Why Do We Entertain?

by admin on November 6, 2012

I have been clearing out my “friend” list and have had the wonderful joy of throwing a Holiday Oyster Roast every year for 29 years! This year, people that have come for many years have started calling and emailing to know the date. The problem is that most of these people (that have been asking) have rarely if ever reciprocated with any sort of invitation for many years. I have decided not to include these families in this year’s event. (If I do hear of one of their parties, they usually say something like “it was only couples” which apparently means I am not welcome now that I am single and I have never been given the opportunity to bring a date (which I would if I were included).

These people have finally reached the offensive point of not being worth my time. Over the years, several of these families seem to “expect an invitation” then show up very early and demand that I serve dinner immediately “because their kids are hungry and they have another event to go to.” They rarely if ever bring a hostess gift and last year, there were many brought that I never even saw nor knew who to send thank you notes to.  Believe it or not, my “friends” opened all the wine, cheeses, cookies, crackers and homemade candies that others left under my Christmas tree or in the kitchen and helped themselves though there was a bar set up with cocktails, champagne, beer and wines as well as kid beverages and hot chocolate.

I had set a beautiful dinner buffet up in my dining room (serving pieces, dishes, polished silver) and had timed all the dished that required baking or warming to be served on the buffet at 7:30. Cocktails and appetizers along with oysters were served beginning at 7pm (as the invitation read). We had also set up a S’mores bar and I had expected parents would help younger children make their S’mores. Instead, parents kept asking me to make them for their kids or letting them destroy (grabbing handfuls of marshmallows and toppings, spilling them all over the floor) what should have been a beautiful fun family event into my being unable to visit with any of our friends.

When dinner was finished cooking, I had asked a friend to hold onto the timer and help me get food to the table. Instead these pushy people, started grabbing other silverware, dishes from our kitchen drawers (the buffet had plates, silver and napkins as well.)and serving themselves. Several guests never even got to eat as many of these pigs went back for seconds and thirds and needless to say, the food never got from the oven to the buffet rather was dove into the second it was pulled out of the oven so folks outside enjoying the oysters never knew dinner was served.

At the end of the evening, I had a trifle as well as the s’mores coffee and had begun cutting into a coconut cake a friend had brought for me to take to my mother for her holiday party the following evening. I am appalled to say I even know people that behave like that. Topper of the evening was the woman that brought her aggressive Pit Bull though she was well aware that there were many babies and toddlers as well as our own pets.

I cannot decide if these hideously rude people are just lacking manners because they were raised by morons or they are morons. I find that having been raised in a very Southern proper home, that I (of course) said nothing, however it was the first time I have witnessed such a pathetic lack of even the slightest bit of decency. Needless to say, I certainly did not receive a thank you note from any of these people either. I am kindly thanking my lucky stars to not feel the need to include any of them this year. Casual friendships are one thing, over casual at a seasonal party with many guests from varying backgrounds showed me that my oldest and dearest friends are far more gracious that these people. Sad, but true, this year’s event will be far more intimate that in the previous few years. Manners are apparently out of style with the masses and as I have tried to expand a lovely tradition to include others, it is obvious why one should stick to socializing with their own kind.

I entertain on a large scale as well but in recent years have scaled back to more intimate gatherings in large part due to my growing disillusionment with the utter lack of reciprocal hospitality of my guests.   You and I love to expand the friendship tent pegs to get to know as many people as possible and use our personal hospitality as the avenue by which we do this.   But at various points over the years, one has to assess the success of those efforts and come to conclusions that some “friends” are nothing more than moochers, constantly taking from you and offering nothing of themselves in return.  I still host at least one large annual event that is open to many people but I do not have any expectation that my guests are coming with the purpose of deepening our friendship.   Those large events focus on maintaining community ties whereas the more special events are reserved for close, intimate friends.  My suggestion for you is host an annual event for all you know BUT scale back on what you serve.    Friends of ours used to host an annual oyster roast where the only thing provided by the host was the fire, oysters and paper products. Everyone else brought side dishes.   Save your elaborate buffet dinner for more intimate gatherings.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Emmy November 6, 2012 at 6:39 am

That oyster dinner sounds wonderful. I have to disagree with the admin’s suggestion of holding even a scaled back annual event for everyone the OP knows unless the OP enjoys doing this and won’t resent hosting the etiquettely challenged. However, from this post it was obvious she does not enjoy these guests and these guests would likely still cause problems like failing to bring a potluck dish. Guests that think the OP should also be a babysitter, who raid her kitchen or treat her gifts as communal property make the event unenjoyable for the OP and aren’t worth inviting back.

As for reciprocation, I realize that everybody is not in a position to reciprocate in the same manner. I can give a pass for people with extremely busy lives or who don’t have a place that is ideal for hosting. However, it sounds as if these people are having parties and not inviting the OP using the excuse of it being a ‘couples party’. It sounds like the OP is willing to cross off the guests who make her party stressful and I think she will find it much more enjoyable this year without those people who cause her grief.


