Wednesday, December 06, 2006

“Never be the first to arrive at a party or the last to go home and never, never be both” - David Brown

Excellent party rule.

Here's another: Feed your guests yourself.

I am SICK. TO. DEATH. of being invited to a “party” and then told to bring my own food.

Clue: If you feel you need to throw a party, suck it up and feed people. If you can’t be bothered, DON’T HAVE THE PARTY.

When I invite people to my house, I intend to offer them the full extent of my hospitality. That means I clean so people are not grossed out by my house or bathrooms, so they are comfortable and at home in my home. I make sure there are places to sit, and ashtrays out on the porch, and lots of ice. I consider it my God-given obligation to provide stuff like diet soda for people who can’t or won’t drink regular, plenty of cold water and lemon for non-drinkers, and plenty of beer/wine/a reasonable selection of liquor and mixers for those who like to relax with a drink. I never want people to feel they have to ration themselves because we might run out of drinks.

If I invite you to MY house for MY party, I intend to feed you. If you care to bring something to contribute, that is fine. But it is NOT expected or – horrors – asked for. I chose to throw said party, therefore, *I* am throwing it. I will feed you, yummy food, and plenty of it (and most times I even consider that there may be vegetarian or people who keep kosher). I may be many things but an thoughtless hostess is NOT one.

When did it become acceptable to invite people to your house and tell them to a) bring their own food (a potluck dinner is just not acceptable if you are having a party, I’m sorry) or their own drink? I was raised by wolves and even I know that the only time it is acceptable to have a potluck dinner is if everyone is meeting in a common area, for a common event – family picnic, 4th of July barbecue at the local park, a holiday cookie exchange. Yet in the past six months I have been invited to no fewer than seven parties with an invitation that included the line "Potluck!" or "Bring whatever you like to eat." WTF?!

Again, I repeat: If I invite you to my house, it is MY HOSTESSLY RESPONSIBILITY to provide food and drink.

Now if you invite me for nine pm on a Saturday night, I will not expect a six-course meal; but I do expect munchies and plenty of drinks. However, if you invite me for the dinner hour, you had better be feeding me dinner and not munchies. More than likely my own munchies, no less.

Also, if you impose rules on my coming – I MUST be there by three even though you know my child sleeps till 4pm every afternoon, or the food you have asked me to bring (already a deal-breaker) must be kosher or not chocolate or whatever – I am declining. (I DON’T mean, please don’t bring peanuts because my child goes into anaphylactic shock at the sight of a peanut, or you might want to be aware that my husband is deathly allergic to shellfish. I mean, you must not bring chocolate chip cookies because no one eats chocolate chip cookies for Christmas. Um, ok. I wasn’t bringing chocolate chip cookies anyway, but I won’t be there.)

I don’t want to hear cries of “But I’m poor.” I am willing to wager that I could feed twenty-five people party food (not counting drinks) for twenty-five bucks; if you can’t afford (for example) a dollar a person, then don’t throw the party. Potato chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, hummus and pita, a hunk o’ decent cheese (even just Cracker Barrel) and some crackers – munchies are generally just not that expensive. I am not saying I would necessarily serve just this, but this would be and has been acceptable to me as party food.

So I will warn you all right now – if you invite me to your birthday party, your child’s birthday party, your anniversary party, your Christmas party, whatever, at your home and ask me to bring my own food – I am not coming. I have enough to do, what with arranging babysitters, finding time to get showered and dressed – not to mention finding clothes that fit, and figuring out how to get to your new place or what to give you for your birthday or graduation. I am not doing your cooking, too.

Better a bowl of pretzels and plenty of beer from you, the party-thrower, than lobster thermidor and wine I have had to bring to YOUR party my own self.


Joke said...

Amen, sister! Testify!

My attitude is "Your society is not so precious that it requires my shouldering the additional expenditure of fuel and allowance of time to be feeding myself in your presence."


MsCellania said...

