Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Mar 16, 2009 07:08 AM

When guests cancel at the last minute

Over the weekend, Hubby & I had planned a small dinner party with two other couples. At noon on Saturday, one couple canceled due to illness. I had already started cooking (multi-step cooking process with all ingredients already purchased), was not about to cancel our dinner and was very much looking forward to seeing the other couple.
Hubby and I picked up the phone and called around to some friends who are frequent guests at our home and started seeing if anyone had plans for the evening. We were able to find two singles who were happy to fill the empty seats.
It turned out to be a fun evening- I think even more so due to the two singles who were present (not that I don't like the original couple- they are just not as fun-loving and youthful-minded as the two singles). When we were phoning around to look for other guests, my hubby said it would be insulting to ask folks at the last minute. I thought it wouldn't be insulting given the circumstances of illness, the food already in the cooking process, etc.
What would you have done? Do you think it's insulting to invite guests at the last minute? Would you have just gone on with the evening with the one couple? I'm interested to hear other people's take on the situation.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think it would be difficult to contact other people at the last minute and not have it sound insulting, like, oh, we were having this dinner party without you and you weren't good enough to get an invite originally, but now that we have a cancellation can you come and fill in? If the 2nd couple had also cancelled, sure, you could pitch it as an impromptu thing - we're cooking, do you guys want to come over? But it would be hard not to be seen as a last minute, replacement couple otherwise. I probably would have just gone with just the 1 couple.

    19 Replies
    1. re: rockandroller1

      Insulting!! Not at all, especially given the circumstances. Whatever is wrong with calling someone and saying, "We were having a small dinner and a couple had to cancel due to illness"? Just because you have a friend doesn't mean you have to have them included in every single event you plan. Why not have different events for different groups. Being insulted by that is just immature!
      And, as a single, I would love a last minute invitation to a great dinner. How spontaneous.

      1. re: janetms383

        Everyone is free to have their own opinion, and that's mine. You don't have to agree with me, but if I were called up and told hey, we invited the people we really like first, and they just cancelled so we have this extra food, can you be the "b list" couple and show up and eat it, I would be insulted. You wouldn't, that's fine, good for you, we just disagree. Ranting at me for holding my opinion doesn't change it.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          I don't think it's a matter of picking people you "really like" first as much as picking a small group that gets along well. A person who is a-list this time may be b-list next time because you're having a work group over for dinner and the person is a college friend. Lots of people also have couples events, which I don't really care to be a part of if I am going to be the only single there.

          1. re: rockandroller1

            Do you really expect all of your friends to invite you to every dinner party they host?

            1. re: pikawicca

              Yes! and if they don't I steal their newspapers and order a dozen pizzas to their house.

            2. re: rockandroller1

              I think a lot of it falls into the "it depnds" area. Like Queencru, we host all sorts of events, and many are often work-themed. It has nothing to do with whom we would rather spend an evening with. It's about work. It's the same for many of our close friends. I do not think that many would have expected to be included in a dinner to discuss a new medical school. However, if there are empty chairs, they would be a good choice to fill them.

              If our circles only included close friends, then there might be an issue.

              I think that the particular society and the actual event might dictate different directions.


              1. re: janetms383

                Totally spot on Janetms383. To over-complicate the matter seems silly to me and I don't have patience for a friend who would get insulted by a last minute invite.

              2. re: rockandroller1

                >contact other people at the last minute and not have it sound insulting,
                >like, oh, we were having this dinner party without you and you weren't
                >good enough to get an invite originally, but now that we have a cancellation
                >can you come and fill in?

                just out of curiosity, would you be insulted if some friends said
                "i an having the Smith and Wessons over for dinner and was thinking
                about making BAKED ZITI ... do you think I can use PENNE instead?"

                would your reaction be:
                A. it's so rude to throw "Their Dinner without RRoller1" IN MY FACE?
                B. And to top it off, they are trying to EXPLOIT my culinary knowledge
                C. Well, here is what I think about your Pasta Dilemma ... have a good
                time and let me know how the dinner and off piste recipie goes ...
                BTW, let's try that Szechwan place next week.

                I have no doubt there are people who play headgames as in Option A,
                but if they are removed from your social milieu, this seems simple ...

                Although I agree it can get tacky as the number of dinners gets large ...
                "Two spots opened up in my backyard BBQ ... I am delighted to inform
                you you are off the waitlist!"

                1. re: psb

                  My parents taught me not to mention any party we were giving, to anyone who was not invited to that party. There are other, better ways to decide whether to use ziti or penne.