Jena R. November 6, 2012 at 7:09 am

Speaking as a born and bred northeastener, I was exposed to so called “southern hospitality” when I threw annual Christmas parties for a couple years to a large group while living in a southern state (we lived there for only 4 years). Frankly, the folks who had attended our parties upon our return to the northeast were more hospitable than those in the south. When we were still in the south, I remember a number of guests who just wandered in, ate, drank, talked amongst themselves in cliques, and left. Not even a hello or thank you to the hosts. Our northeastern parties were intimate, not because they had less people, but because those who attended were simply nicer. That said, of course I don’t believe it’s as much a north-south thing, as it is just a commentary on the specific communities we were in at the time. My experience leads me to believe that such phrases as “southern hospitality” really hold no more meaning than discussions about how rude northerners are, insofar as both connote baseless generalizations about an entire populace. OP’s parties sound as though they have evolved into an event interpreted by some as a public free-for-all, instead of something meaningful and intimate. No one can blame OP for whittling down the guest list.


Kimstu November 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

Another happy entertainer here, and yes you need your polite spine when you’re throwing parties nowadays! I’ve been very lucky that my circle of friends includes a lot of enthusiastic reciprocators when it comes to throwing parties. But I’ve also occasionally had to be proactive about trimming the guest list and not continuing to include a few people who seem to regard friends’ parties as a restaurant or cafe that they don’t have to pay for, and don’t even have to behave very well in.

When those people are dropped from their friends’ hospitality, they’ll eventually realize that hosting needs to be a two-way street. And when they finally do start offering hospitality on their own, they’ll very quickly realize why greedy and entitled guests are not pleasant to have at one’s parties.

Of course, there are always a few polite and appreciative people in the social circle who for whatever reasons don’t give parties at their homes but are always wonderful when they come to mine, and make the effort to reciprocate with other sorts of favors as well as expressing thanks, and they are always welcome. But the selfish, entitled moochers who have come to believe that the world owes them a social life and no host needs anything more from them than their presence and their demands? Forget them. We do them no favors if we enable their bad behavior by continuing to invite them anyway.


Cat November 6, 2012 at 7:48 am

I would not stop the wonderful buffet, but I would omit those who behaved so offensively. There are behaviors that are not permitted in someone else’s home: demanding that food be provided early so that the guests may move on to the next party, animals that are not invited, children too young to serve themselves correctly should not be included, but should be left home with a babysitter, no-one eats until the food is displayed on the buffet, any food not displayed is not being offered and is not to be touched, etc.
Those who inquire about an invitation do not need to be invited. “I am doing things differently this year” is all one needs to say without adding, “…and that includes inviting you.” , and then bean dip.
I have a first cousin who does not speak to me because, after she brought her twenty-one year old son to a party I gave and he offended me and all my guests by his behavior, I refused to invite him again. (No, no alcohol was served; he just acts this way.)
She feels that freedom of speech gives him the right to tell a guest he should defecate on my Christmas gift and to wish a former fiance of his grandfather was, ” …dead with a stake through her heart” although he had never met the lady and his grandfather maintained a close friendship with her. Not in my house-my house, my rules.


Lo November 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

boy would I love to be your friend!

Sounds like you had a beautiful party planned and instead of being gracious your friends just acted as though it was your duty to give them a good time and took full advantage. Long ago my auntie hosted some amazing catered parties and then quit when she realized that some people just couldn’t behave themselves decently, were obnoxiously picky eaters, wasters, and nary a word of thanks. I know she felt taken advantage of. I was a kid but old enough to know that we’d lost something wonderful. Definitely scale back and only invite those you know will be good to you in return, appreciate the party, eat when they’re served, offer thanks, and generally show their appreciation for your time and efforts.

You sound like a great hostess.


Angel November 6, 2012 at 8:33 am

I agree wholeheartedly with the admin. My husband and I love to entertain as well, and each year we have a memorial day picnic that is rather large. It has gotten much smaller over the past few years for precisely the reason you mention. One year we made the mistake of including dogs on the invitation–and someone’s dog bit one of the kids in attendance (thank goodness it was only a minor bite and it wasn’t our dog!) so first we took dogs off the invite list, then year after year the human invite list got smaller. It just isn’t worth having your house/yard trashed for people who are not really your friends. The OP is in an even worse situation as all these people are in her house. She is wise to cut the invite list down to very close friends. I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same. If you must have the bigger gathering, keep it to a very limited period of time and don’t have it at dinner time–have a cookie swap party or something, this way everyone has to bring something. Have it from 2-4, make a couple batches of cookies and put out hot chocolate. Done. If you really want to you can set up a table for kids to make those little foam christmas ornaments. I would never do smores inside unless I had a responsible older kid to supervise just a couple younger kids. It’s easier to just not do it at all! You don’t have to give up entertaining on a larger scale entirely, you just have to change the way you do it.


Shoegal November 6, 2012 at 8:35 am

Entertaining can be quite challenging at times. My last big Autumn bonfire wasn’t so much as a good time for me – far from it – I ran the entire party trying to maintain the food and clean up a little here and there so it wasn’t complete chaos. Friends of mine brought their children (whom I welcome) but then failed to supervise or watch them at all. The children broke several of my holiday decorations and then hid the pieces. I also made the mistake of setting up a s’mores station – thinking parents would help with the roasting of the marshmellows and making the treats – not one parent stepped up to the plate. I was stuck there trying to supervise alone in addition to hostessing. It was very difficult. I told myself that I had to expect some wear and tear when you ask people into your home – and I also try to be as gracious as possible and usually everything works out fine but sometimes I find myself becoming vindictive. People can be very rude & pushy and I make mental notes constantly. It has become less “the more the merrier” and more I’ll invite you if I want you there type of mentality. Plus – the OP is right – a lot of these people do not reciprocate with invitations to parties of their own. But I do not expect a hostess gift from anyone – if they bring one I’m delighted but it is certainly not expected.


