dinner parties

Having people over for dinner

aura218:

realsocialskills:

dinosaurusrachelus:

realsocialskills:

One potentially enjoyable form of interaction is to have people over for dinner.

Some ways this can be good:

  • Eating together can make conversation easier
  • Since it creates an activity and a focus
  • But it doesn’t take up all the attention; you can still talk
  • Eating at home can be cheaper than going out
  • It can also be less overloading, since your place is probably less noisy than a restaurant 
  • It can also be more private, because you’re less likely to run into unwelcome people, and because there aren’t as many people around who could overhear

Some things about guests:

  • Invite people who you like
  • Invite people who like each other
  • It’s not very much fun to hang out with a group of folks who dislike one another, even if you like all of them separately
  • Don’t invite too many people. It’s much more fun to have dinner with a group of people that’s a comfortable size for you
  • It’s often considered rude to invite someone but not their partner, with two major exceptions:
  • If you’re hosting a single-gender event and their partner isn’t the relevant gender, or:
  • If you’re hosting an esoteric interest gathering and it’s something only one of them likes. (Eg: If you’re having a party for people who like to talk about spiders, it’s probably ok to not invite a partner who hate spiders)

Some points about food etiquette: 

If you are in your 20s and living in the US, it’s likely that you’re in a culture in which it’s normal for guests to bring some of the food. (This is different from a potluck, which is a communally-hosted kind of meal at which no one person has primary responsibility for making the food. I’m planning to write a different post about that later.)

If you are invited over for a meal:

  • It’s considered polite to offer to bring something
  • The most polite way to ask is to say something along the lines of “What can I bring?” because it suggests that you’re expecting to bring something rather than hoping they’ll tell you not to bring anything
  • If they say not to bring anything, don’t
  • Some people prefer that you don’t, or might have cultural or medical reasons to want control over the food that’s in their space
  • Also, in some cultures it’s considered rude, so if someone doesn’t want you to bring something, it’s important to respect that

If you are doing the inviting:

  • It’s usually considered rude to ask people to bring things if they haven’t explicitly offered to
  • If people offer, it’s ok to assume that they mean it, and to ask them to bring something
  • But be reasonable about it. Don’t ask people to bring something expensive or complicated unless you are planning the meal together and hosting jointly
  • It’s usually considered reasonable to ask someone to bring one of these things: bread, wine, salad, soda/juice, or a dessert

Some specific things about food:

  • You should make/buy a main dish that is filling and has protein of some sort
  • And also probably a side dish or two
  • And drinks of some sort - but it’s ok if it’s mostly water
  • Make sure you have enough plates/cups/knives/forks/spoons/etc for everyone
  • Find out if people you’re inviting are allergic to anything
  • If you are serving meat, find out if there are any vegetarians
  • If some people are vegetarian, it’s nice to make a vegetarian protein in addition to the main meat dish
  • But in any case, at least make sure that some things don’t contain meat (eg: don’t put bacon bits on the salad or use lard to make a pie)

This is a good kind of gathering. Are there other things people should know about how to do it?

dinosaurusrachelus said:

Depending on the type of event and the age of participants, it’s often considered polite to bring a bottle of wine even if the host says you don’t need to bring anything. It’s not a thing you have to do, but if you’re able to afford it and think it would be appreciated by the host and other guests, it’s nice. Providing alcohol for a gathering or dinner can get expensive quickly, so it’s a nice way to take some of that burden off a host without making them ask you to.

In addition to vegetarians, it might be nice to ask if anyone’s vegan, gluten free or lactose intolerant, since those are fairly common dietary restrictions. Most vegans are used to not having a ton of options and will often gladly eat side dishes or salad in my experience, but it’s polite to ask so you can make minor modifications to dishes. For example, if you were going to make a salad with greens, nuts, feta and dressing, you could put the feta on the side if someone’s vegan so they’re still able to eat the salad.

realsocialskills said:

It can be polite to bring wine, but be careful about that. It can put the host in a bad position if they’ve intentionally decided not to serve alcohol and you show up with an unexpected bottle of wine.

Agreed about other dietary issues. That’s a good thing to do.

