Eat And Run Double Booked Dinner Guests

by admin on February 5, 2015

My husband and I love to entertain. The following scenario has happened a few different times to us and I wondered what your thoughts were.. I will reference the specifics of our most recent dinner party..

We invited a couple that we are getting to know over for dinner. We confirmed that they liked steaks and my husband grilled up some beautiful ones. I put out our best china and had beautiful lighting all around the house. We were excited to have this couple over and make some new friends!

They arrived 30 minutes late (at 7:30) but I quickly forgave that. They were coming from quite a ways away and they had gotten lost.

I served appetizers while my husband went outside to grill. I chatted and caught up with the couple. By the time dinner was ready it was 8:00. We enjoyed a lovely meal and good conversation. They asked for a tour of our house about 8:45 as we were wrapping up dinner and I obliged. At 9:00 I was just about to ask them which flavor of cheesecake they preferred for dessert when the wife of the couple informed me that they had to get going because they were attending a birthday party and were already late to it.

I felt taken aback a bit and felt a little slighted. We had spent a great deal if time and money to entertain them for the evening and they had double booked us! I felt like we were just a pit stop for them to refuel and be on their way.

What they did seems rude to me. Am I being too sensitive or should this couple be cast into Etiquette Hell?  0205-15

I had a similar situation happen to me very recently.   We had invited a couple to lunch after church so that we could get to know them better.   The wife called me last week to explain that a friend’s son’s Eagle Scout ceremony had been rescheduled for 2 p.m. the same day of my lunch that was scheduled to commence at 1 p.m.   They had already agreed to attend this ceremony before it had been cancelled for weather and rescheduled.   The wife felt they would have had to quickly eat and run from our lunch in order to make the ceremony in time.   We agreed that simply would not do and we agreed to postpone our lunch for another day in the near future.

So, the difference is that this couple clearly expressed an interest in having the time to also get to know us and called to discuss the conundrum they were in.  I am fine with this and was willing to accommodate their sudden change in schedule, however, had the conversation been more along the lines of them having been invited to something they considered far more interesting to attend than our luncheon,  my interest in inviting them to any other events I may host would have been diminished.   You know the type I refer to…you invite them and either they waffle with an rsvp until the last minute in an apparent attempt to keep the calendar clear in case something better comes along or they rsvp in the affirmative and then cancel at the last minute or never show up because a better offer was made.  I graciously accept their last minute declinations and then resolve to not invite them to any further events until I cycle through a long list of potential guests which could take at least a few years.

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

siamesecat2965 February 5, 2015 at 8:58 am

No you were not being too sensitive. They were rude. I know sometimes, esp around the holidays, people have a number of obligations to attend. I’ve had gatherings, not sit down dinner parties, but casual, with food and drinks, where people have said they would love to come, but have another invite, and as mine is pretty causual, I’ve been fine with them coming for an hour or two, then leaving.

But in this case, you went to the trouble to make a lovely dinner, and entertain, and they just, as you said, ate and ran. That was very rude. I wouldn’t be inviting them back to my house. But if you like, I’d be more than happy to take you and your DH up on your hospitality 🙂

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Shannan February 5, 2015 at 9:13 am

Yes OP, I understand your frustration. When my husband and I had been married about a year and were still childless, we invited some families from our church over to grill and hang out. We provided hamburgers and hot dogs, chips, dip, drinks and desserts. We invited 4 families. Three of the families showed up on time but the fourth was about 30 minutes late. My husband spent most of his time on the grill so he didn’t have as much time to visit with everyone. After we ate and cleaned up, the late couple announced that they had to get going as they had promised their 6yr old that they’d take her swimming tonight. We ended up having a good time with the other couples but were offended because I had always been taught that if you were invited to someone’s house for dinner, then that’s what you are doing that night. We socialized with the other couples after that, but not so much with the late couple.

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Huh February 5, 2015 at 10:32 am

The 30 minutes late thing would bother me – late people is my pet peeve. I understand things happen, traffic, etc., but to not call, or for it to always happen…

However, leaving because they promised to take the 6-year-old swimming that night, that I might be willing to cut more slack on. I can’t tell if you invited the 6-year-old or not, as you referred to it as couples a lot. I was an only child, and most of my parents’ friends didn’t have kids, or had much older kids. So I have been in situations like this as a kid, the “fun” cookout where I had to amuse myself or sit quietly and listen to the adults talk. And there were a few times where I was told if I behaved and didn’t whine, I’d get to go do fun activity after. I have also been in the situation, as a parent, when the kid melted down and I’ve had to leave the party very early.

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Dee February 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Leaving a party early because a child can’t handle him/herself is good parenting; leaving because you’ve promised your child something you shouldn’t have is not. There is nothing wrong with expecting a typical 6 year old to behave him/herself at an adult party. No bribing necessary. But if someone really can’t parent without bribery then why not promise something that doesn’t interfere with the promise already made to the hosts, and give the kid a treat or do something fun the next day? What do the hosts have to do with it that they have to be inconvenienced with this?

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Shannan February 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm

All of the children were invited. It was a families event. I just feel like if you know for at least a week that you were invited to someone’s house for HB and HD cooked on a grill then you know how much effort goes into that meal. You don’t promise your 6 yr old daughter that you’ll take her to the pool thereby meaning you have to leave early so you can get home, get changed and have plenty of time at the pool so the kids aren’t up too late. My husband barely had any time to socialize with this family because he was the one running the grill. By the time everyone was finished eating, the late family was saying they had to leave. When I was growing up, if we were invited to someone’s home for dinner, then those were the primary plans. If at the end of the evening, there was time to go do something else, ie; go to a late movie, then you can go. But to make plans to leave early in this situation was rude in my opinion.

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cicero February 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

wow. that’s kind of rude. they didn’t even stay for dessert? (and cheesecake? who passes a chance for cheesecake?)

(Reminds me of that episode of the Gilmore Girls when Rory and Lorelai went to four thanksgiving dinners in one day).

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CW February 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

A Gilmore Girls reference! Love it! I think the difference is that Lorelai and Rory didn’t hide that they had other meals to attend. Pretty much everyone knew they would be going to more than one Thanksgiving (with the exception of Emily maybe.) Each of the events they were going to were staggered throughout the day. Mrs. Kim early in the afternoon, then Sookie, then Luke around dinner time and then Emily and Richard late in the evening. (I’m slightly embarrassed I know this.)

And I’m with you on the cheesecake thing! I never turn down cheesecake!

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Saucygirl February 5, 2015 at 1:14 pm

But they were the main event!

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I used to be a big Gilmore Girls fan–I have all seven seasons on DVD. Anyway, I remember that episode as well, and I think Rory and Lorelai handled it politely. They were upfront about the fact that they’d been invited to four Thanksgivings, they told everyone that they were the “main event,” and they participated as much as they could at each gathering (or at least appeared to–I think they “disappeared” the Tofurky* at the Kims’ house into a plastic bag as subtly as possible). Maybe they ate more than was healthy, but my point is, they made everyone feel like they valued their company, and the time and effort they put into making the event happen. That said, at some point, it’s important to know your limits. I remember an episode of the kids’ cartoon “Arthur,” where one of the characters, Ladonna, is new in town, having just moved from a place that doesn’t really have seasons, and all of her new friends invite her to do different fall/harvest-related activities with them–apple-picking, making gourd people, a hayride, and so on, and so forth. Ladonna tries to do everything, with disastrous results, and in the end, she goes for a walk with Arthur, they talk, and Arthur finally tells Ladonna that she doesn’t have to say “yes” to everyone, and that nobody would be offended at “not this time,” because everyone just invited Ladonna to all those things because they wanted her to enjoy her first fall. So, it’s perfectly okay to be upfront and just say that you have too many other events scheduled on a certain day, but you’d like to get together with the other person another time, and bonus points if you offer a concrete suggestion. That makes it more sincere than just “I’m busy,” which is sort of the social code for “not interested.”

*I think the Tofurky-hiding scene in Gilmore Girls is pretty funny, because I’m vegan, and I’ve had Tofurky, and to be honest, it’s pretty gross.

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EchoGirl February 5, 2015 at 2:32 pm

It really is. I’m vegetarian (not vegan) and my mom bought Tofurkey for her and me, despite my suggestion that she buy another brand that I’ve had a lot of success with (she claimed they didn’t sell it in her area, I suspect she was looking in the wrong place). It had the consistency of rubber.

Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm

EchoGirl, what is the other brand? Also, it’s just the flagship Tofurky product that I find unpalatable–the imitation ground turkey in spicy sauce is actually really good, especially for chili.

cicero February 6, 2015 at 1:45 am

Oh for sure – the gilmore girls were upfront and polite about it, they ate their meals, participated in dinner conversation, etc. I didn’t mean to compare, it’s just that the OP reminded me of the double- or in their case, quadruple – booking.

just4kicks February 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

My son and I just finished the entire series of “Rescue Me” on Netflix, and now I’m looking for a good series to watch with my daughter who is eleven.
Do you recommend “Gilmore girls” for an 11 year old?

I loved the lead character in Parenthood, am so sad that’s over! 🙁

ddwwylm February 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Oh, that is funny. My cousins used to be vegitarians several years back, but have been eating meat for a while now 5-8 years maybe. Their youngest child 13 yo still prefers tofurkey, even though she also eats meat. They always bring along a small one for her for Thanksgiving. IDk if it’s actual tofurkey or a different brand though, I’ll have to remember to ask.

EchoGirl February 6, 2015 at 3:05 pm

It’s a brand called Gardein — I just happened to pick up a couple of their products one week a couple years ago because there were in-store coupons that made them the cheapest meat alternative in the store (usually, they’re about on par with the others) and they were delicious. I’ve bought that brand as my primary ever since.

Jenna S. February 9, 2015 at 12:28 am

I actually love Tofurkey. I have it every year for Thanksgiving. Different people have different tastes I suppose, though it is off putting to see so many people going off on how “gross” my chosen holiday treat is.

DGS February 5, 2015 at 9:33 am

Personally, I would not invite this couple for any future events. The double booking, whether it was done intentionally or inadvertently, is offensive. The right thing to have done was to have called and discussed rescheduling your dinner, as soon as the other couple realized that they had already RSVP’ed to the birthday party. Or, not to have accepted your invitation in the first place, if they thought they would rather have done something else with their time.

