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What etiquette do you expect of your dinner guests?

I have been thinking a lot about dinner etiquette lately : my goal is to encourage my kids to respect and appreciate the work of the cook and to learn to be good dinner guests. (okay, they are only 1 and 3 right now, but I figure I should start young)

After a stressful dinner with difficult guests, I realized I have certain expectations of my dinner guests and I'm wondering what expectations (if any) you have of your guests.

Here are some of mine:

I would like my guests to arrive on time

I would prefer if guests don't start eating until I sit down with them. I feel like a wait person instead of a dinner companion when people *dig in* while I'm still bringing the food to the table or plating other guests' meals.

Compliments are always appreciated but at the very least, I think *Thank-you for dinner* is very important phrase at the end of the meal.

I am not sure if I expect this or not..but I always like to bring my host a gesture of gratitude (wine, flowers, etc.)

Goes without saying that I expect my guests to be respectful of the other guests...

What expectations do you have of your guests or of yourself as a guest?

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  1. Personally, I don't mind if our guests start eating without me. It always takes me a few minutes to get everything put away, and would rather them eat while it is nice and hot.

    My big pet peeve is that we seem to be the only ones who entertain. I'd love it if we were invited out to other peoples homes every now and then. I don't expect an "even" playing field, but something would be nice. (We entertain at home at least 3 out of every 6 weekends)

    The other thing that I really find important is having "good" guests. By that I mean guests who (for lack of a better way to say it) know that they are "singing for their supper". You know what I mean -good small talk, enagaging new people into conversation, etc. We always try to have a "buffer" couple when we are hosting a different group. (Buffer couple: they know what their responsiblities are, btw)

    1. I read Ina Garten's cookbook Parties, and all of my anxieties have slipped away.

      If I entertain, I do so to have fun, and hope my guests will do the same!

      1. I'd like my guests to show up on time, or call if they are late. I'd like them to behave appopriately for a social situation (i.e. engage in conversation). I LOVE (but don't expect) when people call the day after a dinner party to say they've had a good time - I have fostered this habit myself.
        I don't care if people get too drunk, or eat heaps and heaps of food (I kind of like to see people dig in to their food- obviously there is a line here)...anything that could be described as fun is A-ok with me.
        And I also LOVE guests who reciprocate every now and then...even if it is ordering out.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nummanumma

          I forgot about the calling the next day and saying they had a good time....I TOTALLY agree with you on this one, numma !

        2. I like for my guests to arrive on time or 10 - 15 minutes late. I do not like it when they arrive early.

          I, too, always bring a small gift, but I don't expect it when people come here, and don't even notice if they don't.

          I like for them to try what I cook for them and not refuse to eat anything. I always check beforehand with them for foods that they can't/don't/won't eat, so I gear my menus around their preferences anyway.

          I also like for them to be "good guests" and help with conversation flow and entertain themselves as well as each other and us.

          I don't like for people to start eating without me, but I'm always very careful about not making people sit at the table staring at the food for any length of time. I don't like for guests to help me with dinner excepting the actual serving of food, and that way I can join everyone at the table when everyone else is also sitting down. I know this is old-fashioned, but as a guest, I just can't start eating before the host(s) have begun as well. I'm afraid my mother and my grandmother would materialize and smack me.

          I also like to have some reciprocation. We don't keep score at all, and we do like to entertain more than most people, but some social invitation is nice - we don't care if it's not home entertaining - call us and ask us to go to a movie or ask us to meet you out for dinner somewhere, or invite us to go see a band with you - we don't care, and we try to make that clear. A lot of our friends simply don't cook and entertain at home, and that's fine. We just like some indication that they enjoy spending time with us.

          Yes, a "thank you" is pretty much expected. I don't know that I've ever had someone over here for dinner where there was no "thank you" offered. That's just basic.

          19 Replies
          1. re: Andiereid

            Oh you would be surprised Andiereid at the many that are out there who forget these two magic words: thank you. Granted, it's not as if my wife and I associate with ingrates, but we entertain frequently and this rudeness never ceases to amaze us. Perhaps we are just of an older generation but our close friends seem to find this quite common as well. We don't expect a host/hostess gift, a simple thank-you is thoughtful enough!

            1. re: Andiereid

              There's nothing worse than having to "entertain" people while I'm still running around in the kitchen trying to finish everything up.

              1. re: Marianna215

                We had a large party a few years ago and we had a couple show up 45 minutes EARLY!! I was still getting things ready and hadn't even dressed yet and my husband was in the shower. She said (I kid you not) "We have another party to go to, so we decided to come to yours early so we could make the other one on time." We did not know them well and didn't really want to get to know them after that..

                1. re: Andiereid

                  Agree - the early arrival is the worst - I much prefer people to show up 10-15 minutes after the stated time.

                  Though - we had an open house at Christmas and actually had an unexpected guest show up 30 minutes early - we'd invited his parents, didn't know he and his wife were in town, and since they are good friends of ours, the parents suggested they come and surprise us, but told them the wrong time! Fortunately, since they are good friends, I had no problem serving them a glass of champagne and finishing up what I needed to do while chatting.

                  1. re: Andiereid

                    Could I get a little clarification on "early arrivals" or guests arriving "on time"?

                    I'm assuming that people are inviting their guests to show up anywhere from 1/2 to 1 hour BEFORE dinner is being served, correct? So everyone can get drinks and appetizers, if they're being served? Or are you having them show up just before the dinner, and this particular set of guests showed up 45 minutes before dinner was ready? (And there were no pre-dinner drinks/appetizers.)

                    The thread is centering on dinner being served, and by saying people are early, I'm reading it as you're having them arrive just a few minutes before dinner is being served. This is not just pointed at you Andiereid, but several people talking about "finishing in the kitchen" before their guests arrive, and it's very rare that I'm not in the kitchen for part of the time when guests are there doing the "finishing" of the meal.

                    Just curious what everyone means by "early arrivals" and "arriving on time."

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I was reading this as people showing up before the stated time on the invitation. I would assume that would be at least a half hour before dinner is planned.

                      1. re: debbiel

                        Agreed. If I invite people for 7:30, I'll probably serve dinner at 8:15 - 8:30, depending on how the "flow" of things is going. If you show up at 7:15, you will find me being snippy w/ my husband b/c he's not in the shower yet - though I will do my best not to let that show!. If it's a week night - and we're having one friend to dinner, we usually all want to turn in early, so usually I'll serve dinner pretty soon after the stated time.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          So true. The last 15-30 minutes before I have company coming are a crazed "let see if everyting is done-light the candles, fire,do we have enough of everything, hurry up and change" rush.
                          I always want to be ready and enjoy a glass of wine before everyone arrives, but never actually have...Something to aim for I guess.

                          1. re: troutpoint

                            Ah - I can help you w/ part of your last point - you pour the glass of wine one half hour before the guests are supposed to arrive - regardless of you state of readiness!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Pouring a glass of wine for myself before the party starts is a given, IMO. :-)

                      2. re: LindaWhit

                        Yes, the invitation time for the party was 7:30. They showed up at 6:45. When I say "early arrivals", I personally mean people who show up before the stated start time, regardless of when the meal is being served. If I say "Come for dinner at 6:30, to me it doesn't matter whether I'm actually going to serve dinner at 7:00 (which I usually do), or if I'm serving dinner at 6:45. I do not want anyone arriving at my house prior to 6:30. Within reason - if someone is there at 6:20, I won't be too bent. And by "arriving on time", I mean arriving anywhere at or within 15 minutes past the set time. But a 6:45 arrival for a 7:30 party was WAY over the top for me.

