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Invited, and brought nothing

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OK, here's my question/peeve. When I'm invited to eat at someone's place, or even if not eating, I always offer to/bring something to eat, or drink. Last night I had a Yom Kippur break-fast, invited five families consisting of over 20 people, and only 1 ( a single guy) brought food; another threesome brought flowers. I only want people to ask, and then I can respond accordingly. But, am I wrong to think you can be invited, not ask, show up and eat/drink, and not at least make the offer to bring something?

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  1. Maybe it's me, too, but I never appear st someone's home without first asking what I may bring and then bringing something anyway regardless of the response. I hesitate to take food but always bring a bottle of wine to a dinner party as I don't want to insult the hostess with a food dish. If invited just for cocktails I take a simple hord'ouerve or bottle of wine. It's the way I was raised!

    5 Replies
    1. re: claree

      If they were coming straight from services it could be very inconvenient to bring something. Plus, they may figure they will be reciprocating sometime soon. I think host/ess gifts are nice but only really important if you think you won't be having them over in the near future.

        1. re: bibi rose

          It can't be that inconvenient to buy a bottle of wine before services and put it in the trunk.

        2. re: claree

          Agreed. Thank you

          1. re: claree

            If I invited you for cocktails you can bet there would be some good hors d'oeuvres being served. I would be a bit offended by someone thinking that I would not provide something to eat and that if I was providing something to eat that it might not be enough.

            The wine I would be glad to see.

          2. "am I wrong to think you can be invited, not ask, show up and eat/drink, and not at least make the offer to bring something?"

            Clearly one CAN, and clearly among the people you know that is common. I would never show up empty-handed, and generally find other ways to enjoy the company of friends who are so inclined. (Or write them off...which is to say that manners are part of the entire cost-benefit calculation.)

            While I am not an athority on manners, my general policy is to offer help (labor, food, equipment) if that seems to fit the occasion. If it is turned down then bring flowers or a bottle of wine (that need not be used during the occasion). For a brunch, a bottle of Sparkling Wine would do.

            1. I always bring something too. But on the other hand, I never expect people to bring anything, unless I ask before hand. Nor would I expect people to ask if they can bring anything.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peter

                I agree - while the invited guest should ask, I think it is equally offensive for the host to even think that the guest should ask to bring something, let alone feel they have a right to get upset that they didn't ask.

              2. I always thought flowers or another host gift served as an appropriate substitute for bringing food/wine - either if the latter was offered and declined or never offered in the first place - but admittedly, I'm unsure. What do others think?

                1. I don't expect it. When I am invited I usually ask if I can bring someting but most hosts really don't expect it. Bringing a bottle of wine as a gift is a nice thing to do or sending flowers as a thank you the day after is nice too. I think bringing flowers is okay but it requires a host to stop with whatever he/she is doing and find a vase for them etc. Also when I bring a bottle of wine as a thank you I do not expect the host to serve it. It is up to them, it may not go with the menu. It is just a thank you for the invitation. I see bringing food to a dinner as turning the meal into a sort of pot luck. When I have a dinner party I want to entertain my guests and cook for them. There is no rule of ettiquette that says a guest should bring anything to a dinner party but an appetite and appreciation.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Candy

                    I agree on all counts. And, people bringing food without asking first, when I've planned out a menu etc. can be awkward. One of the most thoughtful hostess gifts I have received was a box with some lovely croissants, other breakfast goodies and a nice jar of strawberry jam - for breakfast the next morning. Another day, a close friend coming to dinner dropped by with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for my mantel - since I hadn't gotten around to flowers it was a welcome gift, and I appreciated not having to arrange them/put them in a vase when she and other guests arrived that evening.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Absolutely. I would never bring a dish to share, but would feel terrible without bringing something like a bottle of wine.

                    2. re: Candy

                      Candy, I agree with every word of this. Whatever happened to proper entertaining?! When I was growing up (in the 70s) my parents were very social and I don't recall anyone bringing dishes along to dinners.

                      I like to bake and will offer to bring dessert to a barbecue or similarly casual get-together, if I know the host is not so enthusiastic about baking. But I find the expectation that guests will chip in--apparently widely held--really depressing.

