Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Do you want to bring something to a party?

Asked by JLeslie (60534points) June 10th, 2011

I am throwing a party this weekend and several people have asked me what they can bring. Many are not satisfied with the answer that they don’t have to bring anything. I have also been saying if you want to bring something bring your favorite drink if you would like, but also tell them what we will have available. Some still insist they want to bring food.

Honestly, I want to bring nothing to your party, unless it is specifically a potluck party. If I am helping you throw the party, then obviously I will bring whatever you need. Or, if it is BYOB, no problem, I don’t mind at all. But, my BYOB is Coke. When it is not BYOB, it is weird to show up with Coke as a gift.

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88 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I usually will press once, but if the host still insists that I bring nothing, I usually take flowers.

AmWiser's avatar

I love it when the host say you don’t have to bring anything. I assume they will have plenty of food and beverage and all I have to bring is my appetite and pleasant personality.:D
If guests insist on bringing a dish, accept it graciously.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I bring wine if I know the host or hostess drink alcohol. If not, maybe cheese and fancy crackers.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
LuckyGuy's avatar

I, too, find it rude not to bring something. It is a small contribution. Even if the hostess says it is not necessary I will bring a nice bottle of local wine that they can enjoy later. If they don’t drink then I will go for cheeses or mixed nuts that will keep.

If appropriate, and with permission, I enjoy bringing homemade chocolate truffles. I love making them but cannot eat them all. Right now on my shelf there is a box of Dobla Dark Belgian Chocolate dessert shells waiting for the next event.

john65pennington's avatar

BYOB is a pretty definete statement. Food, if not requested, could complicate the food or snacks situation. If they say no food, then take no food.

Your bottle of Coke should be welcomed, especially as a drink mixer.


Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Sorry. That was bad. Maybe a nice bottle of wine.

Jay484's avatar

@worriedguy i usually bring wine too but its home made wine from my grandparetns

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Jay484 That is perfect. I give it to the hosts and tell them to enjoy it whenever they like.

@JLeslie If I am traveling or have guests who have traveled to my place, I do not expect to bring anything. But, even then, a small token is appreciated. I had eggs for breakfast this morning and spiced them with Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning that good friends of ours brought with them from Louisiana. It is a nice gesture and I have been enjoying their visit months after they left.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy @Jay484 But do you want to? I understand the chocolates, because maybe you want to share the yummies with others, but do you want to go to the trouble of stopping at the store to pick up something? Or, spend time cooking? I mean you have a chance to have someone cook for you one night, why cook? Even the chocolates, if someone says, “no, really you don’t have to bring anything, they probably mean it.” I would let you bring chocolates though I must admit. Asking to help is very nice, but some people don’t accept no as an answer. And, I still can’t figure out if some of them want me to insist three times no, or if they really will feel bad if they don’t bring something? That is part of the reason I ask the original question.

If I show up at your party with nothing, will it stick in your mind I am rude and didn’t bring anything? Or, are you just happy to see me? I do bring something to a party generally, because it seems to be the etiquette, but I don’t really want to. Your answers about it being rude, a judgment of others, but my question is what would you really prefer as a guest.

Maybe I should clarify, it depends on the party somewhat, the occassion, and how often I go to the persons house, and whether I frequently have them over also. I don’t want to constantly be eating their food, mooching, without chipping in or helping out. But, a big party, especially if it is for an occassion like a birthday, anniversary, etc., then I guess I bring a gift (unless they specifically say no to) not food though.

@all As @john65pennington points out, it might discombobulate the food plan. Or, what if the host takes a lot of pride in their cooking, planned a menu, and then they have this stray dish that she/he would never cook herself, and she has to now offer it.

