When a Guest Brings Wine to a Dinner Party, Do I Have to Serve It?

Rue's resident etiquette expert weighs in on your most pressing questions

Simply put, no. You don’t have to serve the wine.

Why not? Let’s phrase it this way: Do holiday gift givers have the right to demand you use their gift? No. Here, it’s absolutely no different. A guest who brings wine to your dinner party is giving you a gift. And therefore, it is completely your choice whether or not to serve it.

If you’re still feeling just a teensy bit guilty about that decision, don’t. Here’s why.
Dear Rue: Bringing Wine to a Party

1. Planned-out meal + unplanned wine = not a match made in heaven.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, you’ve most likely planned the whole thing ahead of time. Picked out the ideal sequence for your wine or already have an unmatched cheese-plate-and-dessert-wine combo? You’re under no obligation to change your food, beverages, or dessert to fit this new arrival.

2. Again, it’s a gift. Thank your guest kindly and move on.
Remember: You’re the one generously having them over for dinner and doing all the work. They’re bringing you a present to thank you for that. And that’s it.

3. What if they bring fresh food, and not wine?
Frankly, this is usually just bad etiquette on their part. Good guests should not bring food as a gift to a dinner party unless it’s a potluck event or they’ve already cleared their dish with the host. Really, if Seinfeld hasn’t already made the dangers of bringing food clear, then I don’t know what will.

Of course, if the guest brings fresh food anyway, serve it and simply say that it’s a “generous contribution to the party from X.” And then don’t invite them back. (Kidding. Sort of.)

By Shaina Malkin, Copyeditor

Have an etiquette emergency? Tweet us your question at @ruelala, and we might cover it in our next Dear Rue column.

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October 31, 2013