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Ways to refuse univited guests

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So hubby and I handled the current situation already, but, I am looking for ways I or anyone else could in the future politely refuse the request from an invited guest to also bring someone that you didn't invite. It was horrible, awkward and something we will hopefully never go through again. Luckily it wasn't a situation where they just simply brought the uninvited person along not having said anything.

I looked for a response on this site last night before we responded and didn't come across anything. I thought that others might need some help in the same department.

So, what are ways that you can get past a bully guest trying to get someone else on your list? I want to have some responses at the ready next time!

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  1. I wish I could remember which thread I saw it on, but someone made the suggestion (or similar) "I'm sorry, but it's not possible" without giving any explanation as to why.

    And here is a thread to look at for some suggestions:

    3 Replies
    1. re: viperlush

      I learned that pharse all too well when my daughter got married two years ago.

      Now, when I comes to dinners my husband is the "more is the merrier" type and especially after a few cocktails will invite people to the house for all sorts of events.

      Christmas a few years ago 'almost' cured him. A couple of days before Christmas he started inviting virtually everyone to the house for Christmas dinner. And they all showed up. He had to stand at the kitchen counter to eat his modest meal as we had to stretch a beef tenderloin for 8 people to about 18 people. Part of me wanted to kill him. The other part was amused that he was the victim of his own creation.

      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        "That's a false equivalency, more does not equal merry. If there were two thousand people in this apartment, would we be celebrating? No, we'd be suffocating."

      2. re: viperlush

        That someone was probably me, because I tend to trot this worthy pearl out frequently at Chowhound. It's generations-old, time-honored Emily Post gambit, useful in so many situations. The key is that it is presented as an undebatable fact, with no absolutely commentary or invitation to negotiate - you just have to maintain the nerve to avoid any commentary or invite negotiation. If the other person expresses [negative feeling], steadfastly avoid commentary and negotiation. Imagine you are playing the dowager Countess of Grantham if you need to get all Method (but in reverse) for the occasion...and give your martyred non-guest a chance to find more enticing scaffold elsewhere.

        It works. Emily Post knew her stuff on this point.

      3. Oh, I'm so sorry, we just can't this time!

        1. "I'd rather you didn't" works for me.

          1. "I really can't invite any more people but I hope you can still come. Thanks."

            3 Replies
            1. re: LeoLioness

              that one's my favorite LeoL. for me, I like:

              "I'm comfortable with the number attending already, maybe another time..."

              1. re: iL Divo

                That said, I've never actually used this line in practice. I'm more of "the more the merrier" type, but to be fair, I don't host any particularly formal events, either.

                1. re: LeoLioness

                  you're right LeoL

                  I like more merrier too. And you can always put more lettuce in the salad bowl and stretch (say a pot of chili) not that hard making another skillet of corn bread. I can also cut the pieces of pie smaller and cut up some fresh fruit and cheese. < Always have both.

                  There's a good rule though it's the 'look down and do a 5 count'. That way you don't fall into the 'yes man' - 'yes girl' category. A unattractive trait I possess..

                  and this is comin from a Leo Lioness also :)

            2. My cousin whom I adore, often brings some random people like her friend or one of her family members from her in law's with her whenever she is invited to my house. I don't say anything but it sometimes irritates me. She doesn't ever mention, she just brings the person and walks in. And knowing her personality, she will never buy, i rather not you bring extra guests...so certain thing, I just live with it. ha.

              1. Point of clarification please......does the invitation for the guest allow to bring another companion, or is it strictly for a solo invitation? Are we talking about bringing a third, fourth and etc?

                I always expect any single friend to bring a guest of their own to any event I host.....but I can see where a formal dinner may be different, but then I would expect a request for an RSVP would then be appropriate so there is no confusion.

                1. I usually say something like "I'm really sorry, I didn't plan for that many!" I also like to say "Of course, if that changes your plans, I understand if you can't make it" so that my guest can have a bit of an out. It's all about being honest and allowing the guest to save face, I think.