My husband and I are part of a new member committee for the young families group at our synagogue. Recently, a new couple had joined, who seemed quite lovely initially. “Jeremy” and “Sarah” are educated, urbane professionals with 2 lovely, well-behaved children, and after an engaging phone conversation, my husband and I invited them to a Shabbat (Friday night) dinner at our home with their children. They arrived promptly, brought a hostess gift, and their kids played nicely with ours while we munched on appetizers, and I bustled around, finishing dinner. We had a great conversation during dinner. However, right after the meal was cleared off the table (literally, right after – I was in the kitchen, gathering up the utensils and dessert plates), they got up to leave, bundled their kids up and departed, announcing that they were now going to another couple’s house. Apparently, another couple had also invited them to dinner, and they decided (without telling either us or the 3rd couple) that they would accept both of our invitations and have appetizers and dinner at our house and dessert at someone else’s house. I never spoke to the third couple about this, but I wonder if they were dismayed to first, be stood up for dinner and then, to open their doors and find their errant guests on their doorstep expecting dessert. Needless to say, while we have remained courteous and polite to Jeremy and Sarah and socialize with them at synagogue events as a larger young families group, we have not invited them back to our house.

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Karen L February 5, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Hmm, now I am imagining couples like this who think “No one ever invites us anywhere, and now we have two invitations on the same night! We better go to both to jumpstart our social life!” Hashtag backfire. Hashtag clueless.

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Shoegal February 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

Call me an old fogey or whatnot – but I’m absolutely clueless to this hashtag business. What does this mean? In relation to what? Is this some instagram thing? It is like the time I asked somebody on a forum what LOL meant and they made fun of me for not knowing.

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Lauren February 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

A hashtag is a word or phrase (with no spaces – so e.g., hashtag MerryChristmas!) that acts as a “tag” or label. It’s often used in a funny way, like Karen did above, when she imagined couples commiting faux pas and ended with, “hashtag clueless!”

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ddwwylm February 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

It’s a twitter thing that has now become slang.
It started as a way to organize or find posts, so if you did #kids, you would be able to bring up all the tweets that you had tagged with #kids and so on, or find tweets that other people had # similarly. Like you could do #yourfavoritetvshow to find other people talking about it.

Now it’s something people do kind of tounge in cheek. Much like pp, to state the obvious in a sarcastic or funny way.

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 9:48 am

What this couple did was rude, but I’m thinking that they probably figured, “We’ll arrive at Mr. and Mrs. OP’s house at seven o’clock, and then leave for the birthday party at nine,” but then they got lost, and that cut the time at the OP’s house short. The polite thing to do would have been for the invited couple to be upfront about the birthday party, and then maybe something could have been worked out–dinner could have been moved earlier, or rescheduled for a different night, or something. Alternatively, they could have declined, following the strict etiquette rule that “The host always sets the terms of the invitation, and requesting any kind of special accommodations is always rude.” but that wouldn’t really be conducive to sustaining a friendship with the OP and her husband. I feel like, if you like someone, and want to spend time with them, but there’s something that’s getting in the way of that, then speak up. It might be a scheduling glitch (co-ordinate schedules for a better day), a dietary issue (the person with the vegetarianism/veganism/celiac/whatever offers to bring something diet-friendly to share with the group), or any number of things that can be easily worked around.

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JWH February 5, 2015 at 9:54 am

I dunno. I see something a little different in OP’s story. I see a couple that accepted an invitation to dinner and to a birthday party in the same night. They figured dinner wouldn’t take too long, so they would be able to attend both events.

Of course, if scheduling were an issue, they should have arrived on time to the dinner …

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Filiagape February 5, 2015 at 11:27 am

No. They should have discussed the conflict ahead of time with the couple. When I go to a great deal of trouble preparing my home and food for a special evening, I would still be disappointed if they had arrived on time and split at 9:00. It may only be two couples, but it is still a party for which the hosts carefully planned and which has now been ruined by the hasty exit. Unless this couple was family, I certainly would not be issuing another invite. My efforts to prepare a special desert and to enjoy their enjoyment of it would have been taken from me, and I would be left feeling like the poor second choice, squeezed in before the “real” evening’s entertainment began.

If they accidentally double booked, they should have notified the hosts the minute they realized the mistake to let the hosts decide if they want to have a shortened party, reschedule, or cancel altogether.

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JWH February 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm

This is true; they ought to have discussed scheduling ahead of time.

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JenAnn February 5, 2015 at 11:27 am

Except…..even if they arrived on time, that left 2 hours for dinner. Which is enough time if you are dining at a restaurant, but pretty rude to treat someone hosting you for dinner that way. It’s basically an eat and run thing then. Most people expect a dinner invitation to include a leisurely dinner and visiting for some time afterwards – in this case, dessert was missed entirely, and obviously no visiting afterwards. Also, they said they were running late for their next engagement, so they really didn’t even have two hours available even assuming they didn’t get lost and arrive late to dinner.

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mommawhopper February 5, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Who’s to say how long you are suppose to stay tho? My parents generation says you show up early but leave the moment dinner is over. My generation says you show up at exactly the given time, but stay after. My children’s generation is to show up late, and then after dinner, go out for drinks, or another socializing event, often with another couple. I’ve known the younger generation to go to several things in any given evening.

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jazzgirl205 February 6, 2015 at 8:03 am

Maybe it’s a regional thing. If one is invited to dinner where I grew up, one spends the whole evening with the hosts. The hosts not only work hard to prepare a wonderful meal, they also plan for an activity be it just conversation or some sort of game or amusement.

I’ve seen horrible guest manners on the rise lately. I think it is because many people simply don’t entertain at their own homes. They do not know what work goes into a successful party. They are more familiar with restaurants where a party of people are discouraged form lingering. At someone’s house, the whole point is lingering.

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Shoegal February 6, 2015 at 8:48 am

In my circle of friends (let’s say aquaintances, “friends” is too strong a word) – if you are invited over anywhere – you generally arrive on time – nobody reprimands you or is insulted if you’re late (stuff happens and it is usually casual) and you stay at least four hours or more. But let’s look at the flip side of this scenario – I have invited people over and they stayed till 2AM!! I was like the walking dead trying to keep my eyes open and wanted desperately for them to leave but felt it was rude to tell them to go. There have been times when the party broke up early and I was upset and felt the evening was not a success – other times I was just fine when the guests took their leave early. You can look at this several different ways. Still I felt these people were rude. You don’t double book an evening with dinner with friends and another party.

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kingsrings February 6, 2015 at 7:59 pm

The best solution to the guests that never leave problem I’ve seen is the one time at a party I attended, the host excused himself for a time to his bedroom and then came back out in his pajamas. The obvious big hint that he was tired and we should leave! Try that next time!

Girlie February 6, 2015 at 9:41 am

But with the younger generation, I feel like if going out for drinks afterwards is a plan, then EVERYONE goes out, not just one couple. And if one couple goes out afterwards, it’s usually after the night has been wrapped up and done, not “oh it’s 9pm, we have to head out to another event!”

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Cami February 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm

I don’t think it’s a generational social protocol; perhaps it’s regional. I can certainly remember my parents entertaining throughout the 1960s-70s and there was most definitely no rule about eating and running the minute dinner was over.

In fact, I have many strong memories of lengthy after-dinner card games and socializing. I can remember watching through the stair banister as my parents brought out the “company” barware and then, later, coffee and tea. It was probably the norm that no one went home before 11pm.

Now around here, it’s a blessed miracle if you are not born in the town that (1) you even get an invitation that includes food because and I quote, “Food is for family” and (2) you get an invitation that is not for a gift grab event. So it would not surprise me that dinner party invitations here only extend to dessert time.

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Jewel February 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm

The great thing about this board is that folks like you can learn something that will make you a more courteous guest. So, take note: when invited to someone’s home for dinner, plan accordingly so it is reserved as your only activity for the evening. After dinner (which may or may not start exactly on time and generally lasts a while to partake), hosts usually serve a dessert, which is lingered over. Afterwards, guests and hosts often sit around the table or move into the living room for a bit more relaxing and conversation. Sometimes, hosts set a game table or offer to put in a movie.

To book another activity to occur after dinner means that you are an “eat and run” guest, which is incredibly inconsiderate and rude. You will be treating your host as though you were dining in a restaurant with zero obligation to take into account their feelings, wishes, or the effort they’ve put into hosting you.

If you can’t abide with letting the host set the timeframe for the evening and/or if you have another commitment later that evening, simply decline the invitation. It will save a lot of time and hurt feelings.

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JWH February 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

And the great thing about a board like this is that people like you can learn that condescension and assumptions are pretty rude in themselves. As a host, I consider guests who “eat and run” to be at least somewhat considerate. I’ve found that these dinner events can reach a point where all present know that guests don’t want to be rude and leave abruptly, the hosts don’t want to be rude and kick people out, but all involved know that the event really needs to end. To me, “I’d love to stay and chat, but we have another thing tonight” is a face-saving way to bring an evening to an end.

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Tracy W February 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm

The face-saving excuse is “Thank you, it’s been a lovely evening. [insert specific compliment on some aspect of said evening.] I’m so sorry we have to go, we must have you over soon. Now where did I put my coat?”
If you can’t do without making some excuse, there’s babysitters/long drive/busy day tomorrow/exhausted after last week.

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Jewel February 5, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Funny! Pointing out your impression that I’m condescending and someone that makes assumptions is perfectly polite and not rude at all? Pot meet kettle? Also, you may want to consider that what you refer to as a “face saving” way to end an evening is a mirror of the behavior that the OP wrote about (and what numerous folks here are saying is poor conduct). Why not just say, “This has been a lovely evening. Thank you so much. We’ll contact you soon to have you over to our house!” ?

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Jays February 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Does an invite to dinner have to be an all-night thing, though? It isn’t always, in my experience. I could see the two couples simply having differing expectations.

Dee February 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I’m not sure Jewel was being condescending. You may consider guests who eat and run to be okay but it is really insulting the hosts. Reading the comments would help you to see that. Running off after only an hour and a half was very rude of the guests but even if they are not bright enough to learn the lesson they will certainly be left wondering why they never get repeat invites.

