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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.