Ames November 6, 2012 at 8:46 am

You totally skipped over the whole part about rude people in your reply. I don’t think scaling back what food is served will help them control themselves.

Life is too short to waste on people you really don’t care for. Don’t invite them, and don’t feel guilty about it.


Powers November 6, 2012 at 8:51 am

Wait, a friend brought something for your mother’s party and you began cutting into it? WHY?


Audra November 6, 2012 at 8:58 am

I think it’s wonderful you tried to throw a party and include many friends. After reading your description of what has happened in recent years, I think you should *definitely* scale back how many you invite. It’s as you said- they *expect* an invitation and have no intention of returning the hopsitality.

As for the parents who want you to serve dinner early for their kids and so they can go to another event, I would hand them their jackets back and say “Please do not let me hold you up getting to the event you really want to go to. Happy Holidays!”.


Rae November 6, 2012 at 9:04 am

I love the idea of hosting social gatherings someday, so thank you for the insight and advice OP and Admin. OP, aside from the horrible guests, your party sounds lovely!


Rebecca November 6, 2012 at 9:15 am

The OP’s party sounds wonderful… a great opportunity to socialize with something for everyone. It’s a shame it had to be hijacked by these boors. I hate it when people use their kids as a blanket excuse for getting what they want, like early food. For our wedding we scheduled pictures before the ceremony, just so that people wouldn’t have to wait around apart from our receiving line time. The ceremony began at 4:30 and the dinner at 6:00. This information was on the invitation, and everything ran smoothly and on time all day. I still had one aunt come to me at 5:50 demanding that I bring her grandchildren something to eat since they just couldn’t wait. I reminded her that dinner would be served in 10 minutes. Sure enough, when she put up facebook photos of my wedding they included one with the caption “Grandpa taking Little Ones out to the car for a snack! So hungry!”

I do have to object a little when people say that because they were raised in a “proper Southern home” they’re sure that they have good manners. In this case it’s true, but not always. It’s okay to be proud of your heritage’s emphasis on manners, but it does sound like whenever somebody says it that they think the Southern United States has the monopoly on good behaviour. The rest of the world is not a no-man’s-land of gimme pigs and clueless boors.


Just Laura November 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

I wish I could get on the OP’s guest list for what sounds like a marvelous time. I love oysters!

We have a pretty good yearly Halloween party (not as nice as this oyster dinner, though). I make pumpkin dips from real pumpkins, and set out nice cheeses and specialty olives. This year, people with whom I don’t normally socialize messaged me wanting to come (and bring friends I’d never met! I told them no). Most people behaved just fine (though some children broke one of my decorations and chased the kittens after I asked them to stop). We don’t normally set a time for friends to leave… except this year, since Halloween occurred in the middle of the work week. I put the hours of the party in the invitation (7 – 11:30), and asked that everyone respect the times as the people who live in the house had to work the next day. Still, I had to remind people to leave (a few gave me some pretty unpleasant looks).
Some people are really good guests. Others have a sense of entitlement in that you and your party are there for them, and they’ll eat when they want/how they want and behave as they please.
OP, make the event smaller next year (except don’t forget to include me).


egl November 6, 2012 at 9:49 am

If you do decide to take admin’s suggestion of holding a scaled back party to stay connected to some of these people, I’d suggest skipping the pot luck and oyster suggestion. Instead I’d go with an appetizer only spread. That way everything can be out before guests arrive, letting you keep a better eye on everyone. You also might want to recruit a few actual friends to help “bounce” areas where guests are taking liberties they shouldn’t. A bit of gentle redirection from friends who just happen to be chatting near the kitchen door or christmas tree might save your hostess gifts from being appropriated by the louts.


Redneck Gravy November 6, 2012 at 9:50 am

I think that previous guests contacting you to ask when the event is are extremely rude. Some may pass this off as needing to know for their holiday schedules – but I see it as asking for an invitation.

Scale down your guest list to the friends you truly enjoy and appreciate. Others questioning you should be told that you are scaling back and they can take that any way they wish, no explanation is necessary.

And for those commenting on the south or anywhere else for that matter, rudeness knows no geography.

I personally have thrown parties for adults only and made it crystal clear on the invitations and again when the guests rsvp’d only to have them show up with precious little ones. I have literally body blocked the doorway and not allowed them to enter. No children means NONE, yours are no more special than anyone else’s.


2browneyes4 November 6, 2012 at 9:51 am

It sounds like the OP puts on a great party, and some of the guests need a taste of her “polite spine” to straighten up. For example:

1. For those who never extend an invitation to the OP, when they are leaving, say “I look forward to coming to your home sometime! Don’t forget to invite me when you have a party!” (OK, maybe it’s not polite to “beg” for an invitation, but it does point out the one-sidedness of the issue. I know, this comment alone will likely start WW3 on this blog.)

2. For demands that kids be served immediately: “I’m sorry your kids are hungry, but my dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. I understand if you will need to leave before then to (feed your kids/make it to your other event).”

3. For people barging into the kitchen to serve themselves before the food reaches the buffet: “Dinner has not yet been served. I’d appreciate it if you allowed me to announce to everyone that the buffet is ready first so that I can be sure that all the dishes are available.”