                      1. re: Candy

                        As I understand it, proper etiquette is that you do not serve the bottle of wine you're presented by a guest. It is for you. Not for everyone. It can also be misinterpreted as you not being happy with the wine selection and pawning it off on others.


                        1. re: Davwud

                          This year-old topic is thrashing out the same evergreen issue as this current topic:


                      2. Were the people who didn't bring food religious? It was Yom Kippur and maybe they felt they weren't supposed to go food shopping in addition to fasting during the 25-hour period. Did they just come from the synagogue? Have you ever had the same people over before? Did they offer to bring anything before?

                        1. I always offer to make something, bring dessert or an app. If the host/hostess declines, I send flowers. OTOH, I never expect people to bring anything when they are invited to my house, but it is nice when it happens.
                          Every Friday night, for example I have my brothers two little ones at dinnertime. We usually end up having the kids, my brother and SIL ( and usually there are 2-3 drop ins!) for dinner. My SIL is wonderful, and always brings dessert. Last week we had a small turkey for dinner, she made a cake and brought it over, and my three YO nephew frosted the cake ( did a good job, too! ) SIl called me earlier this week, and insisted she bring the dinner. YEAH!! She is a wonderfule cook, so tonight we are having lasagna, salad, bread. I made an apple pie last night, and have some vanilla ice cream in teh fridge. Can't wait for dinner!!

                          1. First of all if you invite people to your home for a meal you should expect that will indeed show up and eat. If you are expecting some kind of payment, material or otherwise you are out of line. All you should expect is their heartfelt thanks.

                            I never expect people to bring something when I entertain in my own home and I never expect to bring something to someones home unless I am invited to a VERY casual/potluck/get together with the same group of friends every Friday night type of affair. It is my pet peeve when people invite me over for dinner (We are having a dinner party next week and would love you to come!) and then ask me to bring large portions of the meal (Can your bring the wine and a salad/dessert/appetizer? There will be 8 of us so I was thinking 2 reds and a white....) but I digress.

                            I do always offer when I am invited but take the host at face value if they say no and bring only a small hostess gift (a bottle of their favorite wine, flowers I know they love but are out of season, special candies I know they don't buy for themselves, etc). I personally would never show up at anyones house empty handed but I would not be offended if someone did not do the same.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: foodiex2

                              Exactly this. I think it's polite to bring something if invited to dinner, but I ask the hosts if they have a preference. For example, we go to another couples' house and they enjoy cooking and baking as much as we do, so they rarely request we bring food (like a side dish), but may suggest we bring any wine or beer we prefer to drink that night. I think that's fine; I don't drink, but SO is a picky beer drinker and this works out well, so he can choose a beer to share that he enjoys.

                              In a reverse situation, I don't expect company to bring anything and certainly not to "chip in." If someone is motivated to help clear the table or rinse dishes, I'm appreciative. If a guest brings wine or beer, I ask if they'd like us to serve it or keep it for another time. If a guest brought a food dish without my requesting it, I'd probably feel a bit put out (as I did one Thanksgiving when a couple brought not one, but THREE side dishes -- of course, requiring the use of my crowded oven to heat up things and generally offering way too much food, imo). Still, I know those people meant well, so no harm done. I'm not keen on surprise side dishes or desserts, and don't request people bring food, either. If someone is relatively insistent about bringing something to a dinner I host, I may (for a large group) ask if there is an appetizer they'd like to contribute--- nothing fancy, nuts or cheese or olives, etc.

                              My maternal grandparents never visited a friend for coffee without bringing a cake, or cookies, or a box of candy, and this same social rule applied to everyone in their group of friends (largely German-American immigrants). My mother once joked that their social circle had been passing around the same box of candies to each other at coffee visits since the 1950s. ;)

                            2. You (and many other people) are the victims of the decline in understanding hospitality.

                              Unless the meal is clearly identified as potluck, the host is responsible for the hospitality. For all the food and drink and what not.

                              The guest brings good manners, a sociable attitude, and gratitude to the host. It is also good form, except for routine dining, to bring a token of appreciation (aka the hostess gift) that does not require any work for the host to deal with. (If you bring flowers, offer to deal with them so that the host can continue hosting, for example). In lieu of that, the guest may offer to bring something at the host's discretion and according the guest's ability.

