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Invitation for 2, but 4 are coming

Now, I know that as a hostess, I have control over my invitations, but I have a story to relate and would like to see what other hounder's think...
A few weeks back, I invited my very good friend and her mother to join us (me, hubby and FIL) for dinner on Christmas eve at my house. She said she'd talk to her mom and get back to me. When she did, she said that she wanted her brother and aunt to join also and I could feel free to say no if I wanted to. This is made slightly more awkward by the fact that I've never met the aunt and my table (seating for six) will now have to accommodate seven. Now, I know it will all be fine and we'll all get to know each other and it will be a happy and festive evening, but I'm just wondering how others out there would have handled this situation. She's a good friend to me and I couldn't imagine taking back the invitation once I put it out there. The intimate Christmas celebration I had planned is taking on a different tone (do I buy gifts for everyone? what if auntie or brother are picky eaters?) and is making me somewhat nervous. My friend did relate my proposed menu to her mother and there were no comments there other than, "I hope she doesn't expect me to eat an entire cornish hen!"
Or perhaps words of advice?

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  1. First of all, don't worry about picky eaters. The fact that you are kind and gracious enough to cook Christmas Eve dinner should be sufficient. They will simply find something to eat. If there are serious food restrictions or allergies, that would mean making an accommodation, but no need otherwise.

    Second, it is possible that your friend feels that she would be abandoning family on Christmas Eve, and that the brother and aunt would either be alone, or alone together, and have no one to celebrate with. We all have an obligation to include extended family and friends during the holidays, especially if you think they may be alone. Maybe the only way she could be with you without feeling overwhelming guilt was to ask if they could join too? Heaven knows, I have been in that situation before, and each time it has ALWAYS worked out well. I even had one close friend bring his mother with advanced Alzheimer's on one Thanksgiving, and even that was fine. In fact, we felt good about the fact that she could be included, and that he was able to relax a bit.

    As for seating at your table: I don't know about your idea of a family gathering, intimate or not, but nearly everyone I know jams too many people around the one or more tables they set for holiday meals, each with mismatched chairs and sometimes even with several sets of dishes and flatware because the group is too large. When this has happened at my house, we found ourselves enjoying it immensely, and so did our guests. We only received compliments, and no one was worried that the tablescape was unbalanced.

    Now -- the tricky part: Yes, you might want to consider buying each of them a token present, just so that they don't feel left out in the gift exchange. It doesn't have to be big or expensive -- a box of candy, a bottle of wine, a small personal item. You will receive much more in return by taking care of these extra relatives of your dear friend than you could possibly imagine.

    Merry Christmas!

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGC1982

      This is excellent advice, on all counts.

    2. You invited your friend and her mother. She added two more people to your guest list. My inclination would be to take her at her word, and say no about including the extra two people, saying that you were hoping to have a more intimate dinner with folks you know well.

      But if you're not comfortable doing that, and you do agree to additional guests, my advice would be not to worry about things like seating, picky eaters, or gifts.

      2 Replies
      1. re: phoebek

        Phoebek, see my post above. It's Christmas, and it's time to lighten up on this stuff. It is not an invitation to an exclusive club, but a plan to spend Christmas Eve with her good friend. This may be the only way to do it, or risk her friend canceling to take care of her relatives.

        1. re: RGC1982

          Point taken--and I, being somewhat of a control freak, immediately projected the situation onto myself. Although the OP stated that she wouldn't rescind the invitation, clearly she was at least a bit bothered or she wouldn't have posted. She sounds like a terrific hostess, and her efforts should be met with appreciation from everyone around the (only slightly too small) table!

      2. Its a holiday, friends and family. Have fun and dont worry. Your concerns are valid and well taken, but I'd just enjoy the night

        1 Reply
        1. re: rednyellow

          I wholeheartedly second rednyellow's response to the word. Everything you raise is worth raising....but it's that time of year and the season of hope and giving, so just go ahead with your meal and expect to have a lovely time. Good for you for opening your home!

        2. Good on you for inviting friends over on Christmas. I think your friend could have done you the favor of putting the ball in your court as far as inviting the extended family goes. Something like, "I spoke to my mom, and I think we may do dinner with Bro and Auntie," or somesuch, leaving you the opportunity to gracefully bow out, or invite them along. You could say, "I understand, and I'd love to have you, but there isn't enough space, perhaps a drink after the holdiays are over?" or "Well, they're all welcome to come!" if that's how you felt.

          It probably feels awkward to say no at this point, but it's your house, and if you don't want more Christmas stress, no one can blame you.

          That being said, I can feel my mother disaproving as I type. She was always adamant that no one should be left alone at Christmas,and never put up with our childish worries about *a stranger* coming over on Christmas, so we always had the odd person dropping in. She never refused anyone asking, and always bought them something little so they could have a present. Here, it doesn't sound like they will be left out in the cold if you refuse, but I had to type that. Christmas guilt.

          If they start imposing weird dietary restrictions, this is where I would be wary, but have enough wine (or delightful non-alcoholic beverage of choice), and all will go well. If you feel you need to supply gifts, you could always do something impersonal and practical like a gift card.

