From farewells to welcomes, from congratulations to hosting visiting bosses, there are many office parties you are expected to attend as the supportive spouse of a corporate professional. You can’t decline the invite since it reflects on your spouse’s image and success.
If you are new to these parties, you might be jittery. If you are an old hand at them, you might be bored and just want to get it over with. On the other hand, you may have built a few good friends over time in the other wives and your husband’s colleagues and look forward to meeting them.
Beyond the jitters, boredom or anticipation lie a few ground rules and expectations. Office parties can be casual or formal. We shall talk about the casual parties in this post.
Know the People
Know the people attending the party, their background and interests beforehand. If the dinner is in honor of a visiting guest, know more about the guest. Apart from your spouse’s knowledge, social media is a good source of information. Just don’t make it obvious that you’ve checked them over the social media.
Follow the Dress Code
Make the effort to know the dress code. Casual doesn’t mean dressing in jeans and a top. Even the most casual office parties are semi-formal when it comes to the dress code. You are there as a spouse and it falls on you to create a sociable, well-groomed image. Again, too casual a dress code can diminish your spouse’s image.
Make sure you are neatly dressed in evening wear, but don’t go overboard with it. You have plenty of choice in saris, salwars, kurtas, skirts and the one-piece dress. Unless it’s in celebration of a festival where you are expected to dress festive, the general rule is to wear an attire that hasn’t too much gold or silver woven or stitched onto them. Dark colors or pastels, even brighter colors are fine, provided you have the season, your complexion and your body shape in mind.
Reach on Time
Whether the party is in honor of your husband, his bosses, peers, team mates or a visiting official, you don’t have a choice but to be on time.
Work as a Team
From the moment both of you walk in, your husband cannot abandon you to the wives’ group and walk off to his team or colleagues. Plan ahead with your spouse about the introductions he ought to make and how and when you would stick together or separate during the party. Ideally, if it’s your first time, he should introduce you to his team, peers and bosses and in turn to their spouses. If he is new to the job, he may not know all the spouses. In which case, take the initiative and introduce yourself to them. Now, if you’ve been to a few of these parties and know the people quite well, stick together at least till you’ve greeted most of them. You can separate after that.
If it’s a congratulatory, welcoming or farewell party, make sure you wish the person concerned. If the party is in honor of your own spouse, stay close and accept the wishes with him at least during the initial stages of the party.
Often wives group together while the husbands corner themselves with their colleagues. If that is the practice, make the best of it and get to know the spouses well. These can be interesting conversations. One spouse that I had a chance to meet was a lecturer in fashion designing, another was a classical dancer, a couple of them were software engineers.
But if you are the boss’s wife, you need to do the rounds, introduce yourself and have short conversations with each one of the company people too. Knowing their background in advance gives you pointers to conversations with them.
Have Safe Conversations
If the party is for a visiting guest and there are too many people, you aren’t going to have more than a couple of minutes to converse with the guest. But, if it is a smaller gathering, you will have some time. There is nothing more natural than picking up a few topics of interest in advance based on your knowledge of the guest.
Do not ever fake your interest in any topic. If you are genuinely interested in the topic, get into it. If you don’t, let the other person do the talking with gentle questions occasionally to keep the conversation going. It can be an interesting conversation that tells you more about the person. More importantly, the person would remember you for being an active listener.
At the same time, understand your spouse’s level in the hierarchy, what it means in office politics and conduct your conversations accordingly. Don’t let out any office gossip your spouse may have shared with you at home. Being polite and warm with your spouse’s colleagues is the safest, not to say the nicest thing to do. Don’t get too familiar with them. It might make them uncomfortable.
Be Genuinely Happy for Others
Don’t get into negative comments of any kind about any one. If you can genuinely appreciate someone’s looks or achievements, do it by all means. You will have given them a tiny bit of happiness and draw them into your circle.
Follow the Food Rules
The rules for food and wine apply to casual parties too. Have a glass of cocktail or mocktail in hand at all times. This will keep you comfortable even through those occasional moments when you find yourself alone. You’d feel more comfortable and look natural too with something in your hand.
Make sure you are not the first at the food tables, whether for starters, main course or dessert. But, if the party is in honor of your husband, you may be expected to lead the party at the food table. Be aware of the nuances and go along with it. Eat with your left hand or use a spoon so that your right hand is free for a handshake when there are likely to be many introductions.
Bid Adieu to All
When the party winds up, make sure you bid your goodbyes along with your husband to his bosses, peers and his own team if not the rest. Make sure you keep your husband’s team’s spouses comfortable and don’t forget to bid them goodbye with your husband.
Remember, it’s a business party, so send the right message across, maintain the right image, and make it a career-supporting event for your spouse.