                          1. re: Andiereid

                            OK, got it now.....that's the way I do it as well. Invites say show up at 6-6:30pm, dinner would be around 7:30 or so. I agree - 45 minutes early is WAY too early!

                            I was just obviously reading the posts too literally, I guess.

                            1. re: Andiereid

                              I was once helping the in laws throw a BBQ for relatives in town, we told everyone it would start at 3pm, They all showed up at 9 in the morning looking for breakfast.

                              We've vowed not to answer the door until 3 the next time. Most of the food I was planning for the afternoon was gone by 2 and I had to send out an expedition to pick up more supplies.

                              1. re: Scrapironchef

                                who ARE these people?!

                                a lot of my friends are in the suburbs and we're downtown and traffic is unpredictable, so rather than be too late, I'd rather leave with plenty of time to spare. If we arrive early I'll make my husband drive around or sit in the car until exactly 15 minutes past the stated time -- actually knocking on the door early is just not an option.

                                Arriving for a prior meal just boggles the mind!

                                1. re: orangewasabi

                                  In our family the invitation usually goes something like this: "We'll eat around 4, but there will be snacks and drinks available by around 2."

                                  Then after the meal folks sit around and groan for a few hours, till Grandma gets up and starts getting the food back out or cutting pies.

                          2. re: Andiereid

                            I have friends who know me well enough that if they do arrive early, will sit out in their car until the appointed time or until I come out and tell them it's okay. (If it's not okay... i.e., if I'm not ready, I let them sit.)

                            My MIL and her family used to arrive as much as an hour early. I don't know if they caught on or if someone told them, but they've stopped. (Thank God!!)

                            1. re: abowes

                              When my SIL and her husband first moved here, I would invite them to dinner he would say "what time" and I would say "6:30" and he would say "OK, Great. What time can we come and just start hanging out?" and I would say "uh... 6:30." He finally got the point.

                            2. re: Andiereid

                              If you weren't in NC, I think I know that couple's twin. A couple did that to us for our engagement dinner at our apartment!

                        1. Re: guests starting to eat before the hosts. Obviously this depends on whether it is a sit-down dinner at one table or a buffet dinner with a much larger number of guests who are seated at several tables. In the former case I prefer to wait, unless specifically told by the hosts not to.

                          A related question is this: at a sit-down dinner do you prefer to serve assembled plates, or do you go family style and pass around the serving dishes among the guests? Personally, when I'm a guest I prefer to be served assembled plates as in a restaurant.

                          I agree that there should be more in-hone entertaining. We do it often, but we know some people who rarely do. Also, should there be some minimum expectations for what is served: we were invited to dinner recently and served mac-and-cheese and a jello mold. Of course we thanked and complemented our host politely, but...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TomOHaver

                            oh Tom, you are reminding me of the chicken debacle of 05. we were invited for a dinner with friends of ours who have moved to the suburbs. When the male part of the couple (we'll call him C.) was putting the chicken on the grill, I heard him mumble something about not enough chicken, I quickly offered to run to the store, no no he said it is fine.
                            We sit down to a meal (served at 8:30 with a 2 year old at the table- a clearly overtired 2 year old who is banging his spoon and screeching ). There are three chicken breasts for FOUR adults and one toddler. THey did not cut the chicken into pieces or anything. I wish you could have seen the looks on our (my and my DH's) faces as we wrestled with how to apportion the chicken. The wife shared one with the baby... leaving two for two big guys and me. It was horrible, and a trip to Wendy's on the way home solved the whole thing for us. How odd is that? Let's lay down a minimum expectation of enough food for everyone- I should point out that $$ is NOT an issue for these folks.

                          2. I know this is the subject of ongoing debate, but it annoys me no end when guests bring flowers to a dinner party--especially those (in Manhattan, at least) garishly dyed, butcher-paper wrapped, bred-to-last-forever specimens from the local deli. It only means that in the midst of last-minute kitchen prep, while I'm trying to welcome guests, hang up their coats, get them seated, offer and pour drinks, I've got to stop everything, find a spot in the kitchen not covered with food or dishes to lay down the flowers to cut off the paper to undo the elastic band to find a clean vase to fill with water in a hopefully empty sink and cut the flowers to size and then display them somewhere that doesn't interfere with my already carefully planned decorations just to show my guests how very much I appreciate their thoughtfulness. Aaaargh!

                            This bringing of deli flowers annoys me so much that although I used to say "No, thank you. Everything's taken care of," when people asked if they could bring something, I now say "Yes. Please bring whatever it is you would like to drink that I might not have on hand." It usually forestalls unwanted hostess gifts and often comforts a guests who really wants caffeine-free diet root beer before dinner but wouldn't otherwise say so.

                            As for someone who doesn't thank me, that was the last time they got invited. In fact, depending on the formality of the evening, I think a phone call the next day or--at the very least an e-mail--should be considered standard etiquette.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JoanN

                              Amen to the flower thing! I have had friends either send or drop off flowers (nice) earlier in the day ... that was much better.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                I read a great solution to the flower problem....bring a lovely flowering potted plant. Lasts longer and the host can just plop it somewhere and get back to the evening.

                              2. The most important things to me are that the guests enjoy themselves and help themselves to the food in a most hearty manner. I don't mean to eat like pigs, but a sublime moment is when there is a lull in the conversation because everyone is busy eating, tasting, and enjoying their food--really savoring it instead of just pushing their utensils into their mouths without tasting the food.

                                As for compliments, etc., of course it is always appreciated. But since our friends always return to our parties and dinners, I consider that the best compliment.

                                In terms of having others reciprocate, I don't even think about that. As some have pointed out, in-home entertaining seems to be a lost art.

                                Regarding the guests eating before I do, I know not everyone feels this way, but I always encourage others to start before I do. Growing up, my mother was paranoid about hot food getting cold and would practically beg us to start before she does. So while I'm more easy-going than my mother, I consider it rude to make X amount of guests wait for one person before everyone can eat. I try to avoid this situation by making the kinds of dishes that don't require last-minute prep.

                                The sheer joy of sitting and chowing down with people whom we hold dear to our hearts supersedes anything we can expect to get in return. That's not to say that we don't appreciate thank you cards and baskets, but they are totally unnecessary for us

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                  I think those on your "A" list are privileged. What graciousness!

                                  1. re: gloriousfood

                                    "I always encourage others to start before I do."

                                    Me too. I usually put a lot of effort into making dinner, and I would hate for my guests to judge the meal on cold food! That said, I get annoyed if they start eating without me telling them to.

