Author Topic: Reciprocation of Hospitality  (Read 2775 times)

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YoginiSaysYes

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Reciprocation of Hospitality
« on: April 10, 2014, 12:10:01 PM »
My mother is an incredible hostess, and always throws a party on the 4th of July. The fireworks in my hometown are visible from my parents' balcony, and as I said my mom is the BEST, so it's a well-attended party every year.

Last night my mom and I were chatting on the phone and she is already thinking way ahead to July and her guest list. She's stuck on an issue I thought you could all provide insight on.

There are a number of people (I will give examples below) who come to the party every year, but have never extended a social invitation to my parents at any other time of year. So they have in essence accepted my parents' hospitality 3, 4, even 5 times in a row, but have never reciprocated in any way. (I will say that my mom provides dinner but these guests always bring an appetizer, dessert, or beverage, so they aren't TOTAL moochers.)

These are people my mom doesn't want to invite anymore, but she knows they look forward to the party and she doesn't want to be rude or reactionary. My advice was that if she won't get any positive benefit out of having them at the party, then not to invite them, plain and simple---and she said she would get positive benefit, because she knows they have so much fun. Quintessential hostess!

Example 1: A woman who provides my mom a beauty service every 6 weeks or so, and her husband. I cut this woman a little slack because the service provider/client relationship can be tricky.

Example 2: A couple that my father used to work with, who my parents used to have regular dinner dates with, but haven't in a few years. The last couple of years they haven't RSVP'd and have either just shown up, or never responded at all and never appeared. I think there is NO problem with not inviting them.

Example 3: Our next door neighbor, who has never even invited my parents over for coffee. They haven't seen the inside of her house. But obviously, she'll KNOW if the party happens and she wasn't invited...

Example 4: (The trickiest one.) There is a couple who are good friends of one of my mom's best friends, D. She started inviting them a number of years ago so her friend would know more people at the party. Last year, she sent out the invitations, and D ended up not being able to come---but the couple came anyway. Which is fine, obviously, they were invited! But my parents have literally never seen them outside of their own home. This year I guess it's up in the air whether D will be in town for the holiday, and my mom doesn't want to invite the couple unless D will be there too---but she worries she's being petty.

So my questions, after all that jibberish:

1) Is it rude to repeatedly accept invites to another person's home if you have no intention of reciprocating? (And by reciprocating I really mean something as simple as inviting my parents to meet them for dinner, or a movie, or SOMETHING).

2) Is it rude (or petty) not to invite people to an annual party if they are regulars on the guest list?

3) If my mom does choose not to invite these people, how should she respond if they inquire about the party? (Specifically thinking of Example 1 here, if my mom has an appt with her anytime in June she'll no doubt ask about the party.)

Thoughts?

mime

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2014, 01:44:50 PM »
Example 1 - The beauty service provider. I don't see a need for the professional relationship to include social invitations. I think your mom can remove her from the invitations and if the woman asks about it, she can just say that she had to start scaling back a bit. If my relationship with a host was through my work, I would already view myself as "B-list" and removing me when cutting back would be normal.

Example 2 - The couple that has been a bit unresponsive and sporatic. It sounds like they're already kind of separating themselves, whether by choice or by other commitments. I say leave them off the invitation list and they may not even notice.

Example 3 - The neighbor. I personally think this is the trickiest one. I'd keep inviting them, but my response is definitely tainted by my history of parties for the 4th being neighborly things just as much as family or other relations events. Are other neighbors invited to your mom's party?

Example 4 - Friend of a friend. I think a decision has to be made that your mom will either invite them or not, and do so without being contingent on D being there. I'd drop them from the list since they have not developed a direct relationship with your mom. Again, her explanation, if needed, is that she had to scale back a bit.

As for the questions:
1 - Is it rude to repeatedly accept invites without reciprocating?

I don't think it is. I think a host should extend an invitation without the expectation of getting something else in return.
It can be a sign that the guest is not interested in cultivating a relationship with the host, though. The natural evolution of that would be that they eventually are downsized off the list.

2 - Is it rude to remove a regular from the guest list?

Again, I don't think so. relationships evolve and guest lists follow that development. If my brother hosted an annual party and quit inviting me, I'd be disappointed and wonder what on earth I did to offend him so badly, but if a host removed me from her list after a few years of *only* seeing me at her annual party, it would make perfect sense in my mind, and I wouldn't think it rude.

3 - How to respond to inquiries?

