How to host a 'house warming' without gifts???

loralee_2007September 11, 2007

We just finished building the house of our dreams, on the old city-lot previously owned by DH's grandfather, with the remaining houses on our street constructed all by DH's great-grandfather. So there's some history with what we've done.

We would like to host an "open house" for friends, close neighbor friends, and family but we DO NOT want it to be seen or felt as a "gift-giving" affair that a "housewarming" usually is. We think that by calling it "open house" instead "might" convey the message we don't want gifts.

We have a few reasons we don't want "gifts". 1) Without being in our custom home, it's really a waste of $$ because likely their style won't be the same.

2) Our cats. I've heard that some people bring plants to a housewarming. Great gift...but not in my house. My cats EAT plants, I've tried. And those who are unfamiliar with cats are also unfamiliar with those plants that, although pretty, are poisonous to them.

3) I really truly do no want anything from my guests other than to come and enjoy our hospitality now that we are able to offer it. Woo Hoo!!

I will be gracious regardless of what happens, but is there a polite way of saying "NO GIFTS PLEASE"??? And I do mean in caps so people know I mean it lol!

And with the issue of plants and my cats, how would you deal with that if someone did show up with one? I don't know very much at all, so I would pretty much have to segregate that plant until I could research it. I'm not kidding when I say my cats chew on plants "immediately". I do not wish to offend anyone offering a gift and offending them because my cats are brats and I have to then "hide" their gift. (Which I don't want in the first place! Quite frankly, I know how to decorate my house and don't need outside help, especially from my guests lol)

Thanks for you advice!


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Just invite people to an open house....or for a cocktail buffet....actuelly I think nicer than saying "open house".
Don't mention gifts....and on the invitation don't mention "new house"....just throw a party.
If you say "no gifts" people are reminded that they might need to bring something.
Or you could just say you are having a "house warming" at your new home...please bring a small gift to be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 12:54AM
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I would bring a gift to a "house warming" or an "open house". Why don't you just call it "happy hour", "pot luck", "dinner party" or "cocktail party". Any mention of "no gifts please" will put the idea of gifts into people's heads. Be prepared for a few people to bring something anyways. Your home sounds amazing. Have fun!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 11:18AM
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I agree with the others. Just give a party -- don't call it a housewarming, just a cocktail party or whatever. I wouldn't write "no gifts, please," unless the invitation said housewarming or birthday party or something like that -- but if you do, please don't do it in all caps as if you were barking an order. It isn't greedy, but it's still bossy. Remember that people bring a little gift or wine or something when they come for any party; you don't want them to feel they are wrong no matter what they do.

People give gifts if they want to, and they usually want to for a new home of a close friend. We didn't give any kind of party for our new home, but we got lots of gifts. I recently had both a big birthday and a big anniversary, and we gave a party. We wrote "no gifts, please" on the invitation, even though it's not correct, and the result was just what you'd think: people who are close enough friends that they would give a gift with or without a party ignored that and gave a gift, and people who aren't either brought nothing or a small item or bottle of wine or made a contribution to charity, just as they would for any party or dinner.

We, too, have cats, and although I've never had a problem with poisonous plants, I won't tell you not to worry about it if someone brings one. One method would simply be to put the plants in a closed room someplace, or the garage, if you are planning on giving tours of every room of the house. But I think a better approach would be to put the cats outside, or in the basement, or something, for an entirely different reason: there is sure to be at least one guest who is allergic to cats (and, although no one will tell you, at least one who is afraid of them). So that is what we always do. It doesn't hurt our cats to spend an evening in the basement or outside.

If the subject of housewarming gifts should happen to come up in conversation any time, please don't tell people that you don't want gifts because "[w]ithout being in our custom home, it's really a waste of $$ because likely their style won't be the same," which was the #1 reason you gave here. I would take that as an insult to my taste, even though you say it's about matching, not merit. But it also might make you sound like you value gifts only when they suit your tastes, not because they remind you of the generosity and friendship of the giver. I know you don't want anyone to think that.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 11:54AM
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Listen to Gellchom about the usual gifts....I am always surprised when people show up with a gift. Last Sunday I invited 5 women for dinner, to see a friend who would be in town for a day and to show support for another who was very recently widowed. Everyone showed up with a gift...
So don't be surprised if lots of people bring a bottle of wine, home made preserves, a plant, flowers or some other sort of hostess gift.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 12:05PM
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I agree, just throw a party. Do not mention the newly renovated house, as soon as you do that people will think house warming and gifts. Make it seasonal, like welcoming Fall, the harvest or maybe Halloween ...although that has it's own issues. Heck make it Canadian Thanksgiving! LOL

People will bring gifts anyhow, be gracious. As for plants , put them in a closed room and pitch them if needs be. Mind you I cannot recall in forever when someone brought a plant. Wine, flowers, candles, spices, homemade goods, but not a plant.