                                  2. Just a couple of items:

                                    - Most important is have fun and relax;
                                    - Arrive 5-15 minutes after the "scheduled time" or call and say you're running late, no biggie;
                                    - It's polite to bring something, whether for the evening or as a hostess gift. If you bring flowers there is a chance you will not see them again that evening as i am pretty focussed on the meal and Mrs Jfood handles the conversation. If it's wine, I will ask if you would like me to open for the evening. Rarely does that receive a "yes" but it's nice to ask.
                                    - Engage all in conversation, I try to match people from different circles, to expand everyone's town network and who i think would have a lot of commonality
                                    - The Jfoods normally handle the plating and serving. Although I appreciate the help, I've spent time planning the plates and my DW and I have it down to a science.
                                    - Wait for everyone to be served. There is no need to start eating for dinner parties of 6-8. If your food is a couple of degrees cooler because you waited a couple of minutes to all start together, hey that's life, its a dinner party and starting before the hosts sit down is completely rude and totally self-centered. As soon as the last plates (me and DW) are put on the table we sit down, we do nothing in the kitchen to delay our attendence. Started to clean the kitchen while others are waiting in the DR is rude by the hosts;
                                    - Offering to help clear is perfectly acceptable and I will probably love you to help, but let's try not to leave 1 or 2 people seated alone at the table.
                                    - NO SMOKING!!!
                                    - Do not get totally drunk. I try to manage any wine flow and just sorta "run out" when it appears the line is being approached.
                                    - A thank you at the end of the evening is the proper way to end the evening

                                    Nice to haves also include a phone call to Mrs Jfood the next day. Reciprocity is always fun but some friends just do not entertain and we usually see them at our house or in a resto, no biggie.

                                    And as i said up front. Have fun and enjoy. It's not our jobs, relax.

                                    1. The original poster brought up the subject of children. I have two nephews in their late teens. These are big healthy guys, very athletic, with good appetites. Sometimes, on special occasions at my mother's house (Thanksgiving/Xmas/Easter) there are so many people that my mother will put all the food out on a sideboard and then people will help themselves buffet style and sit around the table. Well as soon as the food is served, these two guys jump up and are the first in line and they pile their plates with all the choice cuts. It drives me bonkers. There's their mother, and all their aunts, and their TWO grandmothers waiting for THEM to finish. I just want to grab them by the ears and throw them out in the hall. Their parents won't do anything about it. I always remind them, ladies first, but these two goons just laugh. Otherwise they are actually very sweet guys. They just don't have common courtesy towards women. I know that's old fashioned, but you can't tell me that these two shouldn't wait for their 70-year-old grandmothers to go first. Sorry, maybe this is another thread topic, but it's terrible behaviour for guests, and I fear they are going to behave that way at other people's houses.

                                      How do I deal with these guys without making a scene?

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: ognir

                                        Drives me up a wall when our youth has no manners, but as you said they are a product of their upbringing.

                                        Here's what I've done on occassion. When the two guys bolt to the line i tell them i need them in another room for something and could they help me. Since they are "good guys" they usually follow. When we get outside or to another room i explain that if they want to impress girls they need to show a little more manners and that letting the others go first will really help them in the girl department.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          I respectfully disagree with this approach.Pointing out a lapse in manners is perhaps the greatest lapse in manners. If you must interfere with others' children, do so by having a quick word with their parent (assuming this is your sister or brother, you mentioned the boys are your nephews). Most parents will resent your *helping* them raise their kids, and the kids will resent you acting like their parent. Unless the parent is not present, then have at 'er!

                                          1. re: nummanumma

                                            Playing tattle-tale with your nephews will lead to alienation, both at the parent and the kid level. If you have a quick word with the parents, you'' be deemed uncle jerk, if you engage the kids, without getting them in trouble it's OK.

                                            These are members of the extended family or very close friends of which we have been part of their lives since birth. If you see little Janey picking up a spoon and putting it in her mouth at the T'giving buffet line do you play hall monitor and run to the parents and tattle? No, you step in and guide them along. Likewise with the "nephews" in the OP. No embarassment, turn it into a level that they can understand and they will thank you, and experience has shown this to be the case.

                                            I agree if you are a guest in some casual friends and their children perform like this, it's none of my business.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              I"m assuming your brother or sister wouldn't pass on why they are having word with their children. I guess we can chalk this up to individual family dynamics, just putting another point of view out there. Also, there's a big difference between a three year old and a fifteen year old and how you would handle each.

                                              1. re: nummanumma

                                                Oh boy do we agree on the difference between dealingwith 15 year olds and 3 year olds.

                                                Let me be clear, i would only give adult advice to rationale (use the word lightly) older children. I would NEVER interfere with the little buggers. We raised two wonderful girls, and i have noooooooo desire to get in the middle of 3-year olds and their parents.

                                              2. re: jfood

                                                I butt out most of the time when my 11-year-old nephew behaves deplorably, like last weekend when he was an UNINVITED guest at friends of ours (who are of passing acquaintance to my SIL and her husband) and made a huge scene at table over what he thought was a tiny gnat in his food. Then made ANOTHER huge scene when he thought he found hair in it a minute later. (Neither was the case.) His parents thought it was adorable.

                                                However, when he was at MY table for Thanksgiving and I walked in with the turkey to discover that he'd gotten bored and stabbed the butter knife in the middle of the stick of butter and left it standing straight out, I asked him (nicely) to please remove it and put it on the plate. And if that miffed my SIL, tough cookies.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  I agree with you, jfood. In our family any adult that encounters a child's (3 to 18 years) misbehavior, poor manners, or any other teachable moment is expected to help the child correct the misdeed or learn a better way to handle a particular situation. Of course, we are a family of educators.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I try not to spend so much time worrying about how it would make people feel to be corrected but as you say I am not going to go about and point out bad manners. I will however as the food is placed down tell everyone and the the perpetrators that the older crew goes first. If they dont pay attention I will get in their way. I am not telling them that their manners are poor but I am preventing them from practicing them in my home. No kid is perfect. But if every time you have an event and the goons behave the same way then its everybodys fault not just thier parents.

                                                    1. re: Ljubitca

                                                      "I will however as the food is placed down tell everyone and the the perpetrators that the older crew goes first. If they dont pay attention I will get in their way. "

                                                      That's a very good way to take care of it... and isn't it bad that you even have to say anything?!

                                              3. re: ognir

                                                I have 6 nephews, all happily grown now. In their youth, to keep them from trampling their grandmother, I when the food was ready, buffet-style, I would call grandmother and the mothers of small children to make their plates first. Nephews tried once to join in and were turned away. Never happened again.
                                                My pet peeve about guests is dieters. I go to a lot of trouble to prepare food that is tasty and attractive. I plan a menu that has variety in texture, color and calories. I try to have something for everyone. But invite one serious dieter who only wants an undressed lettuce leaf and the party can be ruined. Other guests suddenly restrain themselves, conversation slows and worst of all, I end up with a ton of leftovers. That's my rant.

                                                1. re: Pampatz

                                                  This is a very good solution re nephews. Thanks for that. I'll try it.

                                                  1. re: Pampatz

                                                    I quite agree about dieters, but a bit of intel goes a long way. Long ago I made it a practice to ask all the invited about dietary restrictions of any sort, or things that they just really disliked, and then adjusted my battle plan. I found that once I knew *in advance* that A didn't eat cauliflower, B was diabetic, and C was on a low-fat diet, I could still put out a decent meal while accomodating everyone. Besides, if someone has been good about maintaining a restricted diet, they can usually take a one-meal holiday.

                                                  2. re: ognir

                                                    I have grown men in my extended family who do that. Also at a thanksgiving dinner, where dishes are being passed, my uncle took about 3 times a normal serving of mashed potatoes, leaving a "dollop" in the bowl with 3 more people to go.

