Keeping a Big Weekend House Party Organized

Good Morning!

I am a member of the Foreign Service and have Home Leave once every three years or so. Rather than try to go around to every friend or family member for the few weeks or month I am home, sometimes I rent a cabin or beach house and invite people to come to stay for as long as they like. My only request is that they bring a ham, or a casserole or some such. A large dish that can be shared among everyone. That way the limited cooking facilities are not over taxed and I don’t end up buying and making all the food.

My first time with this went very well. I selected all my favorite people and almost everyone said yes and a wonderful time was had by all. However, this most recent time the house I had used before was no longer available and the only one available was an Outer Banks style “Party House.” I also threw it open to all my friends and family on social media rather than individually selecting guests myself. There was much Sturm und Drang and problems with sleeping options.

My protocol question is thus:  Out of the 20 people who came, only one couple brought a casserole. One other fixed a lasagna, which was nice, but many people did not bring any food at all (some people were given a pass as they had to fly to attend) and many people revealed dietary restrictions upon the start of someone cooking. Some were vegetarians, some no gluten, others no garlic or onions. I had thought I had made it very clear in the invitation that people needed to bring a certain kind of food, but how responsible am I for food restrictions of my guests when I am not told in advance? They looked at me and my partner to “organize” meals, but I had intended a very free form style.

What should I do next time to improve things? Help!!

Sincerely,

A Stranger in a Strange (Home) Land

 

Victoria: Ah, the life I could have led if I had gotten further into the Foreign Service process! I only got past the initial test though.

Jaya: Firstly, I love this idea. I think making everyone come to you if you have limited time and resources is the way to go. Everyone should do more “office hours” type planning.

Victoria: Yeah, it’s amazing, like the bigger version of “I’m in town for one night and will be at this bar, come see me.”

Jaya: Exactly. But I think where he went wrong was opening it up to everybody on social media.

Victoria: Yesss, that was a terrible idea because people are monsters.

Jaya: Facebook is great for party planning, but makes it harder to be specific–which is what a gathering like this needs.

Victoria: Yeah, I think as long as he lays out the expectations very specifically, then all will be well. I mean, I think it still would have worked with the bigger group open to all as long as it was super super clear that you were expected to bring food.

Jaya: Yeah, and it’s hard to tell if he did that and people on social media just ignored him, or if those ideas weren’t laid out. Either way there was a miscommunication.

Victoria: Yeah, I mean, he says it was only 20 people, so that shouldn’t have been too terribly hard to manage.

Jaya: But right, booking a house and saying ANYONE can come automatically makes  sleeping problems. There are only so many beds!

Victoria: Yeah, I don’t think open houses really work when there is sleeping involved. So the format probably does need to change a bit. Especially if people are flying in!

Jaya: Yes, I think in the future, going back to a curated guest list will probably minimize this sort of issue. But in general, if you’ve said people need to be responsible for bringing food and they don’t, that’s on them.

Victoria: Yeah, and if they have dietary restrictions they definitely need to let you know in advance! And if it’s a particularly complicated one, maybe they should plan on just bringing their own food.

Jaya: You can certainly offer to help, whether it’s lending them your car so they can go to the grocery store, or sharing what you have if it’s enough. But if you did your best to make it clear and remind everyone of their responsibilities, they don’t get to be mad at you for ignoring it. (I mean they will be mad, they’ll just be wrong.)

Victoria: Haha yeah, exactly. I also don’t think you can really plan on a free form house party…there has to be some degree of organization. Like assign meals to people or something.

Jaya: Yes. And it sounds like the original plan offered some structure like that. Maybe it’s just a matter of reminding everyone of that.

Victoria: Yeah, when people are basically all in one place for a weekend or whatever, they need to know that there will be meals and sleeping places and enough showers and all that stuff. And someone has to be the one to coordinate it and that person is usually going to need to be the host (except, haha, I have sometimes jumped in with close friends and sorted out who is sleeping where, but that is very much a me thing!)

Jaya: Totally. Maybe if you do share it on social media, you can say there are X number of beds, this is first-come first-served, everyone is responsible for at least one dinner/making any dietary restrictions known, so you don’t get 20 people showing up to a five bedroom house. I mean, the lesson here is best laid plans, right? You can make reasonable requests and remind people of your expectations, and sometimes they will ignore them and then get pissy about it. And all you can do is try to offer some small help while setting boundaries. And then next time invite the people you know have their shit together

Victoria: Yes, exactly. I think it’s very important, as a big planner myself, to know who you can rely on and when it’s important that you are inviting only reliable people, to just do that. Although, I guess if you only get to see people every couple of years then maybe you want to be more generous.

Jaya: Yeah, it’s a balance. See more people but risk having to take more responsibility, or limit your guest list.

Victoria: Or do your thing somewhere where there are a lot of restaurants and just eat out. I think a loosey goosey sort of thing is probably easier in a place where there is decent transport and restaurants/grocery stores. Like if you are in the middle of nowhere, everyone had better come prepared with EVERYTHING.

Jaya: Exactly. Whereas an open house works best when it can actually be open–people going into town or to the beach as they please.

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The Ultimate Guide to Bedding Part 1

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

The ultimate bed [Via Wikimedia Commons]

This isn’t technically etiquette but it is etiquette adjacent, because hosting is a big thing in etiquette, and a gracious thing to do as a host is provide a nice bed. And if you are a guest, you are going to want to know what all the parts of a bed are so that you don’t accidentally mess it up.