I don’t know if this is a thing? But? A friend of mine hosted a potluck, and she brought out each dish *individually.* Like, courses? It was super-awkward, because people brought different amounts of each dish, like an enormous pasta dish and then a small fish dish. And then the dinner dragged on forever, and some dishes weren’t served at the right temperatures. Plus, it made people feel obligated to eat things they didn’t want, just because everyone was passing the plate around and it seemed rude not to take it. 

So, don’t do this. Either make the dinner a buffet (which is the easiest type of party for everyone, imo, both practically and emotionally) or put out all the dishes at once. It doesnt’ matter if all the food doesn’t go together, people can decide how they want to eat, or they can get up for seconds if they don’t want to eat two particular flavors together.

Another thing: especially with a buffet or appetizers, plan for how people eat, including grazers. For example, if you put out shelled nuts or endamame, put out an empty bowl so people can discard the empty shells. If you have a communal pot of coffee, you can cut down on dishes by setting out a few stirring spoons on a saucer and one spoon in the sugar. Most people will have enough sense to spoon sugar with the dry sugar spoon, and stir with the wet stirring spoon, and then leave it on the saucer for the next person. 

When doing a buffet: tell people to arrive about 45 minutes before you set out dinner. Have appetizerrs set out at the arrival time. After everyone except people who are chronically late have arrived, announce that dinner is being put out (you can dispatch helpful people to round up far-flung guests outside, in the tv room, etc). About 45 minutes after dinner has started, start putting away perishables. Ask people if they want seconds, etc. Depending on what dessert is and the time-table for the party, dinner cleanup and dessert can happen anywhere from half an hour to two hours after that. 

If it’s a daytime party, brew coffee after dinner. There’s always people who get tired at parties or didn’t sleep well, or whatevever. Everyone likes coffee at parties.

Content warning: I reblogged something from a concern troll and my reply sucked. I regret this post and many of you are probably better off skipping this one.

mystrich:

realsocialskills:

lady-brain:

realsocialskills:

 chavisory answered: If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer

realsocialskills said:

That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too. 

A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.

And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.

Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.

lady-brain said:

I would suggest, if you are a host, letting all invitees know ahead of time explicitly whether or not there will be alcohol (or drugs, or anything else people might want to avoid or be forewarned about) at your event.

I’m a sober alcoholic, I appreciate knowing whether there will be alcohol so I can make the decision whether or not I am able to attend the event. I understand when people require alcohol/other substances to socialize/feel safe (especially since I used it for anxiety myself), so I know that not all my spaces can be alcohol-free, and I don’t require that. What I do require is a heads-up, because I am not comfortable around alcohol all the time, around all people, in all locations. It depends, and I need to make the call myself. I can’t do that if I don’t have that information.

realsocialskills said:

I agree this is an important thing to do, but I don’t know of a polite way to do it. Do you know of one?

Mystrich said:

First of all, please do not ever ever use alcohol as a way to handle your anxiety. It makes anxiety worse in the long run.


Second of all: It’s pretty simple, just put “No Alcohol Allowed/No Alcohol Please.” I don’t think anyone will take offense to that. Or “There will be alcohol.” I see that on most party invites/facebook events.

realsocialskills said:

Oh dear, I just realized it could look like I was endorsing that comment. I was actually not paying attention to that part of it because I don’t understand uses of alcohol well enough to comment on any of them.

(And since I don’t understand, I’m probably not going to be having a discussion here on uses of alcohol any time soon - I’m not qualified to moderate it and I don’t want to have a lot of things I don’t understand on my blog.)

Getting back to the issue of alerting people. I think it’s easier to say that there won’t be alcohol than that there will be. The problem with saying that there will be alcohol is that it can sound like it’s a drunken party even when what you really mean is that it’s a dinner and some people might have a beer or glass of wine or two.

I’m not sure what to do about that.

eggsnemesis:

realsocialskills:

 chavisory answered: If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer

realsocialskills said:

That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too. 

A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.

And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.

Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.

eggsnemesis said:

Also please don’t put the onus of bringing non-alcoholic drinks on the people who don’t drink alcohol. 

A lot of our large family gatherings in the past few years involved the hosts asking my dad (who is a former alcoholic) to bring any pop or juice or him having to bring them with him. 