                                                    Or we have the guest that is on a low carb diet, so they fill their plate with the protein item of the meal (which I normally buy according to how many people are going to be there- like an x lb. turkey for x amount of people). Leaving very little for others. And they don't touch the other sides that might have *eek* a few grams of carbs. I normally have more than enough food, but not enough to feed an army when it's only going to be 8 or so people.

                                                    Also drives me crazy at holiday dinners, there are always a few who come late, empty-handed, don't help clean up and then complain that their favorite dessert wasn't made. If I have to hear "where's the pumpkin/pecan/apple pie?" one more year...

                                                    Needless to say, I tend to entertain family a lot, so I HAVE to invite these people. Normally step-siblings and in-laws that I am not close enough with to point out the behavior without them taking offense. This is a good rant post.

                                                    1. re: Lazy Susan

                                                      Wow, never in my life have I seen anyone run out of mashed potatoes.

                                                      1. re: Lazy Susan

                                                        Instead of making just enough food for a dinner, like mashed potatoes, or turkey at a holiday meal, make more than enough to be ready for an issue like this. Best case you have enough food to serve everyone, and your guests dont feel like they are being rationed food, or that they have think twice, or feel guilty about how much of an item they want to eat, or worry about taking the last of an item. Worst case you have alot of leftovers that you can send home with your guests if they want them, or eat yourself in the coming days.

                                                        When I have a party, I make so much food that everyone can pile their plate up with what they want, go back to fill up again, and have food on hand in case the neighbors, or additional guests arrive. I want my guests to feast, and enjoy themselves, not think twice about portion sizes, or worrying about taking the last piece of an item.

                                                      2. re: ognir

                                                        Funny . In my family, the strapping young lads were always served first. Most of the men folk, too, except in the case where there are elderly in attendance. Then its elderly, uncles and older cousins, children, then the aunts and other assorted ladies.

                                                      3. I expect guests to ask if they can bring something, and we sometimes ask for bread or dessert or a salad (if they're people we know well and it's a casual meal). I think it helps people feel involved, since most of our friends don't like to give dinner parties at their homes, but they do seem to like bringing a simple dish to ours.

                                                        If people don't care for the food, they certainly shouldn't volunteer that information. I would expect them to try it, leave it on their plate if they don't like it, and still thank me for a lovely meal (lovely is a great word for this situation). Over thirteen years of giving frequent dinner parties, I've had three real winners: one complained in surprising detail, one made pointed remarks about the way she would cook such a dish, and one even scraped the offending food onto their spouse's plate! And no, none of those people have been invited back.

                                                        If they do like the food, I'm always touched if they compliment it specifically, instead of just, "it's good!"

                                                        1. I expect punctuality (15 min late at the most) and general good manners. By which I mean:

                                                          Do offer to help, but don't take over the operation or tell me I'm doing things wrong
                                                          Do tell me if you have any food allergies or aversion, but don't wait until 5 minutes before dinner
                                                          Do stick around after dinner for small talk and coffee, but don't overstay your welcome - if i'm yawning and stretching, take the hint
                                                          Do make conversation with other guests, but don't attack their eating habits or personal beliefs
                                                          Do bring a hostess gift if you want, but don't upstage me with a showstopping cake or a $500 bottle of wine

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: piccola

                                                            I meant to mention that, piccola. I like my guests to stay and visit, but not until the wee hours. We have a joke about saying, "Honey, let's go to bed so these nice people can leave!" (Obviously, we've never done it, but there are times it's been tempting...)

                                                            1. re: Andiereid

                                                              For years, my dad (who is an insanely early riser), has just very pleasantly thanked everyone for coming, said goodnight, and gone to bed. My mother doesn't mind, and their friends have mostly gotten used to it (and usually take the hint and leave shortly after).

                                                              1. re: Tartinet

                                                                I've pulled this one a few times, but only when it is obvious that DH is enjoying himself and i'm being a wet blanket. I just go to bed- of course i mean when we are dealing with quite good friends.

                                                                1. re: nummanumma

                                                                  Nothng says the party is over like a police siren...Or a snore from the host! :)

                                                                  1. re: nummanumma

                                                                    With very good friends, I have pulled out the line, "You don't have to go home, you just can't stay here!" Everyone laughs and understands I've been having a lot of health problems lately and can't stay up as late as I used to.

                                                            2. Rule #1 is have fun.
                                                              Rule #2 is don't be an a**hole.
                                                              Rule #3 is don't stay too late (tip - when the children start being completely obstinate and/or my wife has fallen asleep on the couch, that's probably a good indicator that you should think about heading home).

                                                              Otherwise, I run a pretty loose ship. Part of it is necessity because my friends/family are just those kinds of people, and part of it is that I have been to parties where I've gotten the impression that the host has a mental scorecard of ettiquette violations and is getting steamed at me and I'm not even sure why. Not fun.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: jzerocsk

                                                                Your Rule #3 is great. I generally put people to work cleaning up should they overstay their welcome.

                                                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                                  Good idea about putting them to work.
                                                                  In my family, serving coffee means that it is time to go. After they finish their coffee of course!. If I think they need a nudge I'll say that I am making decaf "because it's so late."

                                                                  I once had a family member that came for easter brunch and stayed until about 8 that night... And only left because I started to get my kids ready for bed!

                                                              2. I expect guests to be honest with me about food allergies and strong dislikes before I set the menu, e.g. if just seeing mushrooms makes you hurl then let me know, or if you won't/can't eat fish/pork/veal/onions/whatever then JUST LET ME KNOW so I won't set it down in front of you.

                                                                The OP wrote "I would prefer if guests don't start eating until I sit down with them. I feel like a wait person instead of a dinner companion when people *dig in* while I'm still bringing the food to the table or plating other guests' meals." My younger son is taking Cotillion classes that include this lesson,and we're teaching the more difficult lesson of when to apply the RULE that you don't take a bite until your host(ess) either takes a forkful or demands that you begin eating.

                                                                May I suggest that if you present plates to some of your guests and then return to the kitchen to continue plating for the rest of them, that you are setting yourself up for this boorish behavior. Better to plate them all before presenting the first one.

                                                                Saying thanks that evening is required, a call or card the next day is better, and reciprocation is better still.

                                                                1. I expect:
                                                                  #1- a call if you're running late ( more then 20 min)
                                                                  #2- bring your appetite and personality ( not neccessarily in that order)
                                                                  #3- enjoy everyone around ( odds are you know them)
                                                                  #4- drink but don't get plastered ( i don't let my dog slobber so ....)
                                                                  #5- compliments are always nice but not necessary, the cleaned plates usually tell the story.
                                                                  #6- reciprocity I do not expect ( we'll get together in bistro or pub if people are not comfortable hosting a dinner party)
                                                                  #7- I always warm my plates ( my mother's trick) food stay warm. So people can wait for the hosts without getting cold food
                                                                  #8- thank you at the end is appreciated but most of my friends are "thank you" note writers
                                                                  that does it for me

                                                                  1. A question along these lines... One poster writes "Do tell me if you have any food allergies or aversion, but don't wait until 5 minutes before dinner." I am a vegetarian, and here's my dilemma... When invited to dinner at a host's house who I don't know well (if at all), I'm never sure whether or not to make a point of passing along word that I don't eat meat / fish beforehand. I haven't done this in the past, because I feel like by doing so I'm passing along a not-so-subtle hint that I expect special 'accommodations', which is not the case. Sure, it would be great to be asked if I had any dietary restrictions or special requests (as I always try to do when inviting guests over to my house), but it simply doesn't happen all that often. Not to mention the fact that many folks simply choke at the word 'vegetarian' and I'd rather not cause any menu-planning anxiety. So what is my responsibility? The last time I was in this situation, I was at the house of a colleague and was asked how I would like my steak. I simply said thank you, but I would pass. Then the hostess asked, "Oh, are you vegetarian?" I just said that I was and that I would be fine -- I had a nice plate of side dishes -- but I did feel awkward. I'm curious about how other CH'er feel about this scenario...