4. To those cutting into the coconut cake not intended for them: (while grabbing the cake/knife away) “I’m sorry. This was not prepared for this party and now I will need to explain to my Mom why her cake has knife marks in it. Please help yourself to the items I have made available on the buffet.”

5. To the pit bull owner: “No dogs are allowed in my home” or “I don’t allow dogs other than my own in my home,” or “please make sure that Kid’s mom has your contact and insurance information if they should need to contact you about that dog bite. It’s probably best if you took FangFido home now after so much excitement.”

6. To those non-invitees who call to see when this year’s party is scheduled: “We’re not holding the event on such a large scale this year and we are limiting our guest list to those we see on a more regular basis.”

I’m sure there will be comments and improvements on these, but the point is that, although we may like to avoid it, a polite spine can sometimes facilitate boundaries where needed.


--Lia November 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

It’s not fair, but it seems to be universally true that when it comes to reciprocating hospitality people think that they’ll make return invitations when they entertain in the same way– which turns out to be never.

If you throw a large party where you invite everyone, they’ll remember you when they throw a large party where they invite everyone– which is never.

If you throw a small gathering with fantastic home cooking, they’ll remember you when they do fantastic home cooking– which is never.

If you pick up the check at a nice restaurant meal, they’ll remember you when they eat at the same restaurant– which is never.

If you have an afternoon costume party for Halloween, they won’t think to invite you to their afternoon 4th of July cookout. It just never occurs to them.

I’d be satisfied if my hospitality were returned with an invitation for a glass of lemonade, and it’s with that in mind that I applaud you for clearing out your friend list. I do it fairly regularly and with for far smaller transgressions than the outrageous ones you state. I make a few overtures of friendship in the form of invitations, maybe to a more-or-less formal dinner, maybe to a decidedly informal cup of tea. The overture might be a nice newsy letter or a nice chance to chat long distance. If I’m not feeling friendly towards my guests after a few tries, I give up. It’s that simple. We probably didn’t have that much in common in the first place. I might try again after a few years because I know people change (myself included), and I want to leave the doors to friendship open, but there are only so many big annual events that I’d invite the same people to with nothing during the year to cement the friendship.

The problem with big annual events is that people start to think of them as institutional. Again, I can’t defend that behavior, but it seems to be the case all over. They figure that it’s the same as a store giving a sale. If you had the event last year, you’ll have it again. They honestly can’t figure out why they’ve been taken off the guest list. Never mind that they’ve never reciprocated and may have behaved horribly. They’re honestly puzzled. While etiquette suggests that we’re not supposed to correct them, I’m tempted to explain that they haven’t been invited because the food and accommodations were so unsatisfactory last year, that you wouldn’t dream of inviting someone over when the timing of the serving of the food was so bad that they had to steal items from the kitchen. They’d probably sputter that they were only trying to help at which point I’d say that I’d love to help them at the next big party that they throw.


acr November 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

My parents for almost 20 years hosted a 4th of July party that I describe as a circle of Hell. A lower circle. It seems like once a party becomes an “institution,” it accumulates moochers, especially one that will be on the exact same day every year. We had people who had accompanied an invited guest one year continue to show up for YEARS – even though the person who had originally brought them had moved and no longer attended! These people couldn’t even identify their hosts.

OP, I recommend you cancel your party for one year. Tell the moochers that it simply became too much and you’re no longer having it. Then the next year, resume the party with a re-tooled guest list.


Cat November 6, 2012 at 10:18 am

Before we get into another Civil War (or the War Between the States, depending on what side your ancestors backed), let’s get the term “Southern Hospitality” out of the way. It’s a stereotype from a by-gone era when relatives from out of town arrived for a wedding and were still there six months later.
Today, it’s not so much regional as it is a general term for being welcoming to guests in your home. Not all Southerners are well-bred in terms of their behavior or have “Southern hospitality” just as all Northerners may not be possessed of “Yankee Ingenuity” and wouldn’t recognize a pragmatic approach to problem solving if it sat on their feet.


Girlie November 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

I agree with admin! We have a certain family that mooches off of my family every year for Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. We always alternate who hosts what, and this year, with a death in the family, we traditionally do not throw get-togethers with non-family. You would think this family would step up to the plate after so many years (I’ve never even been to their house)… but nope! Thus, this year, Thanksgiving will be a family affair .. despite the comments that have already started.. “who’s doing Thanksgiving..?”.. when people don’t reciprocate, they usually don’t get more than a couple chances. And the reciprocation doesn’t exactly have to be a big party in their household, but at least an invitation to do some kind of activity would be nice.


Andie November 6, 2012 at 10:58 am

Oh, man, the picky eaters get me riled up. We moved closer to our extended family last year and my husband really wanted to host a Thanksgiving dinner because he wanted to cook for everyone. Given the large size of the family, his mother offered to help and they split the work. My husband and I were on a tight budget, but we sprang for some nicer (pricey) ingredients and he spent a couple of days in the kitchen. Come the big day, the spreads out and most of the people there REFUSED TO EAT HIS FOOD. He’d ask them ‘doesn’t anyone want to try this?’ And there was a chorus of giggle-shrug-‘oh, it’s too spicy for me’. Yep, stuffing made with corn bread as opposed to wonder bread is ‘spicy’, who knew? We had leftovers for ten people for a couple weeks, had to throw some of it out.

