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If you are invited over to friends' home for dinner...

Do you automatically ask, "Would you like me to bring anything?" Or do you think it impolite?

If they say no, do you still bring SOMETHING, like wine?

Have you ever brought a dish unsolicited?

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  1. I usually ask if I should bring red or white - in England it's unheard of to go to a friend's for dinner without bringing wine. I'd never bring a dish unless asked to 'cos that's a bit weird. I might sometimes take flowers or homemade fudge/truffles.

    1. These have been regularly recurring questions on this board. Let me suggest that the consensus seems to be that it is fine to bring a hostess or host gift of a bottle of wine, but you should not assume or insist that it be served at the dinner -- they may have taken great care with their wine choices and preparation. It is also quite ok to ask if you can assist by bringing a dish, more borderline to suggest that you provide a certain dish, and you should NOT bring a dish unsolicited or unexpected. [Everyone remember the guest who brought his own ribs to the bbq?] Flowers, a bit surprisingly to me, get a mixed reception -- some hostesses are perturbed to have to accept flowers, find a vase, water them, and arrange and display them all as things are coming to a head in the kitchen for service of the meal.

      If I am not under time pressure to arrive at the meal, I often call in the morning and mention that my route to the hosts will take me by such-and-such market, so please call me if there is a last-minute item I can pick up on the way. This is rarely followed up on, but on the couple of rare occasions it was greatly appreciated that I could provide the missing cream for the coffee or extra sticks of butter that saved them a hassle at the last minute.

      16 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        Definately bring wine if you know they like wine, but it is a gift to THEM, and you shoudl not expect them to open it and serve it with the dinner. NEVER bring a dish unless specificially asked to do so.

        Flowers are nice, but not when handed over and the hostess must contend with getting them placed in a vase etc...while her careful timing of dinner gets thrown off whack. Having them delivered the morning of the dinner usually gets a huge smile.

        Thank you note after and an invite to your place sometime in return is also polite.

        1. re: Quine

          everytime i host and someone brings wine, i ask them if they would like me to open it for drinking during that occasion. while i understand it is a gift for me, sometimes people bring something very special that they intend to share with present company and I always want to honor that.

          1. re: lotta_cox

            If you are bringing a very special wine that you intend to share, do that, just don't try to pass it off as a hostess/host gift. That makes it not a gift; more like a BYOB.

          2. re: Quine

            I love the extra thoughtfulness when a guest brings flowers IN a vase. No extra work for me when I'm in the final prep of the meal, plus the new vase is an extra gift.

            1. re: pine time

              I totally agree. I have a friend who brings flowers regularly--I know what an awful friend--but it means stopping everything, finding a vase, trimming the flowers, arranging them right when I'm trying to greet other guests, get drinks poured etc. I've told her she really doesn't need to bring flowers but she does....guess at this point I should probably have a vase and the flowers cutters handy so I can make quick work of it.

              1. re: escondido123

                Or, point her to the vase and flower cutters and let her do the arranging.

                1. re: pamf

                  With my husband and me in the kitchen, definitely not room for a third.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I used to bring flowers too, until one time I showed up at a friend's house, bouquet in hand and cheerily asked for a vase/room at the sink to cut them and my friend, deep in the throes of pre-party mania/Shit Going WRONG was like "DO I LOOK LIKE I HAVE A VASE? Luckily this is a good friend and we laughed about it later, but I did see her point. No more flowers for busy hostesses.

                    1. re: LeoLioness

                      By all means bring flowers, just please in a pot! I was just brought flowers by well means guests that pitched in and bought some for me for a dinner the other night. They said "you never let us bring anything so thins time we bought you flowers."

                      Flowers were lovely, me scrambling to try and figure out where to put the darned things when I used my only vase of that size for flowers i bought that morning wasn't so pretty.

                      My mother always taught me to bring gift wine, a nice box of chocolate, a nice candle, pretty soap or guest towel, etc. etc. as a hostess gift. Something that the host need not fuss with as you walk in.

                      I love my friends dearly but have never found a way to tell them that the reason I refuse offers of help is because inevitably someone who insisted/promised to bring something drops out at the last minute and leaves me without something that I absolutely cannot take care of an hour before the party such as a salad.

                      1. re: Astur

                        It never really occurred to be to bring flowers for a dinner party, but that is smart to make sure that they are trimmed and placed in a vase. I always think that when it comes to flowers, you never know what people like or what they can tolerate. I say the best thing is before picking up flowers, is know your host/hostess.

                        I usually ask upon invitation what should I bring, and luckily I have the friends that always suggest beer, any kind, or whatever you (the guest) want to drink. I mean, how cool is that, a host providing beer already and encourages people to bring beer that they like to drink.

                        Which isn't bad, because when you think about all the choices of beer and wine there are these days, it's a bit overwhelming to figure out what your guests will like.

                        When it comes to food, I don't like to suggest anything for me to bring because obviously the host already planned the theme of the meal and if I am going to bring something I don't want it to clash or compete with the meal. I always ask instead of taking the abrupt initiative.

                        I find it that most hosts tend to recommend their guest bring some kind of dessert that is easy for them to serve. Also, bringing dessert that came straight off the supermarket shelves is a NO-NO in my book.

                        I'm talking about Entenmann's (which I love and will explain), Chips Ahoy Cookies, that stuff. And the reason I say that is because if someone goes out of their way to prepare a meal from scratch, don't insult it with a $5 dessert. Go to a well-known bakery and get something interesting. Like Cannoli's, Gelato, CHEESECAKE, etc.

                        And I think that it is an excellent idea to check with the host/hostess if you can pick something up along the way. I don't know how many times we plan a party or dinner at my house and there was always one ingredient from at least one dish that we forgot. And it's always something that makes the dish interesting.

                        And one thing, you absolutely don’t do when you are invited to a Dinner or BBQ (and this has happened to me last year), do not bring uncooked food and drop it off and expect the host to cook it.

                        Last year we had a BBQ celebrating the birthdays of 2 people, one guest decides to run home to the next block and bring back these low quality steaks from his freezer and drops it off and says to me, “I thought I contribute something, here I guess you can season it and put it on the grill”. WTF?! I didn’t ask for this, I already have tons of meat and veggies to grill, I most certainly do not need this!
                        ~Went straight to the garbage.

                        1. re: PaintItBlacc

                          even if it's the bakery counter at the supermarket (because not every community *has* a bakery) -- YES -- at least make it look like you put *some* effort into it!

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Effort, exactly. That shows appreciation for the invitation and for the hosts' hard work.

                          2. re: PaintItBlacc

                            In our "circles," the host/hostess does the main protein, and the guests do something else.

                            We also almost always coordinate the wines, and as my cellar is overflowing, I usually step up there. Nothing like bad wines, to spoil a dinner.


                          3. re: Astur

                            We usually bring flowers too, even if we are providing the wines for the meal.

                            Many reciprocate with flowers, at our home too.

                            One can seldom have too many flowers in a home, even if they have a prolific garden, just outside.

                            We usually highly coordinate any dishes too, though there might be some, who do not follow through, as promised. That is not my problem, unless I am hosting.


                  2. re: nosh

                    Nosh, I think that's a great idea to ask if there's something you can pick up on your way over! I always do this with my parents, but it never occurred to me to ask anyone else.

                  3. I never ask.

                    I always bring something.

                    I never bring a dish (e.g. a main entree)

                    If I bring something edible (e.g. fruit or wine) I never expect it to be consumed at the dinner party. It's for the host at a later time.

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I am almost with jpsedixit on this one, I always ask and always bring something but if I was told not to bring something for the dinner I will bring wine, fruit, cookies, flowers or some super cool jam, (tomato right now is my big thing) or vinegar for them to use later.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I always ask too.

                        True on the other points.

                        Flowers are good too.

                        1. re: dolores


                          Interesting note about the flowers. When I'm going to people's houses I know, I always bring a bottle of wine, and usually bring a dessert (cookies), in case they have made dessert, I don't want mine to compete. But the flower thing is a dicey one. I once brought a lovely arrangement to someone's house and they looked like they had been given a pet skunk. I quickly realized that this new couple didn't have a proper vase. They took the flowers and put them in another room and when I walked by I noticed them laying on a table. A day or two later, I was at their house, the flowers were nowhere to be seen. I was somewhat offended.

                          1. re: jhopp217

                            Wow, jhopp217, that is strange. I have NEVER been at a shower where the bride-to-be didn't get at least one vase.

                            At worst, didn't they have a 'water bottle'? Growing up and even now, we are never without a 'water bottle' in the frig. In a pinch, it can serve as a 'vase'.

                            1. re: dolores

                              But who wants to deal with "finding something for the flowers"while trying to host dinner/party? I'm not a flower person. I find the pain/reward ratio not worth it. Dh loves flowers so we have many vases, but back in my pre-Dh days, if I had a vase it was probably in the attic or a cabinet that is never used or I might not have been able to locate it. And we don't have a "water bottle" in the frig.

                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                Janet - I'm with you on the dealing with it thing. I adore flowers and have quite a few vases that I have collected over the years (no bridal shower - eloped). However, I have to store them on the top shelf of a bookshelf in my tiny kitchen. So, if I had my druthers, I'd prefer that people not bring me cut flowers when they arrive at my house for a dinner party. My kitchen is TINY, I have about 4 square feet of counter space, and by dinner time, I usually have that space full of things in various stages of preparation for the dinner and the sink is doing some major multitasking as well. For me to get down a vase if someone brings me cut flowers, I have to go get the ladder, climb up it, bring down the vase, etc., in my kitchen that sadly opens right up on to the living room - you get the picture. This, while I'd rather be greeting guests, pouring drinks, attending to the food etc. If someone does bring me flowers I'm completely gracious about it, but it's actually much nicer if someone sends flowers as a thank you the next day, or sends them ahead of time. Though - my apartment is also pretty small, and when I'm entertaining, I buy flowers and arrange them in various parts of the apartment, and there probably isn't a nice appropriate space to put flowers brought by a guest without my doing some juggling.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Absolutely. I will never bring flowers again.

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    <Absolutely. I will never bring flowers again.> Don't make a rule like that. I LOVE to get flowers. never had a bridal shower, but definitely always have something to put flowers in! and there can never be too many flowers in the house, imho.

                                    I would much prefer flowers to boxed cookies or "meh" wine, and most of my friends/family are like-minded. Plus, at least around here, it's easier to find mid-price flowers than wine (especially if you really want to please your host.

                                    As well, you could bring a small potted plant. It's in its own container!

                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                      If I want to bring flowers as a hostess gift, I only bring them if they are already in a vase or I bring a potted plant. I think it's rude to bring something like cut flowers wrapped in plastic and expect the hostess to stop everything to find a vase. The hostess (or host) has enough to do.

                                      1. re: brandygirl

                                        I agree with brandy on the flowers already being pre-arranged, or a potted plant. A low care plant at that, unless I know the person has a green thumb!

