It’s mid-December and the holiday season is in full swing. Whether you’re celebrating with friends or family this year, one thing you’ll want to ensure is that you are being a good party guest. As the attendee, you may feel that your only obligation is to kick back and enjoy the festivities. But if you’re aiming to be a good guest you’ll need to do more than just show up.
Instead, it means being considerate of the host and the other guests attending. It means being polite, thoughtful, and mindful, while enjoying the event to the fullest. To prepare you for the gatherings of this season we’ve put together a few Ask Adam tips from our resident etiquette expert, VinePair CEO Adam Teeter. Read on to learn what it takes to be a good guest this holiday season.
1. If you accidentally spill something, offer to help clean up.
Spilling a drink, be it a cocktail, beer, or wine, at an intimate party can create an embarrassing situation. But the one thing that will without a doubt make things worse is not offering to clean it up. Hosts are generally prepared for a spill, but it’s important to remember that you’re at someone’s home, not a restaurant, and should act accordingly should an accidental spill occurs.
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In some instances, the host may prefer to clean the mess themselves — if the spill requires a more delicate cleaning, for example. But in any case, it’s always best to offer your assistance and of course, apologize for the mess.
2. Don’t try to take the alcohol you brought back home.
Bringing alcohol of any kind to a party serves as both a contribution and a gift to the host. That means that taking back your gift –– whether it’s opened or not –– is considered rude. As Adam puts it, “once you bring it, it’s no longer yours.”
3. Bring an appropriate gift for hosts that don’t drink.
If you are headed to a dinner party where the host doesn’t drink, you should first check in about the beverage plan for the evening before deciding what to bring along. In doing so, you might find that they are fine with guests enjoying a glass of wine with the meal. In this case, you should bring something non-alcoholic for the host along with the booze you plan to enjoy. Asking ahead of time ensures that you are being considerate of the host’s preferences. If you decide to arrive without a bottle of something soft, you can’t go wrong with flowers.
4. Check with the host before delving into a round of shots.
In America, shots tend to have a low-brow reputation but in other countries, shooting spirits or liqueurs before or after a meal may be customary. Before you start pouring rounds at someone else’s house, read the room to see whether or not a shot is appropriate. It may be acceptable, and if it is, be smart and don’t use the opportunity to get wasted.
5. Think twice about returning a gifted bottle.
The etiquette around returning a bottle that you’ve received as a gift is no different to that for other types of gifts. However, if you choose to exchange a gifted bottle you may run into some complications as the laws around alcohol sales are different than other items. As a general rule of thumb, most bottle shops only allow exchanges for the same bottle instead of a different bottle or cash. With this in mind, it may be best to save the bottle and regift it to someone you think may enjoy it more.
6. Avoid bringing a cheap bottle of wine.
Thanks to smartphones and apps such as Vivino and Wine-Searcher, finding the price of a bottle is much easier today than it was 20 years ago. This means the host, along with other guests, can quickly discover just how inexpensive your contribution is. To avoid this embarrassing situation, try bringing a bottle from a less-explored wine region. Adam recommends opting for a wine from Spain or Portugal as they often deliver higher quality than their prices convey.