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What Etiquette Do You Expect of Your HOST?

Here's the situation. My mother-in-law likes to have dinner parties but she expects me, or other female guests (like her other daughter in law), to do a lot of work to help her. Set the table, lay the food out, clear the table, do the dishes. It's a fair amount of work, as we all know. I work full time, and very long hours, and live about 50 minutes drive from my MIL. I don't want to go over to her house and work her party!

When I entertain I ask my husband and housekeeper to help so that my guests can be guests.

My husband told his mother once that if I am invited as a guest, I like to be a guest, and I didn't like spending the evening working in the kitchen. So, after that, next party, she had her neighbor help do all the pre work and then come over to do the dishes afterward. I was so embarrassed and sent that neighbor home. Today she invited us for dinner in March or April and, guest what, I'm not going!

This is perhaps better suited on Craigslist under "Rants & Raves" but the question is whether as a guest do you volunteer to help the host or if the host asks for significant help, how do you feel about that?

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  1. Bless your husband for protecting you. I am all for honoring the MIL. But I have big problems with people who have parties and expect others to bring the food, clean the house, run the party, do the clean up. If you can't do the party alone, get some help. But don't expect family/friends to do all the work.

    If you need help pay some one, guests should be guests, not guilted into the being unpaid heip. If she askes the neighbor, let the neighbor do the work.

    I don't thing a guest should feel they need to offer to help or provide food. They are a guest. If the host askes for help, that has to be decided on an individual basis. But every party asking for help, I don't think so.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Janet

      Thank you for the support! I should have let the neighbor do the work, in retrospect!

    2. Wow, it makes me wonder what your MIL has left to do herself. Actually, in my mom's family, which is quite large, many people do participate in hosting duties, not just those at whose house the gathering happens to be, but no one pretends it is a "dinner party" at which some are guests and some are hosts -- it is a family gathering at which all family participate in cooking or washing up or taking care of the little kids while others are doing the cooking, etc. Personally, I love those gatherings. But if it is a dinner party at which most attendees are treated as guests, then it's wrong to invite you and then treat you as household staff.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. I can see asking for help from a relative, but that's ridiculous. And to have the neighbor over for the prep and the clean-up but not the party is kind of atrocious. My mother frequently asks me or my aunt to help out at her larger parties, but we are usually just there to keep her company and to set out the condiments or slice up the cheese--nothing that could be considered "labor." If you can't handle the party on your own and have to hijack your loved ones for the evening, you should have a smaller and simpler party. Your husband sounds like a gem, but it might be fun to ask your MIL why she hasn't asked HIM to help out at the parties:-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Heatherb

            I do like to help here and there, but in a way that any guest would....
            My husband is a gem but his mother never taught him to do anything around the house. She did everything for the boys and thought that there time was better spent on other things - sports, homework, whatever. As a result, he really learned a lot from me when we hooked up! :-) Until he met me, he never loaded a dishwasher, cleared his dish from the table, and I could go on and on.... Now, he appreciates how nice i try to make things for him so he pitches in a LOT ona daily basis and more so with parties -- but he does expect me to have my housekeeper to help with a party because he wants to be a guest too.

          2. Personally, I just love to be invited out. Our group of friends love to get together, but because we are one of only two couples without children, we end up doing most of the hosting.
            I'l eat anything (or try to-we had a BAD Paella experience once),drink anything (there's always water), help out with the kids, whatever...
            Just happy to be a part of it all! :)