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Need Yoyr Party Advice

Thinking of having another holiday open house this year. It's been about 8 years since our last one, but we have a new group of friends now. Here is our dilemma: in past years when finances were better, we provided all the food and drink. Now, funds are tighter. We would like to provide the wine, beer, etc and a big ham and then ask guests to bring apps, sides or desserts as a potluck. I'm not expecting gourmet offerings, a tray of brownies from the grocery store is fine. Is this rude? Would people not bother to come if they have to bring something?

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  1. I don't think its rude at all.
    But then it depends on your new group of friends...
    Whenever we have a get together, most invitees' first question is "whattyawant us to bring?"
    Instead of having an "open house" call it something like a "pot luck party".
    It can be tricky, though, as 5 people may bring chili...

    Sometimes, I'll cook for a gang, but simply ask people to bring whatever they want to drink ("theres soda and juice, just bring your own beer, wine, or booze")

    1. I agree with Porker: make all of the food, and ask your guests to bring beer or wine (but get a small amount of your own for starters). Everyone's so busy over the holidays that it would be easier for people to bring alcohol and not have to worry about cooking and preparing food. And that way you have more control over your menu.

      1. I have had parties like this and nobody batted an eye. Many people really enjoyed making special foods to bring and some were the "bag of chips" type, but it was really enjoyable. I would have no problem going to one myself either. Parties are very expensive and none of my friends or family are rich. Does it mean you should never have a party? Definitely not. Potlucks are fun, I wish there were more of them amongst my social circle.

        1. It seems as though you are providing most of the food and drink. I would accept people's offerings, making sure they specify what they would be bringing. Anything you don't get you pick up at the last minute, ie rolls, brownies from Costco etc.... I think you will be surprised how happy people are happy to bring something. This will be a good opportunity for you to get to know your friends a bit better(who is reliable and punctual). Never get your friend who is perpetually late to bring the app, always dessert. Sounds like fun!

          1. Potlucks can be fun. Just don't call it an open house and you should be fine. To me, an open house, is more of a drop by and visit for a short time than a party where you have a meal.

            1. I would either call it a potluck, or you provide the apps and make it BYOB. Either of those options are very common with my friends and family, especially during the holiday season.

              I prefer the BYOB and have apps provided, during the busy holiday time though.

              1. As others have said - you provide the majority of the food, and ask the invitees to bring whatever alcohol they'd like.

                Cost-wise, I think you'd make out better with your tighter budget by providing the food and apps/sides vs. buying the beer and wine.

                If someone offers to bring a dessert, that's great.

                1. So have a holiday potluck... it's not rude. And you're providing the most expensive part if you're doing ham for 50 or 60 people AND drinkies. Ask your guests to bring their 'holiday specialty' and enjoy the fun.

                  1. Your proposal is perfectly fine. In fact that's how it is with most of the gatherings I've been invited to, or host.

                    In fact when I host, I (coyly) tell folks in my invites that I'd rather they each bring their "signature dish" than me attempting to do it myself which would be epic fail compared to theirs. And ya know, folks end up happily bringing their masterpieces. Sometimes even double-portioned. Pride & joy work well as motivator ;-)

                    At the end of the day it's the thought and company that counts. Food is ...... secondary [gasp, who said that ?!?]

                    Enjoy your festivities !

                    1. This is normal in the parties we and our friends have.

                      1. Most of the holiday get togethers I go to are this way. Not all. Some people seem to be offended by the idea, although I have no idea why.

                        One guy I know/knew had a big party at his parent's house every summer. Girls brought food, guys brought booze. Over time that was amended to bring either food or booze, not gender specific. He provided paper goods, soda/pop, and water (ok, and rice, this is Hawaii we are talking about. Gotta have rice, but no one wants to look cheap by showing up with a container of rice. LOL.

                        Growing up, the people down the street were involved in all kinds of groups. They often had potlucks and commented that it was very rare to get much duplication of items, and when it did happen, oh well so what?

                        1. "Is this rude? Would people not bother to come if they have to bring something?"

                          I think it depends on your friends/guests and the social norms of your area.

                          Within my group, organizing the party immediately triggers the "what can we bring?" phone calls. (For the record, I do not like uninvited food and far prefer to do it all myself but it doesn't always work out that way.)

                          If you are going to ask people to bring things, I would make the food yourself and issue the invitation as a BYOB. I agree with whoever said people don't necessarily have the time or desire to cook around the holidays.

                          1 Reply
                          1. I think you would need to change it from an open house to something maybe smaller and more defined, time-wise. People are often double-booked in December (there are only so many Saturday nights!), which is fine if you are bouncing around from one cocktail party to another, but a little different if you are committed to bringing a dish and it's more like a dinner party.

                            I do plenty of potlucks with my friends, and everyone says in the Evite what they will bring to avoid duplicates.