Same thing happened at Christmas. You can bet we’ve never gotten a single dinner invite out of this crowd.

He wants to do it all again this year, this time adding a German’s Chocolate Cake made from scratch ($$$)! I’m doing my best to nicely, gently encourage him to take it down a notch.


Chocobo November 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

It sounds like this woman is better off without these people in her life. Good for her for learning from her mistakes. However, I feel the need to point out a few things:

(1) Bringing a hostess gift is not necessary and should not be expected. The proper way to reciprocate someone’s hospitality is to return the invitation, not to give the price of admission at the door with a bottle of wine.

(2) “One should stick to socializing with their own kind”: now that is one offensive and dangerous phrase if I ever saw one. Sure, these particular people were abhorrent, but that is not any reason to “stick with one’s own kind.” What does that even mean? Etiquette is practically the only thing that allows us to be able to socialize with people of varying backgrounds, ages, and origins.

(3) Southern manners. I will agree with a previous commenter that the phrase “Southern Manners” holds no real meaning as a measuring stick for propriety. There is rudeness in the South, North, East and West as well as people of great grace in all corners of the country and I wish we would stop categorizing ourselves as superior or inferior based on geographic generalizations.


Abby November 6, 2012 at 11:09 am

OK, I’ll be the first to admit- I would NEVER be able to reciprocate this kind of party. I mean, I could invite OP over to dinner, but it would be a much simpler affair than the one she put on. But I certainly would not demand she move up the dinner time, go digging through her Christmas presents in search of food, bring my destructive pit bull indoors (or at all) or allow my child to make smores unsupervised. OP, the question is not how to exclude these people from future gift lists- it’s how did these people get invited in the first place??? I find this behavior beyond appalling.

@Powers- “Wait, a friend brought something for your mother’s party and you began cutting into it? WHY?”

I am not sure about this because it is oddly worded. I can’t tell if she means someone else cut into the cake (and she just forgot a word or two in that sentence), or if she means that because of the extreme piggishness of some of her guests, she had to resort to using the cake because otherwise her more polite guests would not get dessert.

Question for etiquette mavens- so let’s say OP decides to never invite some of these guests again. What is the most polite way to answer when these same guests call to ask where their invitations are, or when the party is? Do you just demur and say you don’t know the details yet? Or do you come right out and say you are trimming the guest list and they didn’t make the cut?


Bint November 6, 2012 at 11:11 am

Do not invite these people again. Don’t bother.

I have given up hosting after years of being the only one who ever did it. Yes, it was fun but the lack of reciprocation or appreciation made that wear off. Flaky people pulling out at the last minute to go drinking – forget it. You aren’t coming back, and neither is your mate who turned up with extra people to dinner.

I did have some Schadenfreude when the same flaky person finally threw themselves a party, only to find that the vast majority of their friends were just as flaky and didn’t show up, much to her outrage.


Gloria Shiner November 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

I like the idea of taking off a year from hosting the oyster roast or buffet. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a small dinner or other type of party for really close friends, but it should stop the expectations and allow you to continue in the future with people who are true friends and who have manners.


Stacey Frith-Smith November 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

OP, you have my sympathy and my wonderment. How is it that you would not speak up to those who are rude in your home? You need not suffer through indignities that range from piggishness to petty and gross larceny of goods in silence. You need to take a firm, if kindly hand, at your events, and lead by example. Anyone bold enough to claim your gifts should be stopped at the first hint of rustling paper with an exclamation of shock, followed by a swift removal of the gifts to your room. People raiding your cupboards should be shut down at once with a single and firm “no”. Anyone trying to serve themselves ahead of time should be sent off on an errand of helpfulness. Doubtless you forgot some trifle from the store, from another room, to ask a guest their preference for a beverage? You are in command of these events and part of the process of hostessing is to set a lovely scene (which you excel at) and to conduct the event (which you seem rather disinclined to do). Anyone bold enough to disregard your wishes at the first statement of them should be met with a direct gaze and a firm voice. Failing that, they may be shown the door for the egregious offenses you describe. If your events require more eyes and hands than you have, a few reliable and intimate friends might do “the honors” of keeping an eye on the dessert table while pouring out coffee after the meal, or keeping the hordes from invading private spaces like the contents of your gift boxes when you are in the other room. Speak up! Once you do so, and follow through, you will no longer have those who feel they can be boors in your home because they will either decide to rise to the occasion or decide that your standards are too high and decline the invitation. Your standards aren’t optional, they aren’t up for discussion, and they will have to be stated as directives on occasion. Your delicacy in the face of so many provocateurs seems only to have imbued them with the impression that you don’t mind their conduct. I must admit that I like your solution, however. New year coming and fresh start. Happy celebrating, OP, and may you never have another boor in your home! (But speak up if you do.)


B November 6, 2012 at 11:23 am

I’m a little perturbed that the letter ends with “it is obvious why one should stick to socializing with their own kind.” I certainly hope that “kind” here just means those with manners as opposed to those without. I don’t think the OP is suggesting different types of people shouldn’t be included, but the phrase is somewhat fraught, especially paired with the “Southern hospitality” mention.


Allie November 6, 2012 at 11:24 am

The boors you describe do not deserve a second thought. Cut them off any future guest lists and if any of them call, thank them for their interest and inform them you are not hosting such an event this year. Life is too short to waste time on ingrates. I prefer a few quality friends over quantity any day.


