DEAR MISS MANNERS: Pre-COVID, my large family had parties all the time, since it was always someone’s birthday, anniversary or other milestone. We would get together, celebrate and go home; nothing else happened.
However, I have one family member who would graciously offer to throw a party for someone in her own home, then instruct guests to bring a specific dish or a bottle of wine (usually both).
We usually all chipped in to make these dinner parties happen. But a couple days after the event, she would send a message to all the guests to find out how much everyone had spent on their dish. She would then include her own costs for decorations and the like, and charge all guests a payment.
This usually ranged from $30 to $50 -- which, when added to what I spent at the grocery store and the time spent preparing food, wound up close to $100. I would rather just go to a restaurant. This charge always came as a surprise to me, because it was only ever mentioned after the party was done with.
As someone who hosts friends for dinner, I’ve never expected them to pay me back. I usually don’t even ask for wine or alcohol, but will suggest something if someone offers to bring a bottle.
The issue with my relative has gotten to the point that my partner won’t go to events at her home anymore, and I don’t want to invite any friends because I don’t want the embarrassment of sending them charges on her behalf. I rarely want to go myself, because I don’t want to go through the effort of preparing food and being charged, as well.
I know she doesn’t have a lot of money, but the general consensus is that if you can’t afford the cost of a party, don’t throw the party.
COVID has allowed me to skip nearly every event she’s thrown this year, but I recently decided to attend a gathering of seven people. Lo and behold, the next day I was asked how much I had spent on food, and then was told to send her money.
My partner can continue to skip all these gatherings for the rest of his life for all I care, but I can’t always say no to seeing my family. Is there anything I can say to this relative to let her know that we don’t appreciate these surprises from a host, and would rather not attend if she’s going to keep doing this?
GENTLE READER: Yes: You can invite her to a party that you throw, exercising proper hospitality. That way you get to see your friends, your partner will attend and you can have what Miss Manners trusts will be the pleasure of telling that relative not to bring anything, as you are the host.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)