Even flowers, although I think it is a very nice gesture, I as the host have to stop, find a vase, cut the stems, you just added a chore for me, when I am hoping to get in as much time with my guests as possible while balancing host duties.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy The zatarans was a nice gift for having them over, but there is no pressure for you to present it to others at a party. Gifts are different than bringing food.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie Don’t stress. Your way over thinking it. If someone invites me to their house, feeds me and gives me drinks, I’m fine. Don’t sweat it so much.

ucme's avatar

A monkey suit & a bag of spanners

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Yes, I like to bring something, whether it contributes to the party or not. If the host says that nothing needs to be brought for the meal, then I respect that. I have, on occasion, called an hour before the party to see if they need any last minute item they want picked up before heading their way.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie I always ask if there is something I should bring. If the answer is “no” then I will bring a bottle or cheese or nuts as stated above -something they can enjoy later. I can’t not bring something. I feel uncomfortable.
If they say “yes’ then I will ask about the truffles. I enjoy doing it. It sure beats watching an hour of junk on TV.
Making truffles is quite a sensuous experience by the way. I love having an excuse to make them.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy Ok. An appreciation gift is nice. I have no quarrel with it really. Personally I prefer with my close friend not to deal with the obligation of it. I won’t bring you any gift and you don’t bring me one. Less work.

bob_'s avatar

I, for one, are more than happy to bring nothing to your party.

What time should I show up?

JLeslie's avatar

@bob_ I was curious about your answer, being from another country, but I am not sure your answer has to do with a cultural expectation or just sarcasm and humor. 6:00.

Coloma's avatar

I usually bring local wine too, or whatever is specified if asked.

I dunno, I think this comes down to the common problem of protocol and silly social game playing.

If I tell my guests I do not want them to bring anything, I MEAN it.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. easy.

I threw a huge bash 2 summers ago with 2 live bands in my yard, camping and had a boatload of food, cases of wine, a keg of Sierra Nevada ale…I had it COVERED and anything more would risk going to waste, and it did.

People I told to not bring anything brought something anyway.

Okay, fine, but, if your dish goes belly up on the table after sitting out for hours on an 80 something degree night, well…I TOLD YOU, I didn’t WANT anything else to add to my menu!

bob_'s avatar

@JLeslie The first part of my answer was serious. I don’t think it’s a cultural thing, because many people here in Mexico will also insist on bringing something to a party. I would ask once, to be polite, but if you say no, I won’t press the matter any further. It’s your party, you set the rules. Why would I want to go out of my way to get something you say you don’t need/want?

Blackberry's avatar

Some people were raised to never go to someone’s house empty handed. It’s a polite custom.

JLeslie's avatar

@bob_ That’s exactly how I feel.

@all So, I am thinking someone bringing something when they are told not to. Is that because they are worried the host is not telling the truth? That it is some sort of social game? Like they are worried they will be perceived as rude if they bring nothing, like it is a trick of sorts? It doesn’t matter what the host says, because in their mind good etiquette is to bring something. Like all these people down here who call me ma’am or Ms. Firstname even when I request they call me by my first name. They don’t care what I prefer, they think their rules of etiquette are more important than my preference even regarding myself.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie It’s no big deal. I’m bringing something just to show my appreciation for your efforts. You don’t need to serve it at the party. It’s a gift for you. End of story. I’m still looking for my invitation by the way.

bob_'s avatar

For the record, if I ever throw a party, and y’all ask me what to bring and I say “nothing”, but y’all still want to bring something, bring some sandwiches.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I usually ask…and they usually say,“Hell,no!!”
It depends on what kind of get together it is.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Oh no, meatloaf is coming.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe No…..the British are coming.

Blackberry's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Better ring those bells and whistles.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

If it is a Fluther party you could always bring pancakes.

MilkyWay's avatar

Um, quite. The British have arrived :P
If I go to a party and the host doesn’t want me to bring something, I’ll try to ask them a few times if they’re sure. If they say no in a serious tone, then that’s it. I don’t bring anything.

Response moderated (Flame-Bait)
Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

No, silly. We trust that you have everything under control. It’s just a way to say ‘thank you’ for the inclusion. I suppose that there could be ulterior motives, like someone is a vegetarian or finicky and wants to make sure that there is something that they can eat.