These family gatherings often involved children and we’d have to drive all the way out there and often come in after most everybody else arrived. Like firstly: wouldn’t it just be better to have juices or whatever from the start? and secondly: I don’t know how my dad felt about it, but it always felt like “well if you’re not gonna drink alcohol you have to figure it out yourself”.

Side note as someone who personally doesn’t drink alcohol: I don’t mind if a host or someone else offers alcohol to me and I can usually politely decline or ask for something else. What bothers me is when they either attempt to change my mind or keep asking (“oh but it’s a really good vintage”, “are you sure you don’t want any?”) or act as if it’s weird and want to know WHY I don’t drink (and that’s almost always a really awkward conversation no matter what answer I give).

So if someone declines alcohol from you, please move on and don’t question too closely.

What could be helpful as a host is to have a range of drinks and offer all of them at once - for example, saying: “Would you like a drink? We have wine, beer, juice, water…?” This means the person doesn’t have to turn down alcohol specifically or be in a position where they have to ask if there’s anything non-alcoholic.

orima-kazooie said: It’s probably relevant to mention this is assuming the spouse knows you won’t get along but has nothing against the partner coming. Or are you supposed to invite them and let them/hope they decline?

little-mourning-magpie said: In my experience this is only ok if you do the same to everyone. So you can say no partners but not specifically uninvite one person’s partner if other partners are coming.

 

realsocialskills said:

I think that it works like this:

  • If you invite a coupled person to a party, the invitation is generally assumed to include their partner unless explicitly stated otherwise
  • It’s usually considered rude to explicitly uninvite someone
  • Partly because it’s considered rude to tell people about parties they aren’t invited to
  • But it’s considered ok if there’s a general reason partners aren’t invited that isn’t personal, because then it’s not an insult
  • Eg: if no one’s partner is invited, or if it’s a single-gender event and the partner isn’t that gender

Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s always wrong to be rude in this way. Just that it’s a convention it’s worth being aware of, because ignoring it can have unintended consequences.

A couple of situations in which it might be a good idea to violate this convention:

  • The person you don’t want to invite is or was abusive towards you or someone you’ll be inviting
  • The person you don’t want to invite ruins parties by telling racist or misogynistic or otherwise hateful jokes, and has repeatedly refused to knock it off

musingsofanaspie said: two thoughts (1) if the host says not to bring food, it’s polite to bring a small host(ess) gift that you think the person will like (2) it’s okay to invite people by saying “I’m asking each person to bring a side dish, would you be able to do that?”

realsocialskills said:

About host(ess) gifts:

  • Flowers are generally considered appropriate
  • But not roses, especially if you are a man and the host is a single woman. Roses are associated with romance and are likely to be seen as intrusive flirting.
  • If the host has children who will be present, something for the kids can be a polite choice. But make sure that it’s either a thing that can be shared easily or that there is one for each kid (eg: if there are three kids, three kaleidoscopes, not one).

About inviting and saying you’re asking everyone to bring a thing:

  • It’s better to tell someone this *before* they accept the invitation
  • Because if they’ve already said yes, there’s no polite way to change their mind after being asked to bring something
  • Especially since some people are uncomfortable declining directly and make polite excuses like “I’m sorry, that sounds lovely, but I have other plans.”
  • So they might say yes and not really be ok with it because there’s no polite way to say no at that point

 chavisory answered: If you’re having wine, have some soda or cider too in case there are people who avoid alcohol. Hard cider is also a nice alternative to beer

realsocialskills said:

That’s an important point. If you’re having a gathering that includes alcohol, it’s important to have non-alcoholic drinks too. 

A lot of people avoid alcohol for various reasons, and you don’t always know who they are.

And even people who drink often find it easier to avoid drinking too much if there are non-alcoholics drinks available.

Also, consider who you are inviting when you’re deciding whether to have alcohol. If you’re inviting people who tend to be really obnoxious when they’re drunk, it might be better to stick with soft drinks.

orima-kazooie answered: I think that if a friend’s spouse doesn’t get along with you but doesn’t hate you either, it may be appropriate to invite only the friend

realsocialskills said:

I don’t think it’s necessarily *wrong*, but it’s almost always considered *rude*. (For some reason, single-gender events are an exception to this if the spouse is not the included gender).

Do you know of a way to do this without it being perceived as rude?