BeachMum November 6, 2012 at 11:27 am

We throw two large, annual parties: Hanukkah and July 4th.

However, each year we pare the list and add new friends. If we’ve never been to your house or you’ve never hosted us, you’re likely not going to make the list. If you dropped off your child and went off (and didn’t answer your phone when I called to ask you to pick up your child), you don’t make the list. If you show up hours late, you don’t make the list. When asked, I say that the party is smaller this year so we had to cut back on the number of people invited.

I do make exceptions. We are friends with one family who is incapable of responding to invitations. We like them a lot, but since it’s hard to reach them and they don’t RSVP, we only invite them to larger gatherings where their presence (or lack of) won’t mess up the food amounts. We have another family we like who has a tiny, tiny apartment, so they don’t have us over. However, they often bring food to our house.

To the OP, when you create your list, cut out anyone who you don’t want to invite. Don’t feel obligated. Also, I’d suggest, if you can afford it, to hire some kitchen help. It’s made a huge difference in our parties because, in addition to the help, a stranger can shoo people out of the kitchen much more effectively that you can.


Ashley November 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

This post makes me glad I have deliberately kept my social circle very small, and those in it are the kind that will double check with me if there is anything they can bring to help, and will stay to help clean up afterwards, and yes, they all reciprocate. We’re not opposed to meeting new people, we’ve just had very bad experiences with mooches in the past.


Drawberry November 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

It sounds to me like the OP just doesn’t know how to tell unwanted guests “no”. So I’ll offer my suggestion on how to cut out the moochers;

“It’s nice to hear from you X, unfortunately this year the get together is not as robust as previous years as I can no longer continue hosting large gatherings and I cannot take extra guests at this time. Perhaps we can get together at a better time, I look forward to hearing from you.”

You don’t have to lie and say it isn’t going on. You don’t have to feel obligated to invite them because you did in the past, just be as honest as you chose to be in telling your unwanted guest that your very sorry but you are not having anymore guests attending. Leave further contact up to them with an offer to meet at a later date (if you genuinely wish to do so, perhaps at a coffee house or other casual location so you are not obligated to be entertaining in your own home).


just4kicks November 6, 2012 at 11:43 am

It never fails to amaze me how rude people can be. This reminds me of a time when our family just moved into our dream house after many years of saving up for it. My husbands female boss at the time pretty much invited herself and her husband over one weekend. Ok. Fine. We told them to come at seven for drinks and snacks. They show up at 5:30….with their monster of a hound. Why? Because the dog was sick with diarrhea all day and she didn’t want to come home to a mess!!! We had just had our yard seeded and it had rained so all night long I kept cleaning up either mud or…..something else everytime this damn dog came back into the house. After three hours, we started cleaning up…hint, hint folks! What does boss lady do?!? Opens her purse pulls out two decks of cards and starts playing bridge or something. My hubby came up behind me, gave me a sweet hug and whispered “Close your mouth, dear.” Our youngest at the time was recovering from a cold and I “bean dipped “, said it was her bedtime and disappeared upstairs for the remainder of the evening. Rude on my part? Probably. Did it keep me from screaming at my husband’s employer and her beast of a dog to get the hell out? Definately!


Annie November 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

If these people would reciprocate hospitality just once, they would learn what it’s like to host and they would behave better when they are guests. When you are a host, you do not have time to baby-sit other people’s children. You cannot change your food plans at the last minute to accommodate someone’s desire to leave early. And you need people to RSVP (I know this wasn’t mentioned, but it’s a sore subject for me every time I entertain on a large scale).

It’s unfortunate that when you invite someone to a gathering once a year, they get the idea that they deserve an invitation. I have some friends who came to our Super Bowl party three years running. On the third year, pregnant with their third child, the mother made a joking comment about how she might never be able to drink at our Super Bowl party because she planned to always be pregnant for the next 10 years. I told her (gently, I hope) that our house couldn’t accommodate more than two children.


XH November 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

So why do we entertain? I thought it was because we valued spending time together and doing something nice for our friends and family. Apparently according to Admin and OP, it’s so that other people will entertain us.

I don’t really think this is a very charitable outlook to hold.

I would love to entertain my friends and family in my home with the same kind of parties and great home cooked food they have invited me to. Alas, my home is a small townhouse and contains only 4 chairs that could theoretically be squeezed up to the dinner table, and my kitchen is smaller than some closets. I do invite friends and family to events outside my house, but I am not able to entertain more than two people at a time in my home. This means that I don’t host family dinners, hold parties, or invite people over in large groups. I have family members who have never and probably will never see the inside of my current home since they either have needs I cannot accomodate or travel in groups greater than two.

This doesn’t make me a mooch or a bad person. I am simply not privileged enough to be currently capable of hosting anything resembling the same kind of events others hold. If you’re inviting someone in a situation like mine to your parties because you expect to be invited to the same kind of event in return you’re not being realistic. Though with expressing such a materialistic view of friendship I can’t imagine you’d befriend someone of lower economic status in the first place.

And really, the comments about expecting hostess gifts rubbed me the wrong way. Is that why you hold a party? Because people will give you things? That’s no better than hosting your own birthday party or shower if you really expect to always get a hostess gift from each person there.