What this comes down to is people living by The Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others As You Want Done Unto You”. What you are requesting is that the guests live by The Platinum Rule: “Do Unto Others As They Want Done Unto Them.” Most people want the latter rule applied, but they live by the former.

I live about 20 minutes away from @JLeslie. If anyone is interested in attending the Spanish dinner party, you are more than welcome to come camp out at my place after we raid her house.

MilkyWay's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe That’s what you think.

stardust's avatar

I usually bring a bottle of wine or something along those lines. It’s more about appreciation than anything else. I’d probably feel awkward going empty handed.

JLeslie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe But what if your bring a lasagna? I can just out it in my fridge for tomorrow?

JLeslie's avatar

@bob_ Stop it! LMFAO!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie That sounds so friggin good right now.

Your_Majesty's avatar

We usually bring money in an envelope. It’s a common custom here to use money as a sign of appreciation in party.

We don’t bring food (it’s just awkward here). Usually a variety set of complete cuisine would be provided by the owner/party planner. Also with other kind of entertainments.

I don’t bring anything if it’s family-based party, though.

Blackberry's avatar

@Your_Majesty That’s hilarious, it’s the exact opposite where I live. Where do you live?

deni's avatar

If it’s a close friend, and not a friend of a friend of a friend, I love bringing something. I really enjoy baking, and I also really enjoy watching other people enjoy my baking. It’s usually apple pie, though recently I’ve really liked to make these rainbow cupcakes….always a smash hit.

JLeslie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe The lasagna sound good? Lol. I meant to write put it in the fridge not out in the fridge. Typo. Can I put it in the fridge? Or, did you bring it to be consumed at the party and you will be insulted if I don’t serve it?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie I’m easy, you can put it anywhere. It just sounds really good right now. Like I said, if I bring you anything, it’s your’s to do whatever with. If you’ve got the menu planned cool. Have it later.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ya, I do. Because I make some kickin’ baked beans and I want everyone to know it! I’ll bring them @JLeslie and just tell your guests that you’re putting them away for yourself and they can’t have any!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Is that it? You want to show off your food? That is kind of what I was thinking, and then I read your post and maybe that is it. It’s my party, aren’t I showing off my food? You can have your own party.

Seriously, I just told one of the people insisting on bringing something that I am making a Paella, having Sangria, beer, and making a flan to stay with the theme. I told her she does not have to bring anything, really, there will be plenty of food, but if she wants to, its fine to bring an appetizer, dessert or her favorite beverage. <I just don’t want to have to spar with people so I am going with being flexible this time> She wrote back she will make a flan too and we can compare recipes.

And, the few people bringing appetizers, are they going to make sure they are here early so there is food available as people arrive?

I guess I want more control over the whole thing. I admit that. At least desserts are for later, if you tend to run late.

Cruiser's avatar

If it is a fancy shmancy party and specifically instructed to not bring anything, I will still bring a small fresh flower arrangement, potted plant or box of chocolates depending on the host.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Blackberry I live in Indonesia. Although people share different kind of culture in our society we all adopt the same ‘money in an envelope’ custom for party.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sure, @JLeslie! Everybody like showing off! Your party is the BIG show, and it doesn’t hurt to let guests have little showoffs inside of that, would it?

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Well, it sort of bothers me actually. Not in a competitive way. I am thrilled to have yummy food and let others know who cooked it or who gave me the recipe, I like to give credit where credit is due generally. But, for this, for my party, I find it uncomfortable. If my friend is going to make a flan, I am fine with that, because I want flan at the party, but I actually think then I want to make a another dessert to add to the variety of choice, not make it a competition. My girlfriend bringing appetizers is bringing something with Manchego cheese and chorizo, so she keeps with the theme, I am totally fine with that too. If someone wanted to bring baked beans I am not happy. It has nothing to do with the type of food I am preparing for this occassion. When I have my BBQ, I would love to have your baked beans.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser Hmmm. You know, I was sure to say to everyone the party is casual, so they feel comfortable wearing jean, shorts, whatever they want. Maybe they have an idea of casual also meaning people bring food to help. I should say not everyone is asking what to bring, only some people.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ve never attended a party that was so rigid!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III You seem angry? Or, judgmental maybe? I don’t want to assume your tone though. Internet communication can be tricky.

