Heartful Hospitality: Reciprocating the gesture

by epi on September 22, 2011

Q: When guests are asked to bring food to a party (hors d’oeuvre, cookies, salad, etc.) are they then required to reciprocate the invitation?  Generally if someone invites me to a party and they provide the food, I reciprocate by asking them to my house for dinner. If I’m asked to bring something, I don’t feel it’s necessary to have to invite them back.

A: That’s an interesting question. Another way to look at it is that they have provided the hospitality and surely some of the meal themselves. They have also requested and presumably enjoyed your company. A return invitation is a nice way to keep the relationship going, if you are interested. If you are not interested, then regardless, you would write a warm thank you note for the hospitality and leave it at that.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia September 22, 2011 at 7:52 am

I think of bringing a dish as the same thing as a host gift. So if I bring say nuttella brownies I do not feel the need to also bring a host gift. Hospitality however should be reciprocated in addition to hosts gifts as even if people bring something it is nothing near as much work as hosting so take your turn and invite them to dinner.


Just Laura September 22, 2011 at 9:22 am

Nutella brownies more than qualifies as a good host gift.


Gertrude September 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

I want Nutella brownies as a host gift… Come over and give ME Nutella brownies as a host gift.


Winifred Rosenburg September 22, 2011 at 10:40 am

Host gifts are never required, even if it is actual hosting where you weren’t asked to bring anything. The only thing required is a thank-you note after and an invitation to dinner.

Since the “host” in this case isn’t actually a host but a coordinator, I would say that an invitation isn’t required and neither is a thank-you note. However, if you want to continue the relationship with the person, it would be a good idea to coordinate an event yourself.


Vplasgirl October 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Question: Acquaintances of ours sent an email last week saying they would be in town this weekend. I replied, inviting them to drop by for tea, that we’d love to see them. They called on Sunday just before noon to say they were on their way. We were just about to sit down for lunch with guests, so my husband told them so and asked that they come by later. They didn’t, and now I wonder if we were wrong to put them off.


Mary November 19, 2011 at 9:53 am

If they were on their way and didn’t come, someone should e-mail now and explain the situation. If you value their acquaintence, perhaps you could have offered to set 2 more seats at lunch. Your husband should have simply said you were unavailable and asked if later in the day would work. Inviting them to “drop by for tea” had no perameters. I run into this a lot and either give them a window of time that is good for me, or I ask them to call when they get to town to make a plan.


Elizabeth October 23, 2011 at 9:46 pm

It’s hard to tell whether they’re upset or just decided that a visit no longer fit into their schedule from your account of events. It sounds as though you made pretty vague plans with them, as you invited them to “drop by,” implying that you’d be available whenever they had the time for the visit. Perhaps you could have told them “drop by, but we’ll be busy around lunch on Sunday.” Or, you could have invited them to join you for lunch. But etiquette doesn’t require you to have done it. It sounds like you had plans based on mutual convenience, and the visit was no longer mutually convenient. I don’t think that what you did was rude, but their response depends so much on how the message was delivered and their own disposition to be offended. You could drop them an email to say that you were sorry to have missed them, but that’s about the extent of it.


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