                  Of course, it depends on whom your guest invited, I think. I'd be slightly upset if I was told I couldn't bring my SO (unless there was a good reason), but it's easier to say no to friends/ roommates/ random dates/ homeless people brought in off the street.

                  1. "what are ways that you can get past a bully guest trying to get someone else on your list? "

                    Well, since you used the word "bully" then in that case a NO! is perfectly fine.

                    1. i think viperlush had the right response, but you have to then be prepared for the person originally invited to decline the invitation on that basis. "Oh, I would have loved to attend, but my friend/cousin/sugardaddy is only in town for two days and I just couldn't leave him/her alone that night."

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        In that case, they should call to rsvp and explain why they would like to bring the additional guest. And then the host can either say, "well that's a horse of a different colour!" or "Of course we understand why you can't make it. Enjoy their visit and we'll do it/celebrate some other time".

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          Lol...must make exception for the sugardaddy!

                        2. I think we need more information on how the situation came up, so we can tell you how we would respond. Was this a written invitation and they wrote back with an extra person? Something on the phone? Etc.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            No need to go into specifics about one particular event. i was only looking for good responses on how to gracefully so no in the future regarding any uninvited guest requests period. Happened a few times to us now in totally different ways. I know that I am going to hang the above suggestions of "I'm sorry, but it's not possible" in some place like my closet where i will see it everyday and it will hopefully come to me naturally if ever needed in the future. When it happens to you at the time you freeze and think of all the perfectly worded responses only after it's all over.

                            1. re: Astur

                              Exactly! I find it is difficult to think on my feet when confronted with people so pushy. Having a prepared response ahead of time is a great plan.

                              1. re: jlhinwa

                                It's funny because I'm the opposite. I find it difficult to be polite when confronted with pushy people. I respond with a non smiling "no", silence, or laughter.

                              2. re: Astur

                                "I'm sorry but we won't be able to accommodate your friend this time, perhaps next time!"

                                1. re: Astur

                                  "I'm sorry, but it's not possible" is a stock phrase Miss Manners recommends for various refusal purposes.

                                  1. re: Astur

                                    Astur -- I suspect I may be the "It's not possible" culprit. I learned this difficult lesson from my late mother-in-law who was a bully and extremely manipulative woman. She always pressed issues and would argue with my reasoning. One day, I learned the "It's not possible" response from a kindly god and never looked back. She continued to press for explanations but I simply responded with my stock phrase. After some years, she finally got the picture -- Sherri is not giving you ammunition that you can shoot back at her. Case closed. Repeat as often as necessary: "It's not possible". Amen.

                                    1. re: Astur

                                      I guess for me, my advice would be different depending on the circumstances, the method, etc. If it was a really close person to me, I'd just say "Oh man, we just can't, sorry." If it was someone on mr. RNR's side for some big family party like a wedding, I'd tell HIM to tell them no. Etc.

                                  2. Wow, people never fail to amaze me!

                                    I agree with viperlush's suggestion to keep is simple wthout offering an explanation. Short, sweet, and with a smile.

                                    If the person is indeed a bully and is pushing the issue further, I would probably say something like, "our guest list is limited to xx people. We very much want you to attend but have to stick to our plan for xx attendees." Though if they were really being bullies, I would just as soon drop them from the list!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                      Agree re: the typical 'bully guests'. Sounds as if they are the ones that need to be expunged from future soirees. Not to be gross or insensitive, but if one thinks of the 'bully guest' as the disease/illness, and the unwanted/uninvited guest as the tumor, one could stop looking to the tumor as the problem and look to the disease. No disease, no tumor.

                                      And for all one knows. future unwanted/uninvited guests were as well bullied or cajoled into attending by the 'bully guest'. The host may not be the sole recipient of the bullying...

                                    2. It's such bad manners to do this unless it's your SO or it's a +1 invite. I have never said no, but once my good friend called the day of the party and asked if she could bring her friend who was in town (who I kind of know but would never have invited to a party), and she left early but he stayed and proceeded to get very drunk and then couldn't leave when the party ended so he stayed until 3 am and sobered up a bit. Very awkward. There are other work-related reasons why this was so awkward as well.