                            1. "Being your signature dish to share". People most likely will tell you what they're planning after that.

                              1. For years we always did Labor Day BYOB (sometimes we would supplement a case of cheap light beer). Is this an evening party or truly an open house? Set imbed those afternoon soup parties can be quite economical.

                                1. Make the main entree as a "please contribute to". Example cioppino, 1 lb. of peeled shrimp, 1/2 lb. crab meat etc. Paella would be another "contribute to" entree.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: letsindulge

                                    I would never do this. If someone says they'll contribute X towards a specific dish (such as 1 lb. of shrimp towards cioppino), but either changes their mind or forgets to bring that ingredient, the host(ess) then has to either run out to get that ingredient (leaving his/her own party) or change the dish entirely.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      It's worked great for me in the past.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        As a host, I would not be overly concerned about the forgotten item. Maybe I would have something in the pantry/freezer that would take the place. Obviously, if I was having that sort of party, then the actual outcome of a precise dish, as long as tasty(!), is not important. It's about having something to share with my friends.

                                        1. re: KarenDW

                                          This form of collaboration (loss of control)would test every nerve in my body. I like to be responsible for my own food, would hate for someone to bring something I didn't like. I tend to ask people to bring bread& cheese, crudite&dip, fruit plate, brownies/cookies and of course wine. Hats off to those that would enjoy just going with the flow...

                                          1. re: KarenDW

                                            Well, I guess if a specific dish is being made, and someone forgets a major item for that dish, and you have the item in the pantry/freezer, why not just have all of the ingredients on hand yourself to begin with?

                                            Again, I find it much easier to ask someone bring a complete side dish such as a salad vs. a specific ingredient in the main course. If the ingredient request works for others, more power to them. It just wouldn't work for me.

                                      2. have hosted tons of pot lucks like this and have been invited to tons of pot lucks like this.
                                        all have been terrific.

                                        1. Appreciate the replies and thoughts on the issue! Going to do it, but call it a "Holiday Potluck" on the invite instead of an Open House. Thanks for the many ideas!

                                          1. Sorry, but this is rude unless you specifically bill it as a "Potluck" and it's a given that everyone contributes. I would not call it an open house.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: shoes

                                              As I stated up-thread, just about every party we and our friends have are "potluck" even though the word is never used. It is just automatically assumed that everyone will bring a dish unless otherwise stated. None of us consider it "rude".

                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                The OP's guests are a new crowd of people who have not been to past parties...former guests may have "understood" without saying that everyone brings a dish but these people should not be expected to. The OP needs to be clear about which event she's having so there is no misunderstanding among the guests as to what is expected. Otherwise, there might be a thread on this board later in which she is venting because of her disappointment.

                                                It's not rude to ask people to contribute to a pot luck but it is indeed tacky to ask guests to bring a dish to your open house. Word the event the way you mean it.

                                            2. Kat, I've been doing this successfully out here at the farm for 21 years. Pot Luck suggests that everyone show up with anything while Open House suggests you are providing everything. You and I both want something in between. I limit the fare to apps and desserts so it remains a small plate function. While you may not be inviting my customary 30 to 40 guests, here is my formula for a successful gathering:

                                              Have it the second weekend after New Years. Call it a post-Holiday Partay. Most people's schedules are stuffed before and during the Christmas to New Years week and this gives all a free weekend event to look forward to after the holidays. I've done both a Saturday evening without kids or a 3-to-8 Sunday with kids invited. Never a problem and attendance is much better.

                                              In my crowd, everyone asks what they can bring. I provide my staple offerings that all have come to expect and ask others to fill in around them. People usually have one thing they take pride in and can make. if they don't cook or don't have time, beer or wine is always welcome. Most of my friends bring a bottle of something anyway.

                                              Invite people by phone rather than mail or email. Then you can chat to discuss the menu and their potential offerings. This way, you don't end up dessert heavy or app light. Do this the week before Thanksgiving to allow enough planning.

                                              To keep people circulating, I have a buffet table set up in the living room for apps, the bar service in the front hall and desserts in the dining room. This way, people tend to stay OUT of the kitchen while I'm preparing and others are unpacking their wares.

                                              I have a pitcher of a seasonal cocktail and few bottles of wine on the bar, few apps out and one or two desserts ready before peeps arrive. Also, adequate serving plates and serving pieces to replate and serve their offerings..

                                              Make sure there is adequate seating. Bring chairs down from upstairs and put them where you want people to be. Remove all chairs from the kitchen.

                                              Hire a young person to help with coats, serving and clean up. This way you have time to actually interact with guests before your house is all-too-soon vacated and you ask "What happened?" It goes too fast when you're working.

                                              Have a good one!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                Nicely done, CP. You are obviously well practiced at being a very gracious host!

                                              2. Excellent advice, chef! Much appreciated.