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: spyturtle008

                                                                      If I were the host and I forgot to ask you about food preferences/needs (and I've been there!), I would want you to tell me as soon as possible.

                                                                      What I'd love to hear would be, "Just so you know, I'm a vegetarian, but I certainly won't be offended if you serve meat. I'm always happy eating side dishes, and I'll be fine. In fact, if you like, I'm happy to bring a side dish to share with everyone. I make a great [whatever] that I think you'd really like."

                                                                      That way your hosts know about your veggie-ism, and they can decide how to deal with it. Either by making something vegetarian for everyone, accepting your offer of a contribution, or just letting you eat the side dishes they were planning already.

                                                                      I've been in that situation before (host of a secretly vegetarian guest), and I felt terrible. I should have asked ahead of time, but I didn't, and I wish she had spoken up. I didn't blame her for it, though.

                                                                      1. re: Tartinet

                                                                        in a perfect world, a host would ask guests about any special dietary needs. however, in these times special diets have become so legion (don't eat carbs, wheat-free, allergic to shellfish, eat meat but not dairy, no refined sugar, etc..) that it can be difficult. still, if i am planning on cooking for someone and do not already know what they eat, i will often ask, "is there anything special i need to know about your diet" or something to that effect.

                                                                        that said, there is little that feels worse at a dinner party than to have worked all day to prepare, say, a delicious tenderloin and to suddenly discover that your guest only wants rice and salad. its awkward for both the host and the guest. if they don't ask, please do find a way to let them know.

                                                                        if you are invited to someones home to eat, graciousness dictates that you receive what is offered with a smile whenever possible. the type of pickyness we might display in our own kitchens is no longer appropriate. that said, if you honestly cannot or will not eat any particular foods, the best time to let your host know is well before you come.

                                                                      2. re: spyturtle008

                                                                        I'm vegetarian too. Most of the time, this isn't an issue since everyone in my extended network knows. But on the odd chance I'm being invited someplace new, I always mention it at the moment of invitation. I usually make a point to say that I'll eat anything that isn't meat, fowl or fish - cheese and eggs are fine, pasta's great, rice works, etc. It usually reassures people to hear all the stuff you *will* eat.

                                                                        If I know it's buffet-style, I might offer to bring something.

                                                                        And if it's really a spur-of-the-moment thing and nothing else can be done, I explain to the host (so they don't think I'm criticizing their cooking) and just stick to the sides.

                                                                        1. re: piccola

                                                                          It's funny how that works isn't it? I have a dairy allergy, and for a long time was also allergic to wheat. I got a *lot* of well what DO you eat comments... as if everything on the table had dairy or wheat.
                                                                          People who don't know me frequently think I'm bold, or rude because I ask quite firmly about ingredients - because I also have a deathly nut allergy - if someone seems to blow off my question or isn't sure, I don't eat the item in question. I make a point of telling hosts who don't know me well about this allergy because having to stick me with my epi pen then load me into an ambulance would ruin everyone's night! ;-)

                                                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                            I too have a life-threatening allergy and I always say the same old joke to my hosts....."I have to be careful to not eat even eat the smallest amount of nuts.....I would like to leave the drama of the evening to the wonderful food and company and not to an unexpected ambulance ride...;)

                                                                      3. Please please please tell me allergies and dislikes. If you do not like fish or seafood, tell me. Liver, out the door, vegan, i'll make sure there is something to serve you as well as the other vegans.

                                                                        If you have an allergy to something, especially if being around a certain ingredient, you can rest assured there will be none in anyone's dish or in the prep. What i think is crossing the line is a guest telling me that (s)he is a such and such and refuses to eat at a table at which that such and such is served. Then again no problem, the invited guests will enjoy the meal.

                                                                        1. #1 most important is to RSVP yes or no by the day I've specified in my invite (usually e-mail). I hate it when invitees:

                                                                          -leave me hanging, forcing me to chase them down by phone or e-mail
                                                                          -call the day of and basically imply they'd still like to come, is it okay?
                                                                          -change their minds at the last second and don't show, leaving me with a ton of food.
                                                                          -ignore my "please reply by" date because they don't realize that to cook a meal for 10 in a one bedroom apartment (or invite more guests/change the menu if a lot of people decline), I need to know at least a rough number by the weekend before.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Pei


                                                                            That is the worst and it seems to be more and more common.

                                                                            1. re: Pei

                                                                              Yes! Why? Why! Can't! People! RSVP! For a dinner where it's just another couple, it's not a problem - we're in direct communication. But WHY for a larger dinner party does NO ONE let me know they're coming or not? I have tried everything. I thought maybe they didn't know what RSVP meant, so I put "The favor of a reply is requested". I've also tried "Regrets only" NO ONE responds! It just stuns me. Inevitably, I have to chase down everyone, and when I finally do, I always get "Oh, I thought my husband/wife told you..."

                                                                              1. re: Andiereid

                                                                                Such a pet peeve! At first, I thought it was my age group (I'm 26), but recently, I threw a baby shower and I asked for everyone to respond by a certain date... most of the invitees were anywhere between 50 and 90, and hardly a one RSVP-ed!!! In fact, everyone my age RSVP-ed with one exception, so I don't know what the correlation is. Oh, and I provided my address, two phone numbers, and an e-mail address... grrrrrr!

                                                                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                                                                  I designed baby shower invites for my sister in law 11 years ago. And the majority of my sister in laws family had no idea what RSVP meant. My father in his cheeky manner told me that not everyone in the world takes french phrases like american's and adapts them into their culture and expects an understanding. I found this to be true most of these women were over age 40 and were Chilean born and not one of them RSVP'd. I do not write those four letters on anything anymore I simply write - please respond by date. Even then some folks wont reply...

                                                                                  1. re: Ljubitca

                                                                                    This is a new one to me...Who ARE these people? I've never encountered someone who didn't know what RSVP meant.

                                                                                    1. re: mangiatore

                                                                                      Well I would have never believed it until I didnt get one call. If the majority of the guest list is not American and not French its better to just say please reply by in plain english.

