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How to get dinner guests to go home

This may sound silly or simple but how do you get guests who do not want to leave your home after a long night of food and entertainment?

They generally come over at 6. At around midnight I make subtle hints about the evening ending. Around 1 I suggest that it might be getting to be my bed time or that I am very tired and should be wrapping things up. At 2 and 3 after I have thrown my hands up in bewilderment my husband tells them it is time to go to which they act like they do not hear us or get up and stand there talking and moving to other topics I guess they feel we did not discuss to death at the dinner table. Last week they left at 3 a.m. and the wife was really put out because I accidentally fell asleep on the couch. She woke me and told me she was sorry she bored me. I felt bad, but I was dying. I just do not know how they do it.

The husband probably drank 4 bottles of wine alone and was still functioning. I have tried withholding liquor, but he just goes over and pours himself a scotch. I am both bewildered and laughing. I am pathetic I know. I cringe when my husband tells them they have to go... NOW or we will leave them in the living room to go to bed. It has come to that.

When we go to their house we leave at 11 or so to try to set an example, but they act like we are treating them poorly by dining and dashing (5 - 11!!!). I tell them I want to be invited back and have surely loved their company, their amazinng cooking and a wonderfully entertaining evening, but that all good things must come to a close.

I wish we could just forget them, but they are always in our faces, always calling and they are our neighbors. it would be weird.


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  1. When I managed a very busy Country Club, there were members who liked to stay way past the liking of the staff. To get them to leave without nary a word.....

    We would turn up the air conditioning on high and freeze them out.......worked every time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      I'd turn off the heat, but she loves that (menapause) and he would just put on his jacket. No lie. But a splendid idea for the country club hangers on. We used to put the lights up intolerably high at the restaurant. Chased them right out. I wish we could do that at home and have it work. They would just go turn them down and tell me I have no manners. If they only knew!

      1. re: Sal Vanilla

        Then go the other way - turn it up and make them sweat!

        1. re: Sal Vanilla

          How about putting on some music you know they hate? Kinda like they do in malls or other public areas to keep the kids out.

        2. re: fourunder

          I use the AC trick too, plus change the music over to Barry Manilow (my wife's CD's, and not mine - by a long shot). Usually, those lingerers get the hint.


        3. Just go change clothes and come out in a robe, works every time.

          8 Replies
          1. re: duck833

            OMG I will do that! I swear I will!!!

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              And walk around the living room, winding up your alarm clock.

              1. re: TheSnowpea

                My dad used to tell late-hangers-on, "What size pajamas do you wear? I'll bring them out and you can sleep on the couch."

            2. re: duck833

              I once 'accidentally' spilled some water on myself so I would have to change. I changed into pajamas. That got them out quick.

              1. re: duck833

                That was something my father did more than once. Allegedly.

                1. re: duck833

                  Or, hand out towels for the guest bath, downstairs, and let them fend for themselves, though I do mention that the Bulldogs sleep downstairs too.


                2. I once had a friend who, as a newlywed, found his in-laws daily visits not desired. One day he arrived home from work, said a pleasant hello and went in to shower....
                  Walked out after the shower naked as a jaybird, saying " Oh, I didn't realize you were still here!"

                  They never came over without an invitation again, and remained very good guests for the next 40+ years...

                  Just a thought...

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: al b. darned

                      In this day and age, others at that moment may think the party has just begun. ..

                  1. Great solutions offered here but it is hard to top Duck833's! They sound like the neighbor friends from hell. Perhaps start watering down the scotch and wine as well.

                    1. In the future, put a closing time on your invitation. Like "From 6PM to 11PM".

                      Also, once it's a reasonable hour to close, be direct.

                      You cannot be abused in this context without your consent.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Karl S

                        I guess I'm fortunate because most of the people I hang around with are either good at judging when it's time for them to go, or have compelling reasons of their own to turn in (at their own abodes) at a point this side of sunrise.

                        But, for those who don't, I absolutely endorse your suggestion of including an end-time on the original invitation.

                        It's always been acceptable to note one on cocktail party and shower invitations, etc., so why not on dinner invitations to folks whom you still care to invite, but to whom you're not ready to make the commitment to co-habit? :-)

                        And if they *still* don't get it...at a certain point... I'd have no issue with saying *politely* as I amble over to the coat closet, "Well, we have an early commitment tomorrow [none of their business what it is, btw], so we must get some sleep. But we really enjoyed having you here tonight. When do you think we could get together again?" ****

                        ****That last sentence is to re-assure them that we're not kicking them out because we don't like them. However, if they are residualists, and on an excessive number of consecutive visits hang around the front door talking too long while hubby props himself up the doorknob, eventually they'll stop hearing that last sentence. Or...we'll meet them at (escapable) restaurants.

