Keep Your Holiday Party Popping With Our Tips For Handling Bad Guests


It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. It is the age of eggnog and presents, it is the age of political conversations that make you want to bang your head on the table. It is the season of holiday lights, it is the season of dark, empty wallets.

You get where we’re going with this. The holidays are here, it’s time to party!

There’s a lot that goes into hosting holiday events. Whether it’s the first time you’re hanging with someone in a social situation (like a coworker) or the millionth time arguing with the same relatives about the president, it can all be a bit of a minefield to navigate. Don’t get us wrong, this is one of our favorite times of year — but it’s also one of the most drama-filled.

If you’re hosting any kind of event over the next two weeks, there’s a very good chance you’ll encounter a terrible guest. But you don’t have to let them ruin the party. We’re here to give you some tips on how to handle any “bad guest” situation that might come up, so that you can still have the happiest of holidays.

Bad Guest #1 — The Drunk

Probably the most common of the bad party guests, this friend or loved one has dipped a little too heavily into that Christmas cheer and are now, very much in danger of spreading that cheer all over your white couch.

How to deal:

First, you need to prevent these situations. Make sure you have lots of non-alcoholic drinks at every event. Bring around water bottles, offer La Croix, and if someone seems like they might have already had a few, don’t offer them more drinks. Also, make sure you have some hearty appetizers on hand. Holiday parties often involve people arriving early (and meals not being served for a while), so the easier you make it for guests to snack while having their cocktails the better.

If you do find yourself with a drunk uncle or tipsy bff, there are a few things you can do:

  1. If this is someone you’re pretty close to, be direct. Intoxicated people don’t take subtle, social cues easily. Pull them aside or ask for help in the kitchen (definitely don’t call them out in front of others) and then tell them the truth. “Hey friend, why don’t you have a water or coffee in between drinks, it seems like the wine is hitting you a little.”
  2. If this is someone you don’t know well, pass out water bottles to the people they are standing nearby, so it seems less obvious. “We should all be hydrating or we’re going to feel terrible in the morning!” you can say cheerfully. “Have you eaten yet, you have to try my recipe for banana bread.” Steer them toward food, water, and perhaps a seat.
  3. Designate another friend or relative to be their buddy. As the host, you have a lot on your plate, and it can ruin your night to have to babysit. Grab a trusted friend and ask them to take over. “Jamie seems like she’s had too much to drink, can you make sure she just drinks water from here on out and gets home safely?” — is a very valid favor to ask in this situation.
  4. If none of this works, tell them it’s time to go home. It might feel weird, but it’s best for everyone. Don’t ask them if they’d like to go home — which will give them more opportunity to argue — kindly tell them you’re going to help them get home and make it seem like you’re doing them a favor. “I love you, but it seems like you’re tired, I’m going to call you a car.”

Yes, this drunk friend or family member may be annoyed or angry in the moment, but don’t try to argue with them. And (it probably goes without saying), don’t let them drive. Just get them in a car that you either call or have a friend take them. Most likely, the drunk attendee will thank you later.

Bad Guest #2 — The Pundit

This is the guest who has some very controversial hot takes and is not afraid to share them, in fact, they will insist upon it. All. Night. Long.

How to deal with them:

To a point, try to change the subject. However, if someone says something outrageous or terrible, you can absolutely say that kind of talk makes you uncomfortable/isn’t true/is an offensive thing to say and then offer another topic of conversation. If they continue to push with, make an excuse, “Oh I better check on the turkey,” and walk away. You do not have to listen to anyone who is being unreasonable or engage in conversations that are ruining your night.

If two guests are going at it in a conversation that you’re not involved in and it’s making a scene, be direct. “Hey guys, this is an important convo, but let’s save it for another day. We all want to be able to eat without it turning into a food fight — as much as I’d like to see you both absolutely covered in mashed potatoes.”

Be light, be kind, but tell them they’re being unacceptable. If this makes them want to leave or they can’t respect the rules/values of your home, then they probably aren’t someone you really want to be there in the first place. Parties are for partying.

Bad Guest #3 — The Over-Helper

This guest means so well, but they’re buzzing around tasting food and adding salt because they have dead taste buds, breaking glasses by trying to “wash them really quickly” even though you said to leave them, and generally getting underfoot.

How to deal with them:

Start with taking a deep breath. This kind of guest is annoying but they truly are trying to be nice. Remember that most likely they feel awkward socializing and are trying to make themselves feel useful. Thank them profusely and if they don’t get your direct communication that you don’t need help, redirect them to tasks they can do. “I really don’t need help with the food, but I’d love it if you’d go around and find out if anyone needs another drink,” or “The garbage is full, would you mind running it outside?” You’ve ended up with a catering waiter for free and if you take a minute to think, there are probably things that would be great to have done. Plus, your guest will feel good helping and you’ll stop them from making your job harder.

Bad Guest #4 — The Inattentive Parent

This guest has decided that the whole party is their babysitter and they’re going to just enjoy themselves.

How to deal with them:

If you know kids are coming to a holiday event, it’s nice to have activities planned. Have a holiday movie ready to go in a separate room or a board game/coloring section in a corner. This will keep the kids a little more occupied and less likely to run around smearing spaghetti on your couches. But if said kids are out of control and the parents are MIA, there are a few things to do.

Put any valuables or breakables in your bedroom, close the door, and let the kids and parents know that room is off limits. “My room is a bit messy, so that room is closed for the night!”

Be specific when you talk to the parent or make requests. They will bristle at you saying things like, “The kids are being out of control or too loud.” Instead say, “So sorry! I have awful neighbors who complain about noise at the drop of a hat, do you mind asking Little Susie to use an indoor voice? Thanks. I know she’s just playing, but these damn neighbors!” or “Hey, little Susie is sliding down the banister and I’m so worried she might fall and get hurt, our floors are really hard! Do you mind bringing her upstairs?”

Asking specifics will hopefully be the wake-up call the parent(s) need to be a little more mindful of their little one. Just know that everything should go through the parents. You should never discipline other people’s kids (even if they’re being terrible). If their parents don’t take the hints when you ask them nicely, they may just be people you don’t have over again.

Bad Guest #5 — The New Roommate

Everyone else has left, you’ve cleaned up, and they’re still parked on the couch with a beer, chatting. Do they think they live here now? You’re very concerned that they think they live here.

How to deal with them:

If by now, you’ve run out of the hundreds of hints you had up your sleeve that it’s time to leave, just give them the business. It’s helpful if you blame an outside source, but you can also just ask them to go.

“Well, I still have to work tomorrow unfortunately and so I have to get to bed. It was so nice to see you! Can I walk you out?” It’s awkward, but just make it clear that you loved seeing them, but it’s closing time. They don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here.

Bad Guest #5 — The Fighting Couple

The holidays can be a source of stress in a relationship and this duo of guests are using the 50 people at a holiday party as their personal couple’s counselor.

How to deal with them:

The best move here is to separate them. They’re frustrated and set off by each other and the worst thing you can do is fan the flames by offering your opinion or trying to smooth things over. That’s not your job. Keep things light, laugh and then shepherd one of them to help you with something or grab them into another convo.

“Sorry to steal Cam for a minute, but I’ve been saying forever that she has to meet my friend Jenny.”

Give them time to cool off and let off some steam by having fun with other people and hopefully it will blow over. But also, remember, it’s not your job to make sure everyone is having fun if they’ve brought unrelated baggage to the party. If they’re two dysfunctional magnets drawn back into each other, walk away, and let them figure it out. That embarrassment is not yours to bear.