                                                                            2. For the most part, I agree with everyone. Sometimes, I won't have a formal 'dinner party' but invite people over at the last minute on a weeknight etc. I just love to cook for people - and I think we do a pretty good job at hosting. We have fun and like our guests to have fun too.
                                                                              When we are doing something a little more formal we always ask people if there are any allergies etc - and often I'll tell people what I plan to cook at the time that I invite them. We have vegetarian friends over often - sometimes I'll make an entire vegetarian meal, sometimes I'll make variations so that people can choose.
                                                                              Our friends like to drink, and that's fine by us - but it's great when they bring a bottle of wine (especially when they plan on drinking the whole thing!). It can get expensive to buy the whole meal and then supply all the alcohol - but our friends always bring wine.
                                                                              It's also nice to be thanked, but I haven't found that to be a problem. I'll often ask people to start without me, but I don't keep them waiting long either. Often I'll plate the protein of the meal and then we'll all pass around side dishes.
                                                                              We try to invite an eclectic crowd and this is usually a success - but we did really have trouble once with one guest who was far too opinionated and made everybody uncomfortable. My approach to this situation was to ask if everyone wanted to go out to our local bar to finish off the evening. That way, uncomfortable people could leave if they so chose, and at least there's a bit more space and neutral ground at a public space. That guest will never be invited back.
                                                                              I very much agree that people should leave at the sign of fatigue or hints of fatigue from the hosts.
                                                                              On the subject of reciprocation - we would love to be asked to more dinner parties. I think people are intimidated to ask us because we do a good job at hosting - which is too bad, we're fine to go out to dinner etc if people can't entertain in their homes. Also, we're of the age where we're at the early end of our professional lives. Some of our friends are still in school for graduate studies. We're one of a few couples who own a house and have a big enough space to entertain - it can be really hard to have people over in an apartment. Although we understand this situation, it would still be nice to be asked - but we'll keep entertaining in the meantime!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. I don't have any "rules" for guests. I do have hopes that they come and enjoy the dinner I have prepared. Husband and I entertain often and enjoy hosting family and friends and think a successful party is one with plenty of tasty food and a relaxed host. My one pet peeve is if guests don't like something to not go into details of what is "wrong" with either my preparation or lack of technique-that is just plain rude. A no thank you is enough or leave it on your plate. Also in same vain I don't need excuses made for me if I blow something-I usually am the first to own up to it. Just come over, eat what you want, and have a good time.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: foodseek

                                                                                  I am in complete agreement. For years we have experienced guests with excellent manners to guests who lacked manners and as a result nothing surprises me anymore. Having rules only makes me frustrated and less likely to enjoy myself at my own party.

                                                                                2. I have this friend who always says, "I don't usual like (insert type of food), but this is pretty good." it drives us crazy.
                                                                                  The other thing that drives me crazy is when someone turns their nose up at a dish before even trying it.
                                                                                  Lastly, don't salt and pepper your food before you taste it. we have stopped putting salt and pepper on the table at our dinner parties.
                                                                                  Also, offer to help clean up. you don't actually have to do it, but at least pretend you want to pitch in.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: strephking

                                                                                    "Lastly, don't salt and pepper your food before you taste it. we have stopped putting salt and pepper on the table at our dinner parties."

                                                                                    Excellent point! Some of my friends know better, others don't, so to solve this problem I try to educate my guests about the dish I'm preparing as I place it on the table (e.g. "this is a seafood pasta -- that's why I didn't bring parmesan to the table"). This prevents those uncomfortable scenarios where someone asks me for a spice or condiment that would ruin the dish.

                                                                                    1. re: strephking

                                                                                      "The other thing that drives me crazy is when someone turns their nose up at a dish before even trying it."
                                                                                      I totally agree on this one - I think that - barring food allergies -- you should try everything. I used to hate mushrooms, and fell in love with them one night after politely trying a balsamic mushroom dish at someone's house. Someone struggled to make all those dishes, you should at least take a bite.

                                                                                      1. re: Marianna215

                                                                                        This of course pertains to new ingredients and to dishes folks find exotic, like your mushroom experience - not to people who dont eat meat and are being offered a meat dish? That is just not going to happen.

                                                                                    2. I don't ask for much--enjoy yourselves and don't eat like a pack of starving wolverines. Nice extras? Don't salt/season the food until you've tried it (pet peeve) and do not quiz me on who else will be there and what's being served and then follow it up with how I should change the menu/company to best suit your tastes. My answer will be, "I'm so sorry you can't join us. Perhaps another time."

                                                                                      As for the flowers, I grew up in a Swedish neighborhood in a half-Swedish family. If you didn't arrive with flowers...well, unkind things were thought about your upbringing. The easy solution is to fill a vase with water and set it somewhere out of your way. If someone presents you with flowers, bung 'em in the water to keep them alive until you have time to deal with them. Or, if your still doing last minute prep, ask the bringer if they'd mind unwrapping them and putting them in the vase for you while thanking them profusely for their kindness, of course.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Anko

                                                                                        I was taught it is better to send the flowers earlier in the day or the next day as a thank you to help avoid adding stress to the hostess...would that sit well with you Anko?

                                                                                      2. Re: the dietary restrictions of guests... this might seem backwards to many hosts, but when I have a dinner party (with my grad student friends, so usually more informal, and it lasts late, everyone gets sloshed... hmmm, we've already broken some "rules"!) I like to email out the prospective menu to all the guests a few days in advance. Like, "Come over to my house! I'm making baby lettuce and goat cheese salads, risotto, and roast rack of lamb!" I find that this helps people get excited about coming over, and indicates that they should RSVP (and not be late!), and also it sets the level of expectation if they bring a side (i.e. when I say bring bread, I mean a baguette, not wonderbread), etc. If they ask to bring something, they can bring a wine that pairs, or a dessert. And then, when I get 2 email responses, one from a friend who has recently (and surprisingly) turned vegetarian, and another from a friend who apologetically reveals that he raised sheep as a child and cannot eat lamb, but the rest of the menu sounds gorgeous and he'll happily come, I still have time to scrap the menu (not even having purchased the lamb yet) and just make the risotto and a spectacular dessert.

                                                                                        works for me.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: meels

                                                                                          Good call, meels. I usually tell my friends when I invite them what I'm planning to serve. "We're having ribs -- you guys like ribs, right?" Or "come over for a BBQ," and without naming specifically what we're cooking (in case we haven't decided yet) people still have an idea of the dress/tone/type of food.

                                                                                          I don't like to "surprise" my guests with what they'll be eating. Because I don't want to be surprised if they have a problem with it!

                                                                                        2. My question is even more basic, how insistent on good etiquette should you be with your own children and to what age. Lack of etiquette from guests is just about beyond our control and losing ground rapidly, but how oppressive can i be with my own children. This has become a sore spot around here as my wife does no table etiquette instruction. Elbows and forearms off the table, chew with your mouth closed, dont remove food with your teeth, say something nice to the food preparer or say nothing, etc. Comments, suggestions?

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: dijon

                                                                                            <<My question is even more basic, how insistent on good etiquette should you be with your own children and to what age.>>

                                                                                            I would say very insistent, until the age that they behave properly. It's not being 'oppressive' - unless you teach them appropriate behavior and what is expected of them, they'll be rude terrors who will never be invited to anyone's home for a meal a second time. Then you'll have to eat with them for the rest of your life. :)

                                                                                            1. re: dijon

                                                                                              I don't have kids yet, so it's time to get out your grain of salt, but I think it's important to teach kids manners. You want at least minimum-standard table manners to be second nature to your kids by the time they're eating meals without you around to correct them. If I were you, I'd focus on enforcing the "eww, gross" manners (mouth closed, no spitting out, etc). You can mention the niceties too (no elbows, no complaints, etc), but I'd focus on firming up the basics first, and then refine.