                      2. When this happens, I give a big yawn, go upstairs and reappear in my jammies, face washed, teeth brushed and obviously ready to call it a night. The running joke with our friends is "We better leave before Janet puts on her jammies."

                        Adding, we have friends who have a kick-ass terrific party every year and it used to be "6 til" and this year the invitation states "6 until 11". I think they have had this problem too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          I love this! Our friends have a good one, the wife comes out of the bathroom brushing her teeth with paste foam everywhere and then discusses her movement. Seriously. Kind of weird but it gets people moving quickly.

                        2. You might want to consider controlling their access to alcohol a little better. He can only drink four bottles of wine if you have four bottles of wine. Hide your liquor cabinet and your wine collection in your bedroom closet for the evening (don't tell them this, obviously, or it sounds like they'd have no problem going there) and have two bottles of wine where they can get them. If you appear to have run out of booze, chances are they will go home.

                          You can also schedule your dinner parties for nights when you know they've got to go to work the next morning.

                          1. Tell your guests it's time to do dishes/vacuum/clean up and that if they stick around they're part of the work crew. My uncle used to run the vacuum cleaner when he felt it was time for a party to break up. Tough to maintain a conversation or a comfy seat if he was running the vacuum into your shins.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: JohnE O

                              Another, less pushy, but more traditional approach is to designate a guest as the one who will announce - "Oh, we must all be getting on now, musn't we?"

                              It used to be that guest knew how to do that thing for their hosts without being asked.

                              1. re: JohnE O

                                I also use the "Can we move this conversation into the kitchen so that I can start cleaning up? It's getting pretty late..." and it tends to work. If it doesn't scare them out for not wanting to help clean up, at least the wiping down of the counters after putting all the dishes away usually signals that things have come to an end.

                                S.V. - you said the wife was put off by you falling asleep because she was sorry she "bored you." Is there anyway to tactfully revisit that conversation and say something along the lines of 'Hey, so I've been feeling bad about that night I fell asleep because you thought that me falling asleep was because I was bored, but really it was because I was dead tired. I don't know how you guys do it, but we're not late owls like you. It's really hard for me stay awake past __ and I don't really like doing it.' Nothing wrong with a little clear communication and if she is offended by this, in either case you won't have them in your house in the middle of the night. :o)

                                1. re: adrienne156

                                  So I did the "I've been feeling bad..." speech when she came over for fruit. She said "well, you should tell people to leave." I said "We did. It was like 3 am. Must those words even be spoken??" She said, maybe you should not have people over if you are not prepared to entertain them. Or maybe you should serve a salad to lighten things up or consider vegetarianism and yoga for endurance and health." She is always trying to get me to do a headstand and to come over for lessons in yoga...

                                  I just laughed and told her we had better wrap things up because I had a roast to get in the oven and some loafing around the house to do.

                                  I heard my husband chuckling in the other room. He was splayed out on the couch eating a giant meatloaf sandwich and being generally lay aboutish. We passed thru the LR on the way out (she was here 3 hours!). My husband shouts out "tell (husband) to come over and play guitar while you are cooking dinner OK? We got beef on tonight!" ~eyeroll~ He seems thrilled to piss her off.

                                  Maybe we chased them off with our rudeness. (fingers crossed)

                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                    'Maybe you should not have people over if you are not prepared to entertain?'

                                    Oh my lord, who are these people?! That is absolutely hilarious! Good job!!!

                                    (And, I've got my fingers crossed for you as well. hahahaha)

                                    1. re: adrienne156

                                      same here, a little surprised someone would react that way! I don't expect hosts to entertain me, I just like visiting with friends.

                                2. re: JohnE O

                                  That is just downright funny. I wish I had that in me. I wonder if I could get my husband to do it...

                                  1. re: JohnE O

                                    My brother in law uses the vacuum cleaner method. It's such a runny joke that we usually wait for "the sound" before grabbing our coats.

                                    My Mom wasn't fond of hosting parties and on the rare occasion that she did her cue was to turn off the lights. Not subtle, makes me laugh just thinking about it, but that's what Mom did.

                                  2. In a similar post awhile back, someone had a great line, Thank you for coming -- thank you for leaving...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sarah

                                      "If you people weren't here, we'd be in bed by now".

                                      1. re: Sherri

                                        Or "Well, we hate to keep your nice people up any later. We're going to turn in now."

                                    2. I would tell them that, while you really enjoy their company, that your bed time is 11:00 p.m. and if you don't stick to it you're totally worthless the next day. They should understand that.

                                      Honestly though from your description above they don't really sound like enjoyable company. Four bottles of wine in one sitting and staying at your house until 3 a.m.? They must've gotten the message that you wanted the night to end yet they chose to stay on anyway.

                                      Neighbor or not, I'd be tempted to cut the ties.

