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GUESTS: your job is to SHOW. UP. ON. TIME. Is that really so hard?

I'm sure there must already be a discussion or 20 about this, but I am so steamed that I just don't have the patience to search for it.

I spent close to $200 and over four hours (not to mention clean-up time) to make a really nice meal for three friends. We set the time for 5 p.m. with dinner to be served at 5:30. All the hors d'oeuvres were on the table, which was set. Everything was in the oven, timed to come out at 5:30. They walk in at 5:30. So I just put everything out on the table at once and poured myself a second glass of bourbon and put them on my "never invite again" list.

I mean WTF? This is the second time they've been to my home for a meal. They know I put a lot of effort into it. But even if I were just serving lasagna, the point is that you SHOW UP ON TIME. It was a Sunday; they couldn't use traffic as an excuse. They really had no excuse.

I am just so totally pissed.

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  1. I'm sorry you're so upset...did they arrive on time the first time?

    I have learned to never schedule anything too tightly -- between my life in Florida and Europe, most folks *do* show up a 15-30 minutes late, so I just adjust the invite time accordingly.

    I would have planned at least an hour between when they were to arrive and when dinner was served, anyway -- folks tend to linger over cocktails, so it's nice to not rush people through it.

    And I don't remember the last time I made something that had to be served *right that minute* -- I can't think of anything other than a souffle that will be ruined if it sits for a few minutes.

    17 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      yeah some guests these days don't know how to be guests, in the past I've been of the mind to say cocktails at 5 PM dinner 6 or 7(ish) and this part is privately mentioned - I have relatives that have to be lied to or otherwise they'll show up silly early.

      1. re: hill food

        I don't get fussed -- both places, it's a cultural norm, so the host can't take it as a slight.

        But then, I don't think I've ever invited someone to my home when I needed to be on any kind of a schedule...it's pretty normal in my circle for invitations to be "oh, seven-ish" -- which means that whenever you get there, we'll pour drinks, and dinner will be whenever we're all ready to eat.

        The only one that really peeved me was the one who called and begged to bring appetizers, because she'd found this fantastic recipe. She was over an hour late (this was a big party) -- but I had a hunch she was going to do something flakey (I love her, but she hears only her own drummer) -- so I had appetizers of my own planned anyway, and we ate a few minutes after she arrived. (I was only peeved on that one, because I know her, and knew she wouldn't be on time....I was peeved at myself, mostly, for having agreed to let her bring aperos)

        She was invited the next year, but I think I asked her to bring a salad or something similar that wouldn't be missed if she was late or didn't show.

        1. re: sunshine842

          I'm just not going to invite them again, and probably won't have anyone over anymore. No one ever reciprocates. Too much work. Well-known problem up here. No one entertains at home.

          1. re: Just Visiting

            This seems very self defeating. Why not change your expectations? 30 mins from arrival to dinner seems rushed to me. Why not serve dinner at six? That is still very early to eat, could be home and in bed by 8:30. I love entertaining and cooking for friends, it is never a burden. If you feel it is too much work and then resent your friends for not respecting your efforts enough then maybe entertaining is just not your thing...

            1. re: Gloriaa

              Yup. You nailed it. This is not my thing. Not because I don't enjoy cooking for friends - I do - in fact, it is pretty much the only time I do enjoy cooking - but because I don't enjoy my friends' complete lack of respect or appreciation for what it takes to make them a nice meal.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                "I do enjoy cooking - but because I don't enjoy my friends' complete lack of respect or appreciation for what it takes to make them a nice meal."

                Hmm. I've learned it is better (for my sanity and my blood pressure) not to have any such expectations. Gratitude is lovely but are you cooking for the accolades?

                Also just because they are chronically late doesn't mean they don't appreciate your efforts or the meal. Did they say it was delicious? Did they thank you when they left that evening?

            2. re: Just Visiting

              Don't want to overthink this , but is this really about show-up time? Your statement is a strong one.

            3. re: sunshine842

              One of my best friends is always late. We learned years ago to assign her dessert, not an appetizer.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                Yep. I was mad at myself because I knew better, but I did it anyway.

                (but that's why I made appetizers anyway)

          2. re: sunshine842

            I can't remember if they showed up on time the first time. She was invited to go somewhere with us last week and showed up very late and almost cost the rest of us the experience (had to be there at a specific time).

            Well, one of the dishes was a red lentil souffle, but I can't think of anything that can be left in the oven or left to sit for 30 minutes beyond what was intended and still be as good as it would have been had it been served when intended. Whether dried out, mushy, flat, cold ... nothing would have been better for having been served 30 minutes late.

            This is not Florida or Europe and this was also a "school night" which is why we scheduled so early - we all had to be up early for work the next day. No one drinks and there would have been no need to rush had they shown up on time.

            1. re: Just Visiting

              I also never entertain on a work/school night -- nobody wants to be checking their watches every few minutes.