                                        I hesitate to bring wine because what I like might not be something they would. My MIL bought all the adult family members a bottle of wine for Christmas one year, probably 2 years ago. It was not very good, and my daughter still has hers in her spare fridge.

                                        1. re: danhole

                                          That's interesting, I also hesitate to bring wine because I don't feel that my wine knowledge is strong enough to choose a bottle that I know the recipient will appreciate.
                                          From Chowhound I've learned that if I bring flower, they must be cut and arranged and already in a vase, so that no one has to run to accomodate them. Additionally, if I bring food (because I have offered or have been asked to, never arriving spontaneously with a turkey), I will bring it in a servable dish, so that there is not the "lend me a platter" request to a host who may not have an extensive amount of spare plates and trays on hand.

                                          1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                            Now, I feel just the opposite, regarding wines. I am most often asked to fit the wines to the meal, and often work closely with the host/hostess, to get a perfect fit.

                                            That is usually my contribution, and especially as I have about 6K btls. in my cellar.


                                      2. re: ChefJune

                                        Oh, ChefJune, make no mistake. I will continue to bring flowers.

                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          I absolutely love fresh flowers! I am so happy when people bring me flowers because Fiance rarely gets me flowers and I often just don't think it is something I should spend money on so when I get them it is really special for me. Don't stop bringing flowers to people who enjoy them. This is my absolute favorite hostess gift to receive actually. You don't even need to bring them in a vase, you collect so many over the years, I probably have over 10 and am in my early twenties.

                                          1. re: ktmoomau

                                            kt, i was thinking about this thread, and what most occurred to me ('cause i like flowers as well as giving them, and as you i am husband-flower-deprived) IS:

                                            if you know your host(ess), do what makes him/her happy! personally, i love to get flowers, and if i am in a rush, i will invite the gifter of flowers to get a vase from my stock and set 'em up! (because usually in my home, the guest is a friend....)

                                      3. re: MMRuth

                                        I totally agree with Janet and MMRuth,
                                        I do love fresh flowers, and am very grateful and gracious when I receive them, however, when someone brings flowers just as people are arriving and they need to be placed in a vase it's really the last thing I want to add to my list of things to do. I;d much rather be getting my guests some drinks!

                                        I agree with others that you should bring something in the way of a hostess gift. I tend to bring wine (and no, I don't expect it to be opened that night), or I have a couple friends that don't drink and will go the candles/chocolates route when visiting them.
                                        Here's a story that sticks out as one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done when coming to my house...I have an annual holiday party and one of my gilfriends brought a selection of cheeses. With that, she had picked up a festive red plate and a cheese knife. She plated everything and put it on the table without my needing to do a thing. Since then, I always think of that when I consider what to bring to someone's house.

                                        1. re: SweetPea914

                                          Oh well getting drinks is what the Fiance is for! Sous-chef bartender whatever I need.... He is great at that sort of thing. Plus I just cut the flowers quick and put them in a vase... If I want to rearrange and cut better maybe later but normally it is a quick cut of all the stems under the water at an angle and add some sprite and water to a vase.

                                    2. re: dolores

                                      That makes sense, dolores, but not everyone is married and not all married women have bridal showers.

                                      (I adore flowers, but I rarely splurge on them for myself. I think many people fit into that category and are thrilled to receive them.)

                                      1. re: dolores

                                        Some brides didn't have bridal showers!

                                        The point is, it can seem a little insensitive for someone to bring a gift that requires work on the part of the host(ess). I'm all for receiving flowers if they're either already arranged and in a vase or relatively easy to deal with (think bunch of tulips). But please don't hand me a bunch of roses that I have to de-thorn and trim and whatnot!

                                        Edited to add: Ok, sorry, I replied without seeing the other responses!

                                      2. re: jhopp217

                                        If you want to bring flowers to someone, it seems that unless you know they will have a vase readily available that you should provide a vase as well. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you can find some pretty decent ones at any of the discount home stores at quite reasonable prices.

                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          My sister often brings flowers for me when I am hosting a party. And rather than just handing them over to me, she offers to find a little out of the way spot in the kitchen and arrange them (or occasionally in the bathroom if it's chaos in the kitchen).

                                  2. It always depend what is the relation with your "friends" and the occasion for the dinner.

                                    For something more formal, I will bring flowers and some sort of alcool (again, it depends, wine or porto, ... not to be drink the same night)

                                    For less formal, I will ask if I can bring something, like good olives, or other finger food for the drinks before and will bring some wine to go with the party.

                                    even if they say "don't bring anything", don't come in empty handed, and, maybe in that case, don't bring "food related" stuff.

                                    1. I always ask. And I never take food unless it's requested. I will bring wine and/or liquor (depending on who is having the party). And if it's a very good friend, I will call an hour or so beforehand to see if there are any last minute items they need such as ice, mixers or the like and very often that's a very welcomed call.

                                      1. I always ask if I can bring something. Usually I get a request for wine or bread. If I get no request, I bring wine.

                                        As a host, I'm asked the same question and I always reply "no, just bring yourself (or selves)". And I mean that. I have wine and other alcohol and sodas/juices on hand. I may say "I've got red and white wines and some beer, but if you want to drink something else, bring that". I truly do not expect my guests to bring something, because their company is the greatest present that they can bring. Seriously. That said, they usually bring wine anyway and now I've got quite a bigger stash of wine than I can use, so I usually bring a bottle that I've been gifted.

                                        Anecdote: one of my friends is a real cat person (5 of her own, she takes strays to get neutered, etc.) so she brought a couple of bottles of "Herding Cats" wine to a party I hosted. Well, at her next event, I told her I'd bring some wine, namely the "herding cats" wine that she'd brought to the earlier event (since we didnt' drink the 2nd bottle). She broke out into a grin and said "thank you! I really wanted to keep the bottle, but I didn't think it would be right to ask for the bottle back!" We still chuckle over this.

                                        1. The only time i have ever brought even a side dish to someone else's dinner, is if it's a casual bbq or a pot-luck type deal (big family type dinners can also fit into this category too sometimes). I will sometimes ask if i can bring dessert.

                                          I usually show up with SOMETHING when i go to someone else's house though, even if it's a bottle of wine. I bought some home made truffles to two different houses this week when invited to dinners and a weekend visit (plus several other items for the weekend visit). Heck i even bring home loads of stuff when i visit my parents.

                                          But, kinda know your host.... one poster mentioned bringing jams or olives etc. I have several jars of jams and jellies in my cupboard from very well intentioned friends, which, don't get me wrong, i VERY much appreciated....but i rarely if ever eat jam, don't really care for it on toast, and use it only in baking.

                                          Also i think it has been said before on the boards....but i think it's in very poor taste to bring something to a dinner party SOLELY for a picky eater, and not as a gift for the host. And i'm not talking about the kids here.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: im_nomad

                                            Send it my way, I'm a jelly/jam whore <G>. But you are right about knowing your audience. Several years ago went to a friends house for a cookout and she had made some of the best bread & butter pickles and I complimented her on them. Several months later we invited them over and she came with two jars of those pickles....best hostess gift I ever received.

                                          2. Some really good posts and advice here, very CH. We always ask and always take something, usually wine but sometimes a hostess/host gift. We quit doing the flowers thing a few years ago when a hostess just tossed them to one side and left them there all evening, probably still there for all we know. I particularly like the post offering to pick up any last minute items on the way, we usually call just before we leave 1) to give warning of our impending arrival and 2) to offer to pick up any forgotten items on the way. We never take an unsolicited dish unless it is some kind of known favorite delicacy for the host/hostess which is not intended to be part of the meal and can be consumed at leisure after our departure.

                                            1. I always ask, and am constitutionally incapable of arriving as a guest empty-handed. I would never DREAM of bringing a dish unasked. That is just unbelievably rude. I have brought wine, pretty candles, home-baked cookies or bread (not to be had at dinner, and the host should be told, "This is just for you."). I generally don't bring flowers as it forces the host/ess to stop what they are doing and find something to do with them (this is also a pet peeve of mine as a hostess-- I'm very picky about flowers).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                I also do not like the flowers. I am allergic to pollen, and many flowers make me ill. And I think scented ones can disrupt the meal.

                                                That said, if someone brought them, I would have to throw them aside; I don't own a vase! (I suppose I could use a glass.)

                                              2. I agree with Maximilien - depends on who it is and how close I am with them. It seems if you don't know them well, stick with traditional etiquette that says don't go empty-handed but also don't take something you expect the host/hostess to consume right away. It's a gift so they get to do with it whatever they like.

                                                1. mrs jfood always replies, "Is there anything I can bring." If there is a "nothing" from the host(ess) then jfood always brings a nice bottle of wine.

                                                  Jfood, as host, always tries to have soup to nuts prepared and always says nothing. And if the company brings wine he always offers to open it. If they say no please keep for another time, then he does.

                                                  As for flowers. ALthough the jfoods love flowers and have vases of them all the time in the house, they are difficult when brought to a dinner. There is lots of activity and jfood is very planned so they normally go in the corner until afterwards. Jfood would not want to trade a burnt or spoiled dish for the flowers cut and in the vase. Sometimes mrs jfood grabs them and brings to the library and throws in a vase until later so they are at least in water.

                                                  jfood would NEVER (all caps intentional) bring a dish unsolicited but some have done so to casa jfood. It is usually a pie or a cake from a jfood favorite bakery and they know jfood would never turn down one of his favorite desserts. Sometimes they are served to the company and sometimes they are served after company leaves with a glass of milk and a cuddle with mrs jfood.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    That's pretty much what I do, except for the cuddling with mrs. jfood.

                                                    One of the favorite "hostess" gifts that I've received was some lovely baked goods and jams from a nearby bakery along with some freshly squeezed orange juice, to have for breakfast the next morning.

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      that's called a delayed cuddle.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        I agree that a thoughtful "breakfast" basket is a terrific hostess gift when invited for dinner-- Great idea I got from a previous thread about gifts for dinner invites. So nice to have something for the hosts to look forward to in the morning. At times, though,especially if I know the hosts and their likes I may send an arranged floral arrangement before the dinner.

                                                        1. re: foodseek

                                                          "At times, though,especially if I know the hosts and their likes I may send an arranged floral arrangement before the dinner."

                                                          I think you've hit the nail on the head with this - it's important to know their likes when doing this.

                                                    2. Hmmm, no one here is a dessert-bringer? I find that most people are either dessert-bringers or liquor-bringers and I belong to the dessert-bringer tribe. At thanksgiving dinner there is usually around a pie and a half per person. I once got yelled at for bringing dessert to a friend's home, so I now bring wine to her house. I do not have any expectation that the host should serve what I bring. I also ask what can I bring and call earlier in the day. I would never go someplace emptyhanded. I am not shy about asking someone to contribute when offered, at least from good friends. I am not a salad person and a friend (actually the one who yelled at me for bringing dessert), makes a good salad, so if I am having a bbq, I will ask her to bring a salad. Also I might ask someone to bring coffee, because I do not drink coffee, so if someone brings coffee, I can return the leftover to the giver, rather than have it go to waste at my home.