                                      1. I wonder if maybe we have an alcohol problem here....

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: lemons

                                          We have neighbors that won't leave, too. So, before they would come over my husband and I would decide on how long we wanted them to stay (knowing that they wouldn't leave on their own). When that time came, my husband stand up and say, "well it was great seeing you, but we have to say good night now." It worked. However, the last time we went to their house they literally kept us hostage for 5 hours looking at slides of their recent trip. It was so painful that my husband got up and said, "I have to call the hospital and check on a patient". He then came back and said, "unfortunately I'm going to have to go to the hospital". And we left. (That of course only works if one of you is a physican! )

                                          1. re: lemons

                                            No question there is an alcohol problem. I have never seen someone drink so much. I have asked him were he puts it - he just sez "I'm Greek". Oh I should have mentioned - I guess I did not think it is important but maybe there are some cultural issues. The husband is Greek and the wife French. She is easily pissed.

                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                              Sounds like cultural issues alright. When I read the original post to my GF, the first thing she asked was “Are the guests European or South American?”

                                              Apparently it’s the norm in many other cultures to drink prodigiously late into the night, while sitting at small tables inhaling reeking tobacco products and discussing important political/social issues. North Americans may actually be almost alone in their comparatively moderate behavior.

                                              Great thread BTW.

                                              1. re: Steve Green

                                                I just want to echo the cultural issues--when we lived in another town we had a number of european/south american friends. and wow, we could NOT keep up with their alcohol consumption or the hours they regularly kept!! This definitely helps explain their behavior.

                                          2. My husband and I have read thru all of your kind, considerate and helpful posts. Thank you. We have already gone the time limit route so that is out. We have decided on a hybrid of the suggestions: Set an end time before they arrive and stick to it no matter what.. Toward the end of the evening if subtle hints to leave do not have effect, we will ask them to come to the kitchen to chat while cleaning. That does not work I am putting on the robe, scrubbing my face and plopping my hair on top of my head. My husband swears he will break oout the vacuum should that not work!

                                            Daisy - It is times like these I wish we were back again working. We used to have to go close the restaurant at 12 and everyone knew it. If we were haviong a terrible time out nobody batted an eye if we declared an emergency at work. There was always an emergency at work!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                              Thank you for posting this--it has been one of the funniest (and lighthearted) threads on etiquette I've seen in awhile!

                                            2. Be honest. If it were me and I were talking to friends of mine, I'd say something like "This has been lovely, I'm so glad you could come over. I'll get your coat/purse." If they do anything other than say thank you and make a move for the door, I'd say "I'm going to go to bed now, I really appreciate you understanding. Thanks again so much for coming."

                                              There's really nothing to replace straightforward honesty. It isn't rude. It's also OK to not invite someone to every party.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                My husband (after many cranky looks from me) after many many obnoxious hints, got up from the table turned up the lights and said "OK it is late, we are tired you need to go". We looked at each other in bewilderment. time passed, I went into the kitchen and started cleaning, came back out and my poor husband said "Get up now. Time to go." I'll admit to you that I was a little embarrassed at that, but grateful. We just fell over in relief, exhaustion and laughter when we got them out the door and down the hill to their home. After that, we have just been resigning ourselves to their desire to live at our house. We only invite them over because my husband loves to play guitar with the husband. Maybe if I adored them I would make them a bed, set cookies and milk out for them and invite them for the weekend.

                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                  Wait, they live within walking distance????

                                                  1. re: Caralien

                                                    Hilarious! Our friends live three doors down. The wife, the one who comes out with foamy toothbrush etc, will tell us when she is ready to go home. The husband and my guy really get along and are both stand-there-talking types.

                                                    She and I have an understanding:
                                                    When she has made it clear she is done, tired, ready to leave, if he isn't, she puts on her coat, I open the door, we hug and she goes home. Easy when we are so close to each other. No one minds, husband wraps it up and follows behind her or my guy says something like "I'll let you catch up to..." and pushes him out the door.

                                                    I find it funny that your guests could walk home and easily continue their party at their house but don't!

                                                  2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    My ex works for himself so he is used to 'escorting' clients out the door when their time is up he has the sane tactic at home. He doesn't even have to say anything except 'thank you for coming' as they are exiting through the door. We used to get a good laugh too because I'm sure people didn't know what to make of it.

                                                2. Sal, it seems to me you ought to let them know about this site as a great "foody" place and perhaps even E-mail them this topic heading!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                    Sal, your doggie looks like a Shepard with a useful long nose. Perhaps you could train him to herd the guests out the door.

                                                    1. re: Sharuf

                                                      Sal, if I were in your position, I would simply NOT invite these folks over again. Or do they just show up at the smell of food or the sound of a cork leaving a bottle? If they have the temerity to ask why, just say "Quite honestly, I just can't stay up that late any more." People here have suggested that you put a time limit on your invitations (6-11) but these seem like people who wouldn't acknowledge those boundaries anyway.