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mommawhopper February 5, 2015 at 10:37 pm

I’m can only spend a couple of hours at someone’s house because of health and children reasons. Am I rude to not linger longer? There’s often reasons that I can think of that would include going to a couple of different places in the same evening, but I would not think that would be rude to either one nor would I have to explain myself to either.

Tracy W February 6, 2015 at 4:07 am

There may be reasons to go to a couple of different places in the same evening, but a special effort by your hosts, to produce a dinner party just for you, deserves far more consideration from the guest in return than just eating and running. Dinner parties are not like a big house party where the hosts will have barely finished saying “hello” to each guest before midnight.

If you do have to leave early, bring this up ahead of time, and at least aim to give your host the impression that only dire necessity means you can tear yourself away from the pleasure of their home, don’t leave them with the unsettling impression that someone else’s hospitality is better.

another Laura February 6, 2015 at 4:32 am

@mommawhopper-I think there is a diiference between being upfront “I’d love to come, but I can only stay for X amont of time because I need to (insert reason)” vs not letting your host know ahead of time that you have a limited amount of time to give. And it can be hurtful to feel that guest was only killing time at event I put time, effort and money into until somrthing “better” comes along. I think it is the duty of a good guest to inform host of any potential scheduling conflict beforehand. You don’t have to go into detail. Merely saying “I can only stay until 9 is that convenient?” Should be sufficient.

Another thing would be if you are going to an unfamiliar location, make sure you have good directions. And allow a bit of time for getting lost.

Pixi February 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Of course in a perfect world the hosts would include not just an arrival time but an exit time for their party. Having a clear start and stop point can help people figure out if there is a conflict.

That being said I’ve found that most parties that I attend have a general start time with the hosts expecting guests to arrive anywhere up to two to three hours after that, and have no real end. I remember joking with friends when I was in my early to mid twenties about parties or people running on GST (Goth Standard Time) which was two hours after started time. So if we wanted guests for nine invite for seven.

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Well, events centred around children, such as birthday parties, do usually have clear stop and start times, but that sort of fades out around adolescence, when socializing becomes more free-form, rather than the “Structured activity, followed by meal, then wrap up” format that you’d follow with kids, either because the party is at an outside venue with its own set schedule, or you just know your own kid, and how long he or she can be “on.” Anyway, since one purpose of kids’ parties is to “train” kids to be good hosts/guests of honour, and good guests as well. I think some people would feel uncomfortable if an adult event in a private home had a clear stop and start time, because it’s sort of anticipating rudeness, in a way, like, “We can’t trust you not to overstay your welcome, so we’re enforcing a firm end time at X o’clock.” That said, it’s okay to state the nature of the gathering along with the start time, such s “brunch” or “early dinner,” or “coffee and dessert,” so people know what to expect. I could see brunch ending around 12 or 1 p.m., “early dinner” ending around 8 or 9 p.m., depending on outside factors (kids, long drive home, etc.), and “coffee and dessert” could be just about anytime, but it’d be shorter than a full meal. Or, you can just be upfront, i.e., “I’m free tonight, and I’d love to see you. I have to be up for work tomorrow, but the weekend is no good because of Sally’s hockey tournament,” or some such. I don’t really see that as being rude; it’s more just communication among friends, assuming that of course your friends are going to be considerate of your needs. A firm end time is a bit too….businesslike, for lack of a better word.

P February 9, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Parties with an end-time are childish. I wouldn’t expect to see that on anything other than an invite to a small child’s birthday party. Eating and running is rude. End of. You don’t treat your hosts like short-order cooks. A dinner invitation in my part of the world is an all-evening affair and that’s exactly the way it should be. I can’t bear the awful American way of doing it – turn up, eat the food, then leave after coffee. Dreadfully rude. An American friend of mine never got a repeat invitation to my home after he did that.

ArtsBeatLA February 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm

JWH – I disagree that Jewel was being condescending or rude. You appear to be wanting everyone to excuse your (possible) tendency to eat & run or to make remarks such us “…we have another thing [on] tonight” as a face-saving way to bring an evening to an end.

Really? You’d either actually dine & dash or – worse – *lie* to your hosts because you haven’t leaned a gracious way to exit a dinner party?

Please take another look at Jewel’s well-meaning and instructive comments.

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iwadasn February 5, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Here’s a hint, JWH–if you realize that you have to think of a way to “save face” to hide that you’re doing something, then you’re doing something you shouldn’t.

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Rebecca February 6, 2015 at 12:39 am

If you have another event to go to, it’s best to either decline the dinner, or say to the hosts, “I’d love to come but I’d need to leave by 9 as I have a birthday party to go to. Would that be all right or would you prefer to reschedule?”

These guests didn’t even know that the hostess had gone to the trouble of making (or buying) a selection of cheesecakes, just for them!!

If you are bored with the dinner party, the least you can do is to stay a reasonable length of time and then say, “It’s been a lovely evening, but we must be going. 7 AM start time tomorrow for us.” And then (if you were that bored) then mentally make a note not to accept another invitation from these people again.

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Hollyhock February 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

I agree with Jewel.

If couples meet at a bar for a burger and beer, each paying their own way and neither hosting, and then one family says “OK, gotta get Junior to swim class at 8” that’s one thing.

To accept the hospitality if a dinner party in someone’s home — which in American etiquette is pretty well known to be an open-ended evening, not one with a finite timeframe, because for one thing you don’t know how the hosts will pace the meal — and then dart out as soon as you put your fork down is beyond rude.

A dinner party invitation, if accepted, should be the only invitation one accepts for a given evening.

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jazzgirl205 February 6, 2015 at 8:08 am

Why would they assume dinner wouldn’t take too long? It’s at someone’s house – not a restaurant.

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Lo February 5, 2015 at 10:01 am

I don’t understand why you would treat someone’s home as a restaurant where you can come in, order whatever part of the meal you like and then head somewhere else for drinks or dessert.

The only time we have ever stretched multiple visits over the same period of time is during Christmas when we have already worked out to begin with, breakfast with this family, lunch and gifts with this family, dinner with another family, etc, and keep to a tight schedule that everyone is well aware of in advance. So when I am packing up and saying my goodbyes after a lovely meal and declining to stay for coffee everyone knows it’s because we have another family obligation to get to.

You cannot treat people like a free meal and hustle off for more evening entertainment elsewhere.

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hakayama February 5, 2015 at 10:08 am

Well, Dear OP, you got your wish: you got to know the “no dessert couple”.
@DGS and Shannan: looks like you too got some people’s “number” at a relatively small investment of time, effort and funds. Better to catch on early, and avoid some unappetizing “people clutter” in your life.
@siamesecat2965: I find the “open house” format to be such a satisfying arrangement on so many levels that I wish more folks went for it.

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Lee February 5, 2015 at 10:23 am

My husband and I were once in the guests’ situation. Shortly after moving to a new neighbourhood, we accepted an invitation to a sit-down dinner at our neighbour’s home. The day before, my MIL called to let us know that my husband’s uncle and aunt, who live in the United States (we are in Canada), had come to town and another aunt was hosting a get-together at her house on the same evening as the dinner at our neighbours. The visit was last-minute, so it was no one’s fault that we were invited so late. I felt terrible cancelling the dinner because I knew our neighbour had put a lot of work into the dinner, so I called and explained what was going on. Since we didn’t have to be at the other event at any particular time, and the get-together would go late into the night, my neighbour graciously invited us to come to dinner earlier, allowing us to be at both events.

Had it been anything other than a visit from an aunt and uncle who we don’t see often, I would have turned down the family event. Fortunately, my neighbour understood and we have become good friends, with many dinners hosted by both families.

The OP has every right to be offended, but if the couple had simply explained the situation, I’m sure they could have worked something out.

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vjcole February 5, 2015 at 3:05 pm

And that’s exactly the point. The OP’s guests DIDN’T bother to discuss the situation with her in advance. If one of them had called up and explained that the couple had a family birthday the same night as the dinner that they really needed to attend, then the dinner plans could have been altered. To just take off after the meal because you double booked is RUDE, plain and simple.

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B February 6, 2015 at 4:59 am

“If you have a prior engagement, you decline subsequent invitations for events that conflict with it. You don’t try to squeeze in multiple events unless there really is no schedule overlap between them (say, a dinner party and a midnight movie showing, for instance).”

What Kimstu said. This was not an emergency. This was ‘I don’t see them often’ and you deliberately put the inconvenience not on your family, but on the hosts who’d spent time and money after you’d confirmed you’d attend.

However ‘terrible’ you felt, even asking to cancel in those circumstances was inexcusably rude.

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just4kicks February 5, 2015 at 10:36 am

I’m chiming in with, I also, would be very offended.
A birthday party is certainly something they’ve known they were attending well in advance.
I think they were rude rushing through a lovely dinner that you spent time and money on.

We have a “double booking” coming up in May, and not to deviate from the original post at hand, but if anyone has a suggestion ( Ms. Administrator?) I need some advice.
My husband’s daughter from a previous marriage is graduating college (a good four hour trip one way) the same day our oldest son is graduating from high school.
We would obviously like to attend both, but I don’t have a clue how on earth we are going to be able to.
Right now, it’s looking like my husband will go to our daughter’s, and I will stay in town for our son’s.
I consider her my daughter also, as she was three years old when we married, and its sure to cause hard feelings (we have already received the “what do you MEAN the whole family might not be coming?!?”) from my husband’s ex wife, as well as pissy Twitter posts from our daughter (I guess I know which kid is the favorite in MY family!!!), which I certainly understand she’d be very hurt.
But, it’s a very important day in our son’s life, too.
They have BOTH worked their butts off for good grades, our daughter is going to medical school with honors, and our son has received sports and academic scholarships for college.
Again, not to supersede the original post, but I don’t really see a way out of this without someone’s feelings getting hurt….any suggestions would be great!
Thanks! 🙂

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Jewel February 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

If the daughter knows that both graduations are on the same day and is already making pissy Twitter posts, she needs what we in the south affectionately refer to as a “Come To Jesus” meeting. She needs her Dad to tell her that, while her college graduation is extremely important, so is her brother’s graduation and that you both are doing the best you can to honor both grads. And, she should understand that NO ONE gets to pretend the sun revolves around them that day. EVERYONE is going to have to make sacrifices, give allowances, not get everything they want, and take it gracefully. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to remind her that she’s going to have at least one more graduation (from medical school) where y’all will be able to attend en masse.