          1. That happened to me this Thanksgiving. Our dinner for five turned into a dinner for seven only a few days beforehand. You really can't say no, at least I couldn't. I also have a table for six, and two sets of dishes and napkins for six. I set the table with three of one kind and four of the other to make it look like a statement -- sort of. We squeezed in another chair and it was fine, though there wasn't much legroom.

            It is a bit awkward that you haven't met the aunt. If you are having gifts, maybe you could give the aunt and brother tiny token presents, so they have something to open. I wouldn't worry about your menu, though.

            Good luck to you. I grumbled about having extra guests, but ended up pleased that I'd made them happy. I later found out that an ex-step-mom ended up alone, because all the step-kids thought she was with someone else. Now, I wished I'd tried to sqeeze in eight.

            1. Are they supplying wine/dessert/side dish? Or are you doing the whole show? I would assume by adding two more guests they will supplement with something or other.
              NO - you don't need to suppy any gifts other than maybe homemade bakes treats or something like that.

              It is very gracious of you to invite your friend and her entourage to your home on Christmas Eve. Very nice.

              Good luck with the Cornish hens!

              1. This happens frequently in my own corner of the universe. My sibling's ex-ex needs someplace to go, my friends have friends unannounced from out of town, and on and on. glencora used the word "grumble" and I have done plenty of that over the years about place settings, room, food amounts, ad infinitum. (I have come to realize that perhaps I am not a truly nice person and need to work on the grumbling.) But I have found that most of these semi-ad-hoc gatherings work perfectly well and everyone has fun.

                Still, I have to point out one of my pet peeves related to these situations, and that is the phrase: "feel free to say no." It puts the host in an uncomfortable situation. If anyone reading this post is a person that uses this phrase, please desist. You may get what you want, but your host may be grumbling.

                Until said host becomes a better person and realizes it's no big deal. Still working on it, personally.

                Enjoy your holiday expanded table!


                6 Replies
                1. re: cayjohan

                  Cayjohan, it's very brave of you to admit to grumbliness, and I am inspired by your efforts to become a better person. I too have been trying to work on my own grumpiness, and i recognize the uphill struggle. But in the end, it will be worth it I hope. I appreciate your comment about "feel free to say no". I never thought of it this way, and will definitely rethink my use of this phrase.

                  As for our original poster, I think the key issue here is that this is a close personal friend. I assume the relationship is close enough that she felt comfortable enough to ask a major favor: ie. inviting over 2 extra guests, relatives no less. It is a testament to your relationship that she is comfortable enough to make this request (that or she has major boundary issues!) If you care about this person, then all you can do is try to make the evening as wonderful for everyone as possible. And if she cares about you, then there is no need to worry or be nervous about the evening. She is just going to be grateful that you care enough to accomodate her family.

                  1. re: cayjohan

                    totally agree with you about the "feel free to say no" comment--it puts the host in an extremely uncomfortable position.

                    1. re: foodstorm

                      I don't think it is in anyway unreasonable for any host to be grumpy given the circumstances.

                      If I was in your apron I would simply continue with the menue as planned.

                      You certainly don't need to worry about gifts for the additions. That's not your problem.

                      1. re: foodstorm

                        I've always found the "feel free to say no" statement usually means the exact opposite.

                          1. re: Scrapironchef

                            " I've always found the "feel free to say no" statement usually means the exact opposite."

                            As someone who has occasionally said it, I can say that it can be meant sincerely. I would not be upset at all if a host said no. But as I stated in my post above, I can see how it might be perceived this way, and so have agreed to rethink my occasional use of this phrase.

                      2. Put the three smallest chairs and people on one side of the table and get a couple of thoughtful gifts. The warm response will more than out weigh the cost. What goes around comes around. Ya never know.

                        1. Agree that it is gracious of you to open your home to 2 additional guests, and that you don't need to stress about the seating or menu. Further, I really think you do NOT have to get gifts for the people you don't know. You are already giving them a gift by having them over...you've done enough already.

                          1. Your friend has lots of nerve. You are very generous to have them. That said, it is Christmas and I think a small store bought gift of food, like a small stollen or cake, or some such impersonal thing would be nice. When i was growing up my mother always had about 20+ wrapped presents under our tree for people who showed up so that we always had a gift for anyone who came to our house. Any small thing is nice.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: emilief

                              For that matter, if you baked a cookie assortment, tins of cookies are fine for someone unexpected to take home as a token.

                            2. Tough one. Not sure there is a right or wrong answer - gotta go with what you're most comfortable with. I have had my husband's brother say to me, "it's okay if you say 'no' - it's your party - and we understand - but can my wife's mother and brother join us?" Well, geez, I knew about them from day #1 and had i wanted them I would have invited them from the beginning - this event was at a small restaurant. If I were to say "no" even though he said that saying "no" was okay, I would have felt like a very mean, cold person and I'm sure I would have been perceived that way too and a small family war would have started. So, I just smiled, said, of course they can join us, and then I called the restaurant and changed the reservation. The day before, all four cancelled - my BIL, SIL, her mother and her brother. My BIL had to make the call to me. That was okay too. Believe me, I was annoyed because my plans were constantly being changed by someone else, but life is short, blah blah blah.... Gotta go with the flow sometimes.

