Whether you’re the host or the guest this holiday season, proper holiday etiquette is a must. We understand that this hectic time of year requires many moving parts. Instead of having to rack your brain for what to buy, wear, play, or do at any given festive soiree, we have gone ahead and done it for you.

Enter your comprehensive guide to putting your best, boot-clad foot forward this holiday season. Whether you’re playing the role of host or guest, read on to discover how to experience the holidays with minimal stress and maximum fun!


The Invitation

It is common practice to send an invite at least one month ahead of the event (proper holiday etiquette is two months out if the event is more formal). The key is to be super specific regarding location, time, place, and dress code. Also specify an exact RSVP date to get an exact headcount and be firm on guests RSVPing by that date. Set a reminder if you need to. If you want to avoid kids or pets, instead of brusquely specifying that on the invite, offer a friendlier approach like listing the names of the specific guests you wish to invite.


Table Manners


Holiday Etiquette at the Table

The best practice is a table setting with name cards- this takes away the confusion of guests having to figure out where to sit. However, regardless of name tags, a gracious host should still guide guests to their seats.


As a guest, if no name cards are present, wait patiently for the host to guide you to the appropriate seat and do not sit until the host sits first. When seated, place the napkin on your lap. This probably doesn’t have to be said, but take small bites and chew with your mouth closed. If you need something, politely ask for it to be passed over instead of reaching for it. Do not yell over the table- converse with those closest to you. At the end of the meal, be sure to graciously compliment the host and chef; place your napkin back on the table once everyone has finished their meal.


Holiday Etiquette at the Bar

During a holiday party, libations will certainly be flowing. Only you know what your limit is- avoid mixing wines, liquors and beers, and stop at your limit to avoid extreme intoxication. A good guest does not make themselves a burden to others and maintains composure and respect throughout the entirety of the festivities. If a family member or friend prefers not to partake in alcohol, respect their boundaries. Everyone should feel comfortable and at ease- it is a party after all!

Be the perfect house guest

The biggest way to ensure you’re invited back is to respect the time frame of the event- proper holiday etiquette is to arrive within the agreed-upon time frame. And while you’re there, lend a helping hand. This can also mean ensuring the bed is made or offering to walk the dog in the morning, if you’re staying over. Also, it doesn’t hurt to inquire about house rules beforehand- how do the hosts feel about bringing pets or kids? Can they accommodate guests staying over? Could a side/dessert be brought to help out with food?. Staying a little later to help with clean-up is also a huge bonus. The key is to put yourself in the host’s shoes and really think about what you would want help with if you were hosting.

Making a great toast

The key to a great toast is keeping it short and sweet. First, hook your listeners in with a 1-2 line opener about the person you are toasting- something funny about your dynamic or history together. Then, lead into a short yet memorable story that encapsulates how much that person means to you. End off with a witty and heartwarming punchline that will stick with listeners. Crafting a perfect toast is a great way to liven up a table and get people laughing.


Playing the right music

It is a known fact that a perfectly curated playlist sets the tone for an unforgettable soiree. Plan out your holiday playlist in advance- various online streaming platforms allow you to easily curate the perfect playlist. Get your guests involved- add a song request section to the invite and have them send over requests along with their RSVPs for some extra interactivity and anticipation of the event. If you don’t have time to curate a playlist, there are so many already available on streaming platforms that suit every mood or occasion. Or have your guests in charge of the tunes for the night for some extra spontaneity and fun!


Decorating for the holidays

For holiday decorations we say- the earlier the better! Pull out your decorations a week or two after Thanksgiving- that will give you enough time to formulate a particular theme, unpack your decorations, and account for what you need to purchase or repurchase. Turn decorating into a family affair- invite friends and loved ones to help put up decorations, and put on some festive music to set the mood.

Pick a colour scheme- whether it’s traditional hues or modern shades, ensure it’s coherent throughout. Opt for decorative cotton napkins and placemats that match your theme. You can find an excellent selection of shades and patterns here. Getting them customized to the event date or your guests’ initials will elevate your tablescape, adding an elegant and personal touch- get your napkins personalized here!


Gift Giving 101

Personalized Gifts 

When in doubt, personalize it! Be the person who adds a personal touch to your gifts, whether it’s a hostess gift or favours for your guests. Order a monogrammed gift early so it arrives in time for the occassion. 

Customized towels, stationery, or napkins are always a great idea and your thoughtfulness will not go unnoticed. You can shop MyDrap’s custom napkins and placemats here. Gifts that encourage home entertaining are also perfect for this time of year- read all about it in MyDrap’s gift guide for the home entertainer.

Snacks over wine!

If you’ve been invited out this holiday season, skip the boring bottle of wine and opt for things your host can serve with wine. Nothing beats a block (or six) of your favorite cheese paired with a crisp baguette fresh from the bakery. Minced pies, fresh fruit, or other small appetizers are the perfect accompaniment to the bevy of aperitifs your host will already be serving; a creative and thoughtful spin on the hostess gift!

Attitude of Gratitude

This may seem like an obvious one, but always lead with gratitude. If you’re the recipient of a gift, a smile and simple “thank you” can go a long way. It will make the giver feel good about the time and effort they took to find you the perfect gift. If you’re the only one receiving the gift, proper holiday etiquette is being mindful of not opening it in front of others; be considerate regarding how it could make them feel. Step outside or wait till you get home to open it if that’s the case. Finally, a handwritten note is the most thoughtful way to show gratitude for receiving a gift or being hosted- really think about what it is they did to make your holiday special and why they mean so much to you.

The re-gift

The key is only to re-gift items you yourself will be happy to receive. Make sure the gift has not already been opened or used. You can be honest and state the reason for regifting (you already have something like it, or you just didn’t like the colour), just make sure you give with all your heart- that’s what really matters!


Hostess with the mostest

Guiding your guests 

As a host or hostess, your job is to ensure guests are feeling comfortable and settled. Proper holiday etiquette requires you to greet guests at the door. Hang their coats and ensure they know where to place their bags if they’re staying over. Whether you’re for or against shoes in the house, be firm with your boundaries. Even if you opt for name cards at the table, it is still proper etiquette to guide your guests to their seats. The key takeaway here is to make sure your guests feel taken care of and that they can truly make themselves at home.

Planning ahead

Last-minute panic is never fun. The best way to avoid this is to start early and plan ahead. Make a to-do list at least two weeks out- you can totally do this in your phone, but studies have shown that writing it down makes you retain information much better. Your list should include a meal plan along with a grocery list, and action items closer to the event such as decorating and setting up. Do not be afraid to delegate tasks to spouses, kids, or friends- remember that you don’t have to do it all alone! We have created a handy list of holiday hosting tips- you can read all about it here.


What to wear

PSA: unless the party calls for a specific theme, it is advisable to leave the ugly Christmas sweaters at home. A holiday party is a formal event so don’t be afraid to break out the satin, lace, and sequins- in other words, dress to impress! If the event is super formal, an elegant dress and pair of heels for ladies and a classy bespoke suit for men is always a sound choice. For a slightly more casual affair, keep it simple with a well-fitting pair of jeans or a flouncy midi skirt, and a fun top. Top it off with an elegant jacket and ankle or knee-high boots. For men, a nice pair of oxfords or Chelsea boots with an elegant jacket should do the trick.

We hope you enjoy these tips and tricks to create the most memorable holiday season. Whether you’re hosting or attending, do so with a sense of gratitude and surround yourself with those you love. Happy Holidays!

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