Holiday etiquette: How to be a perfect guest

Please, no politics at the table
How to be a perfect guest

Illustration by Lauren Tamaki

Even in our increasingly digital world, there’s still something to be said for manners. As the invitations to holiday festivities roll in, we turned to Erika Preval of Charm Etiquette for some modern advice.

Do people still bring hostess gifts?
Never show up empty-handed. My go-to’s are tins of Beautiful Briny Sea salt, pralines from Greene’s, baked goods from Star Provisions, and Savannah Bee Company’s rare black sage honey. Steve McKenzie’s has a great assortment of practical items like coasters, votive candles, and corkscrews—all much more unique than a bottle of wine.

Talk of politics is almost inevitable.
There are subjects that should be shied away from to ensure you stay in pleasant company. Among acquaintances, politics is on that list. Try your best to change the subject to something else the person is passionate about. If you find that the conversation continues to spin itself back to politics, remain respectful—even if it means agreeing to disagree.

How can I help without actually creating more work?
It’s considerate to ask the host if they’d like assistance with anything. That could be getting the door, grabbing something from the oven, or helping to clear the table. If, however, you’ve asked more than once and received a polite, “no, thank you, just enjoy yourself,” the host really wants you to do just that.

What time should guests arrive?
Never show up to a home before the time listed on the invitation—10 to 15 minutes beyond that is ideal.

I can Instagram that tablescape, right?
Taking photos in someone’s home is something that you should make sure the host is comfortable with. Some people aren’t fans of social media and prefer to keep both their homes and lives private. If given the go-ahead, limit the number of photos you take so that you’re not more engaged with your phone than your company. Wait until you’ve left to edit and post the photos. No phones on the table.

This article originally appeared in our November 2017 issue.

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