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5 Best Things to Ask Guests to Bring to a Dinner Party, Etiquette Experts Say

These items will help your attendees feel involved—without putting too much pressure on them.

Hosting a dinner party is a lot of work—between figuring out the seating situation, making sure you have enough serving plates and silverware, planning a centerpiece, and of course, devising a crowd-pleasing menu. So, when guests offer to bring something, don't be afraid to take them up on it. According to etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts, it's not generally advisable to outright ask your guests to bring anything. However, when they ask, "What can I bring?" it's totally acceptable to delegate something.

"This can be tricky—you want your guests to feel included, but you also don't want the dinner party to fall apart if they happen to forget," adds Erica Thomas, a home entertaining and lifestyle expert, and founder of the blog Eating with Erica.

All that said, if a guest asks what they can contribute, here are some expert-approved items to suggest.

RELATED: 6 Items You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen When Guests Come Over.

Side dishes

people having dinner together with many foods on the table
G-Stock Studio / Shutterstock

"For casual events like a barbeque, asking guests to bring a side dish is perfect because you are assured the main part of the meal is taken care of, and your guests can be as creative as they like with what they bring," says Michelle McMullen, founder of MGM Etiquette.

If you go this route, it can be helpful to give your guests a little direction—either by letting them know what the main course will be or what the culinary theme of the meal is—so they can choose a side dish that matches the menu.

Their signature dish

Young woman laughing at the head of a table while hosting a dinner party for a group of diverse young friends at her home

Danielle Montreuil, the founder of MM Culture Group, recommends asking your guests to bring their signature dish.

"This not only showcases their culinary skills but also adds diversity to the meal," she tells Best Life. "It sparks conversations about recipes, cultural backgrounds, and personal food preferences, creating a vibrant and engaging dining experience."

You can also ask them to bring the ingredients to make their signature cocktail or mocktail instead.

RELATED: 6 Things You Should Put Away When Guests Come Over, Experts Say.

Non-alcoholic beverages

Pouring a drink into cocktail glass

Speaking of mocktails: If you're looking for an easy, low-pressure item your guest can pick up from the store on their way to the event, try suggesting a non-alcoholic beverage, says Thomas.

They can feel free to whip up a homemade mocktail, or they can simply bring some flavored sparkling water or iced tea. Obviously, these zero-proof options will come in handy for guests who are under 21 or don't drink. But they're also nice to have on hand for designated drivers or people who aren't in the mood for alcohol.


plum galette
iStock / SMarina

When in doubt, ask your guest to bring a dessert, says Montreuil. Even if multiple people bring something sweet, it'll just give your attendees more options to choose from.

For guests who are lacking in baking skills, dessert is also easy to pick up from a local bakery or market. Plus, having someone else handle the sweets takes a bit of the burden off you, so you can worry about the other courses.

Here's something to keep in mind, though: "If you're serving a heavy meal, the dessert course should be light, and the reverse is also true—if the meal is light, the dessert can be decadent," says McMullen.

RELATED: 6 Questions You Should Never Ask at a Dinner Party, Etiquette Experts Say.


Glass of ice cubes

"If like me, you prefer to plan and execute the menu yourself, a bag of ice may be the perfect suggestion for a guest who insists on helping," says McMullen.

Some guests simply don't enjoy cooking or don't feel confident about their capabilities. That's why ice is a great item to ask them to bring. You can never have too much ice for beverages, and it's something the host often forgets to pick up from the store while they're focusing on other essential dinner ingredients.

And here's one thing not to ask them to bring.

friends sharing some wine, fruit, and cheese at a dinner party
Shutterstock/Yulia Grigoryeva

As for the one thing you shouldn't ask guests to bring? According to McMullen, it's actually a bad idea to put guests in charge of appetizers.

"If they arrive late, you will be left in a lurch!" she explains.

And if the appetizer needs to be cooked or reheated, it could get in the way of you preparing the dinner itself.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
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