                  1. re: browniebaker

                    I tend to agree, unless it's along the lines of a family dinner party such as "I'm having my parents over for dinner....."

                      1. re: browniebaker

                        i think with close friends who are sane and with whom you have a healthy
                        relationship, it's not unreasonable to mention a dinner event ...
                        "having people over" != "a party" ...

                        --"some friends from college are in town and we're having them over"
                        --"my wife invited her boss over for cocktails"
                        --"we're meeting the girlfriend's parents"
                        --"i'm throwing a brunch for my new neighbors"
                        --"we're hosting the bridge/book/knitting club"
                        --"you remember that couple i was telling you about we met on the
                        cruise to antarctica ... well they are coming over"

                        again, sane people can use their judgment and dont need to
                        resort to dogma ... whether it is in regards to social graces,
                        or ending sentences with prepositions, or splitting infinitives etc.

                        1. re: psb

                          There are undeniably rules in etiquette, and there are exceptions, too -- even for sane people!

                          1. re: browniebaker

                            I am not denying there are rules ... like "shake hands with your right hand" ...
                            but the point is there are also judgment calls. Part of being sane is dealing
                            with this stuff reasonably.

                            Here is an example:
                            say i am at somebody's house ... in some cases based on your relationship
                            "the right thing" is to ask for a glass of water ... helping myself would be
                            bizarre and presumptuous. in other cases ... with close friends ... it's not
                            only reasonably to help yourself, but probably the right thing, to put less
                            of a burden on the hosts. and if you were the host, in some cases if a
                            guest asks for some water, telling him to help himself would probably be

                            so sure, you can "publish" a norm of "dont go rooting around somebody
                            else's kitchen, fridge, liquor cabinet", but sane people know what is
                            appropriate under circumstances like this.

                            i think if you have a healthy relationship with somebody, there is no need
                            to walk on eggshells all the time, or constantly worry about delivering or
                            ferreting out insult.

                            of course some of the not-abut-food threads suggest healthy relationships
                            with sane people might be rarer than one would like.

                            1. re: psb

                              I think we can all agree that it's about making judgment calls.

                    1. re: browniebaker

                      I agree with browniebaker. That's why I object to it. If there were not another couple who had been previously invited and you were only being called to "fill in" as a last minute replacement, I don't see anything wrong with spur of the moment invitations. It's the fact that they weren't previously invited and are now only being contacted to "fill in" that I object to. Others don't, that's cool.

                2. I would not take offense if I were issued an invitation under these circumstances.

                  1. I disagree with the previous post as you can't always invite everyone you like for a dinner party at the same time! We are all adults and understand that we meet different people in different circumstances and I don't think anyone should take offence for that unless it's a very close group of friends and one or two are left out which is a completely different scenario. To me, dinner parties with friends are an informal affair and as much as I would never be insulted if someone asked me to join at the last minute, I would also expect them not to be insulted if I decline if I am not in the mood. It's clear your friends were not insulted as they gladly accepted and had a good time so, in my view, everyone's happy, well fed and entertained. What's to question?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Paula76

                      Agreed and well said. I don't do things socially with the same people all the time. If you are close enough friends then they will understand and hey, some of the best times happen at the last minute.

                      1. re: Paula76

                        Well-stated. We try to accommodate our friends, when things like this happen to them. Dinner parties often include people who are not on the A-list, but need to be there for some other reason.


                      2. There's no need to explain that they are being invited as a last minute replacement. Simply say you have a lot of food and you would like to share it with them. They may or may not figure it out, no big deal.
                        I have been a first alternate for dinners, golf tournaments, bridge games, sporting events, and pricey charity functions, and have had lots good times.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Veggo

                          Now, I do give the details, and so far, no one has ever complained. Matter of fact, they often "get me back," in a month, or so, when they are in the same boat.

                          Maybe I should not, but I cannot help but explain the situation. This gives them an "out," should they choose to use it.


                        2. We are notorious for inviting people at the last minute, and nobody seems to mind. It's kind of our MO. It's a Saturday, for example, and we've just gotten involved in some interesting recipe, and my husband will say, "Why don't you see if you can whistle up some company for dinner." In my experience, no one is insulted, and we usually find someone who has no plans and is delighted to join us. I would never be insulted to be asked at the last minute. If I am free, I'm glad for the invitation. If not, no harm no foul.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: roxlet

                            I love doing this! I love a spontaneous dinner party. I'll often cook something that I've been dying to try and then run it over to the neighbors who will then inevitably pour me a glass of a wine they just opened. Good times.