                                                      Based on reading these kind of threads, I am considering doing hostess gifts when in doubt about the appropriateness of bringing dessert.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Val55

                                                        see, dessert is a dish, a course, part of my planned dinner that I invited you to.

                                                        NEVER bring a dish (any course, dish, type etc) unless specfically asked. It only seems to say "I did not think yours would be enough/good/wanted...so I brought my own"

                                                        I am very clear if I am inviting people to my place for dinner. If I say dinner I mean, I am planning it, preparing it. If I mean pot-luck gathering, I will say that and tell you that please bring a starter, a salad, a dessert

                                                        1. re: Quine

                                                          I think that was my friend's issue. She did make a dessert. In my defense I would not have brought a dessert to a formal dinner party or to a person's home I did not know well. This was a spaghetti dinner and I had no problem that my dessert was not served. My friend did not want the extra sweets in her home (personally, I would have just taken them to work the next day). In my experience, and I now understand that this is not universal, dessert is a common hostess gift. Even when the dinner is otherwise planned, coffee and dessert is often informal and a lot of desserts are put out. It does not say pot luck and I don't think it is the equivalent of bringing a turkey to a dinner party. That said, I do now think twice before bringing a dessert.

                                                          1. re: Val55

                                                            "Even when the dinner is otherwise planned, coffee and dessert is often informal" I just can't imagine planning a dinner and leaving the final (and some might say crowning) touch unplanned and informal. Perhaps this is regional? Again, "This was a spaghetti dinner" for me, no matter what was served if it was an invited dinner, means the host, planned it. great and fun dinner party I attended was a "Fast Food Manic" theme, all fast foods, served very formally. It was a huge giggle and very fun....and totally planned.

                                                            Guests should just be guests, and polite. Not bring things the host is not going to serve, must store, to use or give away (to bring to work or pass off to another).

                                                            A hostess/host gift shouldl be something that can be politely accepted, and not demanding in any way of the hoestess/host..vase, place to put/store, way to use when they can't (i.e. spoilage). To me being a good guest is that I, in no way, place any burdens on the host.

                                                        2. re: Val55

                                                          Neither me or SO are really big dessert people. I will make a pie, in season, when I have apples to deal with. When we have guests for dinner I usually accepted the offer for contributing dessert. Usually they know me and understand that dessert might not be forthcoming unless they bring it. I usually tell them to surprise me. I have asked for a loaf of bread before.
                                                          That or they KNOW to bring a bottle of red.

                                                          1. re: Val55

                                                            I am fine with dessert bringers as it will give me a nice dessert I won't have to make for the next week or so. A friend of mine always brings Martha Stewart cookies as hostess gifts.

                                                            But I don't feel the need to serve people that dessert which is brought. I think it is fine to bring dessert as long as you aren't expecting to be served yours as it is a gift for the host.

                                                            I normally bring champagne myself, or flowers for my Southern girlfriends, but I am very careful about brining liquor to people I don't know well. A friend of mine is an alcoholic he always gets desserts brought to him as a hostess gift and I grew up near amish country where many people did not drink so I am rather careful, but most people inviting Fiance and I over are normally known well by at least one of us.

                                                          2. I always ask, and if my friend says no to bringing something over, I never do it. My friends and I have an understanding about this, and we are not shy about asking for help or contributions. So if one says no, then one really means it. Case close. No second guessing.

                                                            1. isn't it funny how in late adolescence/early 20's/college years we had to specify BYOB and later when one may have the resources to provide, the issue is an embarrassment of excess?

                                                              1. I always ask, and nine times out of ten, the person says "no." So I bring a bottle of wine. Nothing crazy $15-20 bottle, or if I'm unsure of the meal, one white and one red between $10-$15. If it's people I know, I'll grab a pie, cake, or cookies. Unless they tell me about dessert.

                                                                Bringing a dish is a rough one for a dinner, because of many reasons. What if it isn't a good match to their meal? What if it's the best thing at the table (awkward)? And what if they take it the wrong way?

                                                                I always ask, and always bring something regardless. Unless specifically told not to for a reason - nce told not to because of a child's allergies.

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    One answer of course, would be to bring arranged flowers in a vase, but the trick there is that, in some cultures, that can be considered rude, suggesting that hostess doesn't have the ability to arrange them herself! Apparently that is true in France, where I've also read that it is rude to bring wine, because it suggests that the host doesn't have an adequate wine cellar, or has not provisioned properly for his or her guests. Ah, the many mine fields! Bottles of wine are always welcome in my home! (And as I said, I'd never reject or be rude about flowers - I was just trying to explain why, for me, they are less than ideal as a gift, given my particular timing/space issues.)

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Between the cultural issues and the personal preferences, "what to bring to dinner" truly is a mine field!

                                                                      FWIW, I enjoy receiving flowers as a gift, but I certainly understand how people would find that irritating. It is a hassle to deal with for many people. Many people seem to enjoy receiving small gifts of food, like homemade cookies or chocolates or jams, which I find a bit irritating. After my dinner parties, I don't want to eat that sort of stuff and I don't want it around the house (too tempting). I don't eat jam very often, either. Just don't want to eat the stuff out of a feeling of obligation.

                                                                      1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                        To me, the problem with flowers is that they often require immediate attention from the hostess if they aren't already in a vase. When they are already in a vase, I'm often unhappy with how unappealing the vase is. And then there are other issues, For instance, in Iran, giving someone yellow roses is an ultimate insult. So I just skip flowers altogether. But a nice plant can be charming, and doesn't require immediate attention.

                                                                        The one thing I always try to make clear is that whatever I bring is not intended to be part of the evening's festivities. It is for my hosts to enjoy at their leasure. Or stick in the freezer. Or use as a hostess gift the next time they're invited out. Hey! Fruticake! '-)

                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                          Thank you for being honest about how you sometimes don't like the vase. You have freed me to admit I am a flower snob. There. I've said it. I know it's horridly unpopular to be ungrateful for someone giving you a hostess gift, but I cannot stand daisies, mums, or carnations, the most common flowers around. I would rather have a single orchid, or tulip, or gladiola, or lily, than a roomful of filler flowers. When a guest shows up with a bouquet of filler, I graciously say thank you and find a vase for them, but I hate looking at them. My close friends know about this quirk, so never buy me flowers. Plants are just fine. Love them. But because I am so picky, I don't ever buy flowers for others. You never know. Simple hostess gifts are best, especially when you make clear they are gifts, not expected for use on that night.

                                                                          1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                                            And then there are allergies. Flowers are a very risky hostessss -- ahCHOO! -- gift. And the more guests are present, the more likely someone will be allergic to them. :Daisies and mums are big culprits. Tulips are moderately safe. But why risk it? Not a lot of people are allergic to heart leaf philodendron.

                                                                            I'm debating whether to share what I think is a very funny hostess gift incident. I know some will think I'm terrible for telling it, but hey, what the heck.

                                                                            Had a new neighbor years ago. She was young. Husband wasn't. Trophy wife more than willing to claw her way to the top. I was giving a dinner party, and added them to the guest list. It was back when we lived in the beach condo in Del Mar. I'd been in a shop in La Jolla the day before and looked over their sale table. No Dansk ice buckets, but lots of things like plastic strainers and paper cocktail napkins that no one wanted for 75% off. So the afternoon of the dinner, trophy wife comes over with this little shopping bag from the upscale shop with the downscale sale, hands it to me and says, "I didn't want to embarass any of your other guests by being the only one who brings a hostess gift, so I thought I'd bring this over early." I gritted my teeth and said thank you, furious inside that she was judging my friends without ever having met them! But my friends all did me proud!

                                                                            Trophy Wife and husband were the first to arrive. Other guests brought things like a large bottle of Chivas Regal, a gorgeous bottle of champagne, a pack of six dozen escargot with shells (a personal weakness), and other magnificent goodies. Inside, I gloated! Okay. You can call me a witch now. But it was a fun evening. And dinner was great too!

                                                                            I guess the moral is, just be kind with a hostess gift. Don't try to show anyone up. It can backfire seriously! '-)

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              I dunno C1 - i'd interpret her gesture differently. she's used to people being unappreciative boors yet wanted to do the right thing and not show up others. and (I assume) later saw there was no need. the only person looking odd was her as the other guests didn't know the scenario and she looked like the empty-handed one. she put her self in the awkward chair in consideration for the feelings of strangers.

                                                                              but I DO want the contact info of your friend that brings escargot by the bushel.

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                LOL! If you'd ever met the neighbor you would NOT interpret it differently. Trust me! '-)

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  okey doke on the neighbor but I still want your contact for CA snails (GOD why was I so STUPID when I lived there? we just thought they were garden pests, not a potential appetizer) I of course don't expect any contact to occur. but all my friends in NoCal anymore don't even have yards

                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                    When we lived in Del Mar, I used to raise my own snails for good eats! If you have only ever had canned snails, you have not lived yet....! I wish I could buy them frozen instead of canned. It would be a little closer to heaven, you know?

                                                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Caroline! Gawd!! Perhaps the plant will have a yucky color of foil around the plastic pot, or the pot will be plastic, or the plant will smell wrong, or something else they don't like.
                                                                            How much attention do flowers require to be stuck in water...any water? You could just drop them in the spare toilet.
                                                                            PS: we are not in Iran.

                                                                            (A Texan who use to live nearby. :) )

                                                                    2. Yep. Always ask, always bring either a red or white or both. When we have people over, they also bring wine. We drink a LOT of wine, and who wants to run out halfway through the evening.

                                                                      As for dishes -- only when the host specifically asks me to bring one.

                                                                      Flowers -- never. Too much of a hassle.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                        Don't get me wrong, I think picking up a few bottles of vino is the easiest thing, esoecially on those occasions you aactually know what will be served, but I think wine begins another dilemma. What if you know wine and your hosts do not? Do you get the same thing you'd get if you went to a wine enthusiast's party? Here's why I ask -

                                                                        I went to a dinner party once and brought three nice bottles of wine, not necessarily expensive, but let's say they matched their cost. I picked up a $10, a $15, and a $25 bottle. I handed them to the host, who I know doesn't "know" wine and said "this is a really good one "pointed to the more expensive of the three. He proceeded to put that wine out with chips and salsa and dip. Obviously, because of this, nobody noticed that it was actually a decent wine. Then we didn't see the other wines, which is fine, but I was a little upset that the nicer of the wines was served with something that obviously kills the taste of wine.

                                                                        1. re: jhopp217

                                                                          But unless the host asked you to bring wine to compliment the dinner, the wine you brought as a host(ess) gift should have been just that--a gift. The host(ess) is free to do what ever he or she pleases with a gift--serve it with chips and salsa, re-gift it, use it to make the toilet water a cool color, anything. Once you give a gift, you have no right to be upset about what the recipient does with the gift.