I don’t see why I cannot be “rigid?” Why should my party be done your way? Again, you can have your own party. And, I am fine with a bring your own dish party, when that is the type of partying I am having. It seems incredibly selfish for you to be concerned with showing off your food at my party, if I prefer you don’t.

JLeslie's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe @Dutchess_III Even if you are ok with me stuffing it in my fridge for later, do you really think when you hand the dish to me that I won’t feel obligated to put it out? No matter what you say, and I believe you are fine with me eating them later as we talk here on this Q, but in the moment when you show up with them, I would never believe it is ok to just put it aside for just me. I would feel I was being rude and unappreciative.

tedibear's avatar

I always ask if the host wants me to bring something, for two reasons:
1. I was raised that it is impolite to show up at someone’s house empty handed.
2. I like to be helpful. If it will help that I bring bread or dessert, then I am happy to do that.
And yes, I want to do it. If I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t ask.

If the host says no, I reply, “Okay. If something changes and you need me to bring anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.” Then I let it go. I might show up with flowers, but then again, I might not. It depends on whether I think of it that day.

As for the rest of it, I think it’s your party and if you tell people “No, thank you,” then that should be it. Does it bug me when I’m told that? Yes, but that’s my issue because I feel selfish just showing up like that.

The_Idler's avatar

Yeah, sometimes I like to bring along Sambuca, or if drink is provided, perhaps marijuana.

Unfortunately, some people are always disappointed to see the Sambuca, but that’s their problem… all the more for the rest of us! Marijuana never fails, appropriate for any situation*, nothing beats sitting out in morning dress on the lawn of a manor house, watching the sunset, sipping champagne and smoking a joint.

*except maybe one of those police officer conventions…

I can’t wait til I’m old, and get to go to awesome parties with free flan =}

DominicX's avatar

I’ll bring a handle or a fifth, if it’s needed. :)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JLeslie I was taught by some first generation old Europeans. Just getting an invitation into someone’s house is a huge honor. They had a nice way of doing things. Whatever I give you is your’s to deal with however you want to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL @JLeslie No no! Not judgmental and certainly not angry! It was just an observation. Seriously…showing off my food at your party really wouldn’t upstage the program. I mean, they’re good, but it would just be an off hand observation by those who happened to like them. They wouldn’t stop the show or distract from anything, either. But, you’re’s YOUR party! You don’t want my beans, I’ll leave them home with a baby sitter!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Oh no. Not at all.

sakura's avatar

If you told me not to bring food I wouldn’t, I may bring my own alchohol because I am a bit fussy as to what I drink, and me and my hubby don’t drink beer. But other than that I’m empty handed, just as I would expect if you were coming to my house for a meal.

However if you were coming for a BBQ, depending on the time of the month and how much money there is left in the kitty it may be…don’t bother bringing anything, OR we’ll provide the basics if you want anything specific/special BYO, OR we’ll provide the heat if you provide the meat!!!
(if people turn up with stuff that doesn’t need to be used/ is the same as what has been provided by us, it either goes home with them or into the the deep freeze until the next get together!)

I had a 40th party for my hubby 2 years ago and we told people they didn’t need to bring any beer etc.. people did and we ended up with a garage load of cans and bottles, but we didn’t mind as they came in handy for future shin digs!!!

Haleth's avatar

I always want to bring something to the party, but it’s usually something little like wine, a snack, or a dessert. The host put a lot of trouble into preparing a meal, if it’s a dinner party, and I don’t want to throw their meal out of whack. But as far as wine, the more the merrier, right?