                              Guests do not unbidden bring food or wine intended for the meal unbidden. That used to be considered very rude, in fact, because it implied that the host would be insufficient in offering hospitality....

                              I love nothing better than having a herd of guests arrive empty-handed when I am arranging for a full-service dinner party, as it were.

                              If the dinner party is not routine (OK, I am conceding that some dinner parties are routine, though as a host I do not try to convey that to a guest), I will appreciate Gracious Notes afterwards...and I am not a stickler if they are a greeting card/note rather than Perfectly Proper plain stationary.

                              And I would love to be reciprocated. If I cannot think of a hostess gift, I will offer to bring something, but very discreetly and not be pushy about it. When nothing is needed, I will do as I outline above as a guest.

                              21 Replies
                              1. re: Karl S.

                                Well said indeed.

                                I, for one, am simply grateful that people will take time out of their day to come to my house. Living in New York, you come to realize that someone's time is a much more valuable gift than anything you can buy in a store. I'd much rather have a guest at my house for the half hour or whatever it takes to purchase a gift or get some food together to bring along.

                                Time is a particular problem in December, when there are a million different family events, office parties, and other functions going on. It's hard enough getting people to show up at all, I would never think to ask them to bring food along, especially if they have to travel by car/subway to get to my place.

                                As regards the hostess gift, I feel this is a nice thing to do when practical or convenient, but not mandatory. I just don't feel that under any circumstances an invited guest is required to bring anything other than "good manners, a sociable attitude, and gratitude to the host" as mentioned above. When I am visiting others, I often call just as I'm leaving to see if there is anything they have forgotten and can't run out for, but otherwise, it's their party and I let them do it.

                                1. re: cheapskate

                                  As I alluded to, btw, along these lines, guests do not have to go out to buy a greeting card for thanks. It's actually *more* correct to simply write a note on plain stationery. Less is more. Give me your own words (however cliche) rather than buying them. I want you. Not a product.

                                  (Then again, my parents were pretty strict about making sure we knew never to send a sympathy card in lieu of a proper condolence letter of at least three sentences in length. In this case, formulaic sentiments are Perfectly Proper because they symbolize how much grief is beyond words.)

                                  1. re: cheapskate
                                    quiz wrangler

                                    That is the offer that I appreciate far above all others - the offer to pick up some small item that I forgot but can't spare the time to go out for.

                                    1. re: quiz wrangler

                                      Exactly. I try to do that if possible.

                                      An example, when i asked a friend if I could bring anything (a perfunctory question, I knew her menu would be planned) she said "if you happen to be in the store where you got that beautiful watercress you served the last time I was at your house, could you pick some up?" She managed to throw me a compliment, avoid me bringing something that might screw up her meal plan (I wouldn't have), and acquired some nice watercress. Smart hostess.

                                  2. re: Karl S.

                                    I doubt I am a "victim" as you suggest, but rather a product of a good upbringing, where at least the offer is made, and no, I do not expect people to bring their own meal. I guess you would be appalled if someone brought wine or something to drink unbidden?
                                    In the case of those who are observant, I did not expect anything, but I certainly will bring something for them if invited.
                                    Your only point well taken is about the flowers

                                    1. re: nickdanger

                                      I would be appalled (but conceal it of course with a gracious smile and words of gratitude) if someone brought food, wine or beverage unbidden with the expectation it would be served at dinner; I would never dream of doing that to a host. If they brought wine for me as a host gift, that is perfectly OK, but I don't expect a gift at all.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        Perhaps I can also illustrate this further with an example from a friend, who is a very fine cook. He invited people for a fancy holiday dinner party. One couple offered to bring dessert; the host said OK despite misgivings. The host, wise from hard experience in these things, prepared desserts Just.In.Case. (but kept them aside in the event the guests did reasonably).

                                        The guests brought a single box of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins; partly eaten from (they said they couldn't wait for dinner....). Which the host graciously added to his prepared desserts.

                                        Normally, I would say the host should live with what he agreed to, but in this case, the host did right by the rest of the guests at the risk of offending the offending guests (who were, it turns out, too clueless to be offended).

                                        Needless to say, they were never invited back for dinner.

                                        1. re: Karl S.

                                          Not a great example, IMO.

