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Nov 29, 2005 07:17 AM

My guests are killing me with kindness

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A while ago there was a post on this board by a host who was unhappy that guests did not volunteer to bring dishes to a dinner. I am having the opposite problem.

I am having a party on Saturday. It will be relatively large (for me), about 50-60 people. As indicated on the invitations, there will be a big spread of food, including various savory hors d'oeuvres, cheese and the like, and a lot of cookies etc. It's an annual event, but since this area is quite transient, the cast of characters changes a bit every year. Although I always get a certain amount of this, for some reason this year I am being deluged by gracious but very insistent offers to "bring something," often by people who have not been to this party before and don't realize just how much food there will be. I try to put off these offers in a jokey way--"no, just a big appetite!" or something like that--but some people keep pushing (in a nice way) and I'm afraid they aren't getting the message.

I love to cook and, especially, bake, and for me this party is the main event of the holiday season. I spend a lot of time planning the menu, and even more time executing it. I use every plate, platter and bowl I own to house the spread, and the oven and stovetop are full all night warming dishes. The table is heaving. There's no room for anything else, and it's difficult enough to manage the process without factoring in other, unexpected dishes, or unwieldy space-consuming things such as big bunches of flowers.

Above all else--it's a PARTY! I want to cook for, and entertain, my friends, not have them feel obligated to contribute.

I know people are just trying to be nice and helpful, and as there is hardly a surplus of niceness and helpfulness in the world today, I feel churlish complaining about it. But is there a way to gently but firmly get across the notion that we want our guests to be, simply, our guests?

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  1. good grief! just be grateful you have such generous friends for crying out loud. people love to contribute it makes them feel good. still do your cooking but let everyone bring what they want. i was at a neighbor's birthday party 2 weeks ago and people brought so much food it was impossible to put it all out. just make sure you have plenty of foil and plastic wraps and plates so evverybody can take a plate home with them. and you will have leftovers for a week. enjoy! abdul iin nyc :)

    3 Replies
    1. re: furryabdul

      I agree with the suggestions above, like letting them bring wine or other drinks. (If nothing else, you can store it for future occasions.) Or bringing cookies that could be redistributed to guests, in cute holiday bags or something.

      Also, if you REALLY don't want people to bring food, you might want to be a little more blunt about it, maybe in a nice, self-deprecating kind of way. For example, you could say "Call me a nut, but I actually WANT to cook everything myself. I like the challenge," or "You know, I get so carried away with cooking, there honestly won't be any room for more food!" or "This is my one chance to be Cooking Queen, so I really want to make everything myself!" If these people know you, they can probably understand your feeling about this, but only if you tell them fairly directly.

      Good luck.

      1. re: parkslopemama

        I agree that you need to explain the logistics to the people. It is a large party and while it is so very thoughtful of them to offer to bring something, it will make it more difficult for you to manage the party with unexpected items like food, beverages or even flowers.

        You wrote:

        I use every plate, platter and bowl I own to house the spread, and the oven and stovetop are full all night warming dishes. The table is heaving. There's no room for anything else, and it's difficult enough to manage the process without factoring in other, unexpected dishes, or unwieldy space-consuming things such as big bunches of flowers.

        That's what you should tell people.

        Most people like to help and with a reasonable expleantation that the best help is bringing nothing that in almost all cases should do it.

        Don't go into the business about how you love to cook, etc, etc.

        1. re: rworange

          That's a great idea - Personally I'd couple it with 'but you're welcome to bring wine' (or beer, or hard liquor, or whatever thing you're drinking).

    2. I know what you mean. I like to be in complete orphan plates of 8 brownies or something on the table, or worse, something you are expected to find a serving piece for, etc.

      Can you think of ANYTHING that you could ask people to bring, just to give them that sense of accomplishement they are after? For example, I always tell insistent guests to my pool parties that I am short on seating and it would be wonderful if they can bring a beach chair. That one has worked like a charm for years. I doubt that is appropriate in your situation, but perhaps you can come up with something non-food that you could assign to the most insistent.

      1. The answer for everything: Booze! You can never have enough beverages at a shindig like yours. People like variety, whether you are serving wine or hard liquor. Plus, generally alcohol can be saved and used in future occasions. Ask them to bring a nice beverage of their choice, either to be served or as a hostess gift.

        You can also ask people to bring ice. You can never have enough ice and any extra will just melt away.

        Or ask them to bring an unwrapped toy or canned goods or something like that, and then drive them over to your nearest Holiday charity.

        P.S. In my experience, it's just easier to give in gracefully. People want to contribute as a thank you, so it's better to request something you want or need or can use later than to just leave it to the guest. You will most likely get food that the guest spent time and effort making and will be wasted or thrown away.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Pupster

          Great Idea. This is typically what we OFFER to bring to such things and no one ever turns down a nice bottle of wine.

        2. Maybe tell everyone who insists on bringing food to bring cookies. You could then have little holiday bags, and make up to go cookie bags for all of your guests. Who doesn't like cookies- and that way you can plan your menu without hurtung anyone's feelings.

          1 Reply
          1. re: macca

            I think this is definitely a nice "problem" to have!! Great neighbors/friends are a blessing!

            That being said.... I *love* the suggestion of having your guests bring presents or food items to be donated to the many charities that so desperately need such items this time of year. It seems like a perfect way to enhance an already festive occasion during the holidays!



          2. Be insistent! I don't get why you are expected to bend over backwards to carefully explain your wishes to adults. Your party, your rules. If you aren't comfortable giving a firm "No, but thanks anyway" then consider explaining to people just what you make clear in your post here- That this is an event you work hard at, and have a clear plan for that is made more difficult when confronted with a hodgepodge of items you haven't planned for and whose style or appearance you don't have control over, that you can't coordinate all the serving plates and utensils etcetera and that mainly- You enjoy doing this yourself. People offer stuff out of a feeling that they're helping to alleviate a burden. If you make it clear that it's anything but a burden, they will be more likely to come expecting to be on the receiving end of a labor of love. Or, you can have them bring booze. I like that idea too. Feel free to invite me, also. I'll happily collect whatever people insist on bringing and redistribute it elsewhere as I see fit.