Kardamom's avatar

I guess I’m coming from a slightly different angle. I don’t get invited to dinner parties in which I’m not extremely close to the host (family or close friends) so all of the parties that I go to, it is common for everyone to ask if they can bring something, and we usually ask what the theme is, or if they need something specific like drinks or dessert or an appetizer. I have yet to have anyone say that they don’t want us to bring anything only for the fact that everyone in my family and most of my friends love to cook and eat and welcome more good stuff.

Also, I am a vegetarian, so sometimes it is necessary for me to offer to bring something or else I won’t get to eat, and the host might make a big deal in front of everyone, apologizing for not making anything that’s vegetarian. I like to avoid that scenario. This doesn’t happen too often, because I don’t go to parties where I’m unknown. I’ve gone to a couple of weddings where this was the case (nothing vegetarian to eat) because I was accompanying a friend to their friend’s wedding. Luckily, I realize that this might happen, so I tend to eat ahead of time, if I have to have to attend a party like that.

JLeslie's avatar

@Kardamom I am compleletly empathetic towards people who have special diets. In fact I will make sure some of my dishes are vegetarian, although only two will be vegan. But, if you or anyone with a diet restriction prefer to bring something absolutely no problem.

@Dutchess_III I am not really worried about you upstaging, I am thrilled if the food is great that you bring. What I care about is if I think it is crap and I am the one serving it basically to my guests. And, at times it is about it fitting in correctly with the mix. My girlfriend bringing the appetizers who teaches cooking at Viking, I hope every thinks those tapas are fantastic!

JilltheTooth's avatar

Can I bring a date??? ;-)

TexasDude's avatar

I’m with you, @JLeslie. When I throw a party (unless it’s a potluck or byob, like I mentioned) I provide everything that I think my guests could hope to want. I don’t like bringing stuff to parties either because I never really know what to bring.

dannyc's avatar

Yes, just in case.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Beans wouldn’t fit in this case anyway. Really, I wouldn’t bring beans to, say, a Spanish dinner party. But seriously…if someone said, “No, please don’t bring anything,” I certainly wouldn’t insist. However if the person said, “You don’t have to bring anything,” I might see it as though they are not wanting to impose on me, in which case I’d probably say, “I don’t mind!”

Honestly..I don’t think I’ve ever taken food to an actual dinner invitation. Mostly, where we come from though, every body pitches in. We just don’t get all formal about much. Too stressful!

@JilltheTooth I’m thinking dates might fit right in with her theme, too!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Why is it formal to show up to a party in a pair of jeans and be with friends and drink and eat? I am missing something.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Formal in that no one else is to contribute. Formal in that you have a “theme,” and that theme must be adhered to!

JLeslie's avatar

The theme does not need to be adhered to in a strict sense. Not sure if you saw what I wrote to nikipedia? Might be on the other thread.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, he’s not here. I’ll go over there.

bob_'s avatar

Yo, nikipedia is a she.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I never have potlucks, and really enjoy cooking for others. A lot of planning goes into what I serve; I don’t expect guests to bring their own food to my house. Wine is always nice, as are flowers, if I don’t have to arrange them at the same time I’m putting out food.

What I would really like people to do is to return my plastic containers from IKEA that I sent leftovers home in after the last party.

Dutchess_III's avatar

psssst! We’re having some folks over tonight. They were supposed to be here at 6ish, so we went to the store at about 4:45 and TOTALLY changed the menu on a moment’s notice! It all started when we walked by some pre-stuffed portabella mushrooms…different ones had different things, but they all had cheese. There were two to a package….FOR $9.00!! Hail no! We made our own…I put cream cheese in the bottom, then a layer of green onion and green pepper, put a tomato slice in then topped with Italian Blend cheese. Going to grill them. Can I bring THAT to your party @JLeslie?
Rick was going to do burgers but chicken wings seemed a better choice with the ports….our theme is “June in Kansas in the Back Yard.” :)

I hope you have fun at your dinner @J. I know that everything will be as close to perfect as a person could possibly make it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Yes, you can bring that. Have fun tonight.

aprilsimnel's avatar

If you said to me “don’t bring anything”, I wouldn’t bring anything. I always accede to the host’s wishes.

