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Dec 2, 2011 07:52 AM

Dinner guests who are chronically late and/or early...what to do?

So it's that time of year where parties and dinners are in full swing. I was getting my invitations for my annual 23rd of December pre-Christmas dinner in order. We usually have 12 over for dinner, but I noticed that, as usual, I was modifying the dinner times for a few couples. You see, we always have 3 of my DH's sisters over with their spouses. Now, I set my dinner for 730pm. I set the arrival time for 7pm. This gives those who come at 7pm some time with appetizers and wine and lets my meal, which is ready between 730pm and 745pm, come in on time. You know, things have to come out of the oven in sequence, some things need to rest, some things you don't want to overcook, so you time everything to be ready at once so you can eat.
Well, SIL #1 gets the invite: Dinner at 7pm. She always arrives around 7pm.
SIL #2 gets the invite: Dinner at 8pm. She will always arrive an hour early. If I write Dinner at 7pm she's there at 6pm. This is the SIL who brings Janey, member that story from the "Kids and Knives" thread? She doesn't come early to help, either. I've tried managing this in various ways -- I've tried saying Dinner at 7pm and not answering the door til then but even though she lives 4 blocks away, she'll arrive at 6pm and use the Emergency key my DH gave her to let herself in. Seriously. I've said "oh you're here early, must be to help? Could you help with the table?" to be met with "I don't DO tables, I'm watching TV" as she goes to the living room and settles in to watch Judge Judy. I've tried everything (except walk around the house naked until 645pm even if she's there, as one friend suggest I do LOLOLOL) as has DH (the talking part, not the walking naked around the house part LOLOLOL), to no avail. So the best thing I can do is say "Dinner at 8pm" and she arrives around 7pm.
SIL #3 gets the invite: Dinner at 6pm. This SIL love love LOVES to arrive late, as in usually one to two hours late. If I say Dinner at 7pm, she'll arrive at 815pm or later. I've tried to manage this in various ways, as in "dinner is served at..." or "please come on time, there's lots of stuff coming out of the oven" no avail. She's been so late at times that I've just assumed she isn't showing up and carried on with dinner, to have her arrive almost 3 hours late and upset that we didn't wait before starting. So a Dinner at 6pm invite means she'll be there around 730pm.
Luckily for me, these 3 SILs don't talk much amongst themselves so they haven't twigged onto the different dinner timings THUS FAR, but I fear this may change.
Do you have people in your life who don't respect dinner invitation timings?
How do you manage this?
And more importantly, how long do you hold dinner for someone who isn't there on time?

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  1. hahaha i have friends that i modify invite times for as well. as long as they dont try to verify times with each other, it works out well

    1. This is awesome. Hopefully the invitations don't get mixed up :)

      I think family makes it even more difficult than friends. I have a chronically late friend, who I have started: 1. leaving if she is more than 20 minutes late to a dinner reservation and 2. Calling her out on being late. Ex: she was late meeting for dinner and said, I fell asleep. I told her that no, she was always late and that it was disrespecting my time. She apologized and said she would work on it. Now that I am honest with her about being late, she seems better and treats it less flipantly (sp? is that a word?). Still drives me bonkers.

      I only hold dinner for long enough that it is still served at its optimum point. I won't let myself or my other guests suffer due to 1 late person!

      1. I have a neighbor who is NEVER on time for dinner. Finally, I stopped letting her be the one to bring an appetizer (she insists on bringing food) so we don 't have to wait for that and we just go ahead with our schedule. She shows up when she does, I make no big deal about it, and she gets to eat whatever is being served when she arrives. (It is not because she is a super busy person, one time she showed up an hour late and she said she would have been on time but she decided at the last minute to go get a massage!) No special treatment at all. For the early arrival, who lives 4 blocks away, your husband needs to go to the door and say "Oh sis, you're an hour early, see you at 7." If they don't respect your schedule, I would just stop inviting them. By the way, what does the on-time sister havve to say about the whole thing?

        1. My other half and me have a set of friends who are always late.
          They have caused a few dishes to be ruined while we wait for them to turn up.
          Now I just cook beef bourguigon as I know I can leave it to sit on a low temp till they turn up.

          1. "Come over anytime after 7p.m. and have appetizers. Dinner will be served at 7:30"

            If someone shows up late, point to the plates in the kitchen and have them serve themselves. If they don't call to say they will be late, offer seconds to the people who are there.