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Hemi February 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

The good ol’ “Come to Jesus” meetings. I have had to have a few of those myself with people who think they are #1.

@ Just4kicks- Jewel has it right- tell her to chill. Dad needs to tell her your son’s high school graduation is just as important as her college graduation and you will see your son graduate and Dad can come see her. She’s an adult, it’s time to act like one.

We *almost* had the same situation with my husband’s son from a previous relationship and my son from a previous relationship. Both were born within 3 months of each other and were suppose to graduate the same year. My husband’s son had some issues in 3rd grade and had to repeat. Otherwise, we would have had to do the “mom goes here, dad goes there” for graduation.

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Samantha C February 5, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Do you know if your son wants you to be there as much as your daughter does? (Or was someone else posting the twitter posts?)

I hated going through graduations – obviously your kids might feel differently but if you haven’t asked them directly yet, consider it. One of them might be amenable to just skipping the whole rigmarole, or to going without you there. Maybe a friend’s family can take pictures, if the question is more about you wanting to have the memory.

(In my case, I begged my parents to do something else and not attend graduation. We weren’t actually getting diplomas, just wasting money on a rental gown to walk around for 5 minutes and sit for 2 hours. I had a sprained foot, and my mother wouldn’t hear of anything other than the formal ceremony. She tried to stop me during our procession to take a picture and I flat-out refuse; my foot hurt so bad, and she knew about it, and I just wanted to limp to my chair. So…my perspective may be different than most.)

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EchoGirl February 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm

I’m graduating college this spring, and I’ve already decided to skip my graduation. Part of it is that my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah is the same day, but I was bored at my high school graduation and this one’s likely to be even worse (and we don’t get our names called or our “moment in the sun” at my school either). My boyfriend and two of my roommates skipped theirs as well. I don’t think your perspective is all that uncommon.

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hakayama February 6, 2015 at 9:00 am

Oh, EchoGirl! Finally a kindred spirit. I got “snookered” into my h.s. graduation because as a greenhorn in the US I had no idea what the thing was all about. Then I just collected my diplomas from college and grad school, without attending the never-ending ceremonies. My daughter followed in my footsteps, so when she graduated FROM chiropractic school, at least I did not have to trek a thousand miles for that non-event.

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JKC February 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm

It sounds like you’ve worked out the best compromise you can, making sure that there is parental representation at both events. I think open and transparent communication is the way to go here. Make sure that no matter what, they both know how proud you are and how badly you wish that teleportation were possible. Maybe they could each get their own separate celebratory dinner sometime afterward with both of you?

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Cat February 5, 2015 at 4:41 pm

In psychology, this sort of dilemma is referred to as approach/approach. There are two things you would like to attend, but you cannot physically do both. Someone is going to feel neglected.
In this case, both graduates are old enough to understand that it is not a case of “You like him best”, but more of a case of not having the gift of bi-location and not being able to be in two places at one time.
Say to the college graduate, “If the situations were reversed, and your brother was graduating from college and you from high school, would you be happy for us both to go to brother’s graduation and to leave you alone on your special day?”
Sometimes an understanding heart has more value than anything else. Let the husband go to the daughter’s and you to the son’s. It just can’t be helped.

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Wendyw February 5, 2015 at 5:04 pm

I’d ask your daughter what she expects you to do. I am assuming you both attended her HS graduation. Neither event can be rescheduled, so what would she like you to do? Put it back on her.

I think the compromise you made was the best one for the situation. A parent at each.

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just4kicks February 6, 2015 at 1:43 am

Thank you to all who commented on my situation.
Again, my apologies to the OP for the “sidebar” on the original post.
I agree with you that we are going to split up for the day, and go to both, I don’t see anyway around it.
My husband doesn’t have the best relationship with his daughter, (long story) , but if at least he doesn’t go, I fear she will never speak to him again.
Rock….meet hard place.

Thanks again to all. 🙂

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just4kicks February 6, 2015 at 1:50 am

Also, not one person came to my high school graduation, and I was beside myself with tears the whole day.
I moved out when I was 17, to live with a man I was dating whom my folks hated, and gave me an ultimatum, so I moved out.
I finished high school, and on graduation day, my folks didn’t come because they hated my boyfriend. My boyfriend didn’t come because he didn’t want to run into my folks.
My bad choices, which I accept, but seeing everyone’s family with them and I was all alone broke my heart….very different situation with both kids graduating same day….but I want them both to enjoy their special day.

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Hollyhock February 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Depending on your daughter’s college and/or major, sometimes there are two graduation ceremonies — a small one for the class getting a specific degree and then the giant jamboree for the entire graduating class of the school. Is there any chance she has a choice of ceremonies?

kingsrings February 6, 2015 at 8:15 pm

just4kicks – that story breaks my heart! It also reminds me of when my brother graduated from high school. I was a few years behind him and had a friend whose brother was also graduating that year. I asked her if she was going to attend their ceremony, and she said that nobody in their family at all was planning to attend! She said it wasn’t anything special at all to any of them and they couldn’t understand why it was a big deal. I couldn’t believe that, and felt so bad for her brother.
Although I do have to say that if I were ever to go back to college and get my degree, I doubt I’d attend my graduation ceremony. High school graduation is one thing, but after that, I just feel too been there, done that, to give a rip about college graduation. Boring!

NostalgicGal February 7, 2015 at 12:57 am

That is rough. My parents came to my HS but I didn’t go to any of my other ones, so no arguments there on who goes where to what.

I think you have the best solution there, DH goes to the daughter’s and you go to your son’s.. and you should both record them so it can be shared later.

Jessiebird February 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I would find out if they will telecast or otherwise record and post the graduations. They often do this and you can get a better view than even being there sometimes. Then you can tell your daughter and son that the parent who wasn’t there can watch the graduation later, or even live, if the two graduations are not overlapping.

I watched my sister’s medical school graduation live from Japan (staying up VERY late to do so). And my husband’s parents watched his PhD graduation from Romania. It’s really a great option to let people support and applaud even when they can’t be there physically.

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A different Tracy February 6, 2015 at 4:49 pm

“You’re BOTH the favorites. That’s why you’ll BOTH have family at your graduations. Unless we invent a time machine, that’s the best we can do.”

Honestly, you’d think someone mature and intelligent enough to go to medical school with honors would get that… :-/

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just4kicks February 7, 2015 at 3:46 am

I’m not perfect myself, but this is the girl whose mother (my husband’s ex) said to her when we were expecting our third son, “ANOTHER KID?!? Well, you are the ONLY kid it takes to make ME happy!!!”
We aren’t the best parents who ever raised kids, but she was around 9 at the time, and there have been many instances like that through the years.
When the ex got remarried and had a son, I SO wanted to say something…but didn’t.

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TightlyKnit February 7, 2015 at 9:59 am

My parents were put in the exact same position.

Mine and my brother’s graduations were on the same day at the same time. Fortunately they were within 45 minutes of each other so my parents attended my brother’s grade 8 graduation for half and then joined my ceremony for the second half. The middle school knew they scheduled the graduation on the same day as the high school so any child in a similar situation as my brother walked across the stage first. Fortunately, when I graduated from university and he graduated from high school they were weeks apart! Is there anyway for a similar situation like this to happen? I know it’s a four hour drive but graduating from university was one of my proudest moments and I was so happy to have my whole family there. Or perhaps throw a joint graduation party with friends and family, so she knows you are acknowledging her hard work?

The inconsiderate tweets are inappropriate on all levels. There is no reason to behave like that online.

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just4kicks February 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

Thank you to everyone for the nice comments and like minded stories! 🙂

Our relationship with our daughter has been strained, at best, but it’s a really big deal for both of them.
She refers to her half brother as “the Golden Boy” in reference to his being his dad’s “number one” because he is the oldest male child, lots of jealousy where there really doesn’t need to be any.
The ex wife has a lot of culpability in this whole thing, and will call my husband to bitch him out on a regular basis, because she thinks he favors our son. We are extremely proud of all five of our kids.

On the social media aspect of things, I have a rule which has worked pretty well so far.
I tell them BEFORE you post anything, ask yourself this: WOULD I want my coach or my grandparents reading this??? ….if the answer is no, don’t post it.

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Lady Anne February 5, 2015 at 10:37 am

I disagree with the Admin’s response to the couple who had to reschedule because of an Eagle Scout ceremony, saying she wouldn’t invite them again for a long time.

Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is a very difficult task, and many men who do so keep that honor on their resume forever. They must have earned 21 badges and completed a project to benefit their local community, plus led their own troops along them same path – all by the age of 18. Many of them remember their Eagle Ceremony with the same sense of awe and intensity they do their own wedding day.

Eagle Scouts include Gerald Ford, Neil Armstrong, Michael Bloomberg, Robert Gates, and Thomas Morris. If you look closely at portraits of some of these men, you will see they are wearing their Eagle pins.

To be invited to the ceremony is an honor, and shows you approval and appreciation for all they have done. Since only one scout is normally honored at a time, being AWOL would be quite obvious.

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admin February 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Please read for comprehension. I have no idea how you translated this sentence, “…we agreed to postpone our lunch for another day in the near future,” to mean I would not be inviting them again for a long time. “Near future” means within the month.

And btw, my DH is an Eagle Scout.

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hey, Jeanne, maybe you could invite the whole family, including the newly-minted Eagle Scout, and make it a wings night to commemorate him “earning his wings” just like your husband.

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Kimstu February 5, 2015 at 11:06 am

@Lo: “I don’t understand why you would treat someone’s home as a restaurant where you can come in, order whatever part of the meal you like and then head somewhere else for drinks or dessert.”

Darn skippy. A dinner invitation is NOT something to be treated as just one of several items on the evening’s schedule. It’s intrinsically rude to accept a dinner invitation and then plan something else within the next couple of hours because you “figured dinner wouldn’t take too long”.