                                                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                                                            Wow. I could never afford to spend $50 on a "gift" if invited to dinner. If someone brought 3 bottles of wine to dinner at my house, I'd probably be uncomfortable. And, you can't really be upset about how the wine was served. It was a gift to them, and you said yourself that they don't *know* wine. Have them over to your house and serve a good wine properly rather than bringing them 3 bottles to contend with.

                                                                            I think some of this is regional. Out here in the wild southwest, things seem much more casual to me. We recently had friends over for dinner. It was interesting to me because I expected nothing, asked for nothing, and one couple brought nothing while the other couple brought wine - a very nice bottle, too. They recently moved here from NYC though. I guess we're just not that sophisticated. We all usually go out for dinner. Not very many friends of mine like to cook.

                                                                            1. re: Jen76

                                                                              We're in Arizona. I've never had a dinner guest show up empty handed...usually chocolates or flowers, sometimes wine(my husband is a non-drinker so our closer friends usually don't bring wine as they prefer to bring something he'll enjoy as well). Friday night a girlfriend brought a bottle of unique jam for us. I don't expect anything nor require anything just never had someone show up empty handed. We're in our 40s, maybe it's an age thing.

                                                                              When invited we'll ask if we can bring something and if requested to that's what we do. Otherwise we'll also show up with a bottle of wine, a bottle of better olive oil, or some other small item we think the hostess might enjoy. I rarely take flowers for the reason given and don't bring anything I"ve cooked myself unless specifically asked to do so.

                                                                        2. Everyone has had some great suggestions on how to be a good guest. Like many others, I always offer to bring something. I'm pretty young and haven't attended many "formal" dinner parties, and I tend to be known as the "chef" of my social circle, so my offer to provide a dish has yet to be turned down.

                                                                          I just thought I'd share my take on invite ettiquite a-la-college style.

                                                                          When I was in college (not so long ago), a friend of mine and her boyfriend would host parties at his apartment on a fairly regular basis - everyone always brought something, whether it was something to nibble on, alcohol, mixers, or ice. I usually brought red wine or rum, depending on my mood... I lived several blocks away and there were some long dark stretches of city between their house and mine. Walking up around 9 or 10 wasn't bad, but I walked back alone at 3 am once and it was a bit scary. After that, I would never walk home unless someone was headed my way and could accompany me. My friend and her boyfriend were always very generous and let me and other partiers crash in the living room.

                                                                          Most of the others would just wake up and leave. Whenever I woke up, I would start collecting all the trash from the night before, I'd wash whatever dishes were on the table/sink/counter, and I'd wash up any sticky spots I could find from spilt beer/wine/liqour. If they were up by that time, then I would take my friend and her boyfriend out to breakfast at a great place around the corner from the apartment. If they were still asleep, I'd slip out quietly and call them later to take them out to dinner. They always appreciated the clean up and the morning after pancake binge. Of course, this is something you should only do with very close friends!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Antithesisofpop

                                                                            Wow, what a thoughtful guest you were! Cleaning up and doing the dishes--I'd love it if someone did that for me! Even if they just offered and I declined the offer. I would still truly appreciate their generous offer.

                                                                          2. I must be exceptionally weird. I always bring lemons from my tree - usually a big shopping bag's worth. So far it's always been well received. When I have other things in the garden, I'll take that instead. And I don't grow zucchini.

                                                                            If I'm out of town and invited over, I bring a bottle of wine or a small box of candy.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: 512window

                                                                              I think things from the garden or home grown lemons sound delightful. No lemon trees here in Virginia, but home grown tomatoes or other veggies or herbs would be most welcomed.

                                                                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                I do to - absolutely - though as a Manhattanite, I'm likely to receive them! I do covet my cookbook author neighbor's herb garden in front of her townhouse though ....

                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                  Interesting, I think I know which house your referring to (the one with huge kitchen and about a 100 copper pots on the ground floor??), but didn't know she was a cookbook author. Could you post the Author's name or email it to me?

                                                                              2. re: 512window

                                                                                I would love lemons from your tree, as well as jams, flowers, wine, cookies, chocolates, whatever. What I don't particularly enjoy is bath type gifts - lotions, potions, soaps, etc. I'm extremely sensitive to artificial (and some natural) scents.

                                                                              3. i always bring wine even if they say no. i would never bring a dish if they said no.

                                                                                1. I usually ask. If they say "sure," I clarify what I can/should bring. If they say no, I bring a default gift such as wine, flowers in a vase or (store-bought) dessert. I think it impolite to visit anyone without also bringing a little something to show your gratitude for their hospitality, but I would be presumptuous if I brought a dish to someone's home unannounced. If the dinner is very informal, I may offer to make a run to the grocery store for any last-minute needs as a hostess gift.

                                                                                  1. I found what I thought would be a nice hostess gift at Homegoods. It was a boxed set that included a small decorative cheese board, a cheese knife, and paper cocktail napkins. The patterns on the ceramic knife handle and cocktail napkins matched the border of the cheese board. It was around $15. It was a big hit, and I went back and bought a few more to keep around as gifts. Everyone has really liked this gift, and it requires no fussing with. They can use it right away or not.
                                                                                    Homegoods is a great spot for hostess gifts, BTW. I also have given boxed sets of cheese knives I found at Homegoods. $10 for a set, and I have always gotten an appreciative thank you for them. I've found that many people won't buy themself these type serving items, though they really appreciate getting them.
                                                                                    I do love flowers, and getting them as gifts. But then again, I collect vases of a certain type and color, so everyone knows I have them on hand.

                                                                                    1. I have some friends have insisted on bringing a dish -- even when I say that I have everything covered. Sometimes I want to do a particular meal soup to nuts, and I wish they'd just bring themselves and perhaps a host/ess plant or truffle, or something.

                                                                                      1. I always ask... but the answer is usually 'no thanks', in which case I bring a hostess gift instead.

                                                                                        1. Unless a potluck or whatever is mentioned first by the host, I never offer to bring anything. By the time I get around to extending invitations I have my menu all mapped out and don't want any extra dishes. But I always take a hostess gift. Usually wine or chocolates, depending on the host. And I never expect the wine to be served, so when I do take it I make some remark about it being just for him/her/them when they have time to relax and enjoy it. I don't appreciate guests showing up with wine they expect to be served any more than I appreciate guests showing up with a dish. I enjoy planning all aspects of a meal, and when someone pushes their food or drink into my menu.... Well, I'm also an artist, and I don't allow another painter to take my brush and work on my painting! Same for food. LOL! Do I sound cranky or what!

                                                                                          1. I'm 22 and on a budget, but love throwing dinner parties - I'll make the main dish and then have my guests bring the rest - wine, salad, dessert. I let them know ahead of time what I'm making so they can bring something appropriate. People are happy to help out, and we end up with lovely meals without anyone having to break the bank.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Emmmily

                                                                                              I bring an assortment of herbs from my gaarden when in season or a small bottle of very, very good balsamic vinegar. Both gifts are greatly appreciated and do not have the inherent problems connected with flowers and ahcohol as described above.

                                                                                              1. re: Emmmily

                                                                                                Emmmily, do you leave it up to your guests to decide what to bring or do you give parameters, such as asking someone to bring a dessert and another guest to bring a salad, etc. I ask because I plan to do something like this for the holidays later this year rather than do all the cooking.

                                                                                                1. re: brandygirl

                                                                                                  Never leave it up to your guests to decide completely. You can have four desserts and no side dishes. Always give them parameters, such as appetizers, salads, side dishes (and I will even say a starch side or a veggie side), and desserts (I will sometimes divide into chocolate desserts and non-chocolate desserts). This way you can divide the work, and make sure you have everything covered (sometimes I double up if it's a large party, because I have also had the last-minute cancellation leaving me without "x" dish). I usually have backups of many things that I can throw together if someone doesn't show-- horrid manners, I know, but it has happened more than once.

                                                                                              2. I love the ideas in here for hostess gifts. My family normally brings a pie or dessert for the hostess. I however love the idea of a breakfast basket. I will start making some homemade muffins an put them in the basket for the hostess and her family to enjoy the following morning.

                                                                                                1. I would NEVER bring a dish unless specifically asked. Your host might feel upstaged. Wine or simple dessert like cake or cookies are always fine to bring. What's most important is being prompt, well dressed and appreciative of your host's hospitality.

                                                                                                  1. We always ask if we can help with anything. Most often, we are assigned some of the wines, and then I work with the host/hostess, per their menu.

                                                                                                    However, there have been occasions, where we have done other things, but usually along with the wines.

                                                                                                    Out immediate reaction is to ask.


                                                                                                    1. Wine, music (cd's), flowers, notecards, lb. of freshly ground coffee, sparkling water, ice. These are typical items we bring or have had brought to parties. And we've gone empty handed as well. Really depends on the occasion and connection to the host. But, I always ask first and appreciate it when asked.

                                                                                                      1. I always bring a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates....
                                                                                                        I've never asked what the food will be ahead of time, only if I can help in any way.

                                                                                                        20 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                          So you bring both red and white wine?

                                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                            Why would latindancer have to bring both red and white? If she brings what she would be willing to drink, no problem. If it doesn't go with the meal--in the host's opinion--it does not have to be served. I rarely drink white wine so I always bring red and am delighted if it gets served, which it always has.

                                                                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                              If the intent is to bring the wine for consumption during the party I'd expect and desire to share. Therefore I'd cover all bases with a red and white if I weren't inclined to ask what was being served. If the wine were just for the guest I'd bring what I know they enjoy.

                                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                Well, as a host of many wine dinners, I seldom look upon a "gift bottle" as being FOR the meal. Actually, I always have a wine list, and it is rather "set in stone," and has been chosen, for that meal, including the cheese course, and the dessert.

                                                                                                                If a guest brings a bottle of wine, I assume that it is for my cellar, or later. I am usually not open to serving it, and unless heavily pressed, will not. The choices have been made.


                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                  I totally agree with you Bill. We should always choose wine from our cellars and assume that wines that are given as gifts are also for ours. It is so refreshing when things are clear.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                    I don't recall the OP asking what to bring to a WINE dinner. Yeah wine brought for the meal might be a poor choice under that specific circumstance but that's not what we're talking about are we?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                      For dinners, most of our hosts/hostesses ARE thinking wines to go with the meals. Not sure if the OP was referring to flowers, gifts of gold, or something else. I always think wine, but maybe that is just me.


                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                        Yeah so then I don't understand why you refered above to dinner as a WINE dinner if you believe it's implicit.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                          In my "crowd," nearly every one is a "wine dinner."


                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                            So you make no distinction between a dinner and a wine dinner? If that's true then I'm clear with what you mean. My approach to a wine dinner however would be a meal wrapped around a particular theme for the wine (i.e. all White Burgs, all Cru Beaujolais, a vertical tasting, etc).


                                                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                              If I am hosting, it will most likely be a "wine dinner," but, when I am a guest, it might be different. It just depends.


                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                Great. What's a typical wine theme for your dinners?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                  They are seldom "typical."

