What is the norm on attending a holiday office party as a single person?
December 24, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm single and going to my first office holiday party. Do I need to/Can I bring someone? If so, whom? What is the etiquette here?

Some options I have thought of:

(1) Bring a friend of the same sex (I'm a girl)
(2) Bring a friend who is a guy
(3) Bring my brother
(4) Arrange to go with someone from work (would it make things awkward?)
(5) Go by myself and hope some of my work friends attend... without significant others (doesn't seem super likely right now)

Everyone at my job is very interesting and friendly. I'm straight. I'm a little reserved but can do small talk. I'm not a great mixer and prefer to find my people/place and stick there, but am more confident if I have someone with me. I don't want to bother anyone by hanging out with them too much when they would rather be with their SO.

What is expected here?

(Other holiday office party tips welcome.)
posted by ramenopres to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends on the invite. My company made this year's holiday party "employee only" and no spouses or SO's were in attendance. If the invite has an RSVP for another person, then feel free to bring someone or not. Typically the second is a SO or spouse. People may get the wrong or right impression, depending on your sexual preference, if you bring a same-sex person. Remember that the holiday parties are typically a chance to schmooze, so pick appropriately.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:25 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've never felt any pressure to have a +1 at a company holiday party. In fact the last one I went to no guests were allowed (which seemed cheap and tacky of the company, but whatevever).

So I always go with option 5. I think basically all of these things happen. I wouldn't arrange to go with someone from work as a first date even if you really want to date them. (Though I might encourage them to attend and then make an effort to hang out with them once at the party)
posted by aubilenon at 9:26 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bringing a friend is not weird, unless your coworkers are weird. If they are interesting and friendly, I don't think they'd be weird to you about bringing a friend. No matter who they are. If you introduce your Plus One as "this is my friend _____!" they'll know it's a friend and won't second guess if they are your secret lover. Or they might, but it doesn't really matter.

Also, you can totally go alone. I've done this and it was perfectly fine, and some other coworkers went alone as well.

If you are secure in yourself, doesn't matter who you bring or do not bring. :)
posted by xtine at 9:26 PM on December 24, 2011

Also, as a guy, I've gone solo and no one mentioned or thought anything of it.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:26 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Most office holiday party invites are to you and a guest - what does it say? You can always ask a coworker or boss.

My fiance bailed on my office xmas party last minute this year and I ended up bringing a same-sex friend. Nobody thought anything of it. She's actually more outgoing than he is and it was maybe more fun because he wasn't complaining about being there! However a lot of single people come by themselves and it's not weird. I actually have a pretty big department and I would have had plenty of people to hang with but I actually hate my job and most of them, so I wanted to bring a friend so I would always have someone to talk to.

The only thing I wouldn't do is bring a "date" who is someone you don't know that well - why make it awkward! It sounds like you'd have the best time bringing a platonic friend or your brother. Pretty much the point of having office parties where people bring guests is so that your coworkers can meet your family. So if you are tight with your brother and have talked about him at all, why not bring him. Same goes for a roommate or best friend who you may have mentioned.

In terms of tips/etiquette, don't dress like a total skank and don't get too wasted. Plenty of people do this at my holiday party and I find it really entertaining but it doesn't make the best impression. On the other hand, I am a pretty casual dresser and I enjoy getting dressed up so I can get the "hey you clean up nice!" comments.
posted by radioamy at 9:35 PM on December 24, 2011

I would also ask a coworker what the norms are. Do single people tend to bring dates? Should you plan on eating beforehand or is there a lot of food? How dressed up to people get? Does everyone go out afterwards?
posted by radioamy at 9:36 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: It kind of depends on your office. Some won't let you bring +1s (lame) and some will look at you weird if you bring a +1 who is not a serious SO/spouse. Others it is totally okay to bring a friend/date. I'd probably casually bring up the topic with someone at work who went last year.

(Also, my own company party this year was employee-only, but the guy I am dating is bringing me as a +1 to his.)
posted by DoubleLune at 9:37 PM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I feel like this varies tremendously from place to place. If you're that worried about it just casually ask a coworker you are friendly with if people normally bring friends. Your question implies you have work friends; there's no reason not to ask them about what's normal at your office.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:38 PM on December 24, 2011

It kind of depends on your office. Some won't let you bring +1s (lame) and some will look at you weird if you bring a +1 who is not a serious SO/spouse. Others it is totally okay to bring a friend/date. I'd probably casually bring up the topic with someone at work who went last year.

I agree with this. I've always been single and have worked at several different workplaces in the last few years. Sometimes they allow +1s, sometimes it's employee only, but I would never bring a friend as a +1. I feel like everywhere I've worked, people would think that was very, very weird. However, all this varies from workplace to workplace so just be sure to check.
posted by sweetkid at 9:48 PM on December 24, 2011


- I've gone with my mom to her office holiday party because my dad didn't want to go. I think everyone else was there with a spouse, but it wasn't weird.

- I brought my SO to my own office holiday party this year. One guy in our group came solo, the rest of us had a +1. It wasn't weird.

