"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 9, 2013
Cooking for Houseguests
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

I very much dislike cooking for houseguests.

Is it rude for me to suggest we go out for dinner every night that I have a houseguest, even if I know the guest is staying at my house to save money on hotels and restaurants?

When we go out, my husband and I pay our own part of the bill.

Answer:

You invite people to your home, then invite them to dinner, then only pay your part of the tab?

Yikes.

When you are the host, you are responsible for providing your guests with whatever it is you have invited them to do, making them as comfortable and happy as you can. If you invite them to a party, you provide the food, drink, and entertainment. If you invite them to a movie, you provide the tickets. If you invite them to stay at your home, you provide all of the necessary accommodations.

(You can, however, explain the house rules and expect those rule to be followed.)

You do not have to exceed your regular budget or provide accommodations that are beyond your means, but you do have to graciously provide what you have. Even if you are less comfortable or are inconvenienced as a result.

This is called hospitality.

Providing meals to houseguests is part of hospitality. If you are going to have houseguests, you must make a reasonable effort to feed them. You don’t have to make anything fancy. You can serve the kind of meals you normally eat. You can cook, order in, or take your guests out. If you want to take them out every night, go for it! And it’s nice if, in turn, they offer to take you out at least once during their stay.

When they are out and about town, you can let them find their own meals, snacks, and treats.

Splitting the check at a restaurant is also fine if it is agreeable to your guests. Some guests would love this! Splitting the check, after all, lets you eat someplace nicer or get a more expensive meal. It is also an easy way for a guest to avoid a host’s cooking without embarrassment.

The way to do this is to suggest that you “meet” somewhere. “Meet” is the magic word that means, “we will eat together but get separate checks.” So, at breakfast, you might ask your guests, “I know you are going to the aquarium this afternoon. Would you like to meet afterwards for dinner, or should we eat in tonight?” If they want to eat out, you should pick a restaurant that fits everyone’s budget and taste.

If they want to eat in, you, as the host, should defer gracefully. If you know your guests are on a tight budget, or that they don’t like restaurants for some other reason, it is rude to insist they eat out for every meal because it is insensitive to their needs and comfort. You, as host, should be attuned to their needs and not deliberately thwarting them.

So what’s really going on here? Did you invite these people, or didn’t you?

It sounds like you didn’t exactly invite your guests. It sounds like you think your guests are imposing on you as a way to vacation without paying for their own food and accommodations, and that you resent it.

If you object to these kinds of visits (and remember that not everyone does), you need to say no when people ask if they can stay with you. Like this: “I’m sorry, but we can’t. Let me recommend some good hotels for you, though. There’s one nearby that my parents really like.”

You can even head them off if you think they are going to ask to stay. Like this: “You’re coming to town? How exciting! We can’t wait to see you! I wish we could put you up, but that’s just impossible. Let me send you the names of some good hotels—we want you to have a great visit!”

But if you cannot bring yourself to refuse the visit, you assume all host duties. And that means providing food.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and sheíll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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