                                                                                                                                  We have had:

                                                                                                                                  Rhône wines (but not necessarily FROM the Rhône)
                                                                                                                                  Varietals, that you have never heard of
                                                                                                                                  The best of California '85
                                                                                                                                  Cabernets from around the world from '85
                                                                                                                                  Wines that go with sushi
                                                                                                                                  Name this grape
                                                                                                                                  Meritage vs Bordeaux
                                                                                                                                  Does Pinot Noir exhibit terroir, outside of Burgundy?
                                                                                                                                  Does Zinfandel exhibit terroir?
                                                                                                                                  Napa Cal-Cab, can you pick he location?
                                                                                                                                  Famous wine makers, that you have never heard of
                                                                                                                                  Rieslings then and now

                                                                                                                                  There are probably dozen more, but I cannot think of them right now.


                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                    Sounds very cool. Yeah I don't understand why any guest would assume his/her bottle would be served at such an event.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                      Hunt (forgive me for being blunt) but I have a hunch your circle of friends know you've planned the wine far in advance. I don't even know you but I can tell that any wine I brought would be appreciated, but not served.

                                                                                                                      and that's really the crux, right? a gesture.

                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                        Well, that depends. If there is some warning, I will always try to fit any wine into the mix. Sometimes, however, that does not work.

                                                                                                                        When we attend a dinner, I talk to the host/hostess about wines. If they have planned those, then anything that I bring, is for their cellar, and I never feel bad, if it is not served at the dinner.

                                                                                                                        I feel the same way, when guest bring wines, and the full menu has been planned in advance, and maybe with a week of tastings, for both the food and the wines. I think them graciously, and plan on inviting them back, to share their wine gift.

                                                                                                                        I have experienced a few awkward moments, when a guest brought a wine, when I had planned everything in advance, only to have their "gift" be served against an older 1er Cru Bdx. In one such case, after being pressured to serve a gifted wine, the gifter commented, on leaving, "I had no idea that you were REALLY into wines." I had tried to deflect serving his wine, but he insisted, and persisted, and I felt that I had to serve it. Unfortunately, it did not go over well with the other guests, but I kept trying to focus on the Ch. Latour, and not his wine.

                                                                                                                        Usually, things work out well, and I can handle it easily, but not always.


                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                          oh yeah I was referring to a situation where you're the host. and I think all the etiquettistas agree - sure bring wine but don't expect it to be served.

                                                                                                                          I'd gladly push my offering to the back and enjoy the Latour (or whatever offered)

                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                            Most guest, feel just that way. However, there have been a very few, who did not, and could not understand why I might not open their gift, that night. It just depends.


                                                                                                                2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                  No, I bring red.

                                                                                                                  However, I expect the host to consider it a gift and not serve it with the meal.
                                                                                                                  The same goes for the chocolates I bring. It;s a gift and for their own use.

                                                                                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                    I am with you, though I do gift some whites too. Unless I have made prior arrangements with the host/hostess, any wine that I bring is for THEM, whenever they decide to drink it.


                                                                                                              2. I always say "can I bring anything?". This lets the hosts determine if they need a food dish or not. If not, I won't bring any food over. I figure they have the meal planned and well in hand, and a separate unsolicited dish isn't usually welcome nor appropriate, especially if this is a planned meal (aka food with wine pairings). I've had this done to me and it really did annoy me -- a very young friend brought over a homemade freezer cheesecake because her boyfriend (who was also invited) "was having a craving", and they said they'd prefer to have their dessert rather than anything I made (!). I served it up, wrote it off to their relative youth and inexperience in hosting/guesting, but it did annoy me, so I won't do the same to another host.
                                                                                                                I will bring over a bottle of wine, and it'll be either a white or a red depending on the hosts' preference. Sometimes I'll bring over a fruit wine (really, they can be nice!) or an icewine if we know the hosts well and think they might like to share or try something out of the ordinary for them.
                                                                                                                However, if they open the bottle or not is their choice -- they've planned the meal and have things well in hand.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                                                                  Re your cheesecake story. Reading this, I had a sorts of snappy answers pop into my head, but I probably wouldn't use them when face to face. I would be tempted to hand it back and say 'well, if he has a craving, you should keep this for him. We will be having X for dessert tonight'. But I would probably smile and accept it.

                                                                                                                2. 4 years later but anyways...

                                                                                                                  I always routinely offer, "Need me to bring anything?" I think only once have I ever had a response other than, "Nope. Just you."

                                                                                                                  I always bring something though - occasionally wine, but now I've taken to bringing something that requires no immediate attention, and not too much commitment long term, unless i know it interests the host. Sometimes a little potted plant/cactus, sometimes a potted herb that I know the host will like, or a potted flower, etc.

                                                                                                                  If it's a close friend though, I generally text/call/email before I leave my house letting them know I'm leaving and am happy to stop and pick something up in case they forgot something at the store by accident, or ran out of toilet paper (this happened last year... friend was grateful, and boy was it amusing when i showed up with a 6 pack of Charmin and a bottle of Grenache.)

                                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                    maybe I'll just do that unprompted next time I go somewhere...nice mix

                                                                                                                    once again I'm reminded of a Simpson's episode mis-remembered - Marge unpacking a grocery bag said something to the effect of "Bourbon, home enemas, fireworks and cooking oil? whatever you have planned for tonight, count me out"

                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                      I am not really a Simpsons fan, and had seen but a few episodes (usually when it's on the short flights on UAL), and do not recall that one - however, that line, plus the visuals, is funny!

                                                                                                                      Thanks for sharing,


                                                                                                                    2. re: Emme

                                                                                                                      Great idea! The next time someone asks if they can bring something, I think I'll suggest toilet paper :) I would rather guests not bring anything--I don't drink much wine, I have enough chocolate to last through the millennium, and the cat makes potted plants in the house dangerous. Really, people, when I say you only need to bring yourselves, I MEAN IT!

                                                                                                                      I am one of those who love receiving flowers, but the toilet paper is something I can always use!

                                                                                                                      1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                                        yeah but then the guest has to decide whether you're an "ultra strong" or an "ultra soft" type

                                                                                                                        that's a whole different minefield of implications. (and god forbid ya send a gift pack of it the next day)

                                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                          ultra-soft. no contest. what were you thinking, hill food? ;)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                            well I don't know... jeez the airwaves seem to saturated with ads about how more concerned we ought to be about this tissue issue. (weird huh?)

                                                                                                                            yeah I'm with you on the soft.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                              that's true... however, i think bringing a bidet as a host(ess) gift for every occasion i may attend might get a tad pricy...

                                                                                                                              1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                Toilet paper! We ONLY use one type at my home. And if you bring the wrong type it's a flat-out INSULT that you didn't notice how carefully I matched it to the dinner.

                                                                                                                                Emme has the right of it: a bidet. But a portable size is just the right hostess gift:


                                                                                                                        2. re: nofunlatte

                                                                                                                          Maybe they could bring the winning Mega-Millions ticket for you?


                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                            I guess, if they couldn't find any toilet paper!

                                                                                                                        3. re: Emme

                                                                                                                          if it is a close family member or friend i always text or call last minute and specifically ask if i can bring ice :) it's a yes a lot of the time. i have also "saved the day" w paper napkins and most recently 2 tbsp of real mayo (miracle whip family) to finish a cold sauce.

                                                                                                                          ahead of the party i make sure to let close friends know i have very large platters and serving bowls and catering ware such as commercial steam tables, if a loan would help them. i'm always amazed at what the avg home cook thinks a "big" platter or bowl is. they in turn are amazed i have this big stuff sitting around :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                            We have friends who showed up at our cottage with some groceries and homemade food, and TP. Best cottage guests ever!

                                                                                                                          2. I do ask, and if they say no I still bring a gift which may or may not be wine, and if it is I don't expect them to open it.I would never bring unasked for food. It's insulting.

                                                                                                                            1. Just going through this right now...I've invited friends over for dinner. They said "do you want us to bring anything?" I say NOPE, just yourselves, an appetite and a smiling happy face. Next email -- Should we bring wine? And I say, DH is matching the wine with the food so no worries there. Just yourselves. Followed by another email "do you want us to bring red or white wine" to which I decide they're hell bent on bringing something, and since we have enough toilet paper (lololol), I go with the old standby which some people seem to hate -- flowers. So I say "no wine please, we have cellared wine that is at its peak, so no wine, but flowers...I DO love flowers. Followed by an email "OK, see you at 6pm!".
                                                                                                                              Now they're happy, they're bringing something. I'm happy, as the wine is planned and really, it only takes a second to cut flowers and put them in a pre-prepared vase. All is good!
                                                                                                                              ps. curry on the menu!

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                Ice is my go-to something to get people to bring...it's cheap, there's never too much for a party and easy to dispose of. If you can make them feel like they are saving you because you didn't think of getting ice, even better ;-)

                                                                                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                                                                                  I also would never come empty handed (british upbringing) and appreciate when people offer to bring something. If they offer I usually ask them to bring a dessert, because then they are happy and it really is a help. Or if I have a specific dessert in mind already I will ask them to bring a treat for the kids, and again they are happy because they don't have to wonder about what to bring. My theory is that people who ask to bring something really want to. Sometimes people do come empty handed and it makes me wonder. If a host/hostess insists on me not bringing anything then I will bring wine and not expect it to be served that night.

                                                                                                                                2. I usually bring wine. I once did and had a (not close)friend get really angry at me for not calling to see what they were serving, as I brought red and they were having chicken. The same friend would, if he'd invited me at the last minute (an hour before, while I as at work) and I asked if I could bring anything, he'd give me a list of specific ingredients (cilantro, naan, a specific, hard-to-find brand of mango chutney, organic vanilla ice-cream and blackberries) plus kingfisher beer. It's a lot
                                                                                                                                  of shopping for a last minute dinner at someone else's house. I have another friend who asks for specifics plus wine -- she had me pick up $20 worth of takeout fried rice she'd ordered
                                                                                                                                  because her husband wants rice with th meal and she didn't have time to cook rice (and she knew he'd want an extra order for his work lunch)... since this happens regularly (the last time I as invited for dinner I was asked to go in halves for pizza when I got there, plus the wine and specific dessert she'd asked for). I gave her the bag with the bill stapled to it... and she said "thanks for contributing!" It wasn't a potluck or a big dinner party, just a normal evening meal I'd been invited to an hour before. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to contribute -- but I always thought it was pretty bad manners to demand really detailed specifics. Interestingly, the same friend won't take just bring yourself for an answer when i invite her to my house for dinner, she's insisted on bringing a dish -- (an appetizer that didn't really work with the meal, but I didn't tell her that -- and then showed up without it, saying she'd run out of time (which worked out for the best).

