Top ways to make sure you always make the guest list. 

Illustration of Keith Enloe by Adrienne Luther

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

— Charles Dickens 

Of course, Charles Dickens was correct. At this time of year, “laughter and good humor” are often experienced at holiday parties. When that invitation arrives, true bon vivants want to be ideal guests and make the party experience a joyous occasion for everyone. As a frequent host of all types of parties, I’m here to offer a few pointers to ensure you’re being a thoughtful guest.

It all starts with the invitation. Today, party invitations don’t just come via U.S. Postal Service. Electronic invitations are perhaps more common than paper ones. Regardless of the format, be sure to reply with an RSVP to your host. A correct headcount is essential to planning a party. Failing to RSVP causes headaches for any host making plans around specific numbers. It’s equally rude to confirm your attendance and then not show up. Courtesy counts.

Timeliness is a virtue for party-goers. It is acceptable to be socially late, but that means minutes, not hours. In an open-house format, prompt arrival is not quite as crucial. But if there’s a scheduled meal or any type of agenda to the event, timely arrival is the right approach. Just as important is the departure time. Be aware of the party’s invitation guidelines and graciously make your exit accordingly. Yes, parties often run late when everyone’s having a good time, but be sensitive to your host’s situation. Remember, even after you leave, there’s usually work left to do. Don’t overstay your welcome.

It’s perfectly acceptable to bring a small gift to your host as a token of your gratitude. These do not have to be extravagant. Even if you can’t attend, it’s a sign of good taste to send a little something in your absence — flowers, chocolates, wine, etc.Food is the center of most festive events, and guests are often encouraged to contribute to the fare, but not always. Many menus are carefully planned ahead of time by the host with very specific dishes and table arrangements in mind. Even with the best of intentions, unless you’re specifically asked to bring a food item, try to refrain. As delicious as your offering may be, last-minute additions can cause logistical problems and put the host in an awkward spot. When in doubt, a bottle of wine is always appropriate.

Parties are celebrations. Keep conversation fun and friendly. Ask questions and show interest in fellow guests. It’s usually best to avoid controversial topics like politics or religion, and it’s downright boring to talk shop — even at a work event. Spouses and other guests may feel left out of unfamiliar business discussions, so save it for the boardroom. Light and jovial is the bon vivants way.

When it is time to leave, make sure you’ve planned ahead and have a safe way to get home. Alcohol is offered at most holiday functions, and if you plan to imbibe, make arrangements for sober transportation. Sharing a ride, having a designated driver, or cutting off your consumption well before your departure are all good strategies. Whatever option you use, just make sure you use it. Nobody wants a party to end in disaster.

Now is the time for us to gather in celebration. Using these and other common sense approaches, you can be the life of the party. Celebrate the season to its fullest — both as hosts and guests — because that’s The Good Life! 

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