DEAR MISS MANNERS: I just hosted a New Year's party for my close circle of friends. First, let me say that we had a fabulous time, and it was the perfect way to ring in the new year. But as I was cleaning up, it occurred to me that most everything I bought for the party was still here.
The invitation stated that I would provide wine, beer, mixers, garnishes and desserts, and invited guests to bring one appetizer and any other beverage they might prefer. Most brought their own wine, some brought their own desserts, and some brought several things.
Therefore, there was way too much food left over, and most of what I had provided in the way of wine, beer and desserts remained untouched. I can't help but think of the unnecessary expense -- something I dislike along with excess. So, am I being too picky and unrealistic expecting people to follow what I thought were clear instructions?
GENTLE READER: If you want to assert the host's privilege of controlling the menu, the way to do so is to provide all the refreshments. It is not by ordering take-out from your guests, as if this were a cooperative party that you had all agreed upon giving together.
Miss Manners realizes that such demands are often made. It has gotten to where other hosts complain that guests often show up with unrequested food and insist upon it being served, thus sabotaging the host's efforts. (Miss Manners advises them to accept these offerings as presents for their future use, and whisk them out of sight.)
But you should realize that to solicit offerings is to cede control. People will then bring what they find easiest or they want to consume themselves. And many of them tell Miss Manners that they are not thrilled to accept an invitation only to find that it is, as you worded it, an invitation to contribute to the larder.