I think I'd just say something to the effect of cutting back on the size. It sounds like the people on the potentially-uninvited list are not very close to your mom, so they really shouldn't be surprised if they are removed. I'd say if they were surprised or even considered your mom rude, given the relationships you described, I'd think they would need to get a little perspective...

Mikayla

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2014, 02:03:09 PM »
1) Is it rude to repeatedly accept invites to another person's home if you have no intention of reciprocating? (And by reciprocating I really mean something as simple as inviting my parents to meet them for dinner, or a movie, or SOMETHING).    Not necessarily.  I've been both the guest and the hostess in repeated situations where there wasn't much expectation of reciprocation.

2) Is it rude (or petty) not to invite people to an annual party if they are regulars on the guest list?
Not at all rude.  Each event is separate.

3) If my mom does choose not to invite these people, how should she respond if they inquire about the party? (Specifically thinking of Example 1 here, if my mom has an appt with her anytime in June she'll no doubt ask about the party.)  If someone inquires, I wouldn't call it rude, but I think it's pretty clueless because of the potential to put someone in an awkward spot.  I'd just say we're downsizing it and it will only be family and a few closest friends.

JenJay

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2014, 02:08:06 PM »
I think it's fine to not invite anyone they don't see socially at any other time of the year. If they run into the person later and person says "Didn't you have a 4th of July party this year?" it'll be awkward, but your Mom can come up with a good response that indicates how she feels. Something like "We did, in all honesty I didn't think you'd be interested since we don't see you other than the party." Or "We did but, truthfully, the party was getting too big for us so we trimmed it back to family and close friends we socialize with throughout the year.", etc.

Deetee

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2014, 02:22:46 PM »
1 - Is it rude to repeatedly accept invites without reciprocating?

Yes, it is. But (and this is important) reciprocity is not expected to be equal. I have issued way more invites and hosted way more parties than most of my friends. A large party is an odd one to reciprocate. If I was invited to a large party, I feel that by bringing myself [and chatting to people who seem on their own-see that tie in to the other thread] and some nice drinks or appetizers, I have made my contribution.

Now, if I also hosted a large party, I would be remiss in not inviting people who have invited me to their large party. But I don't feel that a big party puts the same onus on a guest to reciprocate as a dinner party for example

2 - Is it rude to remove a regular from the guest list?

No, but it is tricky. It is a rejection. It is especially tricky for an annual party like this where people will assume that they have plans for that day well before the invite. (This is not an unreasonable assumption after several years of issued invites) I mention this because after 3-4 years of having a party (same time/same place) I know that if I planned to cancel it, I would feel a  obligation to let people know in advance-maybe not a mass email, but I would mention it.


3 - How to respond to inquiries?

Quote
I think I'd just say something to the effect of cutting back on the size. It sounds like the people on the potentially-uninvited list are not very close to your mom, so they really shouldn't be surprised if they are removed. I'd say if they were surprised or even considered your mom rude, given the relationships you described, I'd think they would need to get a little perspective...

I agree with the above


If it was me (which it isn't)

1) I would keep the hairdresser. The party is a bit like a bonus tip. She would know if she wasn't invited and I would want to keep that warm relationship. I wouldn't expect her to reciprocate.

3)I would keep the neighbour. (Unless they were highly social and had parties that I wasn't invited to) I just want good relationships with the neighbours. I want them to like me and know me and keep an eye out for the the property when I'm away and all that good neighbourly stuff.

2) I would drop the old work friends. This is a friendship that is getting more distant. Not only have they not reciprocated, they don't RSVP or treat the invitation with respect.

4) I agree that is the hardest. I would do an A list-B list thing. I would check with the friend if she was planning on coming (before invites go out). If she was, I would add them. If not, I would leave them off.

I think that's pretty much what you advised. But if I were to give advice to your mom I would tell her to throw the party she wants to and invite the people she wants. Which is pretty much what you said. If she wants them there, I wouldn't even start to worry about reciprocity.

doodlemor

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2014, 02:28:01 PM »
....... family and close friends we socialize with throughout the year.......

Miss Manners used some similar words in response to someone who wanted to change her guest list for her annual Christmas party, which also had the same problems as your mom's July 4th party, OP.  She said that if anyone asked about an invitation, that the hostess could reply that they were only able to invite people that they saw frequently during the year.

In your mother's place I would invite the beauty service person unless I were unhappy with her service in general and ready to change.  It's sometimes hard to find the right fit in that area.

