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Responding to the Dinner Dilemma: “What Can I Bring”?

Ever had an earful of the question, “What can I bring?” Trust me; I’m right there with you. And yep, for the longest time, my reply was a hearty, “Nothing!” I was that gal, the go-getter hostess who wanted to juggle everything, proving to the world and myself that I didn’t need a helping hand.

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But you know what? Life isn’t just about me. And it isn’t always about you either. When we get real about it, everyone WANTS to bring something when invited to share a meal or a special moment. So instead of giving the good old, “No worries, I’ve got this” and leaving potential guests to their endless guessing— I changed my answering strategy. Here’s a gentle nudge on what you can suggest every well-meaning guest bring over for dinner.

Wine bottle wrapped in burlap lying on wooden planks tied with a red bow.

Breaking Down the ‘Bringables’

There’s always something to contribute, and some guests might decide to skip the question and surprise you with a thank-you gift. Have you ever stopped to think about why that is? I’ll clue you in: First, they get to share a little bit of who they are with you and others. Sharing is a big deal for some folks. Could be they’ve crafted a precious little thing, or conjured up an edible magic potion from their weekend garden harvest. I mean, isn’t it delightful to share?

If their upbringing was anything like mine, arriving at a gathering without a shareable in hand is akin to accidentally wearing two different socks. So never leave them hanging when the question comes. Guide them, empathetically.

Dinner Contribution Ideas to Spark Some Inspiration:

  • “Your family’s traditional dessert? We’d all dive right into that!”
  • “Erm, could you bring along some ingredients for a funky cocktail and maybe include the secret recipe too? That would be pretty neat!”
  • “An appetizer that doubles as great cold nibbles when guests start filing in? What a brilliant idea!”
  • “A playlist of heart-tugging tunes for the evening vibe would be absolutely amazing. Just connect to our speaker when you arrive.”
  • “Could I trouble you for a bottle of your favorite white wine? The best wines are always the ones we love the most.”
  • “What about a bottle of that red you can’t stop raving about?”
  • “The way your …. dessert dances on my tongue is unforgettable. Would you bring some for all of us to enjoy?”
  • “I’ve been dying to showcase your stunning serving dish at a gathering. May I borrow it, please?”
  • “Those conversation starter cards you have? Absolutely, bring them along! They’ll be great to fill in any lull moments.”

And if you just get too frazzled with too many offerings you could always say:

“Aw, thank you for offering, but I genuinely enjoy flying this party plane solo. Having you come over and enjoy the night, is all the help I need”.

At times, the thought of guests bringing various contributions can be a more-than-welcome stress party. And guess what? If they bring something anyway, just accept it gracefully, express your gratitude, and move on.

Embracing the Joy of Hosting

A table set up outside for dining with string lights above, lanterns, simple linens, candlelight, and blankets to keep cozy with dining Al Fresco

Who said entertaining had to be challenging? Kick back, breathe, and enjoy the party. We’re all about easy-breezy entertaining here, remember? Check out my guide, 5 Steps for Easy Entertaining’ for some handy shortcuts to simplify your hosting experience.

How to answer - "What can I bring"? when you're the hostess. Top 10 answers for the question you know is coming! #sweethumblehome, #dinnerparties, #whatcanibring, #entertaining

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  1. Love this idea. Can you make a list that is seasonal, like what to say when people ask what to bring to a bbq specifically? LOL, asking for a friend.

  2. I love how it’s not always a food. The idea of people bringing in the beverage end of things helps on the pocket book and the stress of what will people want to drink !!
    The Playlist is fun idea. I always say a lawn chair..I never seem to have enough..and people dont always sit back in the same seat..
    I have had bbqs..where we have provided all the sides..some meats. But everyone brought their own meats and veggies to grill..most brought enough to pass…that was the best party ever!

    1. Lainey – Thanks for your comments! These are FANTASTIC ideas! I especially love the idea of bringing a chair if you know that you don’t have enough at your home! Brilliant!

  3. These are such great suggestions. I too like to do it all as I do not care for store bought stuff. Wine, cocktail help and playlist are genius! Close friends will often bring flowers which are always welcome and I love to see them in my house for days following a dinner party.

    1. I’m so happy you liked my suggestions! When guests bring flowers they really are such a sweet reminder in the days that follow of what great people we surround ourselves with!

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