                              1. I hope everything went well for you. This same thing happened to me at Thanksgiving. I had an additional 5. Various siblings brought their spouses' relatives. I was put off at first. I was actually worried that I wouldn't have enough chargers to put under my china. When everyone was sitting, all 24 people, I realized that I was blessed to have all of those people at my table. Would I feel the same way if (and most likely when) it happens again? Probably, but I will try to remember that no one cares about the china or napkins or even the food...people just want to be part of a group and to feel welcome.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: donna5657

                                  You said it beautifully! I had an extra, unexpected guest yesterday. I had invited a young man from our church for Christmas dinner. I talked to him last Sunday, and learned he had no plans for Christmas dinner. I gave him our address and phone number, and told him what time we would be eating. He arrived about 30 minutes before dinner.....with a young child in tow! The little boy was his nephew, and at first I was a bit miffed to be honest. As it turned out, this little one was the life of the party! He was very well-behaved and mannerly (please...thank you), and he said over and over again, "this is good!" He had seconds of just about everything. Oh, but wouldn't it be nice if all guests were so exuberant in their praise! He excused himself from the table, once the adults began conversing, and I turned on "A Christmas Story" for him to watch on TBS. He left me with a big hug and another "thank you"....and he taught me a thing or two about "unexpected guests"!

                                  1. re: cookingschool

                                    A big hug? Now that's sweet. I wonder where the parents were, though.

                                    1. re: cookingschool

                                      Maybe you planted a tree, knowing that you will never enjoy it's shade, but someone will.

                                      1. re: cookingschool

                                        That is a very nice story, He sounds like a nice little kid. I'm glad it worked out.

                                        For me I would have to say that I consider it rude to simply show up with a guest at a strangers house. Especially after just calling the hosts and not mentioning anything .

                                        On a side note it does seem odd that a man with no plans suddenly has a nephew.

                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                          Here's the back story, which may explain some of the circumstances. This fellow is a refugee from Rwanda now working here as a translator and case manager for other refugees coming into the city. He often brings people, including children, to church with him. I have seen the little boy with him at church in the past. I think he introduces kids as his "nephews" or "nieces" maybe to include them as family or make them more comfortable. I knew, when he showed up with another guest, that he probably didn't know it was rude to do that (cultural differences involved), and I was quickly charmed by the little boy's personality. Now, if he had arrived with more than one little guest....hmmmm....harder to be a good hostess, then. And, yes, I will invite Alphonse again, and I'll know to ask him if he wants to bring anyone with him. And, yayadave, that is a lovely expression.

                                          1. re: cookingschool

                                            Thanks for the explanation. Very sweet story. Thank you for sharing it. Good for you for inviting someone in to share in the celebration!

                                            Can't imagine what he has been through coming from Rwanda. Good luck to Alphonse.

                                    2. I think this says it all " She's a good friend to me and I couldn't imagine taking back the invitation once I put it out there."

                                      That makes a good hostess, one who invites from the heart and welcomes warmly, does the best to make sure all that are coming are welcome. ANd since it is Christmas Eve, I always set a place extra, for the "uninvited guest".

                                      1. maddogg280, what ended up happening?
                                        Since we do buffet-style with probably 40+ people at one of the relatives' houses every year, it's not such a big deal when extras come. In fact, it's sometimes a relief - more people to share in the obscene amounts of food.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: foodiemommy

                                          Well, foodiemommy, it did not turn out quite as we had planned. My 93-year old father-in-law told us on Xmas eve morning that he thought he was coming down with an illness and declined to come, despite my protests. It ended up being me, hubby, friend, her mom her aunt and her brother. The guests were very boisterous (and actually scared the dog with loud talk and laughter!) and enjoyed themselves immensely. We did exchange small gifts after dinner and share stories of past Xmas, including photos.
                                          The food was delicious- and well under control because of my obsessive planning.
                                          Everyone had fun (except my FIL alone at home on Xmas eve) and it turned out beautifully.

                                          1. re: maddogg280

                                            We ended up with 2 extra guests (found out the day before) and an extra dog...8 of us at a table for 6. My scalloped potatoes bombed (see: Home Cooking thread) and it was one of the best Christmas dinners ever. Crammed around the table, two dogs under the table, wine flowing and everyone consulting on what could have gone wrong with the potatoes......LOL

                                        2. I invited my father and his wife for my daughters birthday dinner, they said fine they would be there the week before, when I originally asked. Two hours before their scheduled arrival, my step mom called and asked if she could bring my stepsisters two kids. They are young boys so sure why not?! However when they showed up there was my Dad, my step mom, the two boys, my other step sister AND a freind of hers, AND her two kids! I invited two and eight arrived, I really didn't have enough food or space and ended up not really eating and gave everyone else way less than I ever would have, but I was totally unprepaired for the onslaught of extra guests. When it came time for Christmas day I made it clear to my step mom and sister that it was a family event, all family welcome but no entourages!