● By Wendy Sipple
Ah, the holidays – food, family, friends…paired with confusion and stress. What do we wear for more formal events? What should we bring? Gifts?
Even trickier are those workplace parties. Very scary. This month, just in the nick of time, we break down the protocol for party-hosters and party-goers.
Dear Etiquette Lady: I would like to host a semi-formal Christmas party. I will have Christmas music by piano, a bartender, and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Could I use holiday colored plastic wear?
–Entertaining in the Valley
Dear EITV: If your party is this formal, real dishes and flatware would be expected. Your party has the feel of an “upscale” event and plastic could definitely detract.
Dear Etiquette Lady: I am accompanying my boyfriend to his employer’s holiday cocktail party, which requires semi-formal dress. I don’t own any dresses. I am a student, so I can’t afford one at the moment. Would a pair of nice black pants with a dressy top work?
Dear PS: The expected attire is the little, basic, black dress or its equivalent. Your outfit might work if the top appeared to be very high quality and you make small adjustments. My advice would be for you to go to thrift shops to find elegant-looking faux jewelry to accessorize. A beautiful scarf might add glam as well. You never know what you can find for a couple of dollars that will put you over the top.
Plus, because this is a business event, please remember to dress conservative and watch those cocktails. The party is an extension of the workplace. Adding alcohol into the mix can be dangerous to a person’s career. Good hunting!
Dear Etiquette Lady: Are gifts expected for a friend or coworker’s holiday party? If a family member is hosting a no-gift-giving holiday party, what may I give that won’t make other’s feel badly? How do I give gifts at work? And, finally, what do you do if someone has brought you a gift and you don’t have one to give him/her in return?
Dear HSO: When attending anyone’s party, including the aforementioned family member, you should take a “hostess” gift, which could be a bottle of wine, flowers, book, or box of candy, etc. Give thoughtful gifts with the particular person in mind – so no candy for the dieters and no alcohol for recovering alcoholics. And at the workplace, be careful giving gifts, as giving to the boss could be viewed as “apple polishing.” When you do give, do it privately. And, when someone gives you a gift and you don’t have one for them, smile and say thank you, it’s that simple. But, it does help to have a stash of already wrapped small boxes of candy nearby!