Here Here, as well.
This has been a Major Bone of Contention with me, as well. If we get invitations that loudly yell POTLOCK! I say NOT GOING! If we get one that says BYOB! I say CHEAP ASSHAT! STILL NOT GOING! Because? I know that not only is it BYOB, it's really BYOECIACB - bring your own everything cuz I'm a cheap bastid!
I don't know when it became popular to decide to entertain to get free leftover food and booze.
I was going to do a post on this last week. We got no less than 3 Bring X! invites, and I RSVP'd in the negative to all 3. 'Sorry, we have a conflict.' As in, if I am cooking all this, then we are eating it while it is still hot and fresh, in the comfort of our own home!

Jess said...

I can't imagine throwing a party and not having a good supply of food and drink. I do love those friends, however, who say, "what can I bring?" or who show up with an extra bottle of wine regardless. But I would never expect it of them, or judge them for not bringing something.

My parents do have an annual Turkey Dinner in May event where they have a side dish contest (you can take home the squawking rubber chicken for a year!) They provide the turkey, some beer & wine & soda, and usually a couple other dishes, and everyone who wants to brings a side dish. Most people show up with some extra beer.

But I must say that I grew up with regular potlucks and I don't find it at all imposing to be asked to bring something.

BabelBabe said...

A real potluck is one thing - we had them at church all the time. and your parents' event falls under that category of That's what the party is about (like a cookie exchange). But to say, "I am throwing a party, for birthday, holiday, etc. Bring the food." galls me. I always take something, anyway, but I hate being given the impression that the guests are feeding the guests. Like Joke, I am just as happy to eat my food at home, I don't need to drive to your house to do it.

Amy A. said...

I hate taking food to other people's houses because the food that tastes great in my home is terrible by the time it gets there and I end up taking most of it back anyway.

Thanks for the donut recipe. Yummy.

Sarah Louise said...

All the food eaten and shared and brought by guests (except for the birthday cake, which was provided by me and awful) at my birthday party was delish and appreciated. My 1st floor neighbor popped microwave popcorn and a couple brought brie.

I guess it takes all kinds.

Poppy Buxom said...

I'm so hidebound and reactionary that I used to be offended when people offered to bring stuff to my parties. I wouldn't let it show, but I'd be thinking, "What the fuck???? Am I or am I not the hostess?"

I still get that way when people walk into my house and take their shoes off. I'm sorry, my house is not in Japan, and I don't want people walking around in their stocking feet and leaving PILES AND PILES OF SHOES FOR PEOPLE TO FALL OVER IN FRONT OF MY FRONT DOOR.

On the other hand, when I throw parties, I love the little tchotkes I get. I get all gleeful and childish. And I try to bring my host and hostess tchotkes of their own.

lazy cow said...

My husband gets very upset if guests don't bring at least one bottle of wine, or some beer when they are invited for dinner. According to him 'it's UnAUstralian not to bring your own drinks'. I did not know this, being a total WOG and was brought up to fully cater.
However, at our annual Girls' Christmas Dinner the rotating hostess supplies the main course, and everyone else supplies the rest. This works very well.

Joke said...

As re. bringing beverages to an event to which one is invited, the rules (and you're blessed with Free Will, so you are not compelled to adhere thereto) are quite simple.

1- Bringing wine/beer/ardent spirits ought be a gift for the host/ess, akin to flowers, or a box of chocolates, etc.

2- You oughtn't expect the fluids in question to be consumed on the spot, much like you wouldn't expect the hostess to start filling in the pages, of a journal you've brought her as a gift, as she greets you at the door.

Of course, there are some events where, by their very premise, guests are expected to contribute something. These vary by (sub)culture.

In that regard, Poppy's tribe is similar to mine. Ovah heah, if someone had a wedding anniversary shindig and asked for X to bring the chips, and Y to bring the dip, and Z to bring the ice...well, people would be horrified.

All THAT said, it's also an acceptable exception if someone calls up and says "Can I bring something?" and you inform that person you're low on ice or sugar or whatever. But you ought reimburse them.


Kathy said...

It's nice when people bring things as a thoughtful gesture but I think it's rude to expect everyone else to bring your food. Jess' parents' side dish contest is one thing but expecting your guests to bring everything is another.

Lynne@Oberon said...

Absolutely!! Invite people out to a restaurant or something if you cannot be bothered to be a semi-decent host.

