Etiquette 101: Is It Mandatory To Serve Food When You Host a Party?

Leah Bourne

First Lady Michelle Obama alongside US PFirst Lady Michelle Obama recently had etiquette experts in a tizzy when she announced that she wouldn’t be serving food at her 50th birthday party. Invites recently went out for her “Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert” bash, which advised guests to “eat before you come.”
Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-author of Great Get-Togethers: Casual Gatherings and Elegant Parties at Home weighed in to The Washington Post saying: “I don’t think it’s rude, but I do think it’s a little . . . different than what people are used to. How’s that for putting it delicately?”
This situation brings up a lot of questions on entertaining etiquette. Are you really required, as the party host, to feed your guests? Obama certainly did the right thing by alerting her guests on what to expect. I recently attended an event where the invitation had promised “dinner.” To my bewilderment, what was touted as dinner was actually passed hors d’oeuvres. Major faux pas. Had the invitation been clear as to what to expect I would have left the soiree with a entirely different feeling. Instead, that party will forever be the dinner that wasn’t a dinner at all.
Something else to keep in mind, if you are hosting the kind of party where there will be a lot of drinking happening, it is somewhat of an obligation to serve some food, which Obama is clearly doing with promises of “snacks” and “dessert” at her bash.
Post’s suggestion for how Obama should have handled it differently was for her not to have instructed guests to eat before the party, but rather to make clear exactly how much food will be there so guests can make the decision for themselves.
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