If you have a prior engagement, you decline subsequent invitations for events that conflict with it. You don’t try to squeeze in multiple events unless there really is no schedule overlap between them (say, a dinner party and a midnight movie showing, for instance).

On the bright side, at least the OP now knows not to bother inviting these boors again.

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PWH February 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

Hi OP, This does sound rude indeed. I hope they at least appologized before they left. It might make you reluctant to invite them over again in the future, I know I would be if it were me.

I had something similar happen in the past, but it involved family. My mom hosted a lovely birthday dinner for me at a local restaurant and my siblings all attended(I’m the oldest of four). Promptly after eating his dinner, as others were still in the midst of theirs, my brother stood up and announced he need to leave as he had a party to go to. My parents were pretty miffed and I was as well. It is not often I am able to get together with all my siblings at once due to work and school obligations and having my brother chose a social function over family did not sit well with me. I decided to chaulk it up to him being young (he’s the youngest) and did let him know at a later time that I was pretty upset at what he’d done.

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JD February 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Oh, PWH, you brought back such a memory! When I was a teen, my aunt was visiting from out of town, and came to eat a casual dinner with us. My dad was at work(shift work) so it was my mother, my sister, my aunt and me. My mother and my aunt, who were sisters, were very close, and treasured their times alone to talk. It was a weekend night and I wanted to go out with friends. After dinner was done, but before we’d left the table, I asked my mother and my aunt if it would be okay for me to go out with my friends sometime after we did the dishes and visited a while, say around nine. Both agreed without hesitation, but my sister immediately blasted me for leaving the house when we had company (we saw this aunt quite frequently), then turned and blasted our mother for giving me permission to be so rude as to leave the house with my aunt there! After a tirade of a few minutes, my sister stood up, and without so much as picking up her own plate, announced that she needed to get ready to go on her date with her boyfriend, and left the table. Mom, my aunt and I had been sitting there open-mouthed in surprised silence, but after my sister stalked out of the room, my aunt looked at my mother and said, “Can you believe that!?”, at which point the three of us fell into a fit of giggles, laughing off and on for the whole time we cleared the table, washed and put up dishes, then sat talking for a while. I left, finally, as they settled in for a good chat, just the two of them. My sister, of course, had long been gone, well before dishes were done, and had not lifted a finger to help us.

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Cat February 5, 2015 at 4:57 pm

It sounds as if she knew she was leaving so she was designating you to stay home and chat with aunt. She ran for it before anyone can say, “Well, since sister wants to go out, you can stay home.” Perhaps she was afraid that you both would not be allowed to leave. Ah, sisters.

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hakayama February 5, 2015 at 5:50 pm

@JD…Just wondering how close are you with Sis. And another, much more nasty question, if you had a chance to pick, would you have picked her as a sister?

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 7:35 pm

That was just one incident. People grow and change, and siblings who didn’t get along growing up often become friends, or at least civil, as adults. That’s what happened with me and my brother, so maybe it worked out that way for JD and her sister as well.

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JD February 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

Well, OP, you wanted to get to know this couple better. Now you do. I’d say you know them well enough, in fact, to seriously limit having such occasions with them again, because now you know they are rude.

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Raven February 5, 2015 at 11:23 am

Rude. I would not invite them again. We had a dinner guest do that to us last year, and he has not been invited back.

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ss February 5, 2015 at 11:30 am

Other than announcing their next plans, I don’t see what they did wrong. You invited them to dinner. They left at 9pm which is well after the usual dinner time frame. That is a reasonable time for a guest to leave. On a personal note, that is actually the time we tend to go to bed.

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hakayama February 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm

@ss: Please, ONE and a half___ hour for a “get to know each other” dinner? Maybe, just maybe, a dinner in a restaurant, later followed by moving to another venue to continue the conversation might serve the purpose…
But 1 1/2 hour for a dinner at someone’s home? And no chit chatting over dessert and coffee? Not to get too personal, or maybe to get personal, I cannot help but wonder how much time YOU “allocate” to special meals.
I imagine that since your bedtime is 9, then lunches might be more in your comfort zone.

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SS February 6, 2015 at 1:10 pm

I eat dinner normally at 6. I also work for a living so I can’t just take off for lunch plus most other people work as well so the only option would be dinner. I will try to eat later to enjoy dinner at someone’s house but it doesn’t change the fact that I start physically shutting down around 9 and cannot stay up all night. Since the host/ess has to get home from work and then make dinner, I recognize the need for dinner to start later but that doesn’t mean I am capable of staying out all night afterwards. If leaving at 9 is rude, then I guess the only acceptable thing is to never go out at all.

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Well, you still have weekends, so you could do brunch, or a daytime hike, picnic in the park, ski excursion in the winter, matinee movie, et cetera. Also, there are some ways around the “have to get home from work and then make dinner” problem–that’s why Crock-Pots were invented.

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hakayama February 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Thank you, Anonymous, for pitching in. When I worked full time and ran a household, I never could swing a proper “company” dinner on a week day, even with what some folks called “bankers’ hours”. Therefore I am most grateful that the deities had given us weekends…

kimmo February 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

I’m not sure I agree that having two events in one night is inherently rude. If the couple had stayed for dessert and coffee and a nice long conversation and without rushing off, left at 10pm to go to another event (assuming the other event wasn’t expecting them to show up earlier), would that still be rude? Or if they’re not dessert people and just wanted to get back on the road for the long drive home so left at 9pm?

I think there’s two separate issues here (setting aside the lateness):
1. The hosts prepared a full dinner, including dessert, which the guests cut short. Given that they arrived a half hour late, I think they could have extended their time and finished dessert and coffee with their hosts. Even if they hadn’t been late, staying for the complete meal and allotting enough time to do so is the correct (polite) thing to do, and in this, the guests erred.
2. The guests had a second event – if you’re not rushing or cutting off one event to get to another, I really don’t see the objection here. I don’t think dinner plans monopolize an entire evening. I realize that not many people would show up to a second event as late as well after dinner (whenever that might be), but at the age of 30, many of my friends may have a casual get-together at a bar, meeting at 10pm or later.

I realize people may disagree, but I’ll pose another hypothetical. If the hosts ate on the earlier side, say they invited guests over for dinner at 6pm, and the guests had another event at 10:30pm, would that still be rude? Leaving four hours for dinner seems more than enough, and in fact may be imposing on the hosts for that length!

Or if the hosts had invited their guests for a noon lunch, and the guests were going to meet other friends for a movie at 3pm or 4pm, would that be rude? If we recognize that lunch doesn’t take up the entire afternoon, then why would dinner take up an entire evening? (Unless of course the evening plans were – come over for dinner and a movie, or dinner and games, etc.)

So I really see the etiquette error in that the guests left before dinner was over, not that they had a second event (though in this instance, the second event is what caused them to leave before dinner was over).

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Dee February 5, 2015 at 2:05 pm

But your examples give 3 to 4 hours for a mealtime invitation; the OP’s guests only stayed one and a half hours. That’s a big difference. If you want to equate it with your examples then it would be the same as inviting a couple for a 6 pm dinner and having them rush off at 7:30. A classic eat and run.

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Tracy W February 5, 2015 at 2:18 pm

It’s one thing to have another event much later, it’s another thing to let your hosts know! The only circumstances I can see letting them know is okay is if you say when offered the invitation, e.g. “oh I’d love to come to lunch but I have an appointment at 3pm, would that disrupt your plans too much?” or maybe under some circumstances where you can invite your hosts along – I recall a few house parties ending up going clubbing at 1am.

Otherwise once you’ve done your social duty for four hours (shorter for lunch), say a charming goodbye and head out to the next party.

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NostalgicGal February 7, 2015 at 11:37 pm

One thing I am trying to sort… the couple left at 9? And are going to take a 6 year old to swim at that hour?????

A 6 year old should be going to bed about 7:30….. so where would be open that late to go swimming?

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Danielle February 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

I find it interesting that no one has commented on the fact that not only were these people late to dinner, they also mentioned that they were already running late to the party they were supposed to be attending. People that are perpetually late are showing those around them that their time is more important than their hosts’ and that everyone should just accept and be okay with the fact that they will come and go as it suits them. I’d never invite these people over again.

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Ms. Charming February 5, 2015 at 12:09 pm

You were not being sensitive and your guests were rude.
It boggles my mind that adults act like this. I cannot remember anyone in my parents’ generation behaving in this manner. Why would you treat a dinner invitation like you were just going to a restaurant?
If I were you, I’d just be polite and courteous to them, but refrain from inviting them to dinner. When I host dinner parties, I take a lot of pride in ensuring the food and wine are great and the atmosphere inviting. I’d be really put off if my guests left my dinner party to go to another party, especially since the conversation that follows dinner is usually the best part of the evening.

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Devin February 5, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Having dinner, versus hosting a dinner party indicates different events to me. Going to someone’s house for dinner involves socializing, dinner, but then departing after dessert/coffee. Dinner party sounds like a group event where everyone arrives before the meal for hors’ d’oeuvres and wine, dining, then stays to socialize and possibly after dinner drinks. Dinner I would allocate a few hours for, but a dinner party I would expect to last all evening.
I agree with you that the couple in question did act rudely, leaving before dinner was truly over, but I think had they been on time that 9 o’clock would have been an appropriate time to say the ought to go. (Saying they were already late for another event would have been the red flag for for me to know I wouldn’t be inviting them over for dinner again anytime soon).

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Marian Perera February 5, 2015 at 12:17 pm

It makes me wonder : about the people who schedule two dinners in one night, aren’t they full once they get to dinner #2?

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 3:05 pm

They didn’t say the second event was going to be another dinner; they said it was a birthday party. So, that could mean light appetizers and birthday cake at someone’s house, or something like a karaoke party where food isn’t a focal point. But, I’d just assume that people who schedule two dinners in one night find a way to make it work, by not eating much during the day, or eating lightly at the first dinner, so that they can eat *something* at the second. I don’t think it’s that rude if you either tell everyone upfront what’s happening, OR keep it completely secret, so the hosts of the first dinner don’t get offended that you’re leaving for a second dinner at someone else’s house, and the hosts of the second dinner don’t get offended that you just came from another dinner. I think that’d be hard to pull off, though, if both people/couples are in the same social circle (work, church, the neighbourhood, Saturday morning yoga class, whatever), because people talk.