                                                                                              I read a great idea for teaching more formal manners to smallish kids (between 5 and 10 maybe?): First, talk with the kids about appropriate manners for a formal event or nice restaurant for a few nights at dinnertime, so they're prepared. Then make a "fancy" meal for the kids and a friend or two, and have mom(s) and dad(s) be the servers. The kids can all dress up, parents can wear "server uniforms" and you can welcome them into the "restaurant". Set a "fancy" table, make menus listing what's for dinner, turn on quiet classical music, and give them reminders here and there about what they've learned about formal manners. It won't work for all kids, but they might be proud to use their new grown-up manners in front of a friend or two, and what kid doesn't like to see their parents serving them?

                                                                                              1. re: dijon

                                                                                                When my friends' daughter was growing up they taught her a few manners at a time from an early age. It worked well for them because they didn't need to harp on everything she did and she never felt uptight when it came to manners.

                                                                                              2. Most of my entertaining is pretty casual. Still, I do appreciate it when my guests show up on time. I'm not a fan of making everyone wait on one late person.

                                                                                                I do wish more people would reciprocate. In my social circle, my boyfriend and I are the most frequent hosts, by far. I love entertaining, but I'd be happy if someone else took hosting duties sometimes, too.

                                                                                                1. I think there are also some "rules" for the host(ess) as well. Some points have been volunteered by many above so it seems that most understand that a dinner (party) is a two way street.

                                                                                                  I believe I have been a good guest and hostess most of the time--learning more each time I am out (or entertaining at home).

                                                                                                  The one thing that drives me crazy as a guest is the host(ess) not having enough food. An earlier poster mentioned the 3 chicken breasts for 4 adults and a toddler. Egads. Every year I am invited to a dinner party at one person's home (not a close friend but more of a business contact). Each portion is carefully measured out with no leftovers or possibility of seconds. She cooks very well and does have a large group over. Since the portions are not plated, rather we pass the serving dishes around the table, I hold my breath each year that someone new doesn't try to take more than their allotted serving. It hasn't happened yet so we are all prepared. I have friend who's home I occasionally I am invited to for dinner or buffet who also is skimpy on the amount of food. I deal with it and plan for either a late snack or snack ahead. I come from a European background where we always had lots food served with abundant supply. Maybe too much but we encouraged seconds and thirds. And leftovers to go.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: eve

                                                                                                    Completely agree. If I"m having four for dinner, I've got enough food for at least eight. Bf doesn't mind leftovers, so that works out well. But I've also noticed that with enough drink and good feelings... often times all the food gets eaten. So better too much than too little.

                                                                                                    1. re: eve

                                                                                                      I agree, guests shouldn't have to worry about taking more than "their share" They should be able to relax and enjoy the food and company.

                                                                                                      However... I know someone who went to a dinner at a Korean friend's house, and didn't know that the cultural tradition was to put out far more food than the group could possibly eat. So she thought the big bowl of extra-spicy kimchee was a salad, served herself a huge heap, and dug in. Yow.

                                                                                                    2. Totally agree on the amount of food - I'm always "accused" (by family) of cooking too much food - better to have too much than too little food in my book!

                                                                                                      1. No knife fights, no gunplay, no food fights, no use of cattle prods on our three year old. Slurping and choffing my food is acceptable. No talking about work. No smoking, but drinking to excess must be all right or it wouldn't happen so often, would it?

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                          Well that depends. My parents once invited a couple over to try my Dad's favorite filet mignon. The wife got so drunk she threw up in her dinner plate!!! Needless to say, after cleaning up and making sure she was all right, they were escorted to the door and never invited back!

                                                                                                        2. I had a very annoying experience on New Years Eve where all our friends were keen to have a night at someone's place with good food and wine instead of spending a fortune on a set menu somewhere. After some not so subtle hints about where we should hold the event, we put our hand up (we had moved in on 20 December - need I say more about how little I wanted to host a NYE dinner party after just getting through Christmas amonst boxes). Some people bought a side, so I did the bulk of the work. Anyway, everyone got on the booze as soon as they got there to the point that by 9pm everyone was hammered and noone wanted to eat - so a fully set table groaning with expensive food sat there virtually untouched - and I am a chronic overcaterer. Anyone that has prepared a meal for a decent no of people (12 in this case) on a special oaccasion knows the time, effort and expense that goes into something like that - needless to say I wont be doing it again, at least not for that group of friends (who clearly had no understanding of the effort involved). Dont get me wrong, I love a drink, but I was really disappointed at the complete absence of etiquette that night, New Years Eve or not.

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: button

                                                                                                            Oh, I would have been absolutely PISSED if that happened to me! A group of friends and I often do the same thing - gather at one person's house and we all make the meal, bringing various components. But we all stay relatively sober. :-)

                                                                                                            1. re: button

                                                                                                              Never host a New Years party. All rules go out the window that night.

                                                                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                I think it depends on the size of the party. We usually keep it to about 10 people, with others who drop in for apps in the earlier part of the night as they're heading to their own parties. So far, we've done OK with that number. The average age of the group is probably late 30'ss/early 40's, so we've (mostly ) gotten past the getting-schnockered-as-fast-as-we-can stage.

                                                                                                            2. What dries me and my mom completely nuts is when we serve dinner buffet style, and someone pulls chairs up to the table where the food is laid out and eats over the buffet. It makes it so awkward for everyone else to serve themselves. Never mind the time that we roasted a whole pork butt and a relative and his two last minute guests ate 75% of the meat before anyone else could reach over them and serve themselves.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                                                                                Ooooooh this is a bad one...really really bad.

                                                                                                              2. Please don't come early.

                                                                                                                Please don't be late.

                                                                                                                Please don't follow me around in the kitchen as I am finishing preparation of meal.

                                                                                                                Please don't refuse to sit when I call you to the table.

                                                                                                                Please don't serve yourself with your dinner fork (or your hand...this happened once...they just reached inside the chicken and slapped some stuffing on their plate!)

                                                                                                                Please if you ask what dish to bring bring the dish I suggest or something really similar. If I say salad please don't bring scalloped potatoes.

                                                                                                                Man, I sound like a total P.I.A

                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: bolivianita

                                                                                                                  <<Please if you ask what dish to bring bring the dish I suggest or something really similar. If I say salad please don't bring scalloped potatoes.>>

                                                                                                                  Amen! I hosted a dinner party a few weeks ago and my friend asked me the night before what she could bring. I said something vegetable-y, since we had so much heavy pasta coming already (regular macaroni and cheese, soy macaroni and cheese, and lasagna). She arrived with macaroni and cheese.

                                                                                                                  1. re: marmite

                                                                                                                    Is she from the south? ...where restaurant menus sometimes read, "entrees come with choice of vegetable: broccoli, spinach, or macaroni and cheese"


                                                                                                                    1. re: Tartinet

                                                                                                                      No. :) Hers did end up being the tastiest mac and cheese, and of course I was happy she came to the party and everyone had fun, but it was a curious choice, to me. It will live in everyone's memory as the Macaroni and Cheese party.

                                                                                                                      I need to go back to the south! M&C with every meal!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Tartinet

                                                                                                                        That is strange. I have lived my entire life in Mississippi and I have never seen mac and cheese listed on a menu as a "vegetable" --- a "side" perhaps, but not a vegetable. That is a new one on me.

                                                                                                                  2. The only real expectation I have of dinner guests is that they show up (preferably on time) and if for some reason they CAN'T come after all that they give me as much notice as possible so that I'm not left holding the baby. Just not showing up is unspeakably rude. If you are invited to dinner and you just don't show up, I expect to hear that somebody died that day... not that you 'forgot' or 'got tied up'.
                                                                                                                    I guess I also expect them to eat what's on the table, or at least whatever part of it they feel comfortable with, and to tell me in advance if they have any special dietary needs. If I know they have a particular food requirement I'll do my best to accommodate it, but I have to know about it first.

