DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are hosting a sit-down dinner in our home. I have hired a chef and bartender to make the evening as smooth and pleasant as possible. We have done this a few times before, and the evenings have been well-received by guests. I believe we all had a lovely time.
However, since it is a plated dinner, there are practical limitations to the size of the guest list -- both physical space at the table and my budget for the event.
We invited a couple who RSVP’d for themselves and also for their adult child and her fiance. These young people are in their 30s, have not lived with their parents in years, and they certainly were not on the invitation.
The couple said they had such a lovely time at our last dinner that they would like to bring Hermione and Pip along, as well. Surely I would love to see Hermione and meet Pip.
Now, Hermione is not a close friend of my daughter’s, but the two are somewhat “friendly” and we have been good friends with the couple for many years. This last is part of my difficulty: Until this episode, we have always gotten on very well, and I do not want to spoil the friendship.
I was rendered absolutely speechless. The next several thoughts that came to my mind were rejected (“Yes, bring Hermione and her little friend along; I will set a children’s table in the kitchen for them”). Finally I stammered that I could perhaps squeeze in a couple of extra chairs, but Hermione should know that there would be no one her age at the dinner. (I hoped this was code for “I don’t have room at the table and my adult daughter has a social life separate from her parents and will not be in attendance.”)
In sharing my dilemma with another friend, I was told she had experienced similar difficulties -- in her case, it was extra guests for a wedding reception. She, too, caved without much resistance and made arrangements to accommodate the extra guests, but at a price.
Miss Manners, I know the couple in question was completely out of bounds and I am not seeking your opinion of their behavior. My question is how one might graciously tell a friend that uninvited guests are -- well -- not invited.
GENTLE READER: If you folks are going to keep caving, Miss Manners cannot help you.
Sorry. She does not mean to sound cross. But she keeps pointing out that there are polite ways to say no, and that there is no limit to the amount of trouble people will get themselves into if they don’t learn how to do this.
Yours is a comparatively easy case. You are not being pressured to do something immoral or illegal. There may even be occasions -- large, informal gatherings -- at which you might welcome the friends of friends, although the choice would absolutely still be yours.
For a seated dinner, it is outrageous that you were even asked. Your response should have been, “I’m so sorry; we would love to see them another time.” No excuse is necessary.