                                          It seems to me that the host should have just listened to his misgivings, and said, 'we just want your company'. After all, as others have said, the host was *hosting* a fancy dinner party, not providing the house for a potluck, and he clearly had expectations as to what was appropriate to serve for dessert at a fancy dinner party.

                                          and exactly why were the guests not invited back? It isn't 'needless to say' to me: they offered to bring dessert, and did. That they like junk food (and possibly don't have a lot of money), meaning that the dessert was not up to the standards of the host, is yet one more reason why he shouldn't have insincerely accepted their offer if he wasn't going to be specific as to what to bring!

                                          (For some reason, I picture the host here putting the box out, rather than taking the munchkins out and putting them on a plate along with the other desserts. Otherwise, what would the guests have to have been clueless about? Some people like donuts, and it isn't unusual to have more than one dessert at a dinner party. If indeed the host left them in the box in order to make the point that some were eaten, it seems to me that there were plenty of bad manners to go around, and not all of them belonged to the guests!)

                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                            Actually, the host did not serve the munchkins in the box. And the guests were far from broke.

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              Partly eaten Dunkin Donut Munchkins? Come on. Even in my poorest college days, I would never have considered that an appropriate dessert to bring to a dinner party. And especially partly eaten? That's pure cluelessness.

                                              1. re: Jujubee

                                                Perhaps my point wasn't clear. I would have been annoyed at dunking donuts brought to a potluck. But it wasn't a potluck! Rather, the host didn't want them to bring dessert in the first place! Obviously, he was worried it wouldn't be up to standards... And yet, he says yes, bring dessert, and is unhappy enough that they didn't meet his standard as to what dessert should be that he would never invite them back! However, he strongly implies that they would have been invited back if they had never offered to bring anything in the first place, since that is what he really wanted, or so he says.

                                                So the guests might indeed be clueless as to what constitutes a dessert worthy of a Chowhound, but I don't think you can say that their behavior was any more rude than the behavior of an insincere host.

                                                So, what bugs me here are the hidden expectations. What the host is really (not) saying is, 'Well I didn't want them to bring anything because I knew it wouldn't match my standards, but what I really wanted was for them to prove me wrong and bring something really great to contribute anyway'.

                                                To me, if you expect the guests to bring something that matches a certain menu, it describes a potluck or progressive dinner type of a meal, and the host should have clearly communicated his intent in that regard to the guests, rather than inviting them, pretending to accept their offer of help, and then being disappointed when the help wasn't up to his standards.

                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  actually, let me clarify that first sentence. I wouldn't be annoyed if dunkin donuts were brought to a potluck. Perhaps the guest can't cook, and as I said, some people like dunkin donuts. However, I would be annoyed if only two dunking donuts were brought to a potluck. If the guest does understand that he or she is to provide part of the meal, they should bring enough of that part for the guests present.

                                                  But again, the intent should be clearly communicated, and if it isn't clearly communicated, it seems quite unfair to call the guest 'clueless'.

                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                    My very first party after I was married was a pool party with mostly my husband's friends. He informed me that when he invited a couple, the wife insisted on bringing "a huge Greek salad". So, I'm cooking for the party, and my husband asks "why are making all those vegetables, don't forget, X is bringing Greek salad". yeah, right.

                                                    She didn't bring anything. I was glad I had plenty of everything, and learned a pretty good hostessing lesson at 25.

                                                2. re: susancinsf

                                                  I'm afraid I'm guilty of serving the Dunkin Donuts in the box. I just couldn't help myself.

                                                  Cutting to the chase, we invited another couple, and their annoying teenage son, over for a swim and a Sunday dinner. They offered to bring dessert. We accepted, since they do not host at their home and I am pissy about always having to play Martha for them. The kid met us at the door with a box of 6 donuts, announced that he was starving, opened the box, and ate 2 right in front of me.

                                                  After dinner, he wolfed two more, leaving two donuts for the rest of us to share. And no, he was not raised by wolves or starved. The parents are wealthy and professionally employed.

                                                  Some people are just strange, and cheap. Normally, I'd put those donuts on a plate, but if I had, my husband would've accused me of eating the others while he and the guests were swimming. Now he could see they only brought a half dozen.

