Holiday Parties & Events

Holiday Parties & Events (Plus a little etiquette)

Here are some tips for surviving and still enjoying those holiday parties in style.

Just look at your schedule for the next month. It’s packed with office get-togethers, Holiday parties at friend’s homes or yours, the theatre (how long has it been since you’ve seen The Nutcracker ballet?), Caroling, Christmas dinner, and of course a New Year’s Eve celebration!

You may be thinking “Oh great, it’s time for the office party!” What you need to keep in mind is that you’re not attending a social event, this is a serious business function!!

What you wear needs to be appropriate and present a good image.

First consider it is the Holiday season, a time for festive glitz. That means at office parties you can dress more festive and luxuriously than you do for work.

The Holidays are a great opportunity for men to wear those joyful ties, red sweaters, plaid vests, and your Blackwatch tartan sports jacket.

And you can go festive with a pocket square, a scarf and yes, even socks! Those great socks with Rudolf-the-red-nosed-reindeer are perfect for the season!


holiday CuffLinks

Or how about some Holiday cuff links!

Also consider that it’s winter. Even if the temperature is high in your part of the country, white pants and short sleeve t-shirts look out of place! Get out your wool sweaters and corduroy pants.

Think image. Yours! If it’s your or your date’s office party keep in mind this is a business function. Show up looking like you made an effort and thought about what you were going to wear. You don’t want to look like you stopped in on your way to the supermarket!




Some Holiday Attire Suggestions For Men

Dressing For The Theatre or Business.

The office party or a special evening out.

A suit or sports jacket and tie are appropriate for most office parties, even when you dress casually at work. If a tie doesn’t seem right for your company party, dress up your ensemble with a festive sweater.

An office party that is held in the evening at a hotel calls for a suit that might be a notch up from the one you wear to work. If you’re normally garbed in Brooks Brothers, wear your cashmere Oxxford or Zena.

You can still be festive at dressy events with a Holiday tie, red pocket square, and a scarf.

At the theatre, dressing well shows respect for the performers and your fellow audience.

Casual Dress – An Evening With Friends

Dress trousers

Leather shoes with matching belt

Shirt choices: knit long sleeve polo shirt, dress shirt, sports shirt, cashmere or fine wool turtleneck

Sweater in festive colors or designs

Jacket: sports jacket, leather, suede, or shirt jacket.


Semi-Formal Dress – That’s a Tuxedo! (Formal calls for White tie and tails!)

Some office parties and New Year’s Eve.

When the invitation reads “Black Tie”, “Black Tie Preferred”, “Le Smoking”, or “Smoking” for an evening semi-formal event or “White Tie” or “Full Dress” for an evening formal event then your host is providing an elegant affair and expects you to dress according to fit the decor and ambiance of the evening.

When your invitation reads “Black Tie Optional”, or “Black Tie Invited”, the host is leaving the final decision up to you. Most men will be wearing tuxedos, however if you don’t have one a dark suit is perfectly acceptable.

But why not respect the atmosphere the host is trying to create. Wear a dinner jacket and have fun!

Then there is “Creative Black Tie” which is a request to look like the guys at the Academy Awards who trifle with the classic. Best to leave the black shirts, bolo ties and band collars to the “movie stars”.

We all have a little rebel in us, but when the look of formalwear is so classic and everyone looks good in black tie, why spoil it with a raspberry ruffled shirt, an unusual collar, or tie treatment just to satisfy the desire for individuality? In formalwear there isn’t much room for creativity without making a social blunder. Don’t mess with what works!

But, if the urge of individual expression creeps into your thinking, there are a few items with which you can tinker. A colored or patterned bow tie or cummerbund (not both), cuff links and studs that are out of the ordinary, fancy braces, velvet slippers (especially at home), a vest instead of a cummerbund are all options. And these trappings are more acceptable for Holiday parties so go ahead and wear that red plaid vest and scarf!

Holiday Etiquette

Now that we’re all dressed up, and ready to go, here are some important points of interest, and some tips that might just save our career that we need to know.