First the components of a bed:

The frame: all beds should have some kind of a frame. Mattresses on the floor are for frat boys. This frame might simply hold the mattress and box spring or it might be connected to a headboard and foot board.

The box spring: this is sort of optional these days as there are many kinds of beds that don’t need them. But if your bed has a basic metal frame at the bottom, the box spring raises the height of the bed, provides a solid platform for the mattress to rest on (hence why a platform bed might not need one), and by preventing contact with the frame, also prevents wear and tear on the mattress.

The bedskirt: Goes between the box spring and the mattress and hangs down to cover the boxspring and frame. It’s entirely decorative but can really help pull the bed together.

The mattress: is pretty self explanatory- its the soft thing you sleep on. It can be made out of springs, memory foam, water, and other things.

Topper: this is an optional addition to make your mattress EXTRA comfy. It can be memory foam, egg-carton foam, or feathers. Basically, its a thin, extra mattress made out of a luxurious material.

Mattress pad: This is something that you put on top of your mattress to protect it from stains. Some will have a topper built into them, like an extra thick pad. Some are just some batting in cheap fabric.

Sheets: Traditionally, a sheet set includes a fitted sheet (with elasticized corners that no one can fold- it took me a year and many youtube videos to figure it out!), a flat sheet, and pillow cases. You can also use an additional flat sheet in place of the fitted sheet, you just have to make hospital corners on each corner to keep it in place.

Sheets can come in a number of different fabrics: cotton, flannel, polyblends, linen, satin, and silk. Generally, you will want to choose natural fibers- 100% cotton, linen, or silk. For cotton, Egyptian cotton makes the softest sheets because it has longer fibers than other cottons. Linen (which is made from the flax plant) is great for warm climates and flannel is great for when it’s cold. If you can’t afford silk sheets (so, um, everyone?), you might be able to spring for just the pillow cases- they are great for your hair and skin (full disclosure, I have a set). Thread count is important, but anything above 300-400 doesn’t matter much because they are just using thinner thread.

Blankets: Blankets are often pretty scratchy, so they are generally used over a flat sheet, for extra warmth in the winter. It does seem like blankets are falling out of favor these days, with a preference for heavier comforters and duvets. In very cold climates, you can use an electric blanket which have heating coils to keep you nice and toasty.

Duvets: A duvet is a down (feathers) or fiber filled blanket. It is plain white and made out of a cheaper material because it is meant to go inside a duvet cover. They are sometimes also called comforters.

Duvet cover: A duvet cover is two sheet-like materials sewn together on three sides and left open on the bottom. You shove your duvet up inside it and use it to cover your bed for both warmth and decoration. The duvet cover is often a pretty pattern that you can use to match to the rest of your bedroom. The advantage of using a duvet cover is that it can be washed easily without harming the expensive duvet inside. It is so easily done, that many people (especially in Europe) forgo a top sheet on their beds all together and use just a duvet to cover themselves (*shudder*).

Comforter: A comforter is very similar to a duvet+cover except that the warm part is directly sewn into the decorative part. Comforters can be very elaborate and are not easily washed, so you will always want to use a sheet with them.

Bedspread/Quilt/Coverlet: This is a heavy fabric that you put over your sheets and blankets to be mostly decorative (though its great in the summer if you find a comforter or blankets to be too hot). It’s a little old fashioned and you don’t see them much.

Pillows: You rest your head on them to sleep. They come in many types: memory foam, fiberfill, down, bran (idk, its a thing), and many others. They generally have utilitarian covers, so you want to put them inside a pillowcase both for comfort and to protect the pillow from your hair and face grease, sweat, and drool. When putting the pillows on the bed, the open side of the pillowcases should be on the outside edge of the bed.

Shams: Shams are very fancy, decorated pillow cases (usually matching or complimenting your duvet cover, comforter, or bedspread). There are two ways to use shams. Either the shams have their own pillows inside them (I use cheap or old gross pillows) and go on top of your sleeping pillows. The other method is to stuff your sleeping pillows inside the shams every morning and put them on the bed like that. You do not sleep on shams! When going to bed at night, either put the shams-with-pillows behind your sleeping pillows up against the wall or headboard, on the floor, or if the sleeping pillows were inside the shams, take the shams off and fold them up and put them on the floor or a chair or something.

Throw pillows: These are decorative pillows and should also not be slept on. They can be piled up in a handy chair or tossed on the floor.

On Friday, I will continue with part two: how to make a bed.

Is An Irish Exit Rude?

Sepia Dancing Off StageThe Irish exit, Dutch leave, French goodbye, whatever mildly ethnic slur you want to call it, is when you leave an event without saying goodbye to anyone. Is it rude? Well, yes, often, but it can also be a relatively low level rudeness depending on the circumstances.

Unforgivable circumstances:

  • On an actual date with another person (unless they are being abusive, etc etc, caveats)
  • Small gatherings where your absence would be easily noticed
  • Any hosted event (you must always thank and say goodbye to your hosts- even at something as big as a wedding)
  • When you are supposed to be giving a ride to someone (unless you ghost away into the night together)

Forgivable circumstances:

  • A large, casual gathering such as 20ish friends hanging out at a bar
  • Casual, group oriented events such as a end of school picnic (though I would consider this just…leaving)
  • Anytime trying to say goodbye would disrupt the event (such as a religious service or when there are speeches happening. Though you should try to avoid leaving in these instances except when you are ill or have other extreme circumstances.)
  • When it’s a large family gathering where goodbyes take an hour (jk! love your family!)

When else do you find Irish exits acceptable/unacceptable? Let me know in the comments!