The #2 couple can be excluded - they don't seem interested or polite.

The neighbor I'd include because it is wise to be on good terms with neighbors.

For #4 your mom should consider whether she ever wants to invite them again.  If she does want to, she might feel awkward about the omission this year. 

It does seem a bit rude to accept invitations without reciprocity.  Perhaps these people feel that they are doing their part by bringing a contribution to the dinner.  Since Miss Manners feels that it is OK to cull the guest list, I don't think that your mother should hesitate to do so.  I thought that Miss Manners suggested reply to anyone who asked about an invitation was a gentle rebuke.  It would let the offending guest realize the problem, but leave the way for them to reciprocate and get back on the guest list.

TootsNYC

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2014, 03:18:38 PM »
I think it's rude to accept invitations without reciprocity. Especially *repeatedly*.



But I'm w/ Deetee--the reciprocity doesn't need to be equal. However, the hostess shouldn't end up feeling taken advantage of. And the OP's mom is absolute proof of why this rule exists.

If you don't want to bestir yourself to get together with someone, you shouldn't be accepting their invitation.

blarg314

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2014, 11:11:38 PM »
I do think there is some scaling to the expectation of reciprocity.

Say you hold a big party once a year, and invite 50 social units. If each of them invites you over for dinner once during the year, you're getting 50 dinners in return for holding one event. The total amount of work that goes into entertaining for 50 individual dinners is  much higher than one dinner for 50 social units.

So basically, I don't think the same sort of reciprocity should be expected for, say, an invitation to a small dinner party, and an invitation to a large informal party. In the first case, it's closer to one to one, in the second, I'd say there is less expectation that you should get a dinner invitation in return. A closer reciprocity would be you invite someone to your July 4 party, they invite you to your Christmas open house. However, not everyone is able to hold large bashes, so the reciprocity can be expressed other ways, like bringing a contribution to the party.

It also matter when there is a rank difference - an employer inviting an employee to dinner doesn't come with the expectation of reciprocity, because of the status/power imbalance.

For the case in the OP, I would say to invite the neighbour and the employee - the first case is good for neighbourhood relations, and the second because of the power imbalance. For the other two, these are people who she's not close to, or where they used to be close but have drifted apart, and stopping the invitation is natural in that case.



AnnaJ

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2014, 11:33:24 PM »
Do all of the guests (besides this group) bring something - appetizers, dessert, drinks?  If so, what does your mother provide in addition to the location?  It sounds sort of like a potluck, which (to me) changes the issue of reciprocity.

gellchom

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2014, 11:47:01 PM »
I like that the OP specified that by "reciprocity," she is including simply calling and saying "Let's go to a movie."  I suppose that isn't exactly "reciprocity," unless they are treating, but in my opinion the important part isn't hosting or even doing the entertaining, let alone equally, it's showing an interest in getting together, not just accepting invitations.  The reciprocity of seeking each other's company, as it were. 

And I also agree that the potluck-ish nature of the party makes a difference.

Now that I think of it, though, there are a few people who come every year for holidays here, such as Passover next week, that I never see any other time and who never invite us, but it's just fine.  I I like it that they are here for the holiday; it's nice to see them that one time per year.  And frankly, in some cases, I don't especially want to see them more.  Some I doubt ever entertain or even socialize much, and if they did give a party, to be honest, I probably wouldn't be very interested.  But I like having them for Passover, and I also know that they depend on us.

So that's making me think about holidays and annual parties.  When you give a party every year, and you invite people for many years, they do sort of start to make it their traditional thing to do.  (For New Year's Eve, in my community, it's almost to the point that everyone gets together with the same group of friends every year, and if you don't, you won't get any other invitations!)  So if that's what your mom's party has come to be, and given that she is the consummate hostess, I can see her feeling bad about cutting people from the list. 

That doesn't mean she can't or shouldn't, though.  But I see why she is hesitating.  Anyway, I agree with the above posters' suggestions.  It's always okay to cut back on or switch around guest lists.

shhh its me

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2014, 08:31:47 AM »
I do think its rude to not reciprocate with a few exceptions also it doesn't have to be like for like.

 Plus ones don't have to reciprocate , that means dates at parties don't have to invite the host on their own to another event. ** I think the friend of a friend couple counts loosely as a plus on.*** So I don't think they are rude for not issuing an invitation but they are not cultivate an individual friendship but they can be left off. 