                                                                                                                    1. I require few things from dinner guests:

                                                                                                                      1. Don't show up late (early is fine).
                                                                                                                      2. (Most importantly) Have Fun!

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: QueenB

                                                                                                                        That's pretty much my list, too. Its always nice if, when someone shows up, they'll start mixing drinks.

                                                                                                                        1. re: QueenB

                                                                                                                          I love "on-time" or even "a wee-bit-late", but I hate early. Since most of my dinners necessitate family members, we deal with this....this early thing, since it's family. Heavy sigh.

                                                                                                                          Just NUTHIN' like tearing around the kitchen gettings things ready, anticipating a quick shower and a change of clothes, and BRRRRing goes the doorbell, and there are your guests, saying "they had nothing better to do."

                                                                                                                          I time my meals pretty well. I time my house prep pretty well. If I say "arrive at 6:30 for dinner at 7" it doesn't mean "arrive at 5:45 to see me in a cooking tee and a pair of old shorts."

                                                                                                                          If a really good friend truly wants to come to help, then they should call and make the arrangements. Otherwise, guests, don't arrive early thinking it's a good thing.

                                                                                                                        2. don't be late, and DON'T eat before you come over! ugh!

                                                                                                                          1. Some of the peeves on the thread, I agree with, so I won't go back to them. I have a few very specific ones I'd like to share:

                                                                                                                            #1: Don't complain about the method of invitation... just answer it. BF and I have very casual dinner parties. We try to serve well-prepared, experimental food, but the environment is buffet-style and we sit around the living room, not the dining table (too small). Hence, the invitation doesn't need to be formal and we often use Evite (don't kill me!). We have a friend that used to REFUSE to answer the invitation on the grounds that it was an impolite way to invite people. We would have to call him each time. I agree that it's not the invitation to use to a formal dinner party or a big event, but these are simple get-togethers with good friends. He answers them now, after he had to resort to using it for a party of his own. :P

                                                                                                                            #2: Do not talk about yourself endlessly for hours on end. Corallary: Do not complain to the host about her friends. We have a friend that tells long, self-involved (read: you can't be involved in the convo and you almost never relate to them) stories for hours. Since the group often comprised of BF and my friends and she was a friend of BF's, that half of the group would sit and listen for as long as they can. My friends would listen at first, but politely branch off and start their own conversations. She would complain about what jerks my friends were. One of them recently tested her by sitting and listening to her for a couple of hours... guess what? He's now a great guy.

                                                                                                                            #3: Don't assume that I can spend the last half hour before the party helping you find your way to my house. I have a directionally-challenged friend who, despite being given directions via email, refuses to print them out or use Mapquest. She will call several times in the last half hour and ask for help, when I'm scrambling to finish up the meal. She literally wants you to give her the directions as she hits each intersection and she will still get lost in spite of it.

                                                                                                                            On the other hand, this is a great group of people who always offer to help, offer to bring stuff, always shows appreciation, have great conversations, etc. So, the above pet peeves are generally minor inconveniences.

                                                                                                                            Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                              You're a good friend. I think if someone didn't like the way he was invited, he would be welcome to ignore the invite... and not attend. Same for the obnoxious friend who didn't like the other friends: perfect excuse to stop inviting her. But I realize life is not that simple and you are a loyal & tolerant friend who will probably always be surrounded by the same!

                                                                                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                                                                                Thanks, Jules. :) I can't, however, take too much credit for tolerance. BF has gotten many, many earfuls about the overly-talkative friend (she's the SO of his very good friend... alienate her, alienate the friend) and it's been a very long road to simply tuning her out and subtly directing conversation flows elsewhere. I'm not very good with letting frustration roll off my back, so she has definitely been a life lesson for me!

                                                                                                                                The Evite friend... well, it's funny how quickly people change their minds when they experience things for themselves. It was when he hosted a couple of parties, he didn't have a more efficient method than Evite, and few people RSVP'd that it kind of clicked that not responding and being judgmental were both rude and counterproductive. He's good about responding now, so all's well.

                                                                                                                              2. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                geekyfoodie, do I know you? I'd like to introduce myself. I'm #3. :)

                                                                                                                                I use Mapquest, but still manage to get lost - every time. Is it ok to call 1/2 an hour after the party begins? :)

                                                                                                                                1. re: silleehillee

                                                                                                                                  The cardboard cutout of Elvis is out in the yard. You can't miss it! :)

                                                                                                                                  I don't think you know me, although I was once an LA native (checked your profile because I was like, "Crap! Did she catch me posting about her?"). To be fair, I do understand issues with getting lost, etc. However, when I'm scrambling to get dinner finished, that's not the time to expect turn-to-turn directions. Plus, she always ends up calling from the house across the street and saying, "I'm on your porch!"

                                                                                                                                  Cardboard cutouts of Elvis. Bright lights. I'll do whatever it takes!

                                                                                                                              3. Has anyone been invited to a dinner party and the host arrived late? Happens with one particular set of inlaws, nice enough couple with 4 busy kids BUT please...if you're going to invite 20 people over, insist that you can handle all the details-you should show up on time to follow thru! I dread the annual Mother's Day pissing contest as to who's home is large enuf to accommodate "the whole family" and this particular couple usually screams the loudest to host...and then makes us wait in the driveway as they return from church, shopping, sports clubs....crazy!

                                                                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                  Oy vay. I just hope the food's already prepared!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                    lol, exactly! Sometimes we wait outside with the caterer, sometimes we wait for the oven to heat up...it's ridiculous!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                      My family's the opposite... they've avoided the pissing contest for years (whenever they're still speaking) by going out to eat during the holidays. People would look at me with such pity when I told them Turkey Day dinner involved an evening at a Thai restaurant!

                                                                                                                                      My favorite memory is of Chinese New Year's dinner at an Italian restaurant (don't ask ;)) and my uncles imbibed a little too much and were strolling out of the restaurant calling out "Happy New Year!" at passerby.

                                                                                                                                      It was February.

                                                                                                                                      Some people, to their credit, did realize why a group of drunk Chinese-Americans were wishing them a happy new year.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                        geekyfoodie, you just made my day! In any form--its just bad form LOL!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: geekyfoodie

                                                                                                                                          Whenever I have been to eat at someone's house,I have always tried to be on time.I always tell them thank you,and even offer to help them clean the table and wash dishes.Even when visiting my great aunts years ago in Hot Springs,I would help them with clean up and so would my mom.Of course they would tell us to just relax and visit,but my sister and I would at least dry the dishes
                                                                                                                                          for them anyway.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                      Oh, I was such a host once, but I had a valid excuse--I had to be taken to the er. I sliced my finger pretty good, required 6 stitches. It was for our daughter's 9th birthday party. Thankfully our son was old enough to greet the relatives. Once the family heard they just laughed because this wasn't the first time.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Living4fun

                                                                                                                                        Living4fun, a medical emergency would certainly constitute understanding on my part of that of the other 22 guests waiting in your driveway!

                                                                                                                                        Showing up 20 mins late because you stopped at Macy's to catch a sale before arriving to your own home to greet YOUR guests is just too crazy for words!