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just4kicks February 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Reminds me of a “friend” I had in high school.
We were not part of the “in” crowd, which was fine by me, I hung out with the drama kids and always had a blast, even though I didn’t sing or act.
Anyway, this friend of mine (also not in drama crowd) would accept invitations from us, until someone she deemed more popular would invite her somewhere….She would drop me like a hot potato.
After two or three times that she backed out on me, I stopped inviting her altogether, but talked to her in school.
One Monday morning after hearing us talk at lunch about what a fun time we had at “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” Saturday night, she was really pissed and demanded to know WHY we hadn’t asked her?
Before I could say anything, one of the drama kids said “well….we figured you were keeping your options open, as USUAL, to go out with the popular kids…..guess they don’t want you around EITHER….”

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hakayama February 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm

@just: Did that “drama kid” go on to the diplomatic corps or into business? I also wonder if the blunt response, not involving profanities, is on an E-Hell approved list? 😉
[I’m also casually keeping track of the threads with no demands for the other side’s story.]

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just4kicks February 6, 2015 at 3:27 am

@hakayama: ….No, definitely not a gracious response by the drama kid.
This girl I’m speaking of would invite herself along, or sigh that she had nothing to do this weekend.
She always had an open invite to hang with us, but, if something “better” (head cheerleader, or class prez invited her out) came up, she would rudely blow us off.
The nasty comment came after months of her pulling this stuff on us, we were sick of “you all are good enough to hang out with, unless something better comes along”.
An example: our basketball team had one more game to play, and would be going to state finals if we won. We all planned to go together, and this girl said she would get her dad’s car and drive us.
“Great! Are you SURE?!?” ” Absolutely!!! ”
One of the other kids shared a car with his brother, and told his brother he could have the car, we all had a ride.
Fast forward to game time, and we are waiting for her to pick us up….She never showed.
Turns out a cheerleader called her last minute to say she needed a ride, so, she blew us off.
No call, nothing. That was the final straw.
Ah….high school drama….nothing like it! 🙂

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Cathy February 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm

I had a “friend” that did the same thing…we eventually became “not friends”. LOL I found some new friends who were a little more interested in my company.

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imc February 5, 2015 at 7:35 pm

These kind of people never grow out of it.
You can usually recognize them early on by their most common line: “Oh, nice. Who’s all gonna be there?” Their participation in the event will depend entirely on your answer.

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Kimstu February 7, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Miss Manners advises responding to that bet-hedging type of “Who’s going to be there?” question with a sweet “Why, you’re the first person I thought of.”

Demanding to know the guest list, the menu, or any other secondary details of an event before you’ll deign to let the host know whether you’ll accept their invitation is RUDE.

If you have some kind of restrictions on your socializing that make issues like guest lists or menus crucial for you, the proper way to get that across is to DECLINE regretfully with an explanation: “Oh, I’m so sorry, I can’t go anywhere where there will be small children because of my immune system issues”, “Oh thank you, I would have loved to but I have a fermentation allergy and can’t even be in the same room with an opened bottle of wine”, etc.

Then if the host says “No problem, there won’t be any kids there!” or “Oh that’s okay, we never serve wine at our house!” or whatever, the guest can easily change their regretful refusal into a delighted acceptance. Everybody’s happy, and the host isn’t left feeling as if they had to pass a test to see if their invitation was good enough.

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cattlekid February 5, 2015 at 1:11 pm

So we had a somewhat similar situation last fall. In DH’s culture, it is expected that you celebrate your patron saint by hosting what amounts to an open house dinner party at your home. It’s the same day every year. Many people can share the same day. For example, May 6th is a very popular patron saint day and we can be invited to as many as three or four homes on that day.

How it works is that the hosts invite people in shifts. So you may have room to host 12-16 people at a time. So you know who can come early and who can come later and work it that way. If you are the guest and you have several places to be in one day, it is courtesy to let your host know that when you are invited so they can slot you in as necessary and they know that you are an “eat and run”. It’s all about seating management. 🙂

Normally, this all works very well. Last year, not so much. We are getting to the point in our lives where a lot of our standing guests have children from infant through middle school. Therefore, they have a lot going on during a normal weekend. We called all of these folks with the standard two week notice and they all said that they would attend and we planned seating and food accordingly.

Well, none of them showed up. We had a couple of hundred dollars worth of catered food go to waste as we froze what we could and the rest had to be tossed. During the subsequent few days, we talked to most of them and they all said “Oh, we were going to be there but either a) something came up or b) we just had too much to do that day.”

I would have been 100% fine if they said, “you know what, we would love to attend but this year is going to be too busy” when we first invited them. We would have been more than happy to keep them on the list for the next year in hopes that they would be able to attend in the future. Now, we are thinking that most of these individuals will be crossed off the list for this year in favor of those who we know will attend. Culture-wise, we should continue to invite these individuals but I can no longer spend the time and money to prepare my home and a meal for them if we can’t count on their attendance.

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NicoleK February 5, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Wow. Thats pretty bad. Sorry about that.

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Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 3:11 pm

If a lot of people share the same patron saint, do any of these people ever get together and decide to host one big gathering, like maybe in a park or something, so that people don’t have to pick and choose and run around to multiple events all celebrating the same thing?

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Cattlekid February 6, 2015 at 8:14 am

It’s a very formal dinner, so hosting in a park would not work for this particular situation. But for years, my husband’s family has talked about hosting in a church hall so that we could all see each other and share,the work instead of fracturing off for this day. a Every time we have the discussion, it ends up devolving into a disagreement about where to have it and how the costs would be spilt so the status quo just reigns from year to year.

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hakayama February 6, 2015 at 3:03 pm

That’s a totally different concept/practice, as in fairs traditionally taking place on the particular saint’s day.* The name day parties are “regular” social events, not veritable community affairs.
* Little Italy in NYC used to have a big street event for San Genaro’s.

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Tracy W February 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm

The couple were rude. But if you want to continue developing the friendship, maybe try being more specific in future invites, e.g. “we’d love if you can come on Saturday evening, say 7pm to 11pm? We can have a really long chat and hubby will put something on the BBQ.”

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vjcole February 5, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I’m sure these incredibly rude people knew well in advance that they had a birthday party to attend. The polite thing to do – as Admin basically said – would be to respond to the original dinner invitation with “We have another commitment later that evening and would not be able to spend time with you after dinner. Could we perhaps schedule this for another evening when we would be able to spend time socializing?” I agree with Admin – I would be reluctant to invite these people to anything again, unless it was something like a barbecue with a group of people.

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Kimstu February 5, 2015 at 6:25 pm

‘The polite thing to do – as Admin basically said – would be to respond to the original dinner invitation with “We have another commitment later that evening and would not be able to spend time with you after dinner. Could we perhaps schedule this for another evening when we would be able to spend time socializing?” ‘

“Could we perhaps schedule this for another evening” is not a sufficiently polite response to a would-be host who has graciously offered their hospitality. It’s not appropriate for a guest who’s declining an invitation to press for the invitation to be re-issued in a form that would suit their own schedule better.

The most a guest may do is express their own sorrow and disappointment at having to decline the invitation due to a prior engagement, so the hosts know they would have accepted if they could. They could vaguely suggest “getting together some other time instead”, but WITHOUT specifying or suggesting that the get-together should still involve the would-be hosts’ making dinner for them.

“Oh, how kind of you, I’m so sorry that I won’t be able to make it then because of a prior commitment, I would really have loved to!” is fine. “Could we perhaps schedule this for another evening” is rather entitled and borderline rude.

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Tracy W February 6, 2015 at 4:20 am

The invited guest could add “Would you like to come around to ours for dinner/lunch/coffee on [insert day]?” to emphasis that they do want to get together with the would-be hosts.

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Goldie February 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Yes, I agree. Just saying “could we schedule for another evening?” would indeed sound like the guests are inviting themselves over. But not saying anything at all, other than “we can’t make it” might be interpreted, as someone said in a comment below, as the guest not wanting to continue this friendship at all. Yes the best response, imo, would indeed be to extend their own invitation.

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Samantha C February 6, 2015 at 8:16 am

Is it really? I read this site and I really guess I have no manners whatsoever.

If I invite someone to do a thing where I go to effort at their expense, it’s because I want to put that effort in. I can’t begin to imagine why it would be rude for the guest to say “I can’t that day, what about this one?” It would never make me feel like they were entitled – I’d just offered to do the thing for them! If anything, having it flatly turned down would make me wonder if they didn’t want me to do the thing – if they thought the way they do the thing is so much better that they’d rather put in the effort than let me treat them.

It would only be “entitled” to assume a host who hasn’t offered is willing to host. “Let’s go to Restaurant Friday.” “I don’t like Restaurant, why don’t you just make dinner for me?” Would be rude. “I’m no good for Friday, what about Saturday?” or “I don’t like Restaurant, why don’t we go to Diner instead?” are not rude answers. I don’t see why they’d magically become rude if it were an event I’d already told the guest I wanted to spend time and money on them for.

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Kimstu February 7, 2015 at 12:57 pm

@Samantha C, invitations are not negotiations. It’s nice if you personally don’t mind your guests making the rather selfish assumption that your hospitality schedule is flexible to suit their convenience, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay behavior on their part.

If a would-be host invites you for a specific date and time, it is rude to take it for granted that they want you so bad they’re willing to rearrange their own schedule to get your legs under their table.

Your only option in declining a specific invitation due to a previous engagement is to express your regrets and gratitude warmly, and leave it up to the host to decide if it’s worth their trouble to make you another offer.

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Kimstu February 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Oh, and: All of this only applies to actual *invitations*, not cooperatively determined what-say-we-do-something-together type of plans.

If you and your friends are in the habit of making casual plans to go out to restaurants together, and one of them says “Hey, let’s go to Restaurant Friday”, that person is not the host, and they have not issued an invitation. So there’s nothing wrong with other people trying to renegotiate the details if they want to: it’s a jointly planned outing, not an offer of hospitality.

