Ready for the Holidays? Here are Some Last-Minute Tips

Quick! Check the Silver!

by Kathy Bertone, author of The Art of the Visit

The holidays are here! What? You forgot they happen every year? Here are a few last minute—but never too late—tips to make sure they go as well as they possibly can:

Holiday Party Tips

1. Bring a host(ess) gift. Expense is not the issue, taste is. Stay away from nuts or chocolate (you don’t know who might be allergic). A bottle of wine ($10-$20) is always appreciated. Don’t bring cut flowers unless they are in a vase ready to be put down. You don’t want your host scrambling to find the perfect vase at the last minute.

2. Don't be shy. Mingle. Talk to people. You are interesting. Yes, you are! But first start the conversation by asking about the other persons’ interests or their take on something non-controversial. The more penetrating and interesting topics will come, but break the ice slowly. 

3. Offer to help your host, but only ask once and do it sincerely. He or she may really need a hand with something and you will be considered a rock star from then on. There is many a time I have forgotten _______, or the roast in the oven was burning at the same time the doorbell was ringing and the dog had to go out. You get the picture.

4. Engage everyone. See that guy standing in the corner, not sure what to do? Go talk to him. Bring him into your group. Besides, you never know who may be watching.

5. Know when to leave. Don't be the last guest standing. And here is an elegant exit if it is a casual, informal party with friends or family: "It was a great party. Thanks so much for having us! Is there anything I can do before I go?" Of course, the answer will be "no," but oh, so cool to ask.

6. Follow up. No matter how pleasantly hung-over (or not), you must follow up the next day with an email or thank-you note. Yes, you must. Seriously! It is just not that hard.

Setting the Holiday Table

1. Use white plates if possible. Your holiday food will pop on white. (Think asparagus and cranberries. See?) I use it because I can mix and match with different color glassware or other plates.

2. Don’t forget water on the table. Make sure each guest has a water glass and that it remains filled. As we eat and drink during the holidays, it is so important that everyone drink water, and if a guest does not have water at their place, they may not ask. Float a lemon slice on top and make water easy to reach.

3. Absolutely use name cards at the dining room table. Go boy-girl-boy-girl and put any guest of honor at your right. Get creative. I use regular old pine cones to hold my cards.

4. Ensure your candles or flowers are short so that everyone can see each other around the table.

Staying Overnight?

1. Pack “considerately,” not “considerably.” Remember your host may not have the closet or drawer space for lots of clothes.
2. Email your hosts TODAY and let them know if you have any food allergies or if you have turned vegan! Better to do it now than sit down to dinner with a ham or beef.
3. Check the weather and check with your hosts about any events or other things planned so you know how to pack and what to expect.
4.Get off the gadgets and into the visit! There are not many times when we can get together with those we love the most. Make it the best it can possibly be.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy each other. Happy Holidays! Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! 

Kathy Bertone, AKA The Visit Wizard

Learn more about Kathy and her new book, The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host; Becoming the Perfect Guest at



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