Potluck parties are a great way to bring together friends and family on a budget, but just because they’re casual doesn’t mean etiquette should be forgotten. Here’s what both hosts and guests need to know:
For hosts, it’s essential to be clear about what guests should bring, pre-plan the menu, and ensure expectations are within guests’ abilities and budgets. Ensure there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Non-cooks and visitors-to-town should be allowed to bring a charcuterie tray or bakery dessert.
- Give guests small, simple jobs, but make sure they’re easy and convenient.
- Encourage socializing. Introduce guests to each other and plan some group activities to get everyone interacting. Plan fun activities, such as lawn games, music, or a bonfire (if weather permits.)
For attendees, let the host know in advance what you’re bringing and check what others are bringing. Let the host know if you want to prepare or bring something else.
- Bring enough food for everyone to try some and put some effort into it; don’t show up empty-handed or with something as simple as a bag of chips. Put some effort in. Don’t be disrespectful to those who’ve slaved over the stove.
- Don’t bring a dish or dessert with a serving missing. If your family demands a taste test, divide your preparation into individual servings and transfer them onto a decorative plate.
- Don’t bring something only you can eat or something super exotic. Stick with what you know and opt for creative dishes from your family or tradition.
- Don’t bring a dish that needs to be finished or heated in the oven; bring everything you need to serve your dish.
- Put your dish’s ingredients on an index card and place it next to your pot, so guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions will know what they can eat.
- If you have dietary restrictions, don’t make a big fuss; bring something you can eat.
- Arrive on time, offer to help wash up, and try to taste a little bit of everything. Don’t double-dip when eating appetizers or touch all the rolls in the basket.
- Complement other dishes, ask for a recipe if you’re interested, and don’t expect to leave early with your dish or leftovers unless the host suggests it.
Idea for Impact: A successful potluck gathering is akin to a warm embrace that envelops all in attendance, making them feel right at home and where there is plenty of delicious food and drink to go around.