Should I Bring Something to the Party?
So you’ve been invited to a casual get together at a friend’s house. Maybe it’s a BBQ or a dinner or a cocktail party or a straight-up keg-fueled rager that doesn’t start until 11 p.m. You’d love to come, you text your friend back, adding “Should I bring anything?”
Yes! Yes, you should bring something to the party! There’s a reason “What do you bring to the table?” is an expression. It’s because everyone should be bringing something to the table. You (almost … we’ll get to that) always bring something to the party.
When someone throws a party, they are inviting you into their home. And whether that’s a rundown house with five roommates or a perfectly decorated home, there is still something to be said for someone inviting you into their abode rather than just saying, “Let’s all meet at Smitty’s for jager bombs.” Entertaining in the home requires much more effort than corralling the group to go to Smitty’s. Even if the party is just a kegger, a keg must be procured, chips must be laid out and enough TP must be purchased. That’s more effort than (I hope) you ever make at Smitty’s. And if we’re talking about a coordinated cocktail or dinner party, the effort is huge … prepping, cooking, purchasing, mixing, cleaning, decorating. The booze bill alone can be enough to make a host/ess question, “Do I really even like my friends this much?”
You should honor that greater effort and your inclusion in it when attending a party at someone’s home by bringing something. What you bring depends on the circumstance, but here are some ideas:
Alcohol: Duh. Alcohol is almost always welcome. Let the type of party dictate what you bring. A small dinner party? Bring a bottle of wine, either to share or as a gift for those hosting. A backyard BBQ? Bring beer. The key here though? Bring more beer than you are planning to drink. My rule of thumb is that if I’m going to a place where there will be more than four people, I don’t bring anything smaller than a 12-pack. A cocktail party? Pretty much anything goes and will probably be appreciated. One very important rule of thumb here though is that you leave what you bring. Think of it as a sacrifice to the party gods. One exception to this rule is if you’re bringing a really fine bottle of something to sip. If you show up with a $200 bottle of scotch that you want your friends to taste with you, and you don’t finish the bottle, take it home. I’ll allow it.
Extra Snacks: Here’s where it gets slightly tricky. If the host/ess has planned a full menu, you want to be careful not to infringe on or clash with that menu. So if it’s a rager/house party, just bring whatever. You can’t go wrong with chips and dip. If it’s something more formal, you might be getting into Menu-Infringement Territory. With something casual like a BBQ, you probably still can’t go wrong with just bringing a little snack, but you could also ask about specifics, and definitely be specific if it’s a dinner party. Ask if you can bring something to throw on the grill, or a dessert or a side. When you ask the general question, “Should I bring anything?” or “What should I bring?” most people will probably tell you not to worry about it. If you ask, “Should I bring my grandmother’s recipe deviled eggs?” Most people will say yes and appreciate the contribution.
A Host/ess Gift: There are some situations where you just don’t want to bring food or drink. For example, a baby shower, a themed dinner party, etc. Something where every detail has been carefully planned and you’re expected to just show up and be an honored guest. In these situations, it can still be really nice to bring a gift to show your appreciation. Although this isn’t necessary, I think the host/ess gift is one of those bygone traditions worth bringing back. Some examples of a host/ess gift include nice chocolates, a candle, a pretty tea towel, a small plant, flowers or even a simple hand-written thank you note.