Also, don't be worried about not having anyone to talk to if you go alone. People don't come just to hang out with their SO - they can do that any time.
posted by segfault at 10:47 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: Agreed with all who say it depends on the workplace. When I worked in a corporate setting, we had 1) specific employee-only parties or 2) holiday parties that were understood to be either just the employee or the employee and significant other. But not something you'd bring a date or friend or sibling in on.

I say go alone and mingle, and perhaps leave earlyish. I don't like mingling either, but that's the whole point of these things and you internally grit your teeth and bear it; it does get easier the more you are called upon to do it. Introduce yourself to coworkers' significant others, compliment their hair, talk about the weather, mention local sport teams, bring up the new high rise being constructed two blocks away, and rinse and repeat until you feel like you've made the rounds and can bow out gracefully.

(I don't really understand option 4 - of course you'll meet with coworkers at the party and if carpooling is convenient, then by all means.)
posted by vegartanipla at 11:23 PM on December 24, 2011

Oh, from browsing back into other people's answers, did you mean go on a date with a fellow coworker for the first time to this party? No, I would definitely not do that. There are so many ways that could end badly and even at its best it'd be adding first date tension on top of workplace party tension and have to field questions from other coworkers...
posted by vegartanipla at 11:30 PM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

When single I have gone solo.
posted by mleigh at 11:48 PM on December 24, 2011

Best answer: I think it would be perfectly normal to go solo; norms obviously vary as to what kinds of +1s are expected, but I don't think it would be strange to go by yourself. As for what to do with yourself, I'd try to find a work friend and hang out with them and their SO (if they have one with them)— office parties aren't particularly intimate, so I don't think you'd be intruding on romantictimes for anyone. And maybe you'll like talking with your friend's SO as well as your friend. The nominal purpose of these parties is for people to socialize, after all.

(And if you find yourself hating it, stay long enough to have shown willing and then take off. No one will think oddly of it.)
posted by hattifattener at 1:01 AM on December 25, 2011

I think its a bit weird and childish to take a friend. If you are single then you go alone. If you don't want people to know you are single then I guess you could take a friend and pretend that you are a couple.
posted by mary8nne at 3:20 AM on December 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

I wouldn't bring someone for the sake of bringing someone. Then you have to worry about how they get along with your coworkers, babysit them all night and explain all the inside office jokes. Going solo (if you're single) is always more fun in my opinion, you can flit from conversation to conversation and just worry about having a good time for yourself. And it's not like you don't know anyone, they are your coworkers.

Plus, it's an office party, think about how much you want your coworkers to know about your personal life and the people in it. So no, don't use this as an opportunity for a "date" with someone.

I've never heard of bringing friends to an office party and depending on the party - who is paying for it and how big it is - that might annoy others. Basically though, talk to a coworker and find out the climate for YOUR office. Each one varies.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:02 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

In my experience, people either go solo or with their spouse. Going with a friend or another family member would be considered unusual.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:43 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

We have a two-part holiday party offsite - the first part is employees only, the second part you can bring a guest (usually significant other). My partner's company was employee only, onsite .Find out what the invite is first before you bring someone. A lot of the etiquette of a holiday party depends on the culture - my company is not corporate, so our parties are quite... interesting.

I'm not sure what your purpose is here... you don't have to bring someone, you don't have to avoid people who do bring someone (why aren't you asking your work friends what they're going to do?) and frankly, you bringing someone significantly decreases the chances that you'll mingle with your coworkers - esp. if you are reserved - which is one of the purposes of the holiday party. Why would it be awkward to go with a coworker? That's probably your best bet, there. It gives you a starting person to hang out with but you aren't stuck together the whole night. You want to mingle, even if it's just to wish another person a happy holiday and move on. If there is booze and food involved people tend to open up anyway.
posted by sm1tten at 7:16 AM on December 25, 2011

There are only 2 right options:

#2 or #5

All the other options and suggestions may be fine on paper, but you run the risk of great awkwardness and anxiety - and you will not have a good time as a result.

Once the alcohol and frenzied dancing combine, no one will remember you and your date much at all.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:58 AM on December 25, 2011

Best answer: I'm re-reading this thread and thinking that it probably has a lot to do with your company culture. I disagree with mary8nne that it's "childish" to bring a friend, but that's because it's not uncommon at my work's holiday functions or any of the other events we have done. I put on a media night in October and one young, single TV anchor brought her roommate. I very much enjoyed talking to both of them. However I suppose it really depends on your location and company, so nthing asking coworkers.
posted by radioamy at 10:34 AM on December 25, 2011

Best answer: The +1 person's function is to be the person your coworkers make small talk with you about for the following year. So if you bring your daughter you will hear "did she get her drivers license yet?" all year. If you bring an SO then break up then I promise you will have to explain the breakup to someone before dec 2012. So if a sibling is a big part of your life they will be fine to bring. Just know that whoever you bring will loom large in your legend at work.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:57 AM on December 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

This depends entirely on where you work. However, on the whole, I would recommend not bringing anybody, unless it is a significant other who is familiar with your job and the parties involved. Office parties are where you will likely talk *a lot* (if not exclusively) about work, and are not to be confused with appropriate dating environments. You will be fine going solo.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:09 PM on December 25, 2011

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