Archive party etiquette

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Take My Advice: Do I Need to Make my Party Nut-Free for One Guest’s Child?

I’m having a housewarming party in a few weeks, and I’ve invited several friends with children. One of these friends got in touch to ask me to stipulate to all guests that, should they bring a food item, that item should be certified peanut and tree-nut free, because her 4-year-old has a peanut allergy (she also asked me not to serve anything containing those items). On the one hand, I understand her concern, and I would never want to inadvertently endanger a child. I’m happy to comply myself. But I’ve already sent out invites, to several dozen people–some of them colleagues–and feel like it would be rude to tack on a set of rules after the fact. The friend who wants a nut-free party is kind of flaky anyway; it’s possible I’d set these boundaries only to have her and her family never show up, anyway. Would it be rude to refuse her request?

-Too much heat on this housewarming

It’s too late to avoid rudeness: your friend has already stepped in a big pile of it. 

If this were a children-only affair, I would say she’s within her rights; then it really is just about safety and being allowed to participate.

But while you mentioned that you invited friends with kids, and are presumably welcoming the under-10 set, this isn’t a party FOR kids. Little Jimmy isn’t going to cry about missing the mostly-adults housewarming event. 

So his needs shouldn’t dictate any behavior but his own and his parents’. 

At four he’s probably too young to be trusted to avoid danger foods himself, so it would be prudent for your friends to either pay close attention to him while they’re at the party, and stay only a limited time, or–the much more logical route any time you’re considering asking people to make concessions for your offspring–they should hire a babysitter.

Presumably you have friends who avoid gluten or dairy, who won’t eat certain (or all) meats, or who prefer to ensure everything that passes their lips was raised humanely. That’s all well and good; it’s expecting the world around them to make concessions to it that’s not. Your friend has put you in an awkward position with an unreasonable demand; you shouldn’t justify that behavior by kowtowing to it. 

Instead, send this friend an extremely pleasant, polite response in which you let her know that “you understand her concern for her son’s safety,” but that you “don’t feel comfortable guaranteeing that all the food will be safe for him,” since you can’t be certain other guests will read the invitation that closely, or comply. Given that fact, you “really hope to see her there,” but also “completely understand” if she and her son won’t be able to make it.

If she reacts to that with anything other than a “thanks for letting me know,” stop inviting her to parties. Even if her son eventually outgrows the allergy, she’s only going to get worse.