Holiday Hang-ups: Requesting too much of the guests

Q:We are invited to a holiday party. The invitations were sent out by email.  In the invitation/email , it states that the couple hosting the party would like all guests to bring specific items – such as specific food – and all liquor. They even state that the liquor and food are to picked up at a certain store.
Should this couple request everyone furnish their holiday party – especially telling people to pick up ‘cases’ of alcohol and lots of food (the store mentioned only sells BULK items)? It seems like the only thing they are handling is ‘having it at their home’ – everything else will be supplied.

Is this correct etiquette to request this of your guests?

A: No, it isn’t.  The couple issuing the invitations are the party’s hosts.  As such, they are expected to provide all food and beverages.  It would be fine for them to host a potluck dinner where guests are expected to provide a dish and also their preference in beverages aside from basic non-alcoholic beverages (such as water, soda, juice, coffee, and/or tea, etc.).  The hosts may even requested a certain type of dish such as an appetizer, salad, dessert, etc. but nothing more specific than that. However, it would be inappropriate for the hosts to specify where the food and/or beverages should be purchased.


  1. Lynda

    This is timely for me because I am invited to a party on Friday evening in which I have been instructed to bring an appetizer or dessert to share and also my favorite beverage to share. Sounds fine, but I know this person very well, and can tell you that I doubt very much that he will provide ANY additional food/beverages for the party and will just eat/drink what the guests provide.

    • Zakafury

      I might call and ask what he’s serving for dinner…so my appetizer isn’t too similar or jarringly different.

      I don’t understand the desire to avoid hosting when hosting a party. The best part, for me, is showing people your attention to their tastes.

  2. Ashleigh

    Wow! That is really gutsy of your host! Did they put up a sign-up sheet for people to stay and clean up?

    If you plan on attending (personally I wouldn’t), I would just bring a gift for your hosts to show your appreciation. You shouldn’t be expected to A) fund the entire party or B) stock their pantry. They sound like the type of hosts who would have no problem taking all of the leftovers even though they’ve provided nothing.

  3. Nina

    Once again, I have the opposite problem–funny! My work department has an annual holiday potluck and every year, everyone brings way too much and we end up with tonnes of leftovers that go to waste because we have nowhere to properly store so much food, and anywhay there is no one around after the party to eat it. The waste drives me crazy!

    We have tried to cut down on the food by cooking in pairs, but people still feel ungenerous if they don’t contribute a certain amount, so it didn’t really work. One year I suggested some of us would just bring canned goods for the food drive instead of potluck, but that seemed like a hard thing to work out.

    The past couple years, I’ve simply brought something that wouldn’t go off sitting on the buffet for a couple hours, and taken the remainder (sometimes almost all) with me when I left. This year I have a cooking partner who seemed very surprised when I said I wanted to make something that wouldn’t go off so we could eat if for dinner–am I being ghastly rude? Normally I would leave potluck leftovers with the host, but this party has no real host. The waste just makes me so sad.

    • Country Girl

      In a world where many go without meals, you are not being rude, but rather waste-conscious. Perhaps you could recommend donating unopened food portions to a local shelter. You could watch that certain store-bought items (pop, chips, cookies) are brought out and opened a couple at a time instead of opened all at once.

      Our office has had that problem. 7 people will bring bags of chips, all which are opened at once, but then no one wants to bring home 7 half-full bags of chips. If someone would have the mind to open two bags and wait until those were gone to open more, then it would be easier for others to take the unopened portions to a shelter or back home with them.

      And you are correct, in a no-host potluck like this, it is not impolite to take your leftovers home with you.

    • Zakafury

      Do you only have one holiday pot luck?

      Perhaps you could try dividing people for your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, so everyone can show off their generosity, and only half the people bring anything on any given day.

  4. Nina

    Thanks, Country Girl and Zakafury. I’m afraid our other potluck is in the summertime, when everyone’s forgotten who brought what to the December one, so essentially starting from scratch. Now that I know it’s not terribly impolite, I’ll probably stick with my bring it, take it away approach. At least that way I get a chance to cook for my colleagues, and they can eat it if they choose!!

  5. Karen

    A family member is making a retirement party for their spouse at a costly upscale venue. Is it appropriate to charge your guests to attend so that the cost of the party will be paid for solely by the attending guests?

    • Alicia

      Absolutely not. A host pays for and organizes the event. An organizer just picks the place aqnd lets everyone know what the cost to attend is. If you do not want to go to the event due to the cost and time of this event decline to attend and if you want to celebrate the event another way organize someting you would like and ask the honoree out for that.

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