It doesn't take a lot of effort to be a party guest. If you've simply shown up, you've done most of the work. As easy as that may seem, however, a shocking number of guests are still rude, inconsiderate and embarrassing. Sadly, even the most atrocious partygoer is rarely ever aware that they suck. A good hostess will never admit that you are the proverbial thorn in her aproned side. But, rest assured, when the invitations go out every year there are a few black sheep on the list that are habitually a problem. It might be you.
Here are the things that send your party hostess crying into her eggnog.
"Can I bring a few extra guests?"
The call usually comes at 3 p.m. and goes something like this: "Hi, my aunt, uncle, cousins, 3 best friends and random girl I met last night are all in town! Is it cool if they come?" No. They may not come. Asking a host if you can bring a date is no biggie (unless it is a sit down dinner) but asking them if 3 or 4+ people can tag along is rude. When it comes to holiday parties, people usually kick it up a notch to make things nicer. That means a good chunk of money is being spent and there will probably be nice wine and tasty food. None of which were done so that uninvited Tom, Dick & Harry can eat their weight in mini quiche. If there was an invitation sent and it doesn't mention "the more the merrier", assume more is not merrier and don't ask. If you ask, a good hostess will say yes but hate you deep inside.
"I made great time! I'll be getting there a few hours early..."
It doesn't matter if your train made good time, or you made every traffic light, or you're just irritatingly prompt, don't show up to a party early. Every guest should really be giving the host and hostess a 15-minute grace period before they barge in demanding cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If you can't muster being fashionably late at least wait until the time on the invitation to ring the doorbell. The early guest is not the helpful guest; the early guest is the nuisance.
"Oh wow, I had no idea it was so late!"
Just as irritating as the people who show up early are the people that refuse to leave. If the party has waned and the dishes are done (or at the very least in the sink) then you've probably over stayed your welcome. Look around -- is there anyone else who doesn't live there still decking the halls? No? Then get the hell out. Are your hosts in their PJs, dramatically yawning? Go home. Most importantly, never, ever stay the night. If your host has to make you breakfast in the morning you can pretty much guarantee you won't be asked back next year.
"What'd ya say? [Insert Drunk Laughter Here]
You drunken little elf, you! Showing up at a party drunk is something you did in college because you didn't know if the kegs of Milwaukee's Best would last. Now that you're a grown up and attending swanky, festive parties you should watch your alcohol intake. By all means, eat, drink and be merry but imbibing before the party is a no-no. If you know that you don't hold your liquor well, be very careful. No one is responsible for babysitting a wasted guest. You don't want to be known for years to follow as the one who hit on the hosts mother, threw up on a baby and passed out in a drunken stupor.
"So I meant to tell you, I'm not eating gluten or meat products this year."
The special order is the most annoying of party guests because they inadvertently make the host feel like a failure. These are the people who ask you for vodka when you're only serving wine because wine isn't good enough. Or tell you they're vegan only after they've surveyed your food and deemed it unacceptable. If you don't like what is being served, suck it up. If you have dietary restrictions or are just a painful picky eater call ahead and offer to bring something for you and the other miserable gluten-free-sugar-free-vegans.
"I brought this for me...I mean you."
You brought a gift for the hostess. Good work. But, the host likes red wine and you bring beer - is that for you or them? Looks like you just bought yourself a six-pack and poorly disguised it as a present. A hostess gift is exactly that, a gift. It's not a reason to ensure that the party will be adequately stocked with whatever swill you typically drink. Drink what they're serving and be thankful that you have friends that still invite your selfish butt to parties. Oh, and never open up the booze that you brought them. You wouldn't wrap a present for someone else and then open it, would you?
Your mother probably already taught you to never show up empty handed. It is the golden rule of parties. It is the simplest way to say thank you for being invited into someone's home and sufficiently sauced up with festive drinks. So why have you ignored your mom's sage advice and shown up with nothing? Because you are a terrible, rotten person. Be a decent human and pick up a bottle of wine, some chocolate or even some flowers for your guest. Freeloaders don't get second invites. And, while we're at it, how about a "thank you"?
After all the work the host and hostess is putting in to throwing a holiday shindig, the least you can do is not be a pain in the ass. Happy Holidays!
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DO begin the initial process at least four months in advance. It's never too early to start planning. The calendars of event planners, hotels, caterers, entertainers, and other vendors can get booked quickly.
DON'T lose your personality. If you don't like pastels, don't choose them in your color palette. Think about what you wear normally, the shades in your home, what you are you drawn to naturally. You are comfortable with these colors already, so start here.
DO think about natural lighting. Sunlight during the day or candlelight at night creates an ambient glow that will give your party a welcoming appearance. Candlelight is very effective in setting the tone and creating the mood for your party. And everyone looks great in candlelight.
DO think "smell." It is an often overlooked sense, but a very powerful one. A planted herb garden or arrangements of fresh peonies are sometimes all it takes to transform the scent of your party.
DO stay in character by creating seamless transitions between rooms. It can be as easy as a candle in the bathroom and a lantern at the front door. There should be a natural flow between the common areas of your party.
DON'T make guests stand. Present a variety of comfortable seating options that are close enough for conversation yet separated enough to create "landing areas" for guests to interact with one another and maintain a flow throughout the party.
DON'T get your fingers dirty. Give guests the gift of napkin-free food by creating hors d'oeuvres that can be enjoyed in one bite
DO be sure to take the time to walk around and greet everyone. Also be sure to introduce everyone to each other. It will make the atmosphere more welcoming and comfortable and will help some people to "break the ice."
DO make it easy for guests to feel comfortable. Provide them with the necessities -- storage for their bags and coats, coasters for their drinks, cozy seating with their friends.
DO take the time to relax, smile and enjoy your party. You've put a lot of effort into providing your friends and family with a good time. Remember that guests feed off of your mood, so best to be calm, cool and collected and not pre-occupied, rushed, or anxious.
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