Social Gatherings: During the holiday season you may be invited to parties. Customs vary in different countries. If you are not sure what is expected in the United States, it is okay to ask.
COVID has caused a lot of us to think differently about how we gather together. You should not feel pressure to accept an invitation if you have concerns, and you can ask about vaccination status.
Types of Gatherings
Informal Social Visits – Most Americans enjoy a casual type of hospitality which encourages friends to “drop by”. If you want your friends to call ahead to make sure it is a convenient time before dropping by, let them know in advance.
Open Houses – These types of gatherings may be held any time of the day or evening. Guests are free to come and go during the hours designated. If the letters “RSVP” are included in the invitation, that means they want invited guest to let them know whether they will attending or not. Generally, light refreshments are served.
Potlucks – Guests are asked to bring food to share such as a casserole, salad or dessert. Your host will suggest the type and amount of food you should bring, or you can ask. The host will usually provide dishware, utensils, beverages and, sometimes, the main dish.
Dinner Parties – These are held in the evening. The host provides the entire meal, but a guest may bring a gift such as flowers, wine, etc. If you have any dietary restrictions, let your host know when you accept the invitation.
Lunch with friends – If you meet friends for lunch or dinner at a restaurant, each person usually pays or their own meal. One of you should let the server know you will want separate checks.
Children may or may not be included. Generally, it depends on how formal the gathering will be. For example, they will probably not be invited to a dinner party, but will often be welcome at an open house or potluck. If the host does not mention whether children are included, it is best to ask.
Arrival Time – It is the custom in the United States to arrive on time for social engagements. Call ahead if you will be more than 15 minutes late.
What to wear – For most daytime gatherings, dress is casual. Evening gatherings are usually less casual, but generally not formal. Special occasions such as weddings may be formal. If you are not sure, just ask.