                                                  Eeek. I love my guests who obey my request to bring nothing, really. There's nothing more agitating than having to throw out perfectly good food because your cousin's wife has purchased three large cream cakes that MUST be refrigerated.

                                                  When I bring something, it's either something they've requested (my apple pie with Splenda is a big seller, so are my applesauce brownies), or a plate of cookies. I don't expect my hosts to put them out, but most do.

                                                  1. re: pamela

                                                    See, it sounds to me like in both cases there were hidden expectations. In the original case, the host didn't want the guest to bring dessert, but agreed to their offer anyway. In your case, it sounds to me like you didn't want to invite them in the first place, given that you felt pissy about 'always playing Martha'.

                                                    Yes, the son was rude, but it seems to me that it is also not polite to issue an insincere invitation, which is what seems to have been done in both instances. If you want to have the people over because you love their company, good. If you want to have them over and cant afford to, let them know such and ask if they'd like to participate in a potluck. If you think they are ungrateful, annoying and just taking advantage of your pool and hospitality, (as seems to be the undercurrent here, so to speak), why even invite them?

                                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                                      I didn't invite them. My husband did. I suggested we go out for a bite, then have them over for swimming and dessert/coffee, which I'd be happy to prepare and serve.

                                                      It is one of the perils of having a pool, I think. I can't tell you how many of his friends call us and announce their imminent arrival and hunger status. I wasn't raised to invite myself anywhere, so it's bizarre to me. I get everyone fed and it's often great fun, but plenty of these people never invite us over in return. (Or if they do, it's to a kid's birthday which requires a gift.)

                                                      It's truly not about the money, though. Believe me, we can afford to entertain, and do so often. And in this case, we invited the adults, who informed us that Junior was coming, too. The kid and his father inhaled over 5 pounds of steak in less than three minutes. (Not kidding.) Plus, the kid was nice enough to clog my toilet and not tell a soul.

                                                      Getting back to the OP, the sad truth is that some guests are jerks, and there's not a lot we can do. I've told my husband to spend time with this friend and his weird son when I'm busy with my girlfriends. Seems easy enough.

                                                    2. re: pamela

                                                      Made me laugh! I can appreciate a little passive-aggressiveness now and then.

                                                      1. re: pamela

                                                        Where I come from, donuts are for breakfast.

                                                        Who in the world eats donuts for dessert?

                                                        1. re: MidtownCoog

                                                          Well, you asked...

                                                          "But there's also a ready acceptance in the marketplace of new twists on the traditional doughnut, including an interest in doughnuts elevated to the level of haute cuisine. At upscale-tableservice restaurants, ranging from Napa Valley's French Laundry to New York City's Maloney & Porcelli, doughnuts are giving tortes, tarts and other gourmet desserts a run for their money.

                                                          "We're an American-style restaurant, and we think doughnuts are an American-style dessert," says Anne McManus, pastry chef at Maloney & Porcelli in midtown Manhattan. The restaurant's "Drunken Donuts" are spiced, yeast-raised crullers and ovals served with alcohol-spiked homemade jams. "They've been on the menu since we opened, and they're very popular," says McManus, who serves each order of three doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar. "

                                                          Link: http://www.restaurant.org/rusa/magArt...

                                                          1. re: snackish

                                                            Man, I need to get out more.

                                                            And just last night Food Network had a similar story on some fancy donut place in Portland.

                                                            How funny.

                                                            But I'll take a Kolache anyday vs. a donut!

                                                            Gotta love those Kolaches!

                                                3. re: nickdanger

                                                  It seems to me that you DID expect something: you expected them at least to ASK if they could bring something, and you're put out that they neither asked nor brought anything.

                                              2. All Yom-Kippur break-fasts I've been invited to as have had all the food provided and lots of it, sometimes catered sometimes not. Even when its a family affair where every family unit agrees to come to one person's house bringing some of the meal, that's all been worked out in advance so there's plenty of gifelte fish and matzoh ball soup as well as kugel and brisket and bitter herbs and whathaveyou. As the token goy, I just bring wine. Is that even expected of me? Probably not.

                                                1. I'm not sure how Orthodox your guests were... if they had to leave for services before the holiday was actually over, they would have been prevented from carrying to your house (unless you live within an eruv).

                                                  As for the larger question, I always ask if I can bring something, whether it's food or wine, and if not, I bring arranged cut flowers.

