Empty Handed House Guest

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Dear Hoopers,
I love to throw a great party. And I’m good at it! Hosting events, throwing dinner parties and allowing  friends and family to enjoy the beautiful home that my husband and I share brings me great happiness.  We enjoy people from across our lives including my husband’s job, parents association committee, my son’s soccer team.  Almost everyone that we invite is gracious, polite, and typically brings a small item to share with others. But one of our closest friends never brings anything. Regardless of the occasion, he always shows up empty handed. I don’t really want to say anything to him but it just seems so out of character for him to never pitch in. Is there any way I could drop the hint?
-Empty Handed House Guest

Dear Empty Handed House Guest,
Look at how fun you are! I love a good dinner party and come from a family that has always opened our doors to entertain family and friends. It’s a wonderful gift that is appreciated by many, even by those that are clueless about general principles of party etiquette.

Your close friend never bringing anything certainly seems strange. Showing up empty handed time after time seems disrespectful, unless the individual is volunteering in other ways such as helping cook, washing dishes, or staying late to tidy up post-party mess. Does he do any of this? I would like to think that he would get the hint, but he might not.  

He most likely is not purposely trying to offend you, but may be completely oblivious to social etiquette. The least I can do when attending a party at someone’s home is bring an appropriate gift. I know the great deal of time, effort, and expense to provide an evening of food, fun and entertainment. The difference for me is that I just want people to have fun. I host out of the love of being surrounded by love, and I do not expect gifts.


You aren’t opening up your home to receive gifts and you have to understand that sometimes even our closest friends miss the mark at times.

-Kate

What would dropping a hint to this friend ultimately accomplish other than potentially hurting his feelings? If you really have to say something because resentment is building then be direct.  Ask him to bring something specific, like a complimentary side to the dish you are serving or the beverage of his choice. Personally, I would let it go. You aren’t opening up your home to receive gifts and you have to understand that sometimes even our closest friends miss the mark at times.
-Kate

Dear Empty Handed House Guest,
Perhaps the most important part of having a good party is having a good host. And it sounds like you know exactly how to show people a good time. While your friend’s empty handedness hasn’t necessarily caused any problems and no one may have noticed, you noticed and it gets under your skin a bit.


Although it is unclear from your question, it sounds as though your dinner party invitations don’t directly request guests to bring items but instead rely on the gracious guests to bring them on their own. While that is certainly a reasonable approach to take and allows flexibility for your guests, it is somewhat unfair to be upset with someone when they aren’t able to read your mind. I’m not sure about your reasoning for this, but I generally believe that we can only expect others to do what we ask them to do.


I’m not sure about your reasoning for this, but I generally believe that we can only expect others to do what we ask them to do.

-Dr. Ryan

So you have two options for future parties. Either leave it open ended and accept whatever items guests bring/don’t bring, or you can offer a simple request on your invitation. No one will ever be offended if you request them to bring a drink or a side item and I believe most people will appreciate honest communication about your expectations for the party. You’re the host and you set the rules. If people don’t like the rules, they can always enjoy their empty handedness at home.
-Dr. Ryan

Empty Handed House Guest Quote