How to Kick People Out After A Holiday Dinner (Politely)

How to Kick People Out After A Holiday Dinner (Politely)
Photo: Gustavo Frazao, Shutterstock

The turkey’s been stuffed, the political arguments have blessedly run their course, the pants have been unbuttoned, and the chair naps have been taken (well, by everyone except you, if you’re hosting). Another successful holiday dinner is in the books! Now, you’re ready for everyone to leave; it’s really time for everyone to leave. And yet, your guests — manspreading on the couch, or chatting endlessly at the empty table — seem none-too-ready to depart.

You’ve earned an end to the evening — so how can you (politely) get such comfortable folk to skedaddle?

Set a timeline beforehand

This doesn’t have to be anything as formal as an invitation with a set end time (though if you’re hosting for a work group, it could be). When communicating with family, send an email that outlines the timeline for the day. Something like: “We’ll be gathering at 1 p.m and eating around three. After clean-up, we’ll do movies, board games, football, and cards. We’ll plan to wrap up by 7, so the little ones can get a good night’s sleep.”

Hand guests a plate of leftovers

One of the best hints you can give people that they’ll need to be moseying along is a three-pronged process involving leftovers. Is it slightly passive aggressive? Yes. But effective? Also yes.

First, ask who wants a plate of leftovers. The act of asking functions like a subconscious warning bell: This shit is shutting down in 30 minutes, people.

Second, make noise while preparing those containers of leftovers to signal that your den is no longer a serene space of indefinite lounging.

Third, hand them said plate of leftovers and hope they understand your meaning: The time is now.

(Alternately, ask people to bring their own containers for leftovers and have them fill up the container, which they’ll no doubt want to refrigerate asap, and your fridge is much too full to accommodate all of that.)

Stand up (and refer to the day in the past tense)

After the first dead giveaway — standing up and not sitting back down, even if you’re still chatting — try talking about the day in the past tense. “I know, it was such a great night! I’m so glad you were able to come. It was so much fun seeing everyone.” It’s a subtle and ingenious way to indicate that the Thanksgiving festivities are, in fact, a thing of the past.

Put the alcohol away (and get out the coats)

Nothing says “party’s over” like hiding the booze. After it’s been properly put away out of sight, walk around collecting empty (or nearly empty) wine and cocktail glasses, saying, “Can I take this for you?” Combine this move with taking all the coats from wherever they’re stashed and placing them in a more central location, such as a living room chair, for all to easily see (and put on).

Talk about your plans the next day

Another way to help guests realise you’re ready for some downtime is to mention whatever you have going on the next day. Start a sentence with, “Well, we have an early day tomorrow because we’re going to…” and fill in the blank with a real or imagined activity that starts rather early indeed. Or bemoan the fact that you have to work. No one can argue with that.

Enlist a wingperson

We’ve talked about using a special “deputy” to help keep people out of the kitchen while you prepare. Why not use that same friend to help you manage the day’s finale? Ask if they’d be willing to spearhead movement out the door when the time comes. They can do it by suggesting everyone head to another location, like a local bar (if it’s a party vibe) or simply standing up and saying, “Well, I know you’ve got an early day tomorrow, so I’m going to head out.”

Once the first guest leaves, the rest will follow suit — and you’ll be one step closer to that second helping of apple pie on the couch, in blissful, deafening silence.

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