                                                  1. Nope. When you are the host, you host. You supply the food and beverages to your invited guests.

                                                    A guest is required to be on time, correct in dress, gracious in manner, amusing at the table, and complimentary to the host.

                                                    It is polite to bring a hostess gift i.e. flowers, a bottle of wine (gift), chocolates (for later), etc. I find it particularly irksome for guests to try and compel me to serve the wine they brought when I have already selected wine to go with the food being served.

                                                    And yes, in more casual entertaining I think it is fine to offer to bring something else (dessert, etc.) but it is certainly not something you should expect or require.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                                      I think it's better to send flowers before or after the event - the last thing a harried hostess wants to deal with at the last minute is scaring up a vase, clipping stems, etc. - and it's not like they can be put to the side, like a bottle of wine or chocolates.

                                                      I think the best thing one can offer, as noted by others, is a cheery and gregarious disposition (and showing up on time). To get chippy because people show up empty-handed isn't being a gracious hostess at all!

                                                    2. If you expect your guests to bring something, you really should let them know, or at least suggest, "If there's anything you'd like to bring, please don't hesitate." It's very simple, and it prevents hurt feelings on your part, and confusion on your guests' parts. There are some hosts who like to plan out the whole meal, and don't want guests to bring anything. More enjoyment is had by all if you are more forthright in your invitation about what type of meal you will be hosting.

                                                      1. I would expect my hospitality to be reciprocated at a later date.

                                                        I would be very happy if someone asked what they could bring, but my answer would almost certainly be "nothing" - there's a tiny possibility that I'd suggest they bring some wine, but I have to have everything including the wine on hand anyway in case the guest suddenly has an emergency and can't come.

                                                        Anyway, I'm hosting a dinner I've planned carefully, if I want to host a potluck I'll have a picnic.

                                                        As for those who feel obligated to bring a "hostess gift", I never know what to do with the things (I have more than enough bathroom soaps, and I hate flowers), and the best gift anyone can bring is the gift of their fellowship.

                                                        1. Let's allow that there may be cultural differences here. Even in the U.S. alone there are subcultures with different mores about gifts for the host.

                                                          However, I do believe that, unless the invitation is to a potluck, a dinner guest has no obligation to bring, or even offer to bring, food or drink. Now, I like to bring a gift for the host, but the gift is just extra as a politeness (not obligatory), might not be food or drink, and if it is food or drink is not expected to be served at the dinner.

                                                          If a guest asks whether to bring something, I always say no.

                                                          And I dislike it when a guest brings food unexpectedly and expects me to serve it that evening.

                                                          What IS obligatory is a thank-you note or phone call afterwards!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Browniebaker

                                                            oh good. this is the last post i read, but someone said what i was thinking the whole time, reading this discussion.

                                                            cultural differences are huge. even east coast to midwest to the south... everything is different.

                                                            is it nice for someone to offer to bring something? very. is it necessary? no.... not really. and really, the best part about throwing an event is just having the company, the good food, and the good drink.

                                                            you will be part of others get togethers in the future. what goes around comes around in that sort of way. and even if it doesn't, it's not important. the joy should be int he giving and not in stiffened rules and manners. emily post is not all knowing.

                                                          2. I'm blessed to have a very large and close knit group of friends. We're together alot for meals and other get togethers. Usually very informal and often on short notice. When it's 20 people, it's hard to cook for that many on short notice. We do alot of pot lucks and everyone has specialities. We all make extra and bring home a little bit of our favorites.

                                                            When heading over, we always bring beer, wine or soda for the kids. We've gotten to the point that we really just enjoy each others company and don't want to put the burden of feeding the troops on one person.

                                                            HOWEVER, we do on ocassion have actually small dinner parties. During a recent work hiatus, I made it a goal to have every couple over on a week night. I figured, I'm not working so I'll make your week night more convenient by cooking and cleaning. Some asked if they could bring something, others didn't. I certainly wasn't offended when they didn't ask.

                                                            Some of my guests brought flowers, others wine, others nothing at all. And you know what, we had a great time regardless of what they did or did not bring. It wasn't about bringing me gifts, it was about opening my home and enjoying a great meal with people I love.

