Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A READER ASKS: How Long Should I Wait for Tardy Dinner Guests??

Dear Lily,
when you invite guests to your house and you state a specific time for dinner, how long after that time has passed do your proceed to have dinner if one family has not shown up while all the other guests are there? For instance, most recently I invited about 30 people over for a birthday party and set lunch for 3pm.  We delayed starting the lunch till 4:15 as one couple (and granted very close to my husband) was late. However at this point I had 30 other guests there from 2:30 waiting to eat. Did I mention this couple habitually shows up 2 hours late for EVERY function, most times with no apology or excuse for their tardiness? Secondly when that couple did arrive they apologized stating they thought party was for 4…they showed up at 5:10….still late even if they confused the times (Did I also mention that I sent a reminder two days prior confirming time AND my email was acknowledge by the culprits). What do you do and say? As always, I said 'no problem' and apologized for starting without them but is that correct? If they continue, do you address it or do just continue to start your dinner plans as scheduled without them?

A from Toronto

Dear A,
            as with any etiquette question that is sent my way, I like to start off by establishing what is referred to as the 'proper' etiquette concerning the specific query and then of course, what kind of post would it be if Lily didn't add in her two cents on the matter at hand?

15 minutes is the typical length of time that a hostess may wait for a late guest for a sit down dinner, 20 minutes if you are dining buffet style. To wait more than twenty minutes at the most, would be showing lack of consideration to many who came on time for the sake of one. When the late guest finally arrives, it is she/he who must go up to the hostess and apologize for being late. The hostess should remain seated and the guest merely greets the hostess quickly in order that all the guests at the table need not stand and disrupt dinner. The hostess must never reprimand or scold the late guest publicly but should say something polite and conciliatory such as "I was sure you would not want us to wait for dinner."

Bearing that etiquette guideline in mind, it sounds like there is a little more to the equation than just a couple showing up late to a party. If this couple who happens to be close to your husband, habitually comes extremely late to every function you hold, how much friction would it cause between you and your husband if you just stopped inviting them? No one can expect to receive ongoing invitations from a hostess whose hospitality they choose to disrespect. Even the hostess with the best social graces can not continually excuse someone else's lack of good manners, especially when it seems that this etiquette shortcoming could potentially be on purpose. You did nothing wrong by starting without them and definitely should not have to apologize for doing so.

Yours truly,


EntertainingMom said...

Absolutely. Agree. Oh my goodness, where did you get that wonderful of photo? Love it!!!

Suburban Princess said...

Agreed, let's not punish the masses for the sins of the few.

Since these people dont seem to have respect for hosts, can't read invitations or might just be possible for their next invitation to 'get lost in the mail'.

I am also questioning your husband's decision to remain close to people who have no respect for him or his spouse.

James said...

One of my pet peeves I'm afraid. Dinner at six means dinner at six. Come late and yours is cold!

Ashley Hasty said...

You have the most fabulous photos. I always wondered if I should wait...I usually do...thanks for the advice!

Amy Stevens said...

Excellent answer and I agree with Ashley - I love your photos!

Hill House Ramblings said...

Oh, this advice is most helpful as I was in a similar situation last Thanksgiving. That photo is spectacular!


Dumbwit Tellher said...

My husband spoke of guests that were due at his friends home for dinner that arrived 90 minutes late. I would of locked the door and drawn the drapes @ that point. Thanks for posting this LL!!

vir beātum said...

In Germany, the time stated is the time expected. No fashionable lateness is really tolerated. In any case, I like to follow the maxim that friends who are late simply provide the time for hosts to reflect on all their other faults. Firm line is the only way.

bevy said...

Wonderful post... My mother and I gave my cousin's bridesmaid luncheon, and the mother of the groom arrived 45 minutes late!

Sandy at Ooh La Frou Frou said...

Oooh, love etiquette posts! It does seem that some people can't seem to make it to events on time EVER. I have even resorted to telling those people that the time for the event is an hour EARLIER than it actually is! (and they're still late!) Very frustrating to say the least and the solution you posted is the best all around, I think! Thanks! xo

Lucy said...

*squeal*! Oh how lovely!! And I agree..
I should invite people round for dinner more often but being a student and all..
I knew this would be a good blog by the banner - so beautiful!