Kardamom's avatar

@Dutchess_III Would you be willing to share (or PM me) with your baked beans recipe? I love me some baked beans. Even if they have some type of non-veg thing in them,, I can improvise.

I am so hungry now! And I’m having a Spanish tapas fit too.

JLeslie's avatar

Everyone here who said once I started to panic I should have just changed the menu is right. I felt I couldn’t because everyone who insisted on bringing something had already been told what I was preparing. Now, already, the night before, one person wrote me an email, I just saw it, she won’t be bringing what she said because her husband vetoed the idea, and probably bring nothing as I initially said. But, I was planning on what she was bringing at this point. This is what I am talking abut people. Even though I said it makes me nervous to rely on people to bring something I sort of did. I am going to post this on the other Q too.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is your party tonight at 6? You KNOW we’ll all be thinking of you! Gotta take some pics of the food AND the party!

It could be matter of wording, hon. If someone asks if they can bring something and you say, “No, you don’t have to,” it kind of leaves the other person with the impression that you’re just trying to spare them. If, on the other hand, you say, “I’d rather you not bring anything,” that leaves no doubt.I think I said that already…

No…I can’t bring my mushrooms! OMG!! Talk about a show stopper! No one had ever tasted anything like that. One person said that was the best thing they’d ever tasted….and didn’t think he liked mushrooms! They were “griping” because they only got one each! They upstaged Rick’s chicken and my baked beans, even!

JLeslie's avatar

Well that party was the most stressfull party going in, during and after I have ever thrown. I take a lot of the blame onto myself. First I forgot to take a photo of the paella but it came out very pretty and hopefully people enjoyed eating it. Maybe when I serve my husband a plate of leftover I will remember to take a photo of it. One guest arrived early! I was lucky I had my shirt and make-up on. And it was not a mistake, he said he came early to see my husband’s racecar, and took my husband’s help away from me the final last 15 minutes of crunch time before the guests arrive. I needed him, because I was running a little late with things. The paella was not hot when everyone arrived, and I needed to get all of the hot food out.

The other stressor was people did not start eating any of the cold food that was already out like salad, fruit, dip (and people brought dips) the cheese appetizer the viking instructor brought, everyone was waiting for all the food to be ready at once, I have never had this happen before, and I think everyone was starving. Everyone did have drinks and it was 7:15 by the time everyone ate, which is not crazy late, but still. Someone said they were waiting for me to let people know they can eat. Huh? The food is out on huge serving platters plates, forks, knives, it’s a party. Eat, drink, be merry? Some people had been nibbling, but the vast majority not. I might be more worried than necessary, because I was so worried going into the thing. Oh, and everyone was in the kitchen, I mean everyone was watching me in my last minute scurry instead of sitting down in the family room, dining room, getting a small plate of appetizers. it was not happening.

Many people complimented the food, so I guess it was ok.

Now, the other nightmare is it began to storm so people could not be outside, and everyone inside meant not enough seats for every single persn to be sitting at the same time, which would have been fine if everyone had not waited for the golden minute of all the food being ready at the same time. It’s nice to be able to sit when you eat.

Lastly, someone said to me looks like everyone showed up, it was a lot of people. And, I said back yeah. Probably too many. And I am pretty sure the couple who had come to the party with my friends, because they were in town for the weekend, I don’t know them, over heard. I feel like crap about that, becaue I truly trully a, glad they came, but it might have made them feel badly. Those friends did not say good buy to me when they left, I don’t know what to think. I don’t know if I should say something. This same friend had asked me several times what could she bring, that she loves to cook, and I had told her not to bring anything plenty of food will already be here, she had insisted on helping said she would bring some sparkling wine, plates she had, so I would not have to buy any (of course I had to) beer. And, I don’t know if she felt slighted when there was food people had brought because they didn’t ask they just brought stuff.

