Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Every Question You Have About Bringing a Plus-One to Your Office Holiday Party, Answered

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Work holiday party season—the best time of year, and yet probably also one of the most stressful.

What should you wear? When should you show up? How should you act? Who should you invite?

Well, we can’t help you with all those big questions (unless you’re willing to let us raid your closet for ideas), but we can help you decipher the many concerns of taking a plus-one—after all, we know a thing or two here at The Muse about impressing a work crowd.

Just keep reading for all the answers.

Does it Have to Be a Significant Other?

This one’s really up to what the invite says. If you’re allowed any plus-one (a.k.a., it doesn’t specifically say “You and a significant other are invited…”), then go for it! When in doubt, you can always check with the party organizer, your boss, or HR.

However, it’s also probably best to read the room. If no one else is bringing a friend, you might feel uncomfortable toting one around. On the other hand, if you could use the moral support because everyone is bringing their partner, inviting someone close—no matter who they are—can make the night a little more bearable. That is, if it’s the right kind of person.

Which leads me to my next question…

If I Can Bring a Friend, Should I?

The short answer? Listen to your gut instinct.

Maybe your friend’s super reliable—they know how to act professional in the right setting, and they won’t get so drunk that they’re dancing on the bar by 10 PM. Or, maybe they’ve met your co-workers before, so you know they’ll get along swimmingly. In that case, sure, why not.

But if you’re uncertain if your friend will stay calm, cool, and collected, they have a habit of drinking a little too much, or they love telling embarrassing (and slightly inappropriate) stories (about you)—it’s probably worth riding solo.

Remember: This is still a work event, not a house party, so no matter how casual the night gets, you’re still held accountable for any bad moves you (or your plus-one) makes.

When Is it Better to Bring Someone, and When Is it Better to Ride Solo?

The thing is, there’s no better or worse choice—it’s all about what you want (and feel comfortable) doing. And just because you get one doesn’t mean you have to take one.

If you plan on spending the evening bonding with your work BFFs, you most likely want to ensure that your plus-one can fend for themselves. If not, you’d probably enjoy riding solo more.

On the other hand, if you’re not super close with your co-workers (maybe you’re new, or don’t work with many people in your role), a plus-one can ease your worries of standing alone in a corner all night. And the whole introducing your partner to people thing can even help you further get to know people you don’t normally interact with.

Finally, consider whether a plus-one would really make your night better. Will they be a shadow who needs to follow you to the bathroom, or do they enjoy getting out and meeting new people? Are you OK with splitting your time between your office mates and someone else? Do you overall enjoy their company?

And, do you think your boss would like them (or, at least tolerate them)? As I mentioned previously, you’re about to spend a night out with people you work with—so you better be sure having a plus-one’s enhancing your reputation, not destroying it.

What Do I Have to Do With a Plus-one? Do I Have to, Like, Entertain Them All Night?

Your plus-one is your responsibility. Which means if they’re acting out, you’re the one who has to reel them back in.

But we’re all adults here—and we can handle ourselves in various social situations. With the right person, it shouldn’t feel like babysitting.

Can My Company Accommodate My Plus-one’s Food Allergies/Dietary Restrictions/Other Personal Issues?

This really depends. The company may say “we’ll do our best to accommodate,” but it’s always safe to make sure your plus-one is taken care of (a.k.a., eating beforehand or bringing an EpiPen for emergencies). If it’s a true medical issue, you can ask your coordinator to put ingredient labels by the food selections.

Does Having a Plus-one Mean My Date Can Eat/Drink Like the Rest of Us?

This also depends on the kind of party the company’s throwing. If there’s an open bar, you can assume you and your date are allowed two to three drinks each and one helping of food (you don’t want to go overboard on either). If you work for a smaller company, be respectful of their budget and split your drink tickets with your date rather than asking for more. When you’re unsure, ask your organizer what the protocol is.

Does My Plus-one Have to Dress Up?

In general, the dress code applies to you and anyone else you bring. If the person doesn’t feel comfortable going along with it (or doesn’t want to), they’re probably not the best person to bring.

Now that that’s taken care of, go have fun! You’ve worked hard this year, so you deserve a night of eating, drinking, and socializing about non-work stuff—and if you’d like, bringing your dear plus-one into the mix.