Ever had this happen: You’ve invited people to dinner.  You’re running around like a crazy person, checking your table settings, monitoring the oven, hoping the wine will chill by the time people get there.  You’re calculating till the last minute how much time you have to shower and dress (your once hoped-for relaxing, 15-minute shower has already been downgraded to a military 3 minutes…)  Just as you race off to turn the shower on—the bell rings.  Your first dinner guests have arrived.

OR

You’ve planned and timed everything perfectly.  The table was set the night before.  The wine’s been chilling in the fridge for several hours.  The flowers have unfolded beautifully.

The main course is warming in the oven.  All is ready, and you have enough time to fluff the sofa pillows and uncork the first bottle for a drink while you await your guests.

Actually, you’ve had time for several drinks.  Because some of your guests arrive at least 45 minutes late.  Some don’t come for another hour after that.  (And they come hungry! That takes some moxie!)  Your meal is overcooked; you’re a little overcooked, too, cause all your hard work has been reduced to beyond well-done.

I don’t know which is worse, to have guests arrive exactly on time so that you feel you have to entertain them as you try to put the finishing touches on your dinner, or to have them come so late the whole evening is thrown off.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and we’ll share them in a few days.

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Meanwhile, erstwhile guests, a plea: If the invitation says dinner at 8, I won’t talk about you bad if you come at 8:15.  In fact, I’ll be a happy, unflustered and generous host if you come a few minutes past the hour.  Up to 30 minutes past. 

After that, you slip into CPT.

So if you’re going to be seriously late, call a sista.  I might decide to wait on you or I might put your plate aside and feed the rest of my hungry guests.  But give me the option of doing either, please.

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Karen Grigsby Bates is an Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).

Etiquette Emergency?  Write us at AskComeCorrect@gmail.com.  Remember, your letter could be published unless you request otherwise.

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).