‘Tis the season to gather, make merry, and peace out early so you can get into your fleece Snuggie and watch Money Heist before bed? While this may not be the official motto of the holiday season, it sure is for me. I love mingling, toasting, and being festive—up to a point. And that point is usually well before the party is over. For anyone else habitually ready to bail while holiday soirees are still in full swing, here are a few methods to help you slip out gracefully.
Bring a host(ess) gift
To reiterate the most basic tenet of party-attending etiquette, don’t show up empty-handed. This is not just for holiday parties, or those that you need to leave early. It is all parties. (But especially those held during the season of giving, from which you will be bouncing prematurely.) A small token, such as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolate truffles, or a darn cute set of Santa butter knives or holiday-themed wine glass charms are just the ticket to compensate for your short attendance.
Tell the host in advance
One of the best ways to accomplish an early, guiltless exit, is to let the host know when you arrive that you won’t be able to stay long. (Better yet, send them a text about your time limitations the day before.) That way, when you check out mid-shindig, they won’t be surprised—leading them to wonder why and potentially take offense.
Get there when the party starts
While we never condone arriving to a party early (unless you are a certified BFF), if you can only spend a short time at the bash, arrive as soon as it starts. This will give you some relatively uninterrupted quality catch up time with the host before the other guests arrive. (Or, you can help them finish setting up, earning you further brownie points as a stellar invite.)
Bring a believable excuse
Some people can announce they need to leave places without feeling a gnawing need to divulge why. We are not some people. For those of us more comfortable padding everything with a reason, make sure it’s a good one. And “good” doesn’t mean extreme or dramatic. In fact, the more mundane the better. While saying you have a family emergency is unassailable, it will likely trigger follow-up questions that you may not be able to answer at a later date. Think simple excuses like, “I’ve been nursing a headache all day,” “I have to work tomorrow,” or “Our sitter can only stay until 10 o’clock.”
Have a great time while you’re there
One thing you don’t want to do is look bored or check your phone all evening. Both of those behaviors will send signals to an astute host that maybe you don’t want to be there after all. Make an effort to be sociable, contribute to positive party vibes, and exhibit maximum holiday cheer before bailing.
Compliment the host
Who can resist praise? Definitely not someone who spent considerable time curating a list of Pinterest-worthy yuletide appetizers. Whether it’s asking for their eggnog recipe, fawning over the Swedish meatballs with cranberry glaze, or oohing and ahhing at the twinkling decor, find something to compliment. (Pro tip: Do this in earshot of other guests, who can further affirm and verify that yes, it is the best baked brie they’ve ever tasted.)
Say your goodbyes discreetly
If you need to disappear in hurry, be sure not to take any jolly ambience with you. Rather than approaching the host when they’re in the middle of a group conversation, find them when they’re relatively isolated—taking something out of the oven or dumping another load of ice in the cooler—to say your goodbyes. This way, you can avoid dampening the atmosphere or starting a domino effect of early departures.
Pull an Irish goodbye
Hear me out: Sometimes a host might appreciate being ghosted. While it may seem like peak rudeness to leave without bidding your host proper adieu, in some cases, leaving unannounced may be preferred over an avalanche of goodbyes. Lifestyle blogger Joanna Goddard explains why in this post on Cup of Jo; describing a party she hosted during which the entire second half consisted of well-wishing goodbye conversations. Even while dozens of guests were still at her party, “it just felt like a mass exodus because we were consumed with saying goodbye to every single person who was heading home.”
If you’ve already let the host know you need to leave early, consider slipping out undetected, or with a warm wave and a blown-kiss from across the room. (Note: Some hosts will approve of this; some won’t. Use your judgment, and be sure to send a thank you text or give them a call the next day.)