Another thing I don't like - even though I know it's nice - is when people bring food without being asked to. Then it turns out that you have too much food, and what they brought doesn't fit in with what you have prepared, and you sort of suspect they don't expect to like what you have prepared. If you want to bring food you should check with the hostess and she might say, "Oh, it would be marvellous if you could pick up a dozen bread rolls on your way here. Thanks!".

kilowatthour said...

i'm with ya.

David said...

sounds great - when's the party?

blackbird said...

My dinner party crowd has taken to asking what they can bring...ANNOYING!
If you are invited to BB's or my home for a dinner party feel free to bring a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers or a pretty candle if you bring hostess gifts.
And if you are not accustomed to doing so then shut up...but don't ask what you can bring.

blackbird said...

oh, and, Joke...
sometimes someone brings us wine that they'd like to open with dinner to try -
I get that. But I have a feeling dinner parties are more intimate in nature than a bash or cocktail soiree.

Joke said...


Serendipity is allowed.


Anonymous said...

I am Matron of Honor in a Wedding in January. I'm horrified to report that the couple is planning a POTLUCK reception. potluck! my god... what has the world come to?

Katy said...

a POTLUCK? For a Wedding? The Horror! I can't imagine going to a wedding where I had to bring anything except a wedding gift and my well-wishes. geez.

Sarah Louise said...

I have to wonder if there is an allowance for regionality--I've found that people in Pittsburgh often insist on "what can I bring?" and I often get invites that ask for food/beverages.

In my mind, the idea of a party is to get people together. And what of folks who want to bring food b/c they have special eating needs?

A little grace, methinks, from SL,
who has friends in low places.

BabelBabe said...

I stand by what I said - I think it's wrong and rude to invite people to your house and then expect them to feed themselves. A hostess gift is perfectly acceptable. And if I have invited someone with special eating needs, I fill them - it's easy enough to take most special needs into consideration. I also hate when I have carefully planned a nice meal and someone brings broccoli-Velveeta-surprise and thinks i should serve that too. If you want me to eat THAT, invite me to YOUR house.
And again, I am not talking a casual get-together where everyone says, "Hey we'll hang on my porch, we'll bring the pizza if you bring the beer." I am talking a more formalized "Come to my house for dinner, or a party, or occasion, but you have to bring food, because I won't have any."

IMHO, just because you GET the invites doesn't mean it's RIGHT.

Sarah Louise said...

Dear Domestic Goddess of Party Perfection,

I've been to your parties. They are wonderfully scrumptious.

However, I stand by my stance: I have had a lot of fun at parties where the food has been provided by the guests including myself and I have no problem asking folks to bring stuff.

SL, who lost her copy of Miss Manners ages ago (on purpose, I'm sure.)

BabelBabe said...

hmmm. seem to have struck a nerve.

Literary Feline said...

Your post has reminded me of the Christmas dinner I'd like to forget.

It's rare that my husband and I are able to spend Christmas with my parents, brother and his family and other various extended family members because of work and travel issues. A couple of years ago, we were both able to get the time off to make the 8 hour drive up north for a long weekend over the holidays. Our holiday get togethers are generally potluck style, with the hosts providing the main courses and whatever the guests haven't volunteered to bring. It's an agreed upon practice by all family members and those who don't want to bring anything, don't have to. However that year, my sister-in-law, who was hosting Christmas that year, had decided it would be a swell idea to actually include recipes for what she wanted each guest to bring. This was stuff SHE wanted to try, had never had before, and most of us had never even heard of. I'm all for trying new foods, but this seemed a bit tacky. And yes, hubby and I got a recipe too--a seafood dish that we were supposed to prepare and bring along on our 8 hour drive to their house for Christmas afternoon. Was I supposed to make it the night before after we arrived at my folks' house? Just how I want to spend an evening after a long car drive instead of visiting with my parents who I hadn't seen in a year. Not to mention I don't like seafood and hate cooking (hubby's the cook in our family). I don't think anyone in the family brought what they were asked to bring. Hubby made cute little cookie balls--they travel very well. My sister-in-law hasn't volunteered to host anymore family holidays.