                                      She's my good friend but I also feel it was irresponsible of her to sort of dump him on us like that! She should have stuck around until he left, at least, but she had no idea where things were going.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: IndyGirl

                                        You did the right thing, but wow, you must have been disgusted being left to look after a stranger who got drunk in your home.

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          I agree. I would have been calling the "friend" until she came back for him. And he(univited guest) should have been pissed at the "friend" for ditching him.

                                      2. Wow, I feel for you. If it's just my home, I am gracious and welcoming, but sometimes, you have to have very strict limits (for example, formal dinners when there is a set number of places). I think in the latter case, I'd just say, "So sorry,I just can't." Bullies respond best when met with strength, IMO.

                                        Sometimes people are just ill-brought up. I remember having to include the whiny younger brother of one of my son's party guests at a laser tag party because the clueless dad brought him along.

                                        1. I prefer the, "I'm sorry, we can't. And if you can't make it, I understand...we'll have you over some other time." This sends the clear message that my preference is that the invited guest not attend rather than bring an uninvited guest.

                                          1. Some years ago, we had similar, but my lovely, young wife was at least partially complicit. We were slated to have a quiet, casual Easter Sunday at home. Well, there were some folk, who had no family here, so she invited a few. OK, that happens. However, most brought along others, and we went from that quiet, casual Sunday at home, to hosting 13 people, in addition to ourselves.

                                            Even knowing that our guest list had expanded a bit, I still put together a wine dinner, that was themed. With the extra guests, we suddenly had all sorts of extra dishes. I spent much of the afternoon trying to dig out wines for their dishes, and then many hours playing bartender. As things happened, I burned the lamb chops, which had tripled in quantity - luckily, the neighborhood grocery was open, and had more lamb.

                                            Though not horrible, it was much less than fun. We had a "mortality conference," and my wife swore that it would not happen again. Well, it has happened, and usually around some holiday, when another "quiet, casual" dinner, turned into a semi-formal dinner for 10 - 14. Somehow, I do not think that she "gets it." Now, and after more mortality conferences, I think that she has a firm grasp on "quiet and casual," and when she deviates, she is firm in that no one can invite anyone else.

                                            I would never invite anyone, unless I had spent a lot of time, talking to my host/hostess, and making danged sure, that they were fine with any additions.

                                            Been there - done that, and it often is not pretty.


                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Bill, I've had this happen to me before more than once. It's difficult to get yourself out of these situations.

                                              In one situation, we had planned a nice, quiet 4th of July and had even begged off a family get together because we were just not in the mood to be around a lot of people. On the 3rd during a phone call, a friend asked what we were doing. I said, "Oh, we're having BBQ." I was smoking a very small brisket. I should have said that I was preparing brisket because she heard that we were having *A* barbeque, as in a bbq party. In her misunderstanding, she also took that as an invitation and that was that. We had guests and I had to scramble to try to put together more food, including back to the store for more protein that I grilled. It was so awkward. Now I am careful to, upfront say something like, "Oh, we're having a nice quiet holiday at home by ourselves."

                                              I wish I were more assertive and could say, "Oh, no, you misunderstood. We're eating alone. I meant BBQ brisket, not that we are throwing a BBQ party." But instead, I just let her steamroll me. Obviously, I'm the last person, OP, to give any advice about how to avoid/remedy this. I can't do it myself.

                                              1. re: gardencook

                                                I understand completely. When I can get my lovely, young wife onto the same page, as me, we make up an "excuse." As her schedule, especially, is beyond hectic, that is not tough. Then, when folk call, we have our "plan" handy. We dine out, and host so often, that a few nights alone, are to be cherished.

                                                I feel your pain,


                                              2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                She gets it, alright. She gets that if she invites people, you will cook for them. If you said, no, you invited them YOU cook, I suspect it would change.