I should have changed direction, made it easier on myself. And, I should have hired someone to help me when I realized it was getting complicated.

JilltheTooth's avatar

The good news is, @JLeslie , that in a few days you’ll be rested up, but for weeks people will be remembering that “great” party you had, how fabulous you were for making a paella, and what a lovely evening it was, with a few comments about how cozy and funny the storm made it with everyone inside. Hell, I had a great time and I don’t think I was there!—-Psst…next time do a potluck, you’ve earned it!—

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth Thanks. My husband keeps telling the worry is only in my head, and everyone had a good time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow….thanks for the update, hon.

Kardamom's avatar

Even though, in your own mind, this whole thing seems like a disaster, you are only looking at it through @JLeslie colored glasses. I think if I had been a guest at your party (from how you have described it) it sounds like a roaring success.

If you are truly worried about your friend who likes to cook, give her a call and tell only her that you think the party was a disaster and that you had no idea that people would be showing up out of the blue with other food items. Even though this really isn’t true (it wasn’t a disaster at all), you could tell this gal this story, so she won’t feel resentful and she might offer you some sympathy and let you know that your party was really great.

If you decide to have another party in the future decide ahead of time that you aren’t going to stress out and just let it flow how it’s going to flow. If people want to bring stuff, let them. Have one friend or relative (or more, if they’re willing) to be your helpers. That way, when you are in the kitchen frantically finishing up the hot food, your helpers will be shooing people out of the kitchen and telling them, @JLeslie says to go ahead and start on the salad and the appetizers while she’s finishing up the main course in the kitchen, she says not to wait for her, just go ahead and enjoy and she’ll be out shortly. This particular friend will be your gate-keeper and the person who’s job it is to make sure that your guests are doing what you want them to do (without them knowing that that is what you are doing). The gatekeeper is also the person who gets your guests to start by saying something like, “Ok everybody, help yourself to salad and appetizers, we’ve got the salad and the plates over here and napkins are over here. Who’s going to go first? How about you George, come on over here and start loading up your plate” The gatekeeper will also pick up plates of appetizers and walk around the room urging people to take one and removing the empty plates and refilling them with fresh appetizers if you have more in the kitchen (that way you don’t have to put every single piece onto the platter at once, if you don’t want to). The gate keeper will also be in charge of making sure that everyone has a clean plate, cultlery, napkins drinks etc. (So that you don’t have to worry about that aspect of the party). I got this idea from my cousin, who always acts as the gatekeeper at her mom’s parties and it’s really helpful to the chef.

Another gatekeeper is the person, who ahead of time, tracks down extra chairs (and tables if you need them) by borrowing them from the neighbors or whomever. Your best bet is to plan to have about 10 extra folding chairs stashed in the garage so your gatekeeper can grab them when needed. The gatekeeper should also attempt to get your chairs into your garage about a week ahead of time (just in case the lender craps out on you and you have to track down more). The gatekeeper and you can also arrange to borrow extra dishes from whomever is willing to lend some (even if they don’t match) so that you will always have enough, because stray guests always turn up, even if they’re not specifically invited (and that’s OK, nothing to worry about). This gatekeeper should also be in charge of keeping the music going on your stereo (another thing for you not to have to worry about) And this person should also be in charge of disposing of the contents of people’s plates when they’re finished eating and removing and emptying the drink glasses and making sure people have fresh clean plates if they want more (people set their plates down, and they forget who’s was who’s, so you need to make sure you’ve got enough dishes for everyone to get 2 clean plates, even though not everyone will need 2 clean plates and enough glasses for multiple drinks for the same reason and extra cultery and extra napkins) Your best bet is to get 2 or 3 large trashcans with trashbags and place them in your garage or out of sight in your back yard if it isn’t storming, and make sure to have extra trash bags. And if you are having some drinks in bottles or cans, have a big recycling bin too. Peope tend to get nervous if they don’t know where to dispose of their finsished plates (the gatekeeper should ask and then take the plate, so no one has to go into your garage and see the mess).

