Etiquette Questions, Answered: Cookie Exchange Party
1 of 3 Kana Okada
How Do You Handle a Gluten-Free Guest?
Q. I want to invite a friend to my upcoming cookie swap, but she’s on a gluten-free diet. What’s a hostess to do?
A. A gluten-free diet means no flour, which is the main ingredient of most cookies. You should invite her anyway, of course; you don’t socially ostracize a friend because she has a physical ailment. After all, she still likes a party, doesn’t she?
People who cannot digest gluten have are used to having to pick and choose among the dishes at a social gathering; the only treatment for Celiac disease is to avoid eating such foods as wheat, rye and barley. At parties, they are the guests who often bring their own “safe” dish to eat.
When you invite her, ask if she would like to actually participate in the “swap” part of the party. If she says yes, that means she’ll be bringing a gluten-free offering. When you send out the general invitation, let other guests know there will be a special holiday door prize for any bakers who do the same: “Some guests will be seeking gluten-free cookies to swap same.” (As the host, you will of course bake a gluten-free batch, too, to make sure your friend feels welcome. Meringues, anyone?)
Q. How can I force people to RSVP? I’ve invited 30 people but have only heard from a few?
A. It’s maddening, I know, but don’t take it personally. Believe it or not, some people still don’t realize that “respondez s’il vous plait" means, simply, “Please respond.” They may think it means, “Let me know if you’re not coming.” Or “Let me know if you are bringing a tagalong guest.” Or...who knows? In any case, give the non-responders the benefit of the doubt, and assume they mean well. Send a follow-up email or Evite as a gentle reminder. And specify a deadline to give them something to focus on. For instance, you can write: “Please reply by December 12, so I will know how much eggnog to buy.”
You’ll probably still have some laggards to deal with after the second round, though. If it’s just one or two, assume they’re coming and plan accordingly (since it won’t make that much difference in the quantities you buy). If there are still several stragglers, however, pick up the phone and call each to say, “I hope everything’s all right, because I haven’t heard from you. You are coming to the party with several dozen of your famous decorated sugar cookies, I hope?”
3 of 3Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
What If Someone Brings Store-Bought Cookies?
Q. What do I do if someone brings store-bought cookies?
A. You will say, “Oh, those look pretty, and I’m so glad you’re here,” as you set the platter out with everyone else’s. It’s a party, after all, not a hyper-competitive episode of Food Network Challenge, where the best cook expects to win a gold medal and a check for $10,000. Again, give your guests the benefit of the doubt. Everyone would prefer to be the person bringing the fabulous, iced-Christmas-tree-cookies that require seven colored sugars and use of a spritz cookie press. So you should assume that anyone who didn’t bake for the party had a good reason—sick kids, a killer workweek, the arrival of out-of-town relatives.
Whatever the reason, remember that it’s a hectic time of year. Your party is supposed to provide an antidote. The point of a party is to socialize, and in this case that means giving your guests a safe haven to relax in—no guilt trips, please!—while enjoying the holiday season in the company of friends. As for the cookies? They’re just the icing on the cake.