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5 Etiquette Tips to Host Your Next (Virtual) Holiday Party

Planning a festive celebration for the holidays? Read on for our guide on how to digitally show up in style and with sophistication.

2020 has been a whirlwind for many of us. Although the holiday season may look different this year, there’s always something to be grateful for—and that calls for a celebration indeed. Living in the age of a pandemic has changed the way we live. However, even with social distancing rules intact, there are still plenty of ways to party. If you’re planning on hosting a get-together, the safest way to do so is, yes, online. Whether you choose Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime, you can raise a glass of bubbly with your guests on the other side of the screen. While there’s nothing like the feeling of a comforting hug and seeing a loved one in person, the perk of a digital celebration is its convenience. As for tips on hosting etiquette, read on for suggestions inspired by scenarios from some of our favorite movies and shows.

Send Out Detailed Invitations

“The One with the Invitation” Friends, 1998

The invitation—whether in snail mail form or a digital e-vite—says a lot about the party itself. Choose a design that correlates with the theme you’re going for. Be sure to also send it out with enough time for guests to RSVP. Take into consideration that some guests may celebrate Christmas while others may toast to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. If you’re going the traditional invite route, go with a classic design like the Smythson Ribbon Invitation Cards, which feature an elegant design to complement any celebration.

If you’re a fan of the show Friends, you might remember the episode, “The One with the Invitation.” Ross sends an invitation to Rachel, his former girlfriend at the time, for his wedding to Emily in London. Etiquette, of course, depends on preference. Nevertheless, keeping things simple and free of complications is key—consider how each of your guests get along before sending out an invite. Even if the screen is digital, everyone can still see one another in those little video boxes. If anything, try hosting separate parties if you have guests who are in conflict.

Create a Welcoming Atmosphere

Pretty Woman, 1990

Even though your guests won’t be stepping foot inside your home, creating a welcoming atmosphere sets the mood of the virtual get-together. Have a booked schedule and no time to plan? Leave it up to Hestia Harlow. This company lets you rent everything from table settings and candles to even a Christmas tree! You can choose the design based on a theme and number of guests. The minimum is four, but even if all of your guests are attending virtually, it may be fun to show them the place settings online. The box of decor goodies will arrive at your door two days before the event. When the party’s over, simply return the items to the box and schedule a pick up.

You can’t go wrong with keeping things classy, and that starts with how to properly use silverware. Who can forget the scene in Pretty Woman when Vivian Ward enlisted the help of the hotel manager to teach her how to properly use flatware? “I definitely have the salad fork. The rest of the silverware is a little confusing,” she says. If you’re feeling the same, look up the answer online prior to the party. This way, you can enjoy your meal at ease while mingling with your guests.

Hestia Harlow

Set the Dress Code

Bridget Jones’s Diary, 2001

“Great, I was wearing a carpet.” If you’ve seen Bridget Jones’s Diary, you may recall this line when Bridget shows up to her mom’s house then changes into a passé floral outfit picked out for her when she shows up underdressed. Party-planning involves all the details—including attire—so to keep everyone on the same page, include a dress code in the invitation. Then, show up wearing an outfit reflecting that style. Going for a vintage-themed cocktail party? Maybe try an embellished flapper dress and a feather headband. Keeping it light-hearted with an ugly sweater party? Cozy up with a crochet-knit number.

Just looking to celebrate the holidays in style? This feather bodice dress by Milly works well with a pair of pearl earrings and heels, even if no one sees your bottom half at a digital party. Dressing for yourself is just as important!

Consider the Time Difference

“Emily In Paris” Emily In Paris, 2020

With virtual celebrations, keep in mind that guests may be living in different time zones. If you have a friend joining in from New York, and another from Paris, choose a time that would most likely work for everyone’s schedules. In the first episode of Emily In Paris, Emily shows up to her work two hours early. A cultural conflict arises with Emily’s so-called American mindset to “live to work” instead of the French way of “work to live”. Check in with your guests on a fitting time and set the event closest to the popular vote.

On the day of the event, create an hour-by-hour schedule to prepare everything in advance. From decorating, getting the food and drinks prepared, to getting ready, it would help to have a plan mapped out so everything pans out smoothly. Wear a watch to keep yourself on track. We like this Bold Rose Gold Ion-Plated Crystal and Mesh Link Watch by Movado. Its timeless design doubles as a bracelet and can be dressed up or down depending on your party theme.

Have a Heart-to-Heart Over a Cup of Tea

My Fair Lady, 1964

How do you wrap up a party with grace? Dedicate a time at the end to sip a cup of tea with your guests. Tea promotes a sense of calm. Depending on which kind you choose, it can carry plenty of health benefits, making it an ideal way to unwind.

Try the Vahdam Matcha Tea Powders, which are beneficial to boost metabolism and focus. The Vahdam Organic Turmeric Wellness Detox Box includes four flavors that reduce stress and support immune function, weight management, and healthy digestion. For a party favor, send your guests a box of tea before the event so you can enjoy it together. And since your cup takes center stage, go for a decorative one like this hexagon-patterned Newport Tea Cup and Saucer by Jonathan Adler. This is the time after dinner when you can really check in and catch up with your guests. The world may be going through unprecedented times, which call for all the more reason to lean on each other.

This brings us to the 1964 film My Fair Lady, which includes a tea moment between flower girl Eliza Dolittle and Professor Higgins who tries to make her presentable for high society. The scene is more about how he teaches her pronunciation to say, “cup of tea” versus how she says, “cuppatea”, but regardless, tea has a way of bringing people together. If you’re looking for a good laugh, tune into the movie for more etiquette tips!

Wendy Sy

Wendy Sy is a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle writer based in New York City. In addition to her editorial website, Style Meets Story, her work has been featured in Allure, Avenue Magazine, InStyle, and more. When she’s not brainstorming ideas for upcoming articles, you can find her spending countless hours searching for lost treasures at vintage shops. Photo by Sophie Elgort.

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