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“What Can I Bring?” Ten Rules for Bringing a Sharing Dish to a Holiday Party

So you are invited to someone’s home for dinner or a cocktail party! Unless it is family there are certain guidelines to consider. Below are ten must-knows for after you ask “What can I bring?”

1. If the hostess says “Nothing!” then that means you should NOT bring any food that would be served that evening. (A box of chocolates would be okay.) The host has probably gone to great lengths to plan the perfect menu and is, as well, apprised of certain dietary restrictions of the guests. Showing up at the door with that favourite spinach dip, may not have the reaction you are looking for.

2. If by chance the host chooses to share your surprise dish food during the party, allow the host to tell the other guests of your contribution, rather then you announce it and take credit for it.

3. When you ask what you can bring, if the host gives you a suggestion of a dish (a salad, or an appy) then do not suggest you will bring something else! If you ask “What Can I Bring?” be ready to accommodate your host’s wishes.

4.If you are going to contribute to the evening’s menu, Be sure to ask the host if there are any concerns regarding dietary restrictions of the other guests.

5. Arrive on time and give your dish to the host at the door so she/he can put it away before greeting other guests.

6. Have your dish in either a festive dish or tray that you do not expect back, or bring the dish in the container to be served. It is not the host’s responsibility to start re-dishing your contribution. It is also not your responsibility to get into the kitchen and start being the co-chef because of your dish.

7. Put your name on the bottom of your platter or serving dish, and make arrangements to either pick up your empty dish the next day or inquire at the end of the night if you might take it home—and of course, you can clean it at home.

8. Unless pressed, do not talk about the ingredients of the dish or how you made it. If you are pressed to give out the secret to your fab contribution, do it discreetly and briefly. Remember this is the Host’s party!

9. If other people bring dishes, be sure to compliment them but always have the greatest compliments for your hosts!

10. If you bring your favourite wine that you so carefully chose for your host, do not expect your host to open that wine at the party no matter how much you are looking forward to it. If it is a very fine wine that you are bringing, write your name and a holiday salutation with a sharpie on the back label. When they open your delicious wine two months later, they will know who brought it and who to thank.

Bon appetit!

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Jeannie Vaage, Etiquette Consultant, VIP Protocol
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