20-40-60 Etiquette: Host concerned about covering dining, entertaining costs
QUESTION: My husband and I have lived in four cities during the last 40 years. When our friends came to visit, we paid for their meals. When we were guests in the homes of our out-of-town friends, we paid for restaurant dining and entertainment charges, too, since we are being provided with free lodging. We have been “the payers” in all these trips. We are financially stable and have not minded all that much.
However, four years ago we moved 500 miles away to our retirement home on a golf course, with a heated swimming pool. Since then we are constantly hosting and never traveling. My questions:
Is there a correct protocol in such cases? Is it customary for the host to provide all meals including those eaten out? Or, is it common courtesy for guests to pay for their hosts’ meal in exchange for free lodging and entertainment?
We now are continual hosts and are never receiving any reciprocation and are beginning to feel like we are being used. Thank you for your feedback.
— Enough, Already
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Yes, there is an etiquette when you’re an overnight guest. Paying for your hosts meals and/or making a few meals is simple and easy. If I were you, I’d start splitting the meals unless your guests offer to pay.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: It sounds like you ARE being used in a way but probably not in a sinister way. It is up to you to address things directly with your friends to clear up any misunderstanding of what the visit means to you and to them. Are these the same friends who are coming all the time or are you hosting a rotating group of friends? You might have to set out expectations ahead of time when friends ask if they can come visit. Maybe say something like, “We have had the best time hosting friends and love it that you’re coming, but now that we’ve been here awhile, we have realized we need to discuss with everyone who comes a few things in advance.” You might note that it is getting overwhelming to host people every weekend and then suggest any options makes sense to you — Split all the meals? Ask them to help contribute to the cost of groceries? Keep it friendly, indicate you do this for all guests, and make it easy on yourself. I would guess that most people are grateful that they have a place to stay and that they get to see you and wouldn’t mind a few extra terms to their visit.
HELEN’S ANSWER: You are a wonderful host and a wonderful guest for sure! When your friends visit, how long do they stay? Do you set a time limit? All negotiations should be up front. Ask them about meals before they come. Ask them if they would like to share in meal preparation, or if they want to eat in restaurants. If the answer is restaurants, then say that it can be Dutch treat. Surely, they will take you out a couple of times since they will also eat breakfast and lunch items in your home.
You also can say no when a time is requested for a visit. You might have other visitors, or it might not be convenient when they want to come. You have the control of visitors in your home, and, although it is always fun to see them, they might consider a hotel on some of the visits.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Richard Rosser, author of “Piggy Nation,” a series of books, a cartoon and more on etiquette: Can I be your friend? It sounds great. You pay for everything!! Unfortunately, your friends are taking advantage.
When visiting friends, my wife and I typically bring a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine as an arrival gift for our hosts. Based on our experience, the host pays for and fixes a homecooked meal or two during the stay. We usually offer to help with food prep and cleanup after. Also, during the stay, we treat our hosts to a dinner or two out on the town to repay them for letting us stay in their home. We get free lodging and our hosts feel appreciated! Consider laminating a copy of this column and leaving it on the bedside table in your guest room. Best of luck!
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is 40-plus, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.