                                                            IMHO I think you're being terribly presumptuous to be offended that people din't bring anything. Do you now have less respect or look down on these folks?

                                                            On the other hand, being raised in the deep south I would just as soon DIE than show up empty handed to someone's house.

                                                            Thoughts to ponder.

                                                            1. If you are invited for dinner at someone's home the polite thing to do is to bring something.
                                                              You can never go wrong with flowers, chocolate, home made preserves or another special home made treat or the like.
                                                              Bringing food when someone has planned and made a dinner is notthe best idea.

                                                              1. t
                                                                The Dairy Queen

                                                                I struggle with the opposite problem: what to do when guests unexpectedly show up with dishes for me to serve, even when they've asked in advance "Is there anything we can bring?" and I've replied with, "Nothing, thank you, but your cheerful selves."

                                                                Of course, as a host I graciously serve what my guests have brought, but it does interfere with my menu planning (which frustration I suffer discreetly and silently.)

                                                                People's habits in this matter seem to vary regionally. In the Midwest (compared to the West Coast), people are often extremely uncomfortable showing up to a meal empty-handed, even when asked to bring nothing. They typically respond to being told "nothing, thank you" with a series of incredulous "Are you sures?" and almost always end up bringing something anyway. Even to a catered event!

                                                                So, to ease my guests' discomfort, I have started to channel their good intentions by suggesting they bring a bottle of wine, so I don't unexpectedly end up with a thousand hot-dishes and crock pots of wild rice soup to serve. However, lately, I've begun to broaden this request to, "perhaps a bottle of wine or a beverage of your choice to share." On the West Coast, guests can stop at almost any grocery store to pick up a bottle of wine on their way to dinner, which is not necessarily so in the Midwest. I've learned that my seemingly casual request for "perhaps a bottle of wine" creates a different kind of angst if my guests aren't wine drinkers.

                                                                My goal as a host is to make my guests feel comfortable and welcome, regardless of how their habits and upbringing might clash with mine, especially when their intentions are good.

                                                                As a guest, I always ask if I can bring something. If the answer is no, I usually bring a bottle of wine, which the host can elect to serve or save for later. I have also brought flowers, although, reading the replies before mine, I am mortified by my thoughtlessness! It’s never occurred to me to bring the flowers already arranged and in a vase so my host doesn’t have to deal with them! So, thank you for that tip!

                                                                And, I have to confess, I'm never a person to follow-up with a handwritten thank you, except to one friend who, I've noticed, is herself in the habit of sending written thank yous. In her case, I simply mirror her habits. In this day and age of electronic mail, I always send a follow-up "thank you" e-mail, which, I'm sure, will cause the People who have Preferences about Perfectly Plain Paper to cringe. Something, else, perhaps, for me to improve on. :)


                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  Actually, an email is Perfectly Proper for my tastes (I was being arch for effect, sorry). I actually rank it above a greeting card because it requires the sender to write his/her own thoughts rather than purchase someone else's. A phone call will also be welcome.

                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                    I feel the same way... sometimes you just have a vision! My boyfriend's mom constantly brings something even though she knows I like to plan the menu and make everything. I'm often torn between trying to feel gracious and feeling annoyed, and then feeling guilty for being annoyed!
                                                                    I like to do handwritten thank you notes, and while I really like receiving them, I don't expect them... it's just a pleasant surprise! My grandma still sends me thank you notes just for calling to catch up, and it still makes me happy!

                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Me too - I don't entertain as much as I would like, so when I do, I try to plan the menu so that everything goes well together. I've tried your tactic, i.e., telling folks to bring wine or other beverage, but I have one friend who always shows up with an appetizer that invariably doesn't go with the rest of the meal, doesn't taste that good, etc. But I always serve it. . . my friend's feelings are more important than serving the "perfect" meal!

                                                                    2. I have yet to read the other replies, but when I invite people over, I don't expect them to bring something. My meals are well planned (my friends are terrible cooks anyway!).

                                                                      It is a very kind gesture however for a guest to *ask*. Bringing a bottle of wine is always welcome.

                                                                      1. I have yet to read the other replies, but when I invite people over, I don't expect them to bring something. My meals are well planned (my friends are terrible cooks anyway!).