Lori November 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I have a wide circle of very social friends. My own home isn’t large enough for entertaining but there are other ways to be reciprocal. For example I have some casual friends who every year invite me to their Thanksgiving potluck; I can’t invite them to a party of my own (since I don’t give them in my house) but I recently offered to take them hiking (I am an avid hiker and they are just getting started). I have attended several gatherings given by a close friend; I made dinner for her and her husband after their baby was born and invited them out for dinner just last week. I intended to treat them but they asked me to their home instead (makes it easier with baby in the house) for pizza, so I brought gourmet cupcakes for dessert, which were a big hit. Reciprocity doesn’t have to be about trading party for party as much as it is about letting people know you’re thinking of them and want to spend time with them or host them, however that works out.


TylerBelle November 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

An oyster roast? Wow, that sounds so yum!

I’ve had friends do this, not to this scale, but to simply expect to tagalong with my plans, then have excuses not to include me when they’ve made their own later on. As others have mentioned, leave the ill-behaved off the guest list. If you get calls, emails, run into any of them on the street, and they ask about invites, tell them everything is already all planned and you wish for them the very happiest of holiday season, and perhaps can meet for lunch sometimes in the new year.


whatever November 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I don’t get the bit about reciprocity. Some people like hosting big parties; it’s a hobby for them. Some people don’t. Why should people who don’t like hosting parties be forced into doing something they don’t like, just because the other people who do like big parties are indulging in their hobby?

I’ve hosted some decently-sized gatherings in my home before, and I am grateful when my guests show up and have a good time. (Thankfully, I’ve rarely encountered boors like the ones in the OP’s post.) I really don’t care if my guests don’t invite me to their parties, especially if they spend time with me in other ways. I have my style of socializing, and they have theirs.

One thing that bothered me about the OP’s post is her indignation that her guests don’t write thank-you notes to her. Is that really expected? The OP throw very complicated parties, but presumably she does so because she takes pride in showing off her wealth and her skills with food and logistics. When I’ve thrown parties, it seems appropriate to give and receive verbal thanks, but it would *startle* me to receive a written thank you note. I derived equal, if not more, pleasure from their attendance as they did.


Hellbound Alleee November 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I hope that not everyone comes away with the same conclusion that the OP has reached, i.e. “Manners are apparently out of style with the masses and as I have tried to expand a lovely tradition to include others, it is obvious why one should stick to socializing with their own kind.”

I certainly do not exclude the rich from my own social circle because they are rich, even though I “belong to a lower class.” (That’s the nicest way to interpret that statement.) I would hope that others might do the same. Perhaps a fancy buffet might be more appropriate for those who are used to scaled-down cotillion-style manners. Maybe an informal event is better when sharing with others not as skilled in those kinds of social mores–and they may be more comfortable that way, too.

It sounds like some of these people behaved badly. But when I read sentences like that which I quoted, it makes me sad.


Library Diva November 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

How sad that greed has ruined such a lovely event. I agree with the PP who suggested a “re-set:” take a year off and start over in 2013 with a dramatically pared-down list, true friends only, no people who randomly bring pets, confuse your home with a restaurant or trash the joint. If you’ve decided to hold your party this year anyway, best of luck in dealing with those who have been dropped from the list.

I hope OP will swing back through, because there is one question I simply am dying to know the answer to: what is s’mores coffee and how is it made? It sounds delicious!


Tom November 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Just Laura – I feel for you, trying to get guests to leave at the appointed end time. There are some other techniques you can use to remind people that they must be going, like clearing away plates, glasses, and especially putting food and alcohol away, or bringing in coats or hats.
You could even employ a friend to prompt other guests to leave since they’re in a better position to suggest it’s time to go.


Ergala November 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

We entertain a few times a year and we love to do it. However, there were two families that would come and either complain about the food (while not contributing something they like) or the other couple who would literally eat every single thing in sight. I wouldn’t believe it unless I had seen it with my own eyes. The wife actually grabbed a bag of chips, plopped herself down on my couch and whipped out her laptop (yes she brought her laptop) and started playing poker on it while downing the whole bag of chip. She was so loud while eating that people stopped and stared as she took deep breaths in between bites. It was incredible. I had run out to the store with another party goer to grab more ice, so it was my husband who got to witness this particular display. I’d seen them do others. After they left the other guests immediately started talking about it.

We are no longer associating with either family and this year our annual Thanksgiving get together after the official day is more low key. We have a smaller home now and more of our friends have kids. We had to pick and choose so we decided to go with those we spend the most time with and those who we talk to on a daily basis even if we can’t physically get together.


Nancy November 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

First of all, the thing with the kids is appalling. It’s the height of rude to expect events to cater to your children. If you know dinner isn’t going to be late and your kids can’t handle that, well, you make sure they’re fed before you go. Or, you hire a babysitter. Or you let them learn that they don’t get fed the red hot minute they get hungry. Sometimes you have to wait, especially in social situations. Do you want to raise adults who expect that they get to eat the moment they utter the words “I’m hungry?” I expect those are the kind of adults who would scarf up all the food before it even got to the buffet table. This is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. People get annoyed with kids and no longer want to invite couples with kids because of the bad behavior. The bad parents just insist harder that their children be involved, and refuse to take responsibility for them. And then what are they teaching their children about how they behave in public? Like the smores thing…. shouldn’t a parent have been teaching their child how to behave at a buffet?


Xtina November 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I take less issue with the non-reciprocity than I do with the horrible and entitlement-minded manners of the guests. Understanding that some people just don’t throw parties or things like that, I’m glad to give a pass as long as those people do make some attempt at keeping in touch–that’s all I ask!