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: rocketjay

                                                                                                                                    Ugh, rocketjay. What a hot mess that read was. Such friends as these would make me lose my appetite. You must be some kinda patient friend to go through all of that for a invite...if you can call it that. I hope you find graciousness in other friendly places!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: rocketjay

                                                                                                                                      You are a SAINT! Which provokes but one question: WHY? Those people are beyond tolerable.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: rocketjay

                                                                                                                                        Your story reminds me of some wacky people in the neighborhood growing up. This family would always borrow stuff (usually consumables) and would eventually return the favor but one specific incident still baffles me. Apparently they always had soup and sandwiches for their evening meal on Sundays. One Sunday they went to another neighbor to borrow a loaf of bread and 2 cans of soup. (This is a small town where the local grocers were only open 10a - 4p on Sundays).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: rocketjay

                                                                                                                                          Moral of the story? Don't ask what you can bring. Bring what you intended to bring anyway. Asking ends up being more work for me, I just bring either a hostess gift, a plant or a bottle of wine. If they don't like it then I don't really care. Being invited to dinner should not be a major hassle for me unless it's a close friend, a potluck or family.

                                                                                                                                          1. I have a few close groups of friends that dine together often. Whenever the dinner is not at my place, I will ask if I should bring anything. If the dinner is at my place, everyone I invite will ask if they should bring anything.

                                                                                                                                            If I am invited to a dinner by someone other than these groups of close friends, then I will not ask if I should bring anything. I will, however, show up with the appropriate alcoholic beverages: a couple bottles of wine (always 1 red & 1 white), a case of beer, or a bottle of liquor, depending on what the situation calls for.

                                                                                                                                            1. We always bring wine, usually red, in a gift bag so they know it's for the house, not the party, unless they want to serve it.
                                                                                                                                              I figure it doesn't really count as a gift when nothing is requested, and won't interfere with whatever food they're having, since there's no expectation of its being served with the meal.

                                                                                                                                              We had some friends and neighbors over last weekend and even though we'd written "no gifts" on the invite (this was the first official party in our new house), everyone, and I mean everyone, brought a bottle of wine. We ended up with more wine than was consumed at the party! DH joked later that whenever we're low on wine, we should just have a party.

                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                                And it seems not many people know that if someone brings wine and you've already chosen wine, thank them graciously, and serve whatever you had chosen.

                                                                                                                                                It's **absolutely** proper behaviour to *not* open the wine that was gifted by a guest at that particular meal.

                                                                                                                                                It's a nice touch, however, to stick a post-it on the bottle to remind you who gave it to you, so you can share it with them at a later date.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842


                                                                                                                                                  We host many "wine dinners," and have usually done many tastings, to get to the final selections for the evening - my wife's meal, and my wines. We might have cooked the dishes several times, and I might have worked with a dozen wines, to get us to the night of the event.

                                                                                                                                                  When wine bottles arrive, I graciously thank the guest, and tell them that I will put it into my cellar (if I can fit it in), and then will do a dinner with them, to explore that, and many more wines. That usually works 100%, though there have been exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                  At one such dinner, the guest insisted that I serve his wine. I relented, and as we had whites for the first three courses, and his wine was a red,, I poured it, along with some 1er Cru Bdx, that were chosen for the meat course. I hated that it came down to that, but he insisted. His wine was hardly drunk, by any of the guests. Not my intention.

                                                                                                                                                  When he was leaving, he commented, "You REALLY are into wines, aren't you?" I smiled, and nodded, and shook his hand. I wish that he had not insisted, as we'd have had him back over, and done burgers (great burgers) with his wine.


                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                    Why couldn't you invite him back over?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                      I think it was that the wine would have gone better with burgers, but since the wine was gone....

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                        The guy (whoever he is) could bring the same bottle over again?

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                          Not everyone has two identical bottles on hand...or he could have stopped off and bought it on the way.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                            No, at another time. On a later date,

                                                                                                                                              2. Yes, we do ask automatically. But those are the kind of parties our friends have, and they all seem to love my cooking.

                                                                                                                                                1. So many minefields here! People have mentioned problems with flowers and wine, depending on culture. I've been told by friends from a couple different African countries that bringing food of any sort, or even offering to do so, is an insult and implies that they can't feed their guests adequately. One other issue with flowers--flowers sold commercially in the US are generally mono cropped in plantations that crowded out food crops in the countries where they're located, and the profits rarely stay where the flowers are grown. So I don't like bought flowers to give or get.
                                                                                                                                                  Sending an arrangement sounds nice, but doesn't sending it the morning of imply that it should be displayed at the dinner? I want a thank you gift to be just for our host/ess, so if they don't want me to bring a dish or dessert. I go with a bottle of wine. But after reading this thread, I might bring a small bouquet of my own flowers already arranged. I'm excited right now about making "food" bouquets, with peas and herbs and carrot tops and other edibles.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                                                                                    Wow, a food bouquet! That's new to me. I love the idea. I am not good at arranging that sort but that sounds like a fantastic idea. I would really appreciate an herb bouquet!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PaintItBlacc

                                                                                                                                                      How about a fruit bouquet like Edible Arrangements? That way the fruit could be served with a cheese course at dinner! ; )

                                                                                                                                                  2. Yes, I always ask. Sometimes they say yes and suggest something general like "dessert" or a "bottle of wine" sometimes it is more specific like a "bottle of sparkling wine." And sometimes it is no. If it is no, I will often bring something that is a hostess gift and not meant for the evening.

                                                                                                                                                    1. Good Afternoon,

                                                                                                                                                      It is customary to ask if you could bring a bottle of wine, Cava or a cordial and / or or a dessert perhaps. We always ask, and it is commonplace amongst our international friends.

                                                                                                                                                      It is not usual to go empty handed.

                                                                                                                                                      1. I ask, "what can we bring" and if the person says "nothing", I will pick up a bottle of wine or some beer. Depending on who the host is (we have some friends who don't drink alcohol), we might also pick up flowers or a potted plant or a box of chocolates or candies. Just a little something to show our appreciation. We have one friend who we brought a bouquet of flowers to years ago in a vase. It was her "very first vase" and a decade later she still uses it. :)

                                                                                                                                                        Sometimes we will call when we are on our way to that person's house and ask if there are any emergency items that they need. Ice is usually the answer to this question.

                                                                                                                                                        My mother would kill me if she knew I went to someone's house for dinner empty handed.

                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ladooShoppe

                                                                                                                                                          My mother is the same way.

                                                                                                                                                          One thing I'm not sure of is the potluck. Is the dish a gift or do I also need to bring a hostess gift? I always bring both.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ChillyDog

                                                                                                                                                            If it's a potluck, I figure it's with people with whom I'm informal enough that it's not necessary to bring a hostess gift.

                                                                                                                                                            If it's at the home of someone I don't know particularly well yet, though, I'll bring flowers or wine or chocolates.

                                                                                                                                                            (I tend to prefer wine or chocolates because they don't have to be served right at this meal, and they don't require immediate attention like cut flowers, although I have gifted a potted plant on occasion)

                                                                                                                                                        2. Reading through these replies (I admit I didn't read ALL of them, so maybe I'm not alone here) made me realize just how informal my friends and I are about dinner.

                                                                                                                                                          Usually around 2-3 times a month, my husband and I will call upon a couple or group of friends and ask if they want to come over for dinner. They do usually ask if they can bring something, and sometimes I take them up on it, depending on what I'm making, but usually my response is, "This is what I'm making, if you'd like to bring something to go with it, feel free. Or bring something to drink to share with the group." Wine is never acceptable; my husband and I don't drink. If someone does bring wine (very rare, since all of our friends know we don't drink) I politely tell the person that they are free to open and share it with the group, but that we will not partake and usually don't keep any leftovers if the bottle is not finished by the end of the evening.

                                                                                                                                                          We have never been offered flowers, chocolates, jams, pastries, or anything else that people have suggested here, and I would never expect those things. Our friends show up in jeans and t-shirts (which is usually what my husband and I wear, as well) and if there's more than 4 people total (including my husband and I) then we eat in the living room on the couches and love seats, since our kitchen table is tiny and can only fit 4 people comfortably. I do not serve "courses"; usually dinner is served buffet style, with the food still in its cooking vessels along with a serving spoon or tongs, and I direct our friends where to grab a plate and begin the line. Occasionally I will have snacks or appetizers before dinner, and I almost always have some kind of dessert. Dinner is usually accompanied by board games, card games, or a movie.

                                                                                                                                                          I would never consider this a "dinner party", which I have never hosted or been invited to, but then...the TC did not specify "dinner party" in their OP. Anyway, to answer the TC's initial question, if I am invited over to a friend's house for dinner (which we often are, and they are very similar to my own dinners) then I always offer to bring something and usually am asked (or at least, not turned down when offered) to bring cookies or some kind of snack.

                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Maggiethecat

                                                                                                                                                            Yeah, Maggiethecat, I see a dinner invitation as different from what you described, too. If it's a very casual drop-over as you wrote, I still might take something, but probably not wine or flowers (maybe soft drinks, chips, etc). Tees & jeans: definitely. Dinner family or buffet style: absolutely.

                                                                                                                                                            But if I invite friends over specifically for a dinner (or more formal lunch), I use serving dishes on the table, place settings, flowers ifrom my yard n a vase. That's when guests do bring a bottle of wine or other hostess-y thing. Guess we just have some radar about what's the lesser or more formal event!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Maggiethecat

                                                                                                                                                              Now that's entertaining! I would love to be a guest at your house where everything clearly says "welcome! Relax! We're glad you're here".

                                                                                                                                                            2. If you must bring flowers or a plant, please be aware that some can be harmful to pets. Perhaps the most common cut flowers at issue here are LILIES. They can be fatal to cats and are to be avoided unless you are sure your host does not have a cat.

                                                                                                                                                              Here's a list and a resource for more information.

                                                                                                                                                              Are there any plants that are toxic to my pets that I shouldn't keep around the house?
                                                                                                                                                              The following is a list of the 17 most common poisonous plants. For details on each plant, follow this link.
                                                                                                                                                              Sago Palm
                                                                                                                                                              Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
                                                                                                                                                              Castor Bean
                                                                                                                                                              Autumn Crocus
                                                                                                                                                              English Ivy
                                                                                                                                                              Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily)


                                                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ChillyDog

                                                                                                                                                                That would explain why nobody ever brings any marijuana (plants) to our dinner parties.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                  I knew somebody was going to spot that one... :)

                                                                                                                                                                  I had at least one of those plants in my house during all the years I had cats. Solution? An 8" x 8" baking dish planted with grass that was on the floor, just for them.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: ChillyDog

                                                                                                                                                                  dieffenbachia isn't entirely toxic per se in small amounts, but cats love to chew it as it numbs their mouths like coca leaves do us.


                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                    Hill food: my husband always said the cats use my dieffenbachia and pothos plants to floss their teeth! who knew they were numbing anything? I think their brains were numb from birth :()

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                      numb and dull until, and when, their wits are as sharp as their teeth!

