The 6 Best Things to Ask Guests to Bring—If They Offer
Go beyond the typical wine and cheese with these tips from hosting experts.
Hosting takes work. Between planning your event's concept, preparing the food, drink, and decor, and cleaning your space ahead of the big day, there's a lot of effort that goes into pulling off a seamless gathering. Guests know this and, in many cases, will ask what they can bring to lighten the load. Of course, there are things you should never ask them to contribute. For example, tableware, reimbursement, and last-minute odds and ends you forgot to pick up. On the flip side, party and etiquette experts also say there are things you can ask guests to contribute that will truly benefit the event. Here, they spill on the prime items to ask guests to bring if they offer to lend a hand.
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What to Ask Guests to Bring
1. A Game
Traditional hostess gifts tend to fall into three categories: food, wine, and decor. So, why not switch things up by asking folks to bring an activity?
"Instead of the usual, I ask friends to bring their favorite board or card game," says Jaye Harrison, owner and founder of Parties Made Personal. "It's a fun way to break the ice and see what games everyone enjoys, leading to unforgettable moments!"
You could play the game at the party or tuck it away and host everyone again for a dedicated game night. Don't forget to write a thank you note saying how much you enjoyed playing.
2. Wine… Sometimes…
It never hurts to have guests bring a bottle of wine, whether you plan to serve it at the event or indulge afterward. However, Jodi Smith, etiquette consultant at Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, notes there's one time this is an especially good ask.
"When I know someone has a discerning taste for wine, and they offer to bring something, I will let them know what I am planning to serve and allow them to bring wine to pair," she says.
Et voila, you've covered their contribution and your wine pairing with one simple ask.
3. A Souvenir
If a future guest is traveling soon, you can ask them to bring a quirky souvenir.
"It adds excitement to the party and sparks conversations about unique experiences," says Harrison.
If they don't have any trips planned, consider asking them to go local: See if they can bring a favorite regional delicacy from their neighborhood or hometown.
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4. A Souvenir
Some of your friends and family members are likely known for certain dishes.
"If I know they have a specialty that will fit with the menu I am planning to serve, I will gladly ask them to bring their signature dish," says Smith. "A childhood neighbor is a master of the pickled salad; a friend makes French-level macarons; another friend has an asparagus side dish I have yet to duplicate." That's what she'll ask those people to bring if they ask.
You could also ask visitors to bring a dish or beverage that represents their culture or background. "You'd be amazed by the flavors and stories that come out when everyone shares a piece of their history," says Harrison.
Offloading the salad course to a guest can allow you to focus on other tasks.
"Vegetable platters, green salads, fruit salads—they all need to be prepared the day of and take time to wash, cut, and prepare," says Smith. "It is incredibly helpful while I am cooking, baking, cleaning, and setting to have someone make a fresh salad."
Give clear instructions if you're expecting something specific.
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Sometimes, the best gift is the guest's presence itself!
"I love for guests to ask and offer, but they need to be respectful if I decline," says Smith. "This can be for a number of reasons; I may be having the event catered, or I may have guests with allergies or dietary restrictions."
Whatever the reason, don't feel obligated to allow guests to bring something. It's your event, and you make the rules.