"acts of kindness" invites.   IF I invite Grandma's neighbor (or the guy at work who is on temporary assignments 2000 miles from home)because she seems lonely and not up to hosting anymore, thats a kindness I'm not trying to cultivate a friendship with Grandmas neighbor.   **the neighbor may fall under this**  and it would just be so awkward for them to see the party was cut by 5 ish people and they were one of the 5.

Generation differences , mentor, employer.  The power imbalance makes theses more like , "Thank yous" or care-giving.  I'm thinking of taking a niece out to dinner once a week because you know she is only eating raman noodles or to thank employees for a good job all year.   **the hairdresser falls under this**

"Thank you" dinners , congratulation on milestone parties , parties with GOH. 

Large annual parties can be tricky....I can be good enough friends with someone to be able to socialize with them at a party with 50-100 people but not know how to sit and have a one on one dinner with them for 2 hours. A large party isn't something everyone is expected to host.  And, since its at least a little bit of  a pot luck the reciprocation can be maintaining a friendly relationship....ie invite to go have coffee sometime dutch treat. I would even consider a couple phone calls , sending a Christmas card and acknowledging birthdays on FB maintaining the friendship.   

So I would keep the hairdresser and neighbor , lose the old friends who I was losing touch with and only consider inviting the FoF if the original friend was going to attend.

TootsNYC

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2014, 08:35:54 AM »
Actually, with the friend-of-the-friend, I might say to the original friend, "If you're coming, you could bring those folks if you like. I'm not going to invite them on their own, and you don't -need- to bring them if you'd rather not, but if you wanted, you can extend the invitation. Or I'll do it once you let me know."

It's quite possible the FoF's attendance isn't that important to Friend anymore.

peaches

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2014, 10:50:16 AM »
I believe that there is a social obligation of reciprocity when you accept the hospitality of others. It might be expressed or offered in a different form than the original invitation. But some effort should be made. I agree with this in principle.

But I have mixed feelings about dropping people from a guest list because they haven't met this obligation. It seems a bit mean spirited, for one thing. Plus, guests add to the success of a party; you can't have a good time without them. Some people are not natural-born hosts or party-givers, but they can make great party helpers or entertaining guests. 

If the party is a potluck and the hosts rely on guests to fill out the menu, the issue of reciprocity becomes murky. In that case, the guests make important contributions to the party. I'm not sure that reciprocity applies, unless you want the hosting to be rotated amongst the attendees.

To me, what this boils down to is, what do you want or expect from your guests? I think we could all have different answers.

I want to be surrounded by people I like and enjoy being around, I want everyone who comes to a party of mine to have a great time, and that is my reward for entertaining.   
 
Miss Manners used some similar words in response to someone who wanted to change her guest list for her annual Christmas party, which also had the same problems as your mom's July 4th party, OP.  She said that if anyone asked about an invitation, that the hostess could reply that they were only able to invite people that they saw frequently during the year.

I think this is harsh. It comes off as a rebuke. I would try to shape a kinder response. I do agree that you don't have to stick with the same guest list year after year.

TootsNYC

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2014, 10:53:13 AM »
I don't think it's a rebuke, and if it is one, it's deserved. And I think people deserve the information.

YoginiSaysYes

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Re: Reciprocation of Hospitality
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2014, 11:14:22 AM »
This is all awesome input everyone, thank you!

To this, just to clarify:

Quote
Do all of the guests (besides this group) bring something - appetizers, dessert, drinks?  If so, what does your mother provide in addition to the location?  It sounds sort of like a potluck, which (to me) changes the issue of reciprocity.

My mom and dad make the main dinner (last year they did maple salmon and chicken on the grill I think) and salad and sides, usually do two or three dessert and appetizer options, and copious amounts of booze (and my parents buy the good wine). Everyone is asked to bring a little something, there's obscene amounts of food, and people get to go home with leftovers. Win/win!

But that's why I mentioned it, my mom was saying maybe that was equivalent reciprocity.

And like I said in the OP, reciprocity to me just means extending SOME sort of invite. My mom's a big walker, everyone knows this, someone could invite her on a walk. Or suggest all meeting for a movie, or one of the copious free events in my hometown. I think it just makes my mom feel like people only like her for her nice house and parties, which I know for a fact is not true because my mother is truly the greatest person in the world.

Hopefully next time we talk I can share some of your perspectives and help her make a decision. Thanks!