Then you should have another gatekeeper (it could be your husband, but have a little talk with him today and let him know that next time you need him to remain with you). If you have a helper in the kitchen who is just on standby for anything that you might need, from moving the food out to the dining room, to helping you prepare some of the dishes, to keeping people out of the kitchen, to wiping up spills and removing the trash as you are creating it (shells from the shrimp, packaging, empty cans etc) and handing you utensils and hot pads like a nurse would do for a doctor.

Find your gatekeepers 2 weeks ahead of time. Make sure you have at least 2 and a backup that are willing to commit (if one drops out, you still have another). Let them know exactly what you would like them to do (don’t let them try to figure it out, or they won’t be helpful at all).

Whatever amount of food you are planning to prepare for the “known” number of guests, expand it by 10% to make up for piggy eaters, unexpected guests, or food that somehow gets dropped or burned or whatever (or the dog takes a big bite, yes it has happened). Even if you end up with leftovers, that’s OK. One of your gatekeepers should also be in charge of loading up all of the leftovers into appropriate tupperware to put into the fridge, before it sits out too long. You don’t want to wait until long after your guests have finally dwindled out of your party to start putting things into the fridge. The gate keeper can do this (instead of you) so it’s more discreet and doesn’t make your guests feel like you are kicking them out. You are just preventing food poisoning.

The only reason that I know all of these handy hints is that I used to organize all sorts of huge potluck parties at work, where folks from other nearby businesses would often drop by too. Everything and anything that can go wrong, has gone wrong, so I learned by my own mistakes, how to have everything work out a little more smoothly. Also, I listen to this wonderful cooking host Melinda Lee on the radio every weekend and she used to be a caterer, so I took a lot of hints from her. She is always advising timid folks who are trying to throw a brunch or a baby shower and she’s the one who came up with the idea of the gatekeeper. What a great concept!

Anyway, it sounds like your party was truly wonderful, and I hope that you can look back upon it with fondness too, and that you won’t be dissuaded from trying it again. : )

Dutchess_III's avatar

Emphasizing “The gatekeeper is also the person who gets your guests to start by saying something like, “Ok everybody, help yourself to salad and appetizers, we’ve got the salad and the plates over here and napkins are over here.” People need direction so that they know that they aren’t inadvertently doing something rude. I’ll be a gatekeeper for you!

JLeslie's avatar

The gatekeeper idea is good. I don’t want anyone who is supposed to be enjoying the party working hard to clean up, next time any party over 20 I hire someone. i had someone help my last two parties and it was good, not sire why I did not do it this time.

When I talked to my husband today, he agreed we should always hire someone to help when it is not potluck. He could not understand why I was so stressed, so I explained he was not fielding everyone asking what they can do for us, and I just did not know what to do when they insisted on bringing something. He looked like he was not getting it. I said I need to know what people really expect here, just think, if your cousin, or sister, or a friend in FL ever invited us to a party would you ever insist on bringing foo, or just show up with food? Drink maybe, a gift possibly. Sure, ask if we can bring anything, sure at times we help prepare food, I usually make the green bean casserole when we have thanksgiving at his moms. But, I just cannot wrap my brain around someone throwing a party and not have enough food, so that in turn means they don’t really need anymore food. He finally sort of understood where I was coming from.

I do appreciate those of you who helped me with better wording for how to reply to people. I think I did say the right thing most of the time, but I will be more consciously aware next time.

Honestly, in the end I was not upset three people showed up with tortilla chips and some sort of salsa or dip. Two of the dips got raves, which made me very happy.

As a side note my husband invented Sangria and Squirt with the leftover sangria, it is delicious.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The gatekeeper idea was buried in the middle of @Kardamom‘s post. It was her idea!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Thanks. That post wound up talking to several people so I just made it a general statement.

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