                                                      I had some local in-laws who overstayed their welcome one Christmas day many years ago. I pulled out my copy of MY family's video cassette of all our Christmas movies from the 60s, and popped it into the VCR -- they left promptly, and took their annoying little dog with them.

                                                      But if you're falling asleep on the couch and your guest thinks she's merely boring you .... I don't think even the subtle pajamas/vacuum/lights out techniques will be very effective.

                                                      Oh! And here in Texas we have an expression -- when guets are leaving, we cheerily say "Great to see you! Come back again when you can't stay so long!!"

                                                  2. Let them know upfront you have plans for the following morning. As in "We'd love to have you stay longer, but we have early plans and need to be in bed by (select a time)." Or just hide all the liquor and wine. Don't make it available for the evening.

                                                    1. There's no reason to make up stories, and I think prearranging an ending time for a private dinner party is a little odd. There certainly is nothing wrong with saying during a lull in the conversation "This has been a such a nice evening, I didn't realize how late it has become!" Then get up from the table and fold your napkin. Pick up a few empty bottles or finished glasses and walk to the kitchen. Come back out, and do not sit back down, but remain standing. In other words, let your body language to the talking. And artfully cut short any new conversation topics that pop up. Also, I don't think it's rude to announce that you are about to retire.

                                                      1. "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

                                                        1. my stepfather holds up a needlepoint pillow (which my mother made a few years back) which says "Goodbye" on it.
                                                          works like a treat.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                            And if they refuse to read it, he bops 'em on the head with it. :-) Gotta love your stepfather!

                                                          2. My favorite line:

                                                            Make yourselves comfortable. Stay as long as you like. But I'm going to bed.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              I usually say that or "I'm going to clean up the kitchen... that baked ziti really stuck to the casserole dish. I've got enough rubber gloves for all of us!" Works like a charm

                                                            2. (Standing up, speaking distinctly, smiling, with a clap of the hands...) "Well, Jim and Alice, I'm sure glad you could come over tonight. We'll have to do this again real soon." (...opening the closet and offering their coats, if that's what it takes.)

                                                              If there are any stalls or objections (or if they get miffed when you leave their house at a decent hour) "I know, I'm sorry, I guess Sally and I are just old sleepyheads, we can barely keep our eyes open after eleven."

                                                              If there are any MORE objections, forget about the dinners ("I'm sorry, Sally's not feeling too well, but maybe another time."

                                                              Nobody can walk all over you unless you lie down and let it happen.

                                                              1. I don't know how great this is, etiquette-wise, and unless you can send an email my
                                                                suggestion comes too late, but I would send an E-vite with the actual start and end time
                                                                on it. It's very rude of your guests to overstay after you have been clearer than a bell about your intent to end the party for the evening.

                                                                1. 4 choices:
                                                                  1: Some people cant live without internet. If you have a wireless router, try shutting off the wifi.

                                                                  2: Rig your smoke detector to go off at a specific time. 5 minutes before it goes off, tell your guests that you need to make a phone call. Step outside and and disappear. When they finally give up trying to shut up your bogus smoke detector, they will leave.

                                                                  3: If you do not have a trick smoke detector, surreptitiously stick an old blanket or coat into the oven and turn on the broiler to smoke them out.

                                                                  4: If all else fails, use tear gas or a stun grenade. If this doesn't work, use a real grenade.

                                                                  1. I don't understand why you don't just tell them "Sorry, it's time to go now, it's late".And keep repeating it until they leave. If you "feel bad" because you fell asleep at 3am, them something tells me you aren't exactly being assertive in this situation.

                                                                    1. Serve coffee. Like, do an actual service of coffee. I do NOT kow why, but it shuts everything down like a case of food poisoning. Best of luck!

                                                                      1. (Holding door open) "It's been fun folks, but we're going to bed."

                                                                        1. I've used the phrase, we're fading. Time to call it a night.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                            I like that!

                                                                            We have had this problem a few times. Once someone was (IMO) dangerously drunk. Luckily she was with someone who was sober enough to drive. Another time, he was one of those uninvited guests and he didn't expect the party to end around 11 and he didn't gauge his drinking properly, so he had to stay for a long time and sober up.

                                                                            Mostly for us it has to do with people who can't/don't want to calibrate their alcohol intakes.

                                                                          2. "I'm/we're going to bed now but you're welcome to stay, goodnight"

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                                                              Exactly what we do! We simply say that we're tired and going to bed and if anyone wishes to stay they're welcome to do so...they rarely do, but it's fine with us I they do.

                                                                            2. A couple of times I've warned guests when they arrived to be very carful about staying too late and/or drinking too much because a friend of mine on the police force had just given me a 'heads up' that there was going to be road blocks set up that night near our house starting at ten PM. Very well behaved guests and they used the 'designated driver'.