Parties and gifts and invites, oh my!

I was recently interviewed by Dawn Smith for her wonderful blog, Not Just a Mommy.  Dawn is an event planner and her blog is filled with fun and creative ideas for entertaining.  I love her questions – they’re ones I’m also frequently asked.  She’s kindly allowed me to repost her questions and my answers here.  I hope this interview will be a helpful second posting of my holiday series: A Holiday Smorgasbord.

The holidays are upon us, which means it’s time for all types of holiday gatherings, including family get-togethers which mean the inevitable.  Uncle Bob comments about your dramatic weight gain/loss, Grandma Yetta wants to know if you’ve found a man yet.  Any tips for getting around the busybody relative and still being gracious?

When it comes to relatives, it’s inevitable that there will be at least one intrusive busybody in the crowd.  Come prepared!  You know the issues that bother you and, most likely, even who will bring them up.  So have a humorous, brief, topic-ending answer and get-away strategy ready.  For example, Uncle Bob makes a comment about your weight, tell him all discussion of weight is banished for the holidays.  Cousin Susie wants to know if you’ve FINALLY found a man?  Tell her she’ll be the first to know.  THEN excuse yourself from the conversation with your pre-planned getaway strategy, “Excuse me, I’m going to go grab eggnog … or play with my nieces … or help mom set the table.”  Hopefully, Bold Bob and Insensitive Sue will get the message by your quick departure!  (It would also be appropriate to be a bit bolder and say, “Oh Susie you always ask me the same question.”)

The ubiquitous office party is always a cringer.  What are your top 3 suggestions to surviving and having a job on Monday morning?

Top 3 suggestions for not being the talk of the office after the party:

  1.  Don’t drink yourself into a dancing-on-the-table scenario.  These are still coworkers and bosses, so limit yourself to a couple of drinks to avoid hearing the stories of your escapades for the rest of the year!
  2. Avoid shop-talk.  Nothing kills a party like discussing the quarterly report.  If you know you tend to fall back to work topics, come up with some conversation starters ahead of time. 
  3. Don’t dress for a night club.  While a party is an opportunity to break out of business casual, you shouldn’t wear an outfit that will shatter your reputation.

 Bonus tip: This is a great opportunity to network!  Don’t forget to take a moment to talk to the leadership of your organization – this is a time when they’re more approachable.

What are your thoughts on ‘boss gifts’?

When it comes to bosses, you can never go wrong with a card!  However, if you do want to give your boss a gift, keep it inexpensive (under $20 is best).  Also, don’t make the gift overly personal and definitely don’t buy a gag gift.  If you’re new to the office, ask some coworkers if gifts are given – each office has their own holiday culture!

Do I have to invite someone to my holiday party because I was invited to theirs?  We aren’t really good friends, but we run in the same social circles and they will eventually find out.

Unless there is a really good reason NOT to invite a person to your party, it would be best to reciprocate with an invitation to yours.  News travels fast within a social circle and by inviting your acquaintance you prevent hurt feelings.  If you do have a solid reason to withhold an invite (perhaps they’re several years younger than your crowd or they flirt with your spouse), then don’t invite that person but don’t make it a big deal about your reason with other friends.  It will be discussed but it’s not your responsibility to give an explanation for who is and isn’t invited.

Many people are hosting holiday open-houses, and the biggest concern is always when you don’t have guests contribute, but your neighbor shows up anyways with her famous Lime Jell-O and Marshmallow Surprise.  Do you have to set it out?

Unfortunately, if someone brings a perishable food item, the easiest thing to do would be to serve the dish.  Otherwise, you will have to explain to them where it is which can be awkward and embarrassing for them.  However, if you’re hosting a sit-down dinner and can’t stand to serve someone’s Jell-O Surprise alongside your carefully planned meal, you can very politely say, “I’ve already planned out and prepared all of tonight’s meal but I know my family is going to love your Jell-O surprise tomorrow.”  The moral of the story is that, as a guest, you should not bring a dish unless you’ve coordinated with the hostess beforehand!

And on that note, if guests do bring you consumables like wine or dessert are you supposed to set it out?

No, you absolutely do not have to set it out – especially if you’ve already purchased wine that coordinates with your dinner and have prepared a dessert.

If you are attending a gift exchange should you bring a hostess gift in addition to the gift exchange gift?

I think it’s still a wonderful idea to bring a hostess gift to any party, even if there is a gift exchange.  The hostess gift is your way of thanking the hostess for the time and work that goes into the planning and preparation of the event. 

Is it necessary to write thank you cards to guests who attended a holiday party or just send to those who brought you a gift (hostess gift, etc.)?

No, you do not need to write thank you notes to your guests for attending your party.  In fact, they should write you a thank you note for hosting the party.  Also, if you have thanked the guest in person for their host/hostess gift then there isn’t a need for an additional thank you card.  The gift is their way of thanking you so you don’t need to essentially say, “thank you for your thank you.”  However, if you feel the gift was expensive or particularly thoughtful, (even though it may not be necessary) it’s never WRONG to write a thank you note.

8 thoughts on “Parties and gifts and invites, oh my!

  1. Hi Amy:

    I was thinking about you this morning hoping you were okay…hadn’t seen you in Blogland for a while…glad to see your post!

    The suggestions for dealing with inappropriate questions are bang-on! Also, the advice to coordinate with the hostess on food brought to a potluck is excellent…


    1. Thank you so much, Wendy! I’ve been on a self-imposed laptop restriction for the past few days — I didn’t even travel with it, which is a big step for me! 🙂 But the kids are now back in school, we’re back at home and if feels good to get a post up. I’m hoping this afternoon to spend some time on the blog reading that I’ve also been neglecting. Looking forward to catching up on Herding Cats in Hammond River!

  2. If you’re not going to set it out, I’ll take the Lime Jell-O and Marshmallow surprise. I love that stuff. And it will coordinate nicely with the box of wine that I’m going to bring.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a holiday get-together with the blogging community?

    Hope you had a great holiday, Amy.

  3. Hi Amy, I’m new to your site and love it! In response to one of your answers about thank you notes, if you are attending a family Christmas exchange where all are giving and getting gifts from each other, is a thank you note required for each gift? Thanks for answering, Donna

    1. Hi Donna! I’m so glad you visited my site – I hope you’ll continue to stop by. Here are my thoughts on the family Christmas exchange. First, if you thank someone sincerely in person that is, technically, enough. (However, I think that a brief note is always a nice touch.) Do other family members send notes? If so, then I would definitely follow suit! If they don’t then it’s obviously okay to just thank them in person. I think the exception would be if it was a really thoughtful, personalized gift. If someone goes above and beyond to find something for you they deserve a note of thanks. If you’re still undecided about if you should write – write! You can never go wrong by sending a a note.

      Hope to talk again!

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