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Mar 28, 2008 08:36 PM

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.