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Nov 22, 2009 06:29 PM

Room for One More at Thanksgiving Dinner?

What is your view about invited guests who ask if they bring someone to a sit down dinner. The dinner is not potluck. We have a teeny tiny place but we always says "yes" and just deal with it. We've been invited in years past to the homes of our family members who, when we ask if we can bring someone who would otherwise be alone, we've been told no, there's no room at the table. What do you do in this situation?

Thanksgiving is bringing up another subject around our house. There is one family member and her husband who never bring even a bottle of wine to a dinner at our house. And, these are sit down dinners that we spend a lot of time, money and effort on to host - no gift is required of course - a gift is a gift - but it is noticeable that they repeatedly show up empty handed. They are in their late twenties. We just think it's poor manners. Thoughts?

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  1. What's wrong with being honest and telling them, "I really wish we could accommodate Jeff this time, but we simply don't have the space. I am sorry"? If the person wants to get offended or be upset, that says more about them than it does about you.

    As for the gift, I think everyone is so busy walking on eggshells that the answer seems to be based on who you talk to. There are a myriad of threads on CH that have Group A saying Bob was a total cad because he didn't bring a gift and then you have Group B who says, "We told Bob not to bring anything and he brought X. We didn't have room for it (or a vase for the flowers)." In the end, I don't care if anyone brings a gift or not. I have invited them to my home for dinner because I enjoy their company and would like to treat them to a home cooked meal.

    I noticed that you said a gift wasn't required but you felt it poor manners not to bring one. Why the game?

    1. If it were me and it was just one extra person I'd say yes. 1) The person you invited will feel more comfortable. 2) There's so much food at Thanksgiving it really doesn't add to the work. 3) Everybody understands that Thanksgiving strains our skills and our resources. If a placesetting doesn't match or if everyone is elbow to elbow that just fits the concept of pushing the limits.

      OTOH, if that concept doesn't work for you next year you can always make the invitation with a note and mention that you're planning a smaller and more relaxed event and won't be able to include anyone not specifically invited. Of course, you'll have to be ready for some to decline because there's just someone uninvited that they really want to be with.

      As for the gift that never shows up, if there's resentment in the sense that you don't feel these people show some kind of reciprocation at some time during the year, why are you inviting them and putting yourself through that? Just send another note well in advance saying you're having a smaller, more intimate celebration and you hope they'll understand that they should make other plans. You could deliver it with a box of brownies or something so they don't think it's a total rebuff.

      The key I think, is, if you've allowed yourself to be pressured into things that have made you unhappy in the past, that you set the limits early and then smile when it comes up at the last minute and say no, you've already explained why it's an inappropriate request.

      1. I agree with Seth Chadwick about just being honest and letting people know you cannot accommodate any more guests. I had the same issue last Thanksgiving. Someone asked to bring two extra friends hours before the meal. While my friends and I felt bad, we also resented the last minute request- there was no room at the table and not enough food for two more people. So we politely said no and there were no hard feelings...I can understand the difficulty in saying no, but it is your responsibility to hold boundaries- not just for your own sake, but also for the comfort of your other guests.

        Re your second issue- I personally would never go to someone's house empty handed. BUT, when I invite guests over I realize that they may not have similar philosophy as I do and thus do not take it personally if they do not bring anything.

        (Although one friend told me about someone who brought wine to a dinner party- when it didn't end up getting opened by the end of the night, she requested it back to take home with her- THAT was awful!)

        1. If it really is a matter of space and you absolutely can't squeeze another body and chair at the table, be honest and tell them that's the reason. Otherwise, remember what the spirit of Thanksgiving is and try to squeeze them in. That's my view.

          As for a gift. It's a gift. It's optional. Are they polite at the dinner? Do they thank the host? Maybe offer to help with the dishes? This is what constitutes good manners in my book, not bringing a bottle of wine.

          2 Replies
          1. re: taos

            I second this. I think it's poor manners for hosts to expect guests to bring gifts. It makes me question the motives behind having people over in the first place.

            1. re: gloriousfood

              I tend to agree. This reminds me of what seemed to happen over the years, as my children attended/gave birthday parties, as well: more and more of a "gimme gimme" attitude. No longer did kids bring gifts, and were happy to share in the Birthday Girl's happiness, watch her being gifted, and get cake, ice cream, and fun in exhange..Noooo! That was no longer enough. @@ Socially the pressure to provide bigger and better "goodie bags" for the poor little spoiled darlings, who simply could not BEAR to give and yet not receive, started tainting the entire tradition. Ugh.

              The "gifts" I expect from my guests are an effort to be pleasant and entertaining, a healthy appetite, the ability to relax and enjoy themselves, an offer to help clean up (which I usually refuse), and--if they're so inclined and able--a return invitation at some later date.

              The "gift" of their company, and the chance to share my food and cooking, are reward enough.

          2. I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that you can't fit additional guests, especially if the request is fairly last minute. I've lived in spaces where there really is only a limited amount of seating, so once you get past that point, no one else will fit. I think rainey's alternative approach is a good one- mentioning at the outset that you can't handle any more people because you want a small gathering.

            If you don't think a gift is required, why is it a big deal? This is family we're talking about, not a friend, so they may feel like a gift isn't necessary. If they help you set up/clean up or provide other assistance in some way, I think that's just as good as bringing a gift.