                                                                                                                                                                      amusing animals. my sister's cat always had a wild look, but even more when he'd been chewing that house plant (my aunt worked at the botanical garden so we always had unusual things around)

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                        Reminds me of Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb... "


                                                                                                                                                                  2. I rotate amongst coffee beans, tins of tea, or chocolate truffles nestled in an edible chocolate box. Just a small thank you for having me over.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. At times in the past, I've brought a batch of scones or muffins - something breakfast-y - and given them to the host/ess with the explanation that I figured they wouldn't be much in the mood to be hassling in the kitchen the next morning, and thank you so much for going to the trouble having us over.

                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe that's rude? I don't know, it always seemed appreciated...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I read all the responses.
                                                                                                                                                                        I am a recovering alcoholic, please do not bring wine.
                                                                                                                                                                        I am diabetic, please don't bring cookies, dessert, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                        My sister's throat begins to close up when fresh flowers are in the room, she is allergic to both nuts and seafood. We don't live together, but she would usually be at any event I am hosting, so I am quite aware of what is being served.
                                                                                                                                                                        And etc.
                                                                                                                                                                        There is no right answer. It depends on the situation and how well you know your host.

                                                                                                                                                                        I think a basket of fresh fruit is the perfect gift, maybe with a special cheese tucked in. *hint* I love red seedless grapes and a nice gorgonzola. LOL

                                                                                                                                                                        I live near an excellent Italian Deli so this is my go-to. I loved the idea of bringing TP.

                                                                                                                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: laliz

                                                                                                                                                                          If you flat-out refuse a gift given in good will (and by people unaware of your issues), then YOU are in the wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                          Bottle of wine? Serve it to them, and pour the rest out, or simply apologize **profusely** and say you don't drink. (no history, no details "I don't drink" will suffice)

                                                                                                                                                                          Diabetic? Accept them graciously, then regift or throw them out.

                                                                                                                                                                          If you're hosting and your sister is there, then YOU are in charge of the menu. If there's nuts and seafood, it's not your guests' fault. Put the flowers in water, then put them in a back room, "because we don't want to block the flow of conversation"

                                                                                                                                                                          And etc.

                                                                                                                                                                          How does that basket of fresh fruit look to someone who's allergic to strawberries? How about that special cheese for someone who's lactose-intolerant?

                                                                                                                                                                          We can make up special situations until we all fall over from boredom...but there's a way to be gracious about a faux pas, and there's a way to make your guests uncomfortable. Opt for the first.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                              sunshine, I know I "should" simply do a +2.
                                                                                                                                                                              but that's not who I am under these circumstances...because....I COULDN'T AGREE WITH YOU MORE!

                                                                                                                                                                              I am an offerer simply because it's kind, polite, respectful and generally my/our way of showing appreciation, thankfulness and greatfulness.
                                                                                                                                                                              what you do with my/our token is your business, I won't (after all) know. since cooking and 
                                                                                                                                                                              baking is my way of giving love plus favorite thing to do in the world, you'd be wrong to take offense.
                                                                                                                                                                              example: our 'x' best friends' son was coming home from active duty as a Marine Special Services Force Recon shooter. we loved him as if he was our son. big party planned in his favor, we were invited with the dinner catered Mexican, his favorite. we know them VERY well. we brought 4 different flavors of Absolute and I made a chocolate mousse cheesecake, his favorite. got there,  great party-husband handed over the 4 bottles from the Von's bag to the father. I took the dessert into the kitchen and gave to the mom. end of the night with about 100 in attendance-the unopened bottles were still on the bar and my cheesecake was handed back to me to take home. to this day I don't know what to make of that. leave the bottles, of course-we know over time it was consumed. but the dessert  WHY on earth after the effort it took to make it was it returned to me? rude, simply rude and  very telling.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                                I wonder if the poor boy ever actually knew his favorite dessert was there in the kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                Sad. Very sad.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                                  that one is one you have to walk away from and not think about it. they were overwhelmed? too much at once? but not the relationship.

                                                                                                                                                                                  invite the kiddo and pals or kiddo and folks over for dinner someday and serve it directly (well not THAT cheesecake, just chalk it up to fluster and move on). the hand-back is odd, but who knows.

                                                                                                                                                                                  (ok, kiddo is disrespectful for any member of the armed services, but it's how I refer to my nephews and nieces, some of whom have served)

                                                                                                                                                                                  under emotional circumstances people do silly things. maybe felt embarrassed it hadn't been offered at the right time and panicked. either way...

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                      my husband and I keep up with our favorite Marine. he feels very close to my husband and has since he was about 6. grew up with our family constantly with his family so their kids are like our kids. his parents are wonderful incredible people-that said, nothing like my husband and I. we're very affectionate-they aren't-result, he always felt and feels very special around us.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I haven't lost sleep over that party night, but it was very awkward. we are going out with our Favorite Marine for dinner Oct 5th. we have a special nickname for him that we're sure no one calls him, but he's that special, special recon or not.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I was just responding to this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                                        based on what you've said, I seriously bet on the fluster factor. yes odd, but they were on a serious spot with lots of guests and details (and likely a boatload of leftovers). the F2F time is so much better anyway. why I skipped my nephews' graduation this June and opted for dinner at a later date instead. nice to be there for the cattle call, but it'll be more meaningful 10/5.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: iL Divo

                                                                                                                                                                                      Why did you bring food and drink to a THEMED CATERED party? Did the hostess know you were bringing flavored vodka and one cheesecake to a CATERED MEXICAN party for 100?

                                                                                                                                                                                      This evening wasn't about you, nor how you wish to express love, nor how much you like to cook/bake/gift. It was a catered event for 100 people to welcome home a veteran. You're off base.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: laliz

                                                                                                                                                                                    Can it be assumed that anyone invited to your house for a dinner party would know about the restrictions you mentioned? I can't imagine you would have any problems with those products.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                      not necessarily. there are dinners and invitations that are not strictly for close friends.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: laliz

                                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like a cousin of mine. She is a level 5 Vegan, hates wines, and cannot do hard alcohol. All plants/flowers send her into sneezing fits, She has allergies to cotton, so no kitchen mittens, if they are not polyester, and her walls are already filled with "art." Last visit, I gave her a beautiful rock from Colorado.


                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                        A beautiful rock is a wonderful gift, Bill! Sort of quirky, but charmingly so when one loves rocks! My friends and family brings me rocks from their travels all the time as house gifts, and those rocks take their place in one of my many rock-filled gardens. It's a fun tradition for all of us - they think I'm a fun nut and laugh with great good nature at what a bargain I am for gifts, and I get to indulge my little armchair geology passion. Years ago when my parents were clearing a site for an outbuilding project, my father brought me a dump truck load of gorgeous rocks from their property as a birthday gift (I was just embarking on my gardens at that point), and that remains one of my favorite gifts ever.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Since I host a lot in our family and social circle, I get a lot of rocks from all over the world. Centuries from now, perhaps an excavation of my yard will cause some head scratching: what sort of glacier was it that deposited this mishmash of rocks here? Answer? That would be the Glacier Cay, who happily hosts for rocks. Stone soup is always a possibility if times get really hard <grin>.

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. We always take wine and sometimes chocolates/flowers as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                      What really does annoy me is when we have put a lot of thought into choosing a wine (having established what we would be eating) and taking a bottle of nice wine for the host to then open a bottle of plonk.

                                                                                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilipS

                                                                                                                                                                                        but it's not your call.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Every etiquette book out there says that it's great to bring a bottle of wine for dinner...but that if the host/hostess have already purchased wine for dinner, there is no obligation to serve the gift.

                                                                                                                                                                                        They are well within their rights to serve whatever they want with the meal, and save your bottle for another night.

                                                                                                                                                                                        (and maybe they're posting on a parallel universe board "Yes, it really annoys me when we put a lot of thought into choosing a wine based on what we will be eating, and my guests show up and expect me to open the bottle of plonk they brought.")

                                                                                                                                                                                        Not saying you're bringing plonk....but it's all down to the perceptions of the people involved.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                          I will always bring wine, I will always ask white or red… even if I’m told “oh no, don’t worry about it” I’ll bring a bottle or two of each
                                                                                                                                                                                          But I’m on both sides of this fence:

                                                                                                                                                                                          My Dad makes wine… sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it’s ..meh… when I am having special dinners I plan out what wine we’re going to drink with each course… and then my Father brings a few bottles of HIS wine and INSISTS we have some with dinner…
                                                                                                                                                                                          Love you Dad… BUT… I put a lot of effort and research into matching just the right wine with the right food and having the right progression of each through the courses so that we could have the most enjoyable dining experience… your overly oaked white will completely overwhelm the _____ that I paired with _____

                                                                                                                                                                                          Flip Side: going in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner, we brought 4 bottles of a very nice white burgundy which my brother in law stashed off to the side while he continued to decant glasses of Franzia “White wine” out of a box

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                                                                            Ok, let me make sure that I understand. You are irritated when your father brings wine and wants you to serve it instead of the wine that you bought to go with the meal that you prepared. But, you also get irritated that your brother-in-law chooses not to serve the wine that you brought and, instead, continues serving the wine that he selected to go with the meal that he prepared.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Does anyone else see something amiss with this picture?

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Vidute

                                                                                                                                                                                              I said I was on both sides of the fence with this issue. I'd consider it a 'case by case scenario'

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                                                                              Maybe you should start a wine & dinner club with like-minded friends and you can hash this all out before hand with people who appreciate it.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cgarner

                                                                                                                                                                                                I hate it when people bring wine for just these reasons. I'm wondering if they think theirs is better, or if they want to get drunk and are afraid I don't have enough, or if they'll be offended if I don't serve it or if they'll think I'm cheap or unprepared if I do serve it or......

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: dianne0712

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If a guest brings wine you should ask if they'd like to have it opened. Second, one should have on hand one bottle of wine per guest. That's plenty. And if they wanna get drunk that's their business as long as they aren't rude or driving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Nope, you're under no obligation to open gifted wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's really nice of you to ask, though, no matter how much you're cringing inside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually one of the problems is that none of us drink that much. 1 or mayyyyyyyyybe 1 1/2 bottles is all we get through. If 3 people bring wine, we never get to them. Then I feel like I'm hoarding them for myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dianne0712

                                                                                                                                                                                                        as above -- you are not obligated to open gifted wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you want to put a post-it, then you can bring it out the next time the person who gave it to you comes over...but you are not obligated to open gifted wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nor are you obligated to drink more than you wish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        it is a gift...for you to drink or share as you see fit.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I don't give dinner parties any more, but when I did, "hostess gifts" were never a part of the scenario.

                                                                                                                                                                                            All those statements starting stiffly with "It is customary..." - well, what is "customary" varies widely.

                                                                                                                                                                                            If someone brings flowers and there is someone allergic in the house, the flowers are not coming in. Even if they're "in the back bedroom", the pollen is going to be throughout the house. Out they go, no apologies necessary on either side. Surely, with all this display of "civility", one can manage to actually BE civil and take into consideration the MEDICAL needs of others without using it as an excuse to get miffed and huffy.