              Keeping things hot and moist and fresh are why they invented foil.

              Seriously, I've been entertaining friends and family for several decades now and have yet to ever have anything ruined. And I'm regarded as a really, really good cook in two countries.

              1. re: sunshine842

                I did not plan it for this Sunday. The social part of the evening was supposed to have taken place the week before - come to think of it, it was supposed to have taken place that very night that they showed up an hour late (not for dinner, for something else). And because they were late that week, everyone was frazzled and stressed and the original plans got rescheduled. And if memory serves, I think she is the one who suggested Sunday night.

              2. re: Just Visiting

                If I were to serve a soufflé to guests, I wouldn't put it in the oven until they arrived. That allows a generous amount of time for the preliminaries.

                1. re: sr44

                  Then I would have been spending my time in the kitchen doing the last-minute prep instead of spending it with these friends.

                  1. re: Just Visiting

                    then don't. serve. souffle. Sorry, but that was stress you heaped upon your own plate.

                    I only ever served one souffle, and the timing (and the time it took away from my guests) was enough to say never again.

                    That's a dish you can really only make after the guests arrive, when there are no other events planned for the night.

                2. re: Just Visiting

                  Sorry this all went badly for you. I never assume folks will show up on time so I make appetizers that can wait or go in the oven for a quick cook when folks walk in the door. Salads of course are no problem since they can be ready but "undressed" until the last moment. As to mains, I try to do something braised that can wait or a sauce that can be added to freshly cooked pasta at the last minute. I agree that souffles are tough any time, and can be so frustrating if timing doesn't work out.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    I rarely do dinners anymore, an open house with hearty appetizers is more my speed these days: come, go, stay, stay over, whatever.

              3. I agree with you and it really irks me. I put a lot of effort in when I have company and it's just rude to show up late. However, I have learned over the years not to time things so tight. Now I time the hors d'oeuvres to come out after they are supposed to arrive. If possible, I don't even put them in the oven till they arrive. The main course can be trickier, depending on what I'm making, but I'd rather sit and socialize and wait than ruin something I've worked hard and spent lots on.

                1. i assume this was yesterday, so yes, it was a sunday, but it was easter sunday and there were more people on the roads. walking as well as driving. i thought i had allowed enough time, but didn't take to account that every red light i hit included the walking cycle. i was almost 15 minutes late.

                  under any circumstances, this seems like an extremely tight schedule, but particularly for a souffle. no way i would have put that in the oven until i saw the whites of their eyes:)

                  1. Sure, it's nice when everything goes exactly according to your plans, but it rarely does - so plan on that. Among my friends, a 5pm invite to someone's home is understood to mean "show up sometime between 5:15 and 6pm." Because even if they could schedule their arrivals with the accuracy of air traffic controllers, people need time to settle in and relax. I certainly wouldn't want to be herded over to the table the second I walked in the door, nor would I want to be given a strict 30:00 window to scarf up the appetizers lest the main course be ruined.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: small h

                      That schedule was by mutual decision because we all had plans for something after dinner.

                      And if they didn't want to be herded over to the table, they should have shown up at the time they said they would arrive, and, in fact, had confirmed by e-mail that afternoon. Had I not had dinner ready as scheduled, it would have caused a problem.

                      1. re: Just Visiting

                        So this woman has twice caused issues with showing up late. Sounds like if you go out with her again, she should be told to show up a half hour earlier, and she'll then get there right when the rest of you do. :-)

                        1. re: Just Visiting

                          I'd be pissed, too. It was obviously a dinner, planned for a specific time, agreed upon. Then they show up late. I am not of the camp that says it's O.K. for guests to show up for a dinner party late. If it was just a cocktail party, or a hang out party, then, yeah, one can be more flexible. But, it sounds like it was quite specific, and yes they were rude for showing up late.

                      2. I can understand your frustration. You put a lot of energy into preparing a wonderful meal. It is aggravating when a wrench is thrown into carefully laid plans.

                        On the flip side - things do happen. I was recently invited to a holiday dinner which was also my first visit to the couples home. Invite and all communication was by e-mail so I did not have their phone number. I had provided my cell number as a just in case.

                        I allowed 35 min. for a 20 min. drive. One of my cats knocked over a vase just as I was opening the front door. So lost 7-8 min.
                        My GPS went wacky and couldn't locate the street. I had looked at an online map prior to leaving - it was wrong too. I finally pulled out a street atlas. It appeared their street intersected with several other roads. Wrong. After numerous dead ends I arrived 25 min. late. I kept hoping the hostess would call but I am sure she was so busy with last minute timing that it wouldn't have been an option.

                        I was mortified. Were they irked? Did waiting for my arrival add stress to their plans? Quite possibly and completely understandable. Fortunately, they were very gracious and welcoming. Which allowed me to relax and be able to enjoy a wonderful evening.Their ease at accepting my tardiness nipped any tension in the bud.