Sage Advice: Gathering Hostess Wants Guests to Contribute

By Amy Dickinson | December 23rd, 2019

Should party guests always feel required to pitch in?


Holiday gathering host wants the rest of her family to contribute to the meal Image

Dear Amy: I have a holiday etiquette question.

In my family, when a gathering involves food, everyone brings something.

I think it’s helpful, giving, polite, respectful and “the right thing to do.”

Even when I travel to go to a family gathering, I always bring something, whether it is something store bought, or a homemade goodie. I would be embarrassed to walk in empty-handed!

I host many family gathering. My sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) and her family travel back to the hometown by car to attend these gatherings.

Each and every time, her family of five will come to my home, bringing nothing but their appetites!

They’re of the mindset that because they are traveling to see us, they shouldn’t have to bring anything, and never offer to do so.

I personally find this to be rude and ill-mannered.

In the days leading up to the holidays, she does nothing but run all over town shopping. It boggles my mind that she doesn’t think to stop to even pick up a bottle of wine. This has nothing to do with means or access, but is just a seemingly self-centered attitude.

What do you think? Should the fact that they travel by car for the holidays make them exempt from contributing?

– Tired of Hosting

Dear Tired: Holiday meals are not like other occasions. They are communal feasts, and I agree that it is polite to ask the host for an assignment of something to bring, even if you are traveling.

Your sister-in-law was not raised by your parents, who taught you that it was necessary to always bring something when you are invited for a meal. Your brother (this woman’s husband) WAS raised by your parents, however. He knows the drill – why is he not stepping up to contribute to the meal?

Rather than passively seethe and then riding your disappointment throughout the season, you could easily manage this by giving this family of five a specific assignment – perhaps a non-perishable dessert, drinks, or both. You say, “It’s all hands on deck this year. I’m wondering if you would pick up some wine and soft drinks on your way into town? We could use your contribution.”


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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