Wow, did I open a can of worms with this topic! Every single person I asked, "What drives you crazy about hosting a ?" had an immediate response and usually the response was combined with a groan or a laugh and followed by "I couldn't believe it." I guess most everyone has a pet peeve about what is important when invited to someone's home and especially if you're contributing to the meal.
Here are the top vote getters. So if you recognize someone you know (I KNOW it wouldn't be you) maybe you can politely drop this article somewhere near him or her to read. I'd also love to hear any horror-stories that you have as well. Feel free to write a comment - sometimes it helps just to get it off your chest. As my disclaimer here - any of the identifying elements in my stories have been changed. I'm not foolish, I love my friends and family - they can just drive me crazy!
Top Pet Peeves
Bring your dish prepared, ready to serve or kept warm with ALL the utensils.
Think this one through. Bring your contribution in a dish that you'd be proud to put on your table. It's fine to match it to the formality of the event. In some cases, paper is just fine; just make it ready to serve. What utensils will be needed to serve? Bring them too.
And this is really important, and probably the most common complaint. Bring a completed product. A salad is chopped and ready for dressing (brought along of course). Don't bring the ingredients and start whipping something up on the spot asking for a chopping block and a knife. Bring it done. If it can't be brought this way, rethink your offer.
If you'll need to warm something up, call the hostess and ask about this, allow her/him to decline and then bring something else. They may have every burner and the oven full - so do not assume ANYTHING. Do not expect room on the stove, in the oven or even use of the microwave or refrigerator.
Here's one of my unforgettable moments. I had prepared dinner and as I was making it I literally ran out of olive oil. I had plenty for what I needed but ran out at the very end. One of my guests came in with something for the grill that he always topped with olive oil prior to putting it on the grill. Well, when he got to my home, he asked for olive oil and of course, I was out. He was beside himself saying things like "everyone has olive oil" and "I can't believe you don't have olive oil!" To pretty much everyone. Not only did I feel bad because he couldn't complete his dish, I also felt like a real loser.
If you think you might be leaving early and will want to leave your dish and take your plate, just bring a nice disposable one with you and you can transfer the leftovers as you leave - don't expect or ask for one to be supplied.
Timing is everything
Be on time. No more than 15 minutes early, never more than 15 minutes late (real emergencies excused, but we all have phones nowadays).
Be honest with yourself too. Don't be the one to volunteer paper goods, wine or appetizers when you always arrive last. One time I actually had to have my husband run out to get a bottle of wine as everyone was here except the one person who was so generous to volunteer to bring ALL the beverages. Okay, see I got it out of my system and I feel better.
A hostess gift is wonderful but...
If you bring wine - but don't insist it be served. Wrap it up, or combine it with a treat for later and also with a note that clearly says "For you to enjoy another day." Your host probably planned the wine for the meal carefully so just leave it for later. Usually if you wrap something or even just put a ribbon around it, people assume you meant it for later.
If you bring flowers, bring them in a vase, not just a cellophane wrapped bunch. If your budget doesn't allow to purchase an arrangement verses a bouquet then just collect inexpensive vases throughout the year and arrange them yourself before going. It's not about how professional or fancy they are, it's just about not making your host dig for a vase and trim the flowers ends, etc.
Don't insist that the host open a wrapped gift - there's a lot going on, plus it could make another guest uncomfortable if they didn't bring anything.
Other Peeves that People Wanted Included!
Don't ask who else is coming before you RSVP.
No Surprises PLEASE. Keep with the plan. Your special, absolutely delicious pumpkin pie may be a perfect addition but imagine the frustration when your host has spent hours preparing their special, absolutely delicious pumpkin cake. Then when you insist that it get served, it puts the host in a really tough spot.
Offer to help clean up but don't insist - maybe broken plate or just prefers to do it herself.
Let your host know what you're bringing - don't just say you'll think of something. I once went to a party where 5 people brought artichoke cheese dip!
Don't expect a fancy dish for your dessert, appetizer, etc. to be provided or available. Again, think about how you would present it to YOUR guests.
Avoid bringing all kinds of stuff you've been meaning to take over and toss it on the hostess as you come in - that book you borrowed, your coats, a funny article you read.
Always come to the table or buffet when called - immediately - immediately. Usually your host has worked really hard on timing all the dishes. Most people think they're being polite by not jumping up. One time I had literally worked all day on a very special meal for some family in town. Just when I said proudly, "Dinner is served," someone said, let's go take a quick look at the guesthouse before we sit down? WHAT!!!!! AAAARGH - okay, I feel better.
A potluck party or meal is a great thing. It lets everyone contribute a favorite dish and it takes some of the work off the host. But, if we don't think a little about all the little pieces it can actually add work or frustration. This year, make it a point to consider all the little things and you'll be the guest everyone wants to invite. Now that's a potluck!
Live and Learn.