                                                I had a friend - well, acquaintance, actually - who was in our social circle, and when she was invited, she always dragged along her mother. I'd had it, and quit inviting her, after the second or third time. I didn't know the woman all that well, and I didn't know or like her mother. After awhile, the rest of the gang quit inviting her as well, One day, out of the blue, she called and wanted to know why she was being excluded. So, I told her it was rude of her to bring her uninvited mother (I didn't care if it hurt her feelings or not.) She was flabbergasted; she thought 'everyone understood that inviting her included her mother.' Uhhhh, no. You are NOT the hostess, you don't decide who comes to my house. I didn't hear from her after that.

                                                1. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                                  It's a shame that no one thought to tell her to leave mom at home before excluding her.

                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                    yeah. Somehow this story just makes me feel.....sad.

                                                    1. re: violin

                                                      me too.... tho i do get why KSS wouldn't want someone's mom around every time that no one likes.

                                                  2. re: The 1st and only KSyrahSyrah

                                                    Actually, everybody DID understand (eventually) that inviting her included her mother. And those non-invitations? Mom's included in those, too!

                                                2. My handsome, old husband is always up for more guests. The dinner will be well cooked, probably with a pasta course thrown in to "expand" the meal and the wine will be what we always have in the house, every day California reds in a bottle with a cork. So far, friends of our friends have been good people and no one brings along a kid or stays past our bedtime or complains about the food.

                                                  1. "Sorry but we've planed the menu for X guests" Make life easier next time and don't invite the 'bully' guest again. Who needs the agro?

                                                    1. Maybe use the seat excuse. "Well, your friend is welcome to come along but our table only seats 10 and we have already invited 8 people including yourself which with the two of us makes 10. We would really prefer that someone not be left out and not be able to join us at the table. Perhaps your friend could join us for lunch one day when things are not so cramped?"

                                                      13 Replies
                                                      1. re: Fowler

                                                        That won't work, too many details. Just say there is not enough room for an additional diner. The reason your response could backfire is that the invited guest could volunteer to be the odd person out and say they are willing to eat at the counter.

                                                        Somewhere on these threads is the perfect response to a request to bring an uninvited guest to a dinner party. It went something like, "I'm sorry, but it's not possible". No more information, just "I'm sorry, it's not possible".

                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          Yes. The explanation approach invites a negotiation. The impossibility approach negates that possibility.

                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            My mother used a variation of that trick with telephone solicitors. (This was before the Do Not Call List). Telephone solicitors have comebacks for every single objection. If you say you cannot afford something they will tell you how you can. If you say you don't need an item they will tell you why you do. My mother used to just say "I'm sorry, but I do not respond to telephone solicitations". The only way they can overcome that one is to show up on your doorstep and they almost never do that.

                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                              Well, you can also ask "first tell me, what are you wearing?" (Works best if the caller is same sex; a group of us once did that with a solicitor, then asked him to get his supervisor on the phone and asked the supervisor if the caller was cute - you could hear the entire boiler room laughing in stitches.)

                                                              Disclosure: my first W-2 form job was as a solicitor for insulation by the Borden company (yes, of Elsie and Elmer fame) in the summer of 1978. The worst job I've ever had. I lasted 6 weeks; the average tenure was 10 days. (We used Cole Directories back then, with a host of "interesting" rules about whom and whom not to call.) The best thing you can do to a solicitor is hang up. The worst thing you can do is drag out the call with no hope of actually landing anything. Keep that in mind if you have a dreadful jerk of a caller.

                                                              Anyway, it's unfortunate that it's harder to deal with uninvited dinner guests*. The only proper way is ruthless simplicity. If you come from a Niceness culture (Minnesota comes to mind, anyone?) and being ruthlessly simple makes you nauseated, view it as an opportunity to learn a vital social skill.

                                                              * I am not counting the truly hungry and needy in this category, btw. They should, by contrast, always be welcome in some way. That's an important difference people lose sight of, even in our current depression. It did not use to be so (my mother remembers her mother always having a pot of soup and bread ready to give hobos who would sit on the back porch during the 1930s - at times, that might include my grandmother's brother, so I am told). I think one big loss of the Great Dispersion and Affluence after World War 2 is that we have culturally lost the ability to see and deal intimately with people in need this way. My grandmother was a formidable woman, and probably not "nice" in the sense of feeling a need to please other people in order to justify her own existence - but she had the ability to be kind where it counted, and that counts for more in my karma and etiquette books.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  But Kindness and caring and generosity have absolutely nothing to do with not allowing yourself to be used as a doormat by the callous, unthinking slobs who would show up on your doorstep with several hangers-on whom you do not know and expect you to think it's okay.

