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Etiquette for Your Spouse's Company Holiday Party

I've been accompanying my husband to his company Christmas parties for 15 years. So I feel like I know how to play the role of the supportive and charming spouse. But this year I was thinking about staying home with my kids and was wondering if that was a bad decision. So I decided to call an expert for some advice on my situation and to ask for some etiquette tips on how to act at your partner's holiday soiree.

It turns out that employees aren't the only ones who can make some big mistakes at a company Christmas party. Even the spouses need to follow some basic rules. Here are some tips from Anna Post, an etiquette expert and spokeswoman for The Emily Post Institute:

  • First, when trying to decide if you should attend your partner's party or not, Post believes this is one of those events a spouse should try to attend. If you have very small children like I do, and no one to look after them, then you could legitimately say no. But the excuse should be genuine. If it's merely a bit of a hassle to get a sitter, you should probably make a few extra phone calls so you can attend. (I ended up going to the party and begging a friend to share her Au Pair.)
  • Before the party starts, Post recommends you and your partner do some prep work. Make sure you know the names of your spouse's colleagues and their dates. It's also a good idea to have some type of signal -- think ear tug or tucking your hair behind an ear -- if you find yourself in a tough situation and need some assistance, says Post.
  • Next, understand that even spouses need to watch how much they drink. While you may not be up for a promotion, the last thing you want is for your partner to have to make excuses for you the next day, says Post.
  • A common error some folks make is that they brag about their partner's accomplishments at the holiday party. As good as your intentions may be, no one wants to hear about the big client your husband just landed. If he's doing his job well, you have to hope the boss is aware, says Post.
  • Another faux pas to avoid is to complain about your spouse's long hours or sudden business trips, says Post. While your anger may be justified, the holiday party simply isn't the place to voice your feelings.
  • Wondering if you can help your partner's career by sucking up to the boss's wife? Probably not. Better not to cozy up to her or him unless the two of you genuinely have something in common and mutually enjoy chatting.
  • Finally, if you're stuck in a really boring work conversation, it's okay to excuse yourself. Consider going to the buffet table and then introducing yourself to someone else.
Any other tips you can pass along for significant others about to attend a holiday party?

Champagne image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
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