                                                                                                                                                                                            As for expecting an alcoholic to graciously accept a gift of alcohol, don't be a git. It's not your fault if you didn't know, but if you show up at someones house with an unsolicited gift of alcohol, be gracious if the person asks you not to bring it in. Assume they have a good reason and let it drop. Why are so many people's egos tied up in this sort of thing?

                                                                                                                                                                                            The whole "hostess gift" thing is definitely NOT part of my culture, nor has it ever been "customary". If I ask someone if I can bring something and I'm told "no", then I don't bring anything. And I'd rather people coming to my home not bring anything, either. If I want olive oil, I'll already have it in my cupboard. Ditto jam, jelly, vinegar, etc etc etc. Chocolates? Thanks but no thanks. I invite people to my home because I want to socialize with them, not because I want to sweep up some "hostess gifts".

                                                                                                                                                                                            Thankfully I've never had an issue with anyone I know over such trivial things. If someone did bring a "gift", I would accept it graciously, but at a future time I would also let them know that an invitation is simply that, no hostess gift is necessary, and that the best gift they can give me is simply their presence.

                                                                                                                                                                                            As far as bringing a gift of wine, if you have 6,000 bottles of wine in your private cellar, I guarantee there is no wine I could or would bring to you that wouldn't be coldly accepted and regifted at the earliest opportunity to the gardener or something, LOL! Anything I would consider a mid-priced wine is definitely going to be "plonk" in that world! My idea of a really good wine is Beringer's Beaujolais, and half the time my wine is either Two Buck Chuck, or it comes in a box, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                            The problem is, with all the comments of "it's the gesture that counts", it's pretty clear that making the gesture is NOT sufficient for an awful lot of people - or maybe that's a lot of awful people. The number of people who have complained about crappy hostess gifts in this thread makes THAT abundantly clear, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                            Declining health means I am no longer up to having people over for dinner. Moving all over the country means most of my friends are long gone, and being virtually a shut-in means I don't meet people. So my dinner party days are past me. But when I was giving them and going to them, no one *I* ever knew made such a fuss about hostess gifts, the lack thereof, or what would be "acceptable" should someone chance to show up with one.

                                                                                                                                                                                            And if I ever knew anyone who would kick up a fuss about being asked to leave an allergen outside the house for the safety and comfort of another guest (or of the host), I surely didn't know them for long.

                                                                                                                                                                                            THAT is what is "customary" for me!

                                                                                                                                                                                            18 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                              I'll repeat, since it apparently got missed: there's a way to be gracious about a faux pas, and there's a way to make your guests uncomfortable. Opt for the first.

                                                                                                                                                                                              what was there about " Serve it to them, and pour the rest out, or simply apologize **profusely** and say you don't drink. (no history, no details "I don't drink" will suffice)" that would qualify namecalling and derision, please?

                                                                                                                                                                                              If you flat-out refuse a gift given in good will (and by people unaware of your issues), then YOU are in the wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                "Serve it to them and pour the rest out" is completely unrealistic for most alcoholics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                There is absolutely no need for either party to apologize "profusely" in such a circumstance. Simply saying "we don't allow alcohol in the house, I'm sorry" is enough and is not, and should not be seen as, rude. Just take it back and put it in the car. A gift that can make you ill or even kill you is no gift at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                People are under absolutely NO compunction whatsoever to accept a gift from ANYONE. Ever. Under any circumstances. "Issues" have nothing to do with it. If you offer a gift and I refuse, accept it and move on. It isn't rude to refuse a gift; it's rude to try to press an unwanted gift on someone else, though. Rude, at the very least, probably more than slightly manipulative, if not something far worse.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow. That simply isn't the way my world works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  While your wine scenario could be handled gracefully, refusing a gift to which you have no life- or wellbeing-threatening sensitivities IS rude, particularly when it was purchased and offered with the best of intentions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you don't like a gift, you don't have to keep it, and you can chuck it in the garbage as soon as your guests leave. But to flat out refuse it (with no above-mentioned sensitivities) is ridiculously rude and insensitive, and I simply do not see how you could expect a guest to not be offended.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                    So the way your world works is that people have to take what you give them, whether they want it or not, whether or not it makes them uncomfortable or causes them physical or emotional pain, so you can feel good about yourself?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fortunately I don't have to live in your world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I said "without health- or wellbeing-threatening sensitivities"

                                                                                                                                                                                                      if you were to bring a loaf of homemade bread to a celiac, they'd be mortified that they'd brought a gift that would harm you, and would take it away so as not to harm you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But if someone brought you something that posed no threat to you in any way and yet you refused it, then yes, you're being very rude and very inconsiderate and very, very out of line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      And I'm pretty sure that most of the folks here live in the same world I do, or one that functions very similarly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are no qualifications. No one is ever required to accept a gift from anyone else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That said, there's no need to be rude about it (I mean ACTUALLY rude, where it is done in malice, as opposed to the faux kind of rude you believe in), and I'm not talking about instances where such refusal is being used selectively as a weapon in and of itself, such as refusing a gift from one child but not another in order to be manipulative. But simply refusing a gift, in the absence of ulterior motive or manipulative intent, is not rude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Insisting that someone MUST accept a gift, however, is very rude. Pressing a gift on someone is what is very very out of line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The bigger the power differential, the more rude and obnoxious the behavior is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        When a man presses gifts on a woman who doesn't want them, by your lights, she is required by the "rules of propriety" to accept, no matter how uncomfortable this makes her feel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yet, should a woman continue to accept such gifts even though she has no romantic feelings towards the man and continues to make that clear, that woman is seen as cheap and conniving. So she still loses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Either she's rude and out of line for refusing the gift, or she's obnoxious and grasping for accepting it. I'll go with the former.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The whole "hostess gift" idea isn't about being generous. When a "gift" is REQUIRED, it ceases to be a gift at all and becomes something entirely different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And no, I do not HAVE to accept your hostess gift. I probably will, the first time; while doing my best to make it clear to you that in the future no such gift is wanted or needed. Should you show up on my doorstep a SECOND time with an unwanted gift - I think it should be pretty obvious that, having been told once not to do that, if you do it again anyway, it isn't me who's being rude and inconsiderate, it's you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I doubt we'd have such a problem though because it's pretty clear we live in totally separate worlds and are unlikely ever to cross paths to start with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                          KitchenBarbarian - you are crossing paths right now, in this here cyberspace; and being rude to Sunshine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          You have your opinion, she has hers - agree to disagree and let it go.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                              sunshine, I am responding to you instead of KB, because you and I share the same view on this subject. A hostess gift, imo, is given as appreciation for the host's/hostess's company. That has always been my understanding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              An invitation for a meal to a person's home and the hostess gift are both the same side of a coin. Just as you wouldn't tell the host that you don't eat that "crap", you shouldn't refuse the gift, unless of course it poses a hazard.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Graciousness and "it's the thought that counts" apply. If you don't like something, you quietly don't eat it. If you don't like the gift, you quietly take it and place it aside and do with it as you wish after the guests have left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              And, one more thing, as this is a gift to the host, there should be no expectation of it being shared with the other guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I won't go into sending a thank you note the following day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I read Sunshine's comment as to be a response on etiquette. I would never refuse a gift from someone and risk them feeling uncomfortable in my house.The gift is brought out the kindness of their heart.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              During the visit, you can let them know where you're at in life, thank them for the gift politely stating you keep your home free of temptations.
                                                                                                                                                                                                              I applaud your strength and hope this comment finds you well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                                                                          particularly when it was purchased and offered with the best of intentions


                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think it's safe to say I don't ever remember thinking when someone brought a gift to my house as I was hosting, "wow, that was brought or bought solely with malice or out of obligation."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Where I'm from (England) it's considered rude to turn up completely empty-handed! Everyone usually brings wine, and sometimes flowers or another gift. I would never, ever decline a gift - that would be very rude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                        EDIT: hmmm... Somehow this post managed to miss the spot I posted it to. It is in response to Kitchen Barbarian's post (of 17 hours ago at this writing) that begins, "There are no qualifications. No one is ever required to accept a gift from anyone else." Now that that is explained, let's proceed:

                                                                                                                                                                                                        KitchenBarbarian, I've gone to your profile page, and from there to your posts on various subjects If my conclusions from reading you are correct, you're originally from India, or maybe born here but raised with that culture. Which does NOT mean you aren't "typically American." That said, we all grow up with "norms" and "traditions" that are peculiar to our family and group of friends. Add to that the fact that society in general today is evolving in all sorts of directions at a whirlwind pace, leaving tons of room for confusion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Nevertheless, there is still a custom in certain segments of "American society" where the NORM is to taker a hostess gift when you are invited for dinner. And one of the unspoken tests in that segment of society to check out whether you belong comes in the form of how well you handle hostess gifts. Grace and aplomb will bring you accolades. Be biting or make ANY guest feel uncomfortable about offering or not offering a hostess gift, refuse the gift, make a snide remark about it, and such behavior will win you a shortage of future dinner invitations from all present. A hostess gift in NO WAY indicates that the guest who is presenting it thinks you are needy, or that your status is lower than his/hers. It is simply a gift that is intended to express appreciation and is offered as a token of friendship.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        When this is understood, I think it makes life a lot more comfortable for everyone, and makes it more fun to be host OR guest! Life can be good. Sometimes we just need to help it along a bit. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                          doubly interesting, since all the cultural sensitivity articles I've read (and seminars I've taken) about doing business on the Indian subcontinent indicate that you MUST bring a gift if you are invited to someone's home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I know this is old old news now - but see where making assumptions gets you?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was born and raised in Ohio by parents who were born and raised in India and came from good German and French stock on my dad's side and English/Scotch-Irish on my mothers. Plus some Native American thrown in the mix.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            In short, I'm a good old fashioned American mutt, and as Midwestern as they come.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The fact that I have since lived all over the place and have extensive connections to other cultures only enhances that, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            As for refusing hostess gifts - the vast majority of that conversation revolved around postings suggesting that it is rude to refuse to accept a gift that will make the receiver ill in some way - whether due to an allergy, or someone who does not allow alcohol in the home, for whatever reason.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            As far as Indians expecting hostess gifts or the equivalent - I've no doubt that there is a contingent for whom that is true. It certainly wasn't true among my (married-into) family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: KitchenBarbarian

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Welcome back to Chowhound after a 2 year absence. Here's hoping all is well with you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. If it's my regular circle of friends I always offer to bring something. It's pretty much SOP in this neck of the woods.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          However when I am invited to say my bosses house, or if I am invited to true dinner party (meaning not "Hey you guys want to come over Friday night, we are making pizza") I don't usually offer right away but wait till more details emerge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I do always bring a hostess gift but nothing I would expect them to serve and nothing that will require extra work for the hostess. The worst is when someone brings a huge bunch of flowers and then I am scrambling trying to find vase, finding room in my kitchen to cut the stems and arrange them, ugh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I always ask. If they say no, then I say thank you for the invite and let it drop....except for one friend.