                                                                        It is a very kind gesture however for a guest to *ask*. Bringing a bottle of wine is always welcome.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                          I am with you, Funwithfood. All that is implied by my invitation is a desire to see my guests. They do not have to do ANYTHING reciprocally.

                                                                          Otherwise, it would not be entertaining, but a form of commerce.

                                                                          1. re: Funwithfood

                                                                            I can totally relate. Most of my friends confess to being bad cooks, which is why I am happy to offer them a home-cooked meal now and then. I don't expect anything in return. Sometimes they do bring a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates (which usually I present with coffee and dessert) without asking. I don't mind at all and never take offense.

                                                                            When I am the guest, I always feel obligated to offer just in case (usually, the aforementioned call "on-the-way-can-i-pick-up-anything-for-you"). But I don't like to arrive empty-handed, so I usually bring something like a nice candle or small plant for the host/ess--something that I know they will like.

                                                                            One of the nicest unexpected hostess gifts I have received, however, was a few little toys for my cats. It wasn't anything expensive or fancy by any means--just a couple of little catnip thingys. But I really did appreciate the gesture, as did my cats!

                                                                            1. re: tachis

                                                                              Your post reminded me of a particular time I had hosted a dinner for a small group. I was house-sitting for a friend who was out of the country, and one of my guests gave me an adorable little plant as a hostess gift.

                                                                              Well, the next morning, I went over to admire the plant...only to discover that my friend's cat had eaten it! So, it turned out that my guest had actually brought a "dish." Just not for the humans.

                                                                              1. re: gina

                                                                                You're lucky - a similar scenario played itself out last Easter at my boyfriend's mom's house. However, in this case his aunt brought an easter lily as a hostess gift; and (you might have seen this coming) the cat ate it and died.

                                                                          2. If it's a small gathering of really close friends, we each ALWAYS offer to bring something, but graciously back down if the hostess says that she has everything covered. Then again, with that group of friends, we'd call right before we left home to see if they needed anything, last-minute, like ice or a replacement dessert for ice cream that just wouldn't freeze.

                                                                            If it's a larger gathering of people we know less well, we'll ask/offer when we RSVP, but never insist...and bring a bottle of wine for them to share after we're gone.

                                                                            Lots of interesting currents of guilt/expectations/unspoken standards running through this thread. Interesting.

                                                                            1. Oy vey!

                                                                              Don't be greedy.

                                                                              And don't invite people for dinner and expect them to bring something.

                                                                              1. If you're going to be upset by folks coming over empty handed, ask them to bring something specific. If you expect guests to fulfill your particular expectations without telling them what they are, chances are, you'll be disappointed.
                                                                                I usually bring wine to my host/hostess, but I don't expect other people to behave the way I do.

                                                                                1. If I'm invited to eat, I assume (logically, I believe) that there will be ... oh, what is that stuff? ... ah, yes! FOOD!

                                                                                  I usually ask "Can I bring something?", but sometimes I don't - certainly I expect to reciprocate fairly soon, and that is what I feel to be my major obligation.

                                                                                  When I invite people, I usually have the menu in mind, and it's designed to let me show off a little. I certainly don't want Aunt Mabel's Jell-o Surprise on the table along with my Szechuan dinner. And I'd be upset (and probably not invite her again) if Aunt Mabel wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

                                                                                  If I want food, I issue an invitation for a potluck affair.

                                                                                  1. There is no etiquette rule that requires a guest to offer to bring a dish. You're off base.

                                                                                    1. I'm with you--I _always_ ask what I can bring. I think the world is gradually losing whatever sense of etiquette it once had. Unfortunately. For example, ever had the experience of people not even bothering to respond to a dinner invitation? Yeah. Lack of social graces, indeed!

                                                                                      1. I agree with many here. I don't expect my guests to bring anything unless its specifically a potluck/throw together thing. Now, I think it is the polite thing to do in asking but not required, IMHO.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                                                          I only invite people I can say to: "Don't forget to bring some wine" or "how about bringing some of that great smoked ham".
                                                                                          The days of allowing any guest to show up empty handed are long gone.
                                                                                          Life's too short for such nonsense.

                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                            Yikes. I completely disagree that the days of allowing any guest to show up empty handed are long gone.

                                                                                            Not in my world, my neighborhood, my life. To each his own.