                                                                  And there's nothing to say that we don't all make exceptions from time to time -- but when you just roll over and let people do whatever they think they're entitled to do, you don't make them happy -- you make yourself miserable.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Not understanding the first word in your response here. I was contrasting the need to be ruthless with exploitative erstwhile guests with genuine caring. Kinda the point you seem to be corrected me about. Not sure why.

                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                      exactly what I said -- as wonderful as it is to be kind and sympathetic and generous, it's not really an issue in this particular discussion.

                                                                      Some of the kindest people I know have no compunction whatsoever about putting self-entitled boors firmly in their place -- which is what this whole discussion is about.

                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                Yep -- because it's far too easy to say "OHHHH that's okay! I'll bring a couple of extra chairs - and a card table!"

                                                                Then you're screwed because they've just shot holes in your excuse, and you have only yourself to blame.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Good one sunshine. Those are probably the same types that would say to their hosts at the end of the night, "Bertha and I like bacon and eggs for breakfast" thus making it clear they intend upon spending the night and expect the breakfast of their choice in the morning.

                                                                  1. re: Fowler

                                                                    That;s when you turn off the master power switch and tell people it's unsafe to remain.

                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                >>> The reason your response could backfire is that the invited guest could volunteer to be the odd person out and say they are willing to eat at the counter.<<<

                                                                LOL, you are right about that. I have coworkers that would eat in the bathroom if they were invited and the food/drinks were free.

                                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                                  I'd eat in the kitchen, the den, the living room, and even the porch, but I draw the line at eating in the bathroom...; )

                                                            2. I see the problem as one of lack of clarity as well as the flip side of the reluctant R.s.v.p. -- though I risk seeming naive enough to think that people would behave properly if only they understood the situation.

                                                              Thus once people understand that your invitation is for a sit-down dinner at which all the available places are accounted for, they should withdraw the request or not make it in the first place. Or at least graciously accept a gracious refusal. And if the invitation is for a buffet or large party, I would try to make room for one more.
                                                              It's also important to be clear when inviting as to who specifically is invited so that guests don't have to ask whether the whole family or their habitual dining companion is invited too. And it's certainly helpful for hosts to be in possession of essential information, such as that the single who could always be counted on to fill a hole at the last-minute has recently become engaged. The society pages used to be helpful for that. Nowadays you'd have to spend all day trolling Facebook, and still might not learn what you need, so I don't know. Along the same lines, I hope that guests understand that I wouldn’t dream of excluding a fiancé(e) or other constant companion, but I'm not inviting them to bring a date unless I say so specifically.

                                                              Here's a related problem I'd love a solution to: Situation is you have one place left at a sit-down dinner. You have several friends who live as a couple but whose partner travels a lot, so there is a good chance they'll be alone, and if so, they would enjoy an invitation. But you don't want the whole couple this time. Is there any tactful way to say, "Come to dinner If your partner is out of town"?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                                I guess be straight up, call and say 'we've having people to dinner next Saturday and have room for one more if your other half is out of town - we didn't want you to feel lonely'.

                                                                1. re: mbfant

                                                                  I think you can only gracefully extend the invitation to both of them as a couple. One more person generally won't make a huge impact, and it saves a lot of hard feelings.

                                                                  If, however, you just happen to make dinner plans for a night that you KNOW the partner is going to be out of town, well...you'd still extend the invitation for both -- and cluck sympathetically when the non-traveling partner calls, then extend the invitation to them anyway.

                                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                                    I'd call and find out if they are on their own that weekend, then make the invite. I'd also try to make plans with them as a couple in the next couple of months. "I'm calling to find out what weekends x is home so we can all get together. Oh, you're alone this weekend? Why don't you join us for dinner since we have an extra spot, and we'll also do brunch next time x is in town."