“Some people change their party for principles,
others change their principles for a party.”

-Winston Churchill


Don’t wait until the last minute to RSVP. This gives an impression that you are holding out for something better and makes it more difficult for the hostess to make plans for the party. You must RSVP if you are going to the party or NOT!

If it’s a dinner party be sure to be on time per the invitation.

Attendance at the annual office party is usually mandatory! It’s not written nor spoken of, but failure to attend will be a mark against you!. Plan your arrival to be “on time”, not “fashionably” late.

Despite what the host may say when you ask, children, especially babies and small children should not attend business parties nor most private holiday parties.


If the party is at someone’s home, bring a gift for the host such as chocolate, flowers, or a bottle of wine. Always attach a card to the gift that has your name on it so the host will know who brought the gift. It’s easy in the chaos of hosting to not remember who brought what.

If someone hands you a gift and you don’t have a gift for them, don’t make the situation worse by making excuses or apologies. Just say “thank you” and follow up with a nice note. You can always send a gift later. A wise move, though, is to be prepared and have several generic gifts on hand.


Don’t get drunk and/or wild and crazy – it’s not career enhancing at the office party or appropriate at a get together with your friends.

“The surest way to commit career suicide is …
to be the drunk, horny loudmouth at the office holiday party”

— Cecil Donahue, GQ Magazine.

Hold glasses with stems by the stem not the bowl part.

Don’t ask someone why he or she is not drinking. There are many reasons people say no to cocktails, and often they are personal. There is no reason to put someone on the spot. If someone asks you, simply reply that you are the evening’s designated driver.


Introduce your significant other to the people you meet, and include them in the conversation.

Whenever possible it is respectful to stand when being introduced.


Prepare in advance for the confrontation with Mr. Big. When the boss asks how you are doing, don’t just say “fine,” tell him or her what you’re working on. But keep it brief. Pigeonholing anyone, especially a superior, backfires. Still, you probably don’t have a chance to meet the boss often, so see it as a chance to get on the radar screen.

Get out, and circulate. Don’t be the quiet guy who sits in the corner, sullenly clutching a bottle of beer. That approach will only garner suspicion. Even if you’re shy, you should still force yourself to interact with at least the people you deal with at work. It’s to your advantage to interact on a different level than when you’re in the office.

At the office party, talk about topics other than “shop talk” or office gossip. This is a good opportunity to find out about the lives of people you work with, and it shows them that you have a life outside the office. Confine what you’re working on to one sentence per person. Discuss traveling, books or movies. Try reading the headlines of the newspaper or listening to the news on TV or the radio or topics to talk about if you’re normally a wallflower. Avoid off-colored jokes. Keep foul language out the conversation – for either gender, it is not cool.

Put these topics on your “never discuss” list: religion, politics, or any ideology (even if it’s all about the advantages of being a vegetarian).
Forget the position you fill in the office hierarchy. Don’t ask a subordinate to get you a drink!

Make connections. Just listening intently during a conversation with a key co-worker wins you points, especially with the other distractions of an office party. Find out about someone’s charity pursuits. Write them down after the party. Then, sometime in January, e-mail him or her an article about what you were discussing. This brings you back into that person’s awareness and shows that you put a personal stake in the interaction. Similarly, jot down the names of spouses and children. Try to ingratiate yourself. People are hired and kept at their companies for their personal skills.

At a sit down dinner talk to both partners seated next to you, and focus on positive topics. If you don’t like the food, decorations, or location, no one wants to hear about it!


Don’t speak with your mouth full of food.

Avoid using toothpicks in public.


Don’t be the last to leave or leave after just an hour. If it’s an open house leave towards the end of the designated time frame.

On your way out be sure to thank the host for inviting you and for a wonderful time, and then wish them a happy holiday season. Don’t tell the host your leaving to go to another party.


Married couples should sign holiday cards with the husband’s name last. The husband’s first name should not be separated from his last name. Many people think the husband’s name should go first as in John and Lisa Smith, but the correct way for married couples to write their name is: Lisa and John Smith.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

–Andy Gilchrist