But if one person says to another “Would you be my guest for dinner at Restaurant on Friday at 7?”, then you bet your sweet bippy that responses like “I’m no good for Friday, what about Saturday?” or “I don’t like Restaurant, why don’t we go to Diner instead?” most definitely ARE rude answers.

kingsrings February 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm

I completely agree. The correct response would be to explain that you couldn’t make it due to whatever reason and then say you hope you can get together with them another time.

MM February 9, 2015 at 8:06 am

I’m not sure I agree. If I want to invite someone over, it’s because I want to see them. If they suggest a day I can’t make, then I’ll suggest something else. But if I invited someone over who said they can’t come and “maybe some other time” I might feel like they were brushing me off. I always thought “maybe some other time” was code for “I don’t want to see you but I’m too polite to say so and I have zero intention of making another date.” I’d rather someone suggest another day.

Coralreef February 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Your guests were rude. I despise the grab and run thing. They either have to learn to say no to invites they cannot honour or they need to better budget their time.

Something similar happened to me before we had children. I invited a coworker with whom I had a good relation for dinner. She accepted, along with her DH, and we prepared a nice fondue, appetizers, dessert, fancy drinks, etc. I told her to come around 18h00. At 17h50 she knocked on the door, gave me a hostess gift and said she couldn’t come, turned tail and left. o_O

We were not pleased, at all. She didn’t receive any other invite and our work rel@tionship cooled considerably. I never knew why she stood us up like that and I was not really interested in hunting down what her explaination was.

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Huh February 5, 2015 at 3:36 pm

I have a question – how long ARE you supposed to stay for an invitation like this? Someone said for dinner that it is supposed to be what you’re doing for the evening. How do you qualify how long the “evening” is? What about a lunch invitation? How long do you stay then? I’m genuinely curious/unsure.

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Kheldarson February 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Lunch’s are generally 1-2 hours, dinner 3-4, from my understanding. But it’s also based on who you’re inviting and what you’re doing. Like, when I invite friends for dinner, it’s usually accompanied with our mutually favorite show and games. So we might be hanging out for 5-7 hours.

As a guest, I personally go with 3-4 hours for dinner or 10 pm (on weeknights), whichever is first.

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Goldie February 6, 2015 at 10:15 am

This is a good question – I recall many stories on this site about dinner guests who overstay their welcome. I for one would like to know what the rules are.

That said, I think if OP’s guests had said “it’s past our bedtime”, “we’re not feeling well”, anything other than “we have a second party to go to”, it would’ve been more or less fine with the OP that they didn’t stay long enough. But the reason that they gave is like a slap in the face. “Thanks for the food, we’re off to the COOL party now, ta-da!”

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Cathy February 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm

I hear you….we have had the same type of thing happen. It really bugs me. Two years ago I had family members over for Christmas eve dinner and once we were done eating they all took off to go bar-hopping. It hurt my feelings a bit because it’s something they could do any time. I’ve had it happen other times too. I wish people would slow down and not try to do everything in one day.

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Cat February 5, 2015 at 4:53 pm

I am finding this to be a growing problem. I’ll have plans to meet a friend for lunch. She’ll call a few minutes ahead of our scheduled time to meet to tell me she’s “not in the mood”. I made plans with another friend to do something together and she cancelled at the last minute, “I think I’d rather do some housework.” Someone is invited to dinner, never calls and never shows up.
Some how things have evolved into “me first” when it comes to making plans. I will make plans with you, but I have no obligation to keep to those plans if I change my mind for any reason. If I change my mind, I change my mind.
The one that still boggles my mind is when we had a new administrator assigned to our very small, adult education center. I bought chicken lunches for everyone in the office to welcome him. He told us when he’d be arriving. We waited for a half-hour and then began to eat as the food was getting cold. He waltzed in an hour late, asked, “Where’s my chicken dinner?”, took it, and left without a word. He wondered why we ignored Bosses Day.
I find this behavior to be very rude. At least your dinner guests did not ask you to box their share of the cheesecake for them to take with them.

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

I’d put at least some of the blame on our newfound ability to communicate instantly, and with less “connection” than we once did. I mean, cell phones have been out for a while, and that was bad enough, but now that we have smartphones, we have the ability to text, or check our Facebook in the middle of a shopping mall (although I don’t really use my phone for Facebook, because it’s a bit slow). So, before cell phones, people made firm plans in advance to meet at a certain place at a certain time, and those plans would usually be honoured, barring an emergency or something, in which case they’d explain and apologize as soon as possible, even if that was the next day. With cell phones, people thought calling on the way to say, “I’m running an hour late because I left the house too late,” was as good as being on time. Now all it takes is a text to say, “Sorry, don’t feel like it,” and the person who gets upset about (who’s usually on time for things) that is often made to feel like they’re the rude and uptight one. I’m an on-time person, and I’ve had friendships end because chronically late/last-minute cancellers think I’m rude for wanting to stick with the original plan, and unreasonable for getting upset when I’m in the midst of honouring said plan, and they’re not there. The problem is, even though we have the ability to change plans on the fly, it still doesn’t change the fact that movies, plays, concerts, restaurant reservations, and other scheduled events still start on time, food still costs money, and time to prepare, parties don’t organize themselves, and the other person/people on the other end of that instant communication will still be upset about having their plans messed up, and not getting to see their friend.

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

P.S., I think I phrased this badly, but with text messaging, you (general you) don’t have to hear the disappointment in the other person’s voice when you cancel/announce you’re going to be significantly late on the fly, and for some reason, it’s considered rude to say “I’m upset with you” via text–it’s better to be said in person, but a lot of friends don’t see each other in person a lot anymore, so what usually happens is, after X number of last-minute cancellations/unilateral plan changes at the last minute, the friendship just dies a natural death.

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Ellen February 5, 2015 at 6:26 pm

I invited two couples, including a couple that was new to town, to our home to celebrate my husband’s BIG birthday (you know, one of those round number life events). I spent a small fortune for a really elegant and delicious meal. Our first set of friends arrived and then we waited and waited…I finally called the missing couple and was told that “they weren’t feeling it” that evening and had decided to stay home. Six years later, I still feel the sting right around DH’s birthday.

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hakayama February 6, 2015 at 9:06 am

@Ellen: Thank your friends for enriching my vocabulary with “we aren’t [weren’t] feeling it”. PRECIOUS!
It strongly reminds me of a first grader’s response to the query about him not doing the homework: I did not feel like it. I guess inventive lies come with age…chronological and/or mental.

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Goldie February 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

Why do people do this? I dated a guy once that used to cancel plans at the last minute because “he wasn’t in the mood”. He did that to me a few times, but I finally decided to stop dating him after he told me he’d canceled his weekend plans to go visit his parents out of state, because, just as he was about to leave, he realized he “wasn’t feeling it”. I figured I didn’t want all of my life’s plans to revolve around whatever he would happen to be feeling at the moment, and pulled the plug. I was taught that commitment is commitment. Unless you have a valid reason to cancel last minute, like a contagious disease, you honor the commitment, no matter what your feelings.

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Jared Bascomb February 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm

I don’t want to excuse the guests’ little dine-n-dash, and I’d be miffed if it happened to me — especially at what is essentially a “getting to know you” event — but I’d cut them just the tiniest of breaks this time.

You can call me overly-accommodating, but I believe in second chances. You don’t really know these people, and this could be a one-off for people who are normally punctual and reliable. Once, no matter how bad, is not a pattern. I’d give them a second chance to prove themselves. Invite them again for a more casual dining experience — one where you don’t invest quite as much, financially and emotionally — and see what happens. If the same thing happens, you’ve established a pattern and you can justifiably cross them off your guest list. If everything goes well — they arrive on time, stay and socialize — then you may have some new friends.

BTW, my own experience: We invited a friend and his BF over for a home-cooked Chinese dinner: hot-and-sour soup, appetizers, and four (or five) main dishes. All cooking (except the appetizer) was done and keeping warm. I’d set arrival time for 1/2 hour before serving time to allow for socializing, drinks, and cooking the appetizer.

Arrival time came and went. So did serving time. Another half-hour passed. We knew our friend was notorious for being late, but this was ridiculous. I know — we should have called, but at that point I preferred seething and waiting (yes, I’m a bit passive-aggressive). They finally showed up, 90 minutes late and apologetic as all get-out. But still . . . dinner was a tad icy. We later found out from our friend that BF had chosen that evening to pick a fight. (We inferred that they had also spent some time “making up” afterward.) Not that this excused their extreme rudeness, but chronically late as our friend was, this was definitely a one-off.

Anyway, we didn’t write our friend off. He later broke up with BF (very nasty break-up), invited us to dinners/parties at his house far more often than we’ve hosted, and gave us major roles in his wedding to his DH.

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Rosie B. February 5, 2015 at 8:12 pm

No, you’re not wrong to think the couple was being rude! If you double-book yourself, you should inform both hosts of your plans so they’re not hurt if you have to arrive late or leave early. They should have said something like, “We’d love to come over but we have another event that night. Could we have an early dinner or reschedule?”

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B February 6, 2015 at 5:09 am

“Could we have an early dinner or reschedule?”

Kimstu has already explained why this is rude. The first one assumes I’m running a restaurant, the second that I will automatically reissue the invitation to suit the guest.

If the invitation is for an 8pm dinner on 7 May, that’s what it is. If the guest cannot come, they regretfully decline. The onus is on me to suggest another date or time, *if I want to*, rather than the guest pressing me to do all that work at a more convenient time for them.

I don’t know why, but I’d actually not mind being asked for another date, where I would be *really* annoyed at being asked to cook for an earlier time. There’s something so insulting about that to me. “Oh, cook for me earlier!” As if I have nothing else to do but serve dinner when they want it. I’d think that guest was a brat.

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 10:07 am

I don’t know. There’s “bratty,” and then there’s “communication between friends.” Here’s the scenario I’m picturing you describing:

OP: “Hey Friend, Husband and I were wondering if you and your partner would like to come over for dinner on Saturday at 7.”

New Friend: “Oh, I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.”

OP figures that New Friend isn’t interested in pursuing the friendship further, and lets it drop.

Now, here’s the same scenario, except the friend says why she and her husband can’t come on that day at that time.

OP: “Hey Friend, Husband and I were wondering if you and your partner would like to come over for dinner on Saturday at 7.”

