.

3. Keep your drinking under control. With the revelry of the season, this can sometimes be difficult. At the very least, make sure you eat something with each adult beverage you drink, never (ever!) drive drunk and stay away from the rifles. If you live in the city, rifles might not be a problem, but those who live in country know what I’m talking about.

4. If you’re staying overnight, please make your bed and pick up your wet towels. These are your friends/family, not a hotel.

5. Follow up with a handwritten “thank you’” note. This only takes a moment and will leave your hostess with warm, fuzzy memories of your visit. No texts or emails, please.

The Perfect Host/Hostess

1. Meet your guests at the door, preferably not in a bathrobe and slippers. Be dressed in your party clothes and greet guests with a cocktail and a warm “hello.”

2. Do not make your guests wait for hours to eat. By then, they are face-planted in the bushes or, worse, getting ready to shoot some rifles (see No. 3 above). A well-fed guest is a happy guest. Once, I arrived at the home of some friends who had just come back from the grocery store and proceeded to ask me to peel five pounds of shrimp. Don’t be that person.

3. If a guest tends to be a wallflower, you might want to ask them to help you in the kitchen (not to peel shrimp) or mix drinks at the bar. Include everyone, and they will feel special and you will look like a star.

4. Save the incendiary topics for the debate club. Politics and religion are off limits at the dinner table. This is also not the time or place to give a dissertation on your current medical condition or recent divorce.

5. Never allow your guests to drink and drive. Take their keys, call them a cab or tuck them into the guest room and wake them in the morning with coffee and aspirin. You will be their hero.

Bonus Tip: No texting at the table. I regret that I actually have to mention this heinous behavior. You accepted or extended the invitation with the thought of spending time with friends or family. Live in the moment.

Hopefully, these tips will help you have a happier, less stressed-out holiday. If all else fails, remember that being kind is better than being right. Merry Christmas everyone!

Patti Davis lives in Atlanta and teaches etiquette at DazzlingManners. She would be delighted to answer all your questions about manners and gracious living. Write to her at patti@dazzlingmanners.com, follow her on Twitter @DazzlingManners or like her on Facebook

Christmas in Laurel
Sticky Fingers
  • Clint / December 16, 2011

    Some good tips… Funny and smart!

  • nerdling / December 16, 2011

    This is a great help for me. I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out the nuances of having guests over, and wondered why some people haven’t invited me back.

    Quick question: what’s the rule on clearing the table at someone else’s house? Should I volunteer to help clean up after dinner?

    Thanks for the help!

  • Veronica Pearman / December 16, 2011

    Love this! I especially paid personal attention to the hostess gift suggestion. I’m not a good gift giver, but your ideas helped me to see that I just need to be creative – hmmmm. ~smile~ Way better than a bottle of wine! Thank you for the inspiration!

  • tove / December 16, 2011

    Lovely words of wisdom. I especially appreciate on how to draw wall-flower guests in. I, myself, am occasionally overwhelmed in big gatherings and am so grateful if a host or hostess will ask me to do something in the kitchen or help somehow. Thank you, thank you…an excellent read.

  • Jenny Githens / December 16, 2011

    Great tips!

  • Rachel Hill / December 16, 2011

    Great stuff! We have a friend who ALWAYS showed up with a gift, and ALWAYS followed up with a handwritten thank you card. The gift was usually something we could munch on at the party or save for later, like chocolate covered espresso beans in a pretty jar. I remember thinking how thoughtful it was of her to always show up with a gift. Thanks for reminding us that we could ALL do this and be that person everyone thinks of when they have warm fuzzy memories of their party.

    I’d love to add that if you have the space/ability to do so, the perfect hostess would provide lot’s of little areas to sit or at least lean, and lot’s of places to set down a drink. I’ve tried to arrange my house to be welcome to guests with seating in the kitchen, small groupings of seating in the living room area, and even extra groupings of two chairs tucked together in little corners. That way, people can have the opportunity to actually take a load off, instead of feeling like they were on their feet for the whole party (which they might literally have been!) I don’t have nice end tables, but I found I could take an ottoman and put a tray on it and it becomes a nice stable place to set a drink. Set it between two armchairs, and you are just inviting people to sit down and gather in conversation.

    Thanks again for the great tips Patti, hope I get invited to the next one of YOUR parties!

  • crystal / December 16, 2011

    Excellent advice from the loveliest hostess in ATL.

  • Jenny Githens / December 16, 2011

    Great tips! Love the humor!

  • Christy / December 17, 2011

    Fabulous tips from my favorite Party Planning Princess! I especially like your idea for easy and affordable hostess gifts. And, of course, I will leave my rifle at home next time.

  • Maureen Walsh / December 17, 2011

    What a delightful article! Easy and entertaining to read. I particularly appreciated the tips and suggestions concerning hostess gifts. I never would have considered these points. I also really liked the suggestions about involving shy guests. What a terrific way to make people feel special. I have never visited your site before, but I really enjoy Patti Davis’ articles whenever I see them. I ALWAYS learn something and she is such a fun writer. Is this going to become a regular feature? If so, I am adding Deep South to my bookmarks!S

  • Patti Davis / December 17, 2011

    Dear Nerdling,

    It is best to never assume your hostess needs your help clearing the table. Please feel free to offer, but do not start clearing without hostess approval. She may have a certain way of doing things, or the china may be an heirloom only she feels comfortable handling.

    But kudos to you for your thoughtfulness!


  • Nancy Nelson / December 17, 2011

    Thanks for the excellent reminders, and the help with the dreaded wallflowers! Love the tip regarding rifles, one might think you have been to some of my family gatherings!