I would definitely, definitely give the boot to those guests who help themselves to the food, help themselves to the kitchen and to untensils that were not laid out on the buffet, and for those who actually open up presents meant for the OP (my mouth dropped at that one–that’s unspeakable!) and use it as they see fit. Sounds like a bunch of entitled moochers want to use your shindig as a free drive-through and pick-up joint.


GoodDog November 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I do not get the bit about reciprocity either. When we were a double-income family living in a large house, we entertained all the time, and expected nothing in return. Some of our guests also had the means to entertain, and invited us to their parties; others didn’t. I never paid any attention or kept score of who invited us over and how many times. I did however notice that, now that I’m in a tiny old house, living on one income with two kids, and have no earthly way to host a party, party invitations have dried up. I got a few the first year after I moved out, two the second year, and none at all lately. Not that I mind, but this does puzzle me, because I like to think I wouldn’t do this in my “previous” life. I wouldn’t stop inviting someone based on whether they can invite me back or not. Then again, maybe everyone in my former social circle is just crazy busy all of a sudden, and no one’s having any parties at all anymore. Who knows?

With that said, back when I did entertain, it was always potluck style, and my friends did the same. The hosts set the table or buffet, provide a few dishes, some drinks, and entertainment; the guests each bring a side dish or dessert, and a drink of their choice. No need to kill yourself trying to do everything on your own. The guests were always happy to contribute.


AJ November 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I’m not going to comment on the rude guests. All I am going to say, is I am fed up with the Southern Manners garbage. Not all yankees, which I proudly am, are rude and not all southerners have manners. This little entitlement that some people from the south project, needs to stop. You had sympathy until then, after the ‘southern manners’ and ‘one should stick to socializing with their own kind’, you simply come off as an elitist snob, whom your friends should be glad to not have to be around.


Just Laura November 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Good afternoon, Tom, and thanks for the comment/suggestion.

Yes, most people had departed and I was cleaning dishes (as in, bent over the sink, scrubbing away). Still, a few people sat around chatting with each other. One person remarked, “But we just got here!” I replied that was unfortunate, but the party had been going on since 7, and I had to wake up in approximately 6 hours.
Ah, well.


White Lotus November 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Have the party you want and invite only those you DO want, but call it something else. Make the invitations different. Rather than “Jane and John invite you to their huge annual oyster roast on date at time” try, on the phone, via email, or informal snail mail note, “John and I would love to have you and spouse name join us for dinner on date at time.” Require an RSVP by a specific date, and make it clear through the invitation that this is a qualitatively different kind of party so you can honestly say, “Sorry, we’re not doing the oyster roast this year” and things like “this is by invitation only — no humans or animals included unless personally invited”, which would still allow you to include older teenagers, reliable dogs, or even younger children, by specific personal invitation, (kids, particularly teens, are thrilled to be directly invited, IME) if you like them. You can explain as you need to when people accept or decline. Or do written invitations: “Jane Roe and John Doe request the pleasure of Mary Jones and Richard Smith’s company for cocktails at six, dinner at seven, on date at location. RSVP by (date)” and call all those you haven’t heard from on the following day. Use the e-hell approved format of “since we haven’t heard from you, I wanted to let you know that we’ll miss you on date, but look forward to seeing you another time.”
It is going to take some effort on your part, because the clueless and rude abound everywhere, but you can cut the guest list to those you want, eliminate most of the boors, dogs and brats, and spread the word that this year is very, very different, and it is not going to be anything like a free for all. Do hire some help. It is neither as hard nor expensive as it sounds (we hire college students from hotel/restaurant/culinary programs) and it is an enormous help with a large party. You can even give your designated, and employed, doorkeeper a guest list, to check off people as they arrive and to turn away anyone who is not on the guest list, human, adult or otherwise. Be prepared to back that person up with, “Oh, sorry we can’t ask you in. Some other time, bye.” Titanium spine, great party.


TylerBelle November 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

One more thing, I suppose it may become tiring to hear how great ‘southern hospitality’ is, as though no other region comes close in good graces and such. On the other hand, it can kind even out, for in a recent story (where deer hunting took priority over a wedding) southern people can be painted in not the most flattering of lights. Anyhow, as mentioned, I also believe manners (good or non-existent) aren’t limited to just one region, there are all kinds everywhere. 🙂


GoodDog November 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Wow, I missed this part of the OP’s letter on the original read.

“The problem is that most of these people (that have been asking) have rarely if ever reciprocated with any sort of invitation for many years. I have decided not to include these families in this year’s event. (If I do hear of one of their parties, they usually say something like “it was only couples” which apparently means I am not welcome now that I am single and I have never been given the opportunity to bring a date (which I would if I were included).”

Okay, I’m incensed for the OP now. If these people could not afford to entertain, that would be one thing, and totally understandable. The fact that they can and *do* entertain, but deliberately exclude OP because she is single… not okay! I would strike these people off my guest list very quickly after that. If they ask why, just tell them it was only singles 😉


FerrisW November 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm

My advice to the OP:

When people try to get an invite for your amazing sounding party, tell them that this year you are only hosting the party as a thank you to friends who have invited you to parties etc this year. That should get the message of why they’re not invited across, and if they enjoy your party so much they might start inviting you to their gatherings in the hopes you’ll invite them next year!


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