New Friend: “We’d like to, but we’re invited to a birthday party at 9 that night. Could we maybe do it another time?”

OP: “Okay, how about we move dinner to 6 instead of 7?”

New Friend: “That’ll work. See you then.”

OR:

OP: “We can’t do that, because we have another event that day that won’t give us time to have dinner ready by 6. How about next Saturday?”

New Friend: “That’ll work. See you then.”

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A different Tracy February 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm

I agree. I don’t see anything wrong with this (though I probably wouldn’t say “next Saturday,” I’d ask if we could do it a different time). It indicates you *are* interested in their offer, whereas “I’m sorry, won’t work for us” can (and often should) be interpreted as “I don’t want to join you for dinner.”

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Anonymous February 6, 2015 at 8:08 pm

No, I meant the people issuing the invitation could suggest a different day. It doesn’t even have to be the only option; it can be the beginning of a discussion. I mean, we say “don’t JADE” (Justify, Apologize, Defend, Explain) when dealing with unreasonable or toxic people (or people who are unreasonable about one specific thing–think Monica from Friends with her cleaning obsession, and hyper-competitive personality), but the flip side of that is, when you’re dealing with people you DO like, JADE-ing (or, open communication) is a good thing. I mean, it could be as simple as, “Friday evening won’t work, because we have to get up early to drive Sally to the hockey rink on Saturday mornings, but we could do brunch with the whole family after hockey, or an adult dinner that night instead.” Then you go into logistics–brunch could be at a restaurant, the rescheduled dinner could be at either couple’s house, and ideally, reciprocation is expected, so it’ll hopefully even out in the end.

Kimstu February 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Sounds like New Friend simply doesn’t know the correct way to regretfully decline a invitation due to a previous engagement.

You don’t say “Oh, I’m sorry, that won’t be possible” and leave it at that. You say, for instance, “Oh, how kind of you, we would really have loved to, but we won’t be free then, I wish we were! Thank you very much, I’m so disappointed we can’t make it.”

Then if OP doesn’t offer another invitation, New Friend can get in touch later with an invitation of their own. That’s how you convey that you’re interested in pursuing a friendship further even if you can’t accept a particular invitation.

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Miss_Calliope February 6, 2015 at 6:05 am

Looks like this will probably be an unpopular opinion, and perhaps a regional thing. Were this a one-off situation, I might interpret it differently, but given that the OP noted that this has happened several times, I wonder if there’s some kind of misunderstanding about the intent of these events, and if the hosts’ communication could be clearer.

The guests in question confirmed that they enjoyed steaks and presumably there was some discussion of grilling some steaks for dinner. From my Australian perspective, I think I would interpret such an invitation as a “Let’s chuck a coupla steaks on the barbie” kind of event – certainly not the kind that would call for fine china and several options of cheesecake for dessert. Perhaps the first indication the guests had of the hosts’ intention of a formal dinner was upon arrival and seeing the table laid out as such. At which point, their decision to attend another event after the dinner (which they could have justifiably expected not to extend beyond 9pm) suddenly became problematic. Asking for a tour of the house, after said steaks had been enjoyed was probably their way of finishing the visit (We’ve enjoyed good food and good company, now let’s do this nice thing together and then we can be out of your hair…)

I am (and most of my friends are) a very busy person, and will often arrange to meet with several different groups of friends in one day. I know my own schedule and ensure that the type of gathering is appropriate to the amount of time allocated. I’ll often agree to meet with someone but let them know, for instance “I’ll be in this area after whatever finishes at 4 and having to be elsewhere at 6, so let’s catch up”. In this case, the friends generally have a similar schedule of their own, so it makes us all happy to be able to share whatever time we can, while respecting other commitments we each have. Sometimes we know the details of other commitments, sometimes we don’t – what one does before or after a ‘booking’ (so to speak) is really nobody else’s business.

So I think the problem here may be in assuming/interpreting the intent of the evening differently. Hosts assume they are entertaining for the entire evening; guests assume they are having a nice little catch-up with some new friends, which fits neatly before they need to be at the birthday party. The reality doesn’t become evident to either couple until the night in question, when it is really too late to fix.

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Aje February 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm

I guess it depends on who you’re with and how you socialize. I know very few people from my age bracket who have sit down dinners with the expectation of sitting and lingering over deserts. Normally we play board games and things afterwards.

I’ve left during board games a lot because some of the games are particularly… dirty…. like cards against humanity. So sometimes when I’m invited I do “eat and run” (although I don’t think of it as running because I still socialize and talk with everyone, I just bow out before board games).

The only time I’ve ever been invited to dinner by someone by age where we sat at a table and not with a plate in front of the TV was with a friend I met who asked me to help him with a project and offered to cook me dinner to compensate since I’d be coming right from work. It turned out to be a date! Therein followed a conversation with me saying “I don’t consider it a date unless you ask me for a date… and don’t trick me into it by asking for help!”

Since then I’m not crazy about sit down dinners.

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hakayama February 6, 2015 at 6:16 pm

@Aje: OP’s dinner was of the “get better acquainted” type, where guests and hosts get to yak up a storm, and perhaps even learn all about the favorite forms of entertainment, games included. A bit like your sneak’s dinner date. 😉 It’s just too bad you did not much care for the guy… And one must gather that there were no games following THAT dinner, eh?
I wonder if you had family holiday celebrations that did involve some form of a sit down meal…
If not, it is truly a pity, whether it’s a “no” to dinners or family. Best wishes.

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kingsrings February 6, 2015 at 8:36 pm

This used to happen frequently with a social group at a church I used to belong to. Most of the group members were polite guests who stayed at social events until the end, but there were a couple of them who frequently “double-booked” and were out the door as soon as our meal was complete. Now most of these events were potluck or pizza get-togethers, but to me it was still rude as it felt like they were essentially using our event as a place to get a meal before they went to the event that they really wanted to socialize at. One gal in particular always left to go night clubbing with her friends and was never shy about hiding that fact.

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Enna February 7, 2015 at 6:07 am

They should have been upfront sooner with the OP about the birthday party. They must have known roughly the date of this person’s birthday was going to be. If it was a double booking they should have been honest before hand. I am sure if they had conctated the OP and said “sorry we’ve managed to double book”, she and her husband would have been than happy to rearrange.

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Jaxsue February 7, 2015 at 12:08 pm

In a recent Portlandia sketch, the characters were deciding how best to attend multiple July 4th BBQ’s. It included the “french exit,” which meant that they simply disappeared. It was taken to a ridiculous level, of course, but I was reminded of this thread!

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The OP of this post February 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

To clarify, we invited this couple for an evening at our home, which included dinner. We also talked about each of us looking at wedding pictures (we both just got married), honeymoon pictures and talking business as well (we work in the same industry). None of this happened because they were rushed to leave. I could tell they were in a rush the whole evening and attributed it to nerves. Now I know they were thinking about the birthday party they had to get to. It’s disappointing for sure but I see who they are and I believe them. Moving on to more considerate friends!

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Pax February 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Hello Admin,

I’ve enjoyed your site for some time now and I am always impressed with your advice! I had a quick question of protocol needing to be answered and I wondered if you could assist:

I have Celiac Disease, and I was diagnosed before the Gluten-Free diet became popular. Eating out or having dinner at friends’ homes was always difficult before, and seems to be even more so now that the GF diet is seen as a fad, when in reality for me is a necessity. What is the protocol when being invited over for a meal by a new friend when one has a restrict diet due to a serious allergy? I feel awkward when I have to mention my restrictions and the added stress it may put on a new friend. I also don’t want to be silent and ignore and food served which I cannot eat. Could you advise on a tactful method to execute in this situation? I’ve usually tried to preempt the invite by inviting others over first, but it hasn’t always been advantageous.

Thank you again for any advice!

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Pax February 12, 2015 at 12:25 pm

If any posters are interested in answering as well, I’d be happy to take any and all recommendations.

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admin February 20, 2015 at 8:05 am

I just recently invited our new neighbors over for dinner upon which I was promptly informed that the husband has severe Celiac’s Disease. “No problem”, I said. “I’ll email you the menu and its ingredients for your perusal and that evening I’ll make sure to use clean dishes, utensils and serving bowls straight from the dishwasher so there is no possible cross contamination.”

As the hostess I want to know dietary restrictions well in advance as opposed to just before I serve it. It doesn’t faze me in the least to work around someone’s limitations. I tend to view the building of a relationship as far more important than an expectation that a menu is not open for revision for any reason.

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Kate March 9, 2015 at 4:32 am

My mum has coeliac (as do several of my family members). She usually accepts the invite, mentions having coeliac then says “here are some things I’m fine to eat”, and mentions some simple foods that would be appropriate for the situation. Eg if it’s a casual BBQ, she can have gluten-free sausages and salad without dressing. She also offers to BYO for most occasions as she knows what is and isn’t gluten free.

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MPW1971 February 13, 2015 at 9:00 pm

This has happened many times in my family – there are a few birthdays between April and June which include my father, me, my cousin, and my uncle, plus Easter, a holiday long weekend, and father’s day. That uncle had three more birthdays from his in-laws side, and the family was close enough that birthdays for children and siblings were always celebrated with at least a casual get-together for a drink. People made the best of visiting everyone when the celebration birthdays shifted because of the holidays, long weekends (where people went away), and there were multiple events on the same day. It was never hidden with an excuse of being tired or an early bedtime, or needing to take a child swimming – it was pretty much up front.
This is completely different from two separate occasions where my best friends were getting married. On both occasions, each happy couple had one guest who made a token appearance at the reception, because they were going to a party. In one case, it was the groom’s good friend from school – they carpooled and were lab partners – he showed up for 5 minutes and went to a keg party. In the other, the bride’s friend flew across the country, stayed for dinner and went to a rave. I’d expect better even from people in their 20’s, this was just plain wrong.

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SJ February 18, 2015 at 4:55 am

Obviously, someone is allowed to leave a party or event at any time they want to.

Even if it cuts the dinner a bit short, would it have been more polite (not most polite, just more) to say thank you for a great night and not tell them that they were heading to another social event?

As a hostess, I might prefer a short visit without the explanation.

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