Throw the party and let the chips fall where they may.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Thank you everyone for your thoughtful insights, I really appreciate it. The more I think about it, the more I'm sure there is no way to avoid "gifts" even though I would prefer to just share our hospitality. Gellchom, when I posted I just put my thoughts in random order and realized how awful #1 sounded after I re-read it. I didn't mean that as harsh as it sounded, I was being overly blunt, and certainly would appreciate the thoughtfulness any guest of ours put into a gift for us. Kitties will be ok too, they have their own bedroom and they'll go in there, best for our guests, and best for them since one of them is scared of his own shadow lol.

DH has a very large extended family that we are very close to. In addition to living on the same street with 2 families, we also spend time at the lake every weekend with the rest of them as we all have cottages at the family island. Needless to say, they have all been following our long saga with great interest and now that we are home are relentless about when we are having our "housewarming" lol (and we've only been home a week!). I like the idea of a "cocktail party", that may at least minimize any feeling that they should bring a gift.

I do have another question that I should have asked. Because DH's family is large (at our wedding 4 years ago, we had 108 people....and 10 were from my side lol), there is no way logistically that we can have that many people at our house at one time. We are planning the party for end of November and outdoors will not be an option due to temperature as well as the fact our landscaping is not done (think mud & rocks, but by then snow and cold). I'm thinking of doing it over 2 nights from 7pm-10pm (ie: Fri & Sat evenings) and let the guests RSVP for which night they prefer - this way I could avoid stepping on any feelings if people were not on the "A-List" (ie: first night). Do you think this would be ok? Adding up all the furniture seats I have, we have 28 seating spots.

Thanks again for your really great advice.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 5:36PM
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Thanks for taking my comment in the spirit it was intended! I know you don't want anyone to think that you think they are not good enough for your "custom home." I know you just want to enjoy entertaining your friends and family and make them feel welcome in your new home.

I wouldn't do two consecutive nights. You will have only a few hours to clean everything, wash all the dishes, and turn it all around again -- and right when you are tired from the first party. If you simply must have two parties, do them at least a week apart, and don't give people a choice of dates; what if 3/4 choose the same date? Just group them by affinity to avoid "A list/B list"; say, family one time and friends another.

I would just have one party and make it an open house all afternoon on a Sunday or something (that seems typical for housewarmings anyway). That way they won't all come at once. Don't worry about seating; 28 "spots" is enough for a big crowd, actually; unless you are having a program or something, people won't all be sitting at the same time. You can also borrow or rent folding chairs if you have a lot of old people or something. Remember too that not everyone will be able to attend anyway.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 7:24PM
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I concur with the single party recommendations. People are going to come and go and not everyone will be able to attend.

Say you invite 100-150 people, you are probably looking at 75 or fewer guests over the course of the evening. If you say join us for cocktails on Saturday the 10th between 7 and 10 (or whatever times) some people will come by and then go to dinner, some people will go to dinner and then come by.

(Admittedly, a few are going to show up at 6:52 and set up camp in one of your 28 seats until you have to change into your pajamas so they get the hint to leave, but they are the minority)

The crowd should ebb and flow.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 1:26PM
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I agree about having the party on one night only. I had a similar situation with my sons' Bar Mitzvahs - we did a house party for each one. Both times we had around 100 people RSVP, probably slightly less than that attended.

First time, we just had an evening party, started at 7. There was about an hour in there, maybe around 830 to 930 or so where the crowd was at its peak. And yeah, it was super crowded, but it actually passed pretty quickly. I don't think all the guests were there at one time, peak time we probably had around 70 people in the house.

Second time, we decided to have an open house, from around 4 to 11 or something like that. This worked better as even during the peak time it didn't get quite as crowded.

Both ways, some people come as soon as it starts and stay the whole time. Some come for a very short time. Some come early and stay a couple hours, some come later and stay till the end. There's an overlap of these groups and I think the difference between my two parties was that the second one lasted longer, allowing more spacing for the overlap, so that there wasn't as much of a crowd at the peak, although maybe the peak itself lasted longer.

I hope all this can give you a prespective as far as timing and having one party only. Good luck with the party and I hope you have a great time!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 2:03PM
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Another who likes the one party on one night thing...
If I were doing it....and I know I am not LOL! I would issue invitations for "Cocktail Buffet, Saturday 5:30 to 10" And expect a large mob between 6 and have some help during that time. My ground floor is about 950 square feet excluding the kitches ( small!) and I have had between 75 and 80 for a cocktail buffet many times. I put the food in the dining room, try to keep the kitchen clear of guests, and have found that 40 people all seem to pack into the family room before they explode all over the rest of the downstairs.
Have lots of plates ( I never use I have a mountain of plates) and someone circulating to take plates out of people's hands and pop into the dish washer for a quick wash.
Plan on having "desserty" stuff later as people will likely have had dinner and be stopping by coffee and pound cake, cookies, fruit as well as cheeses and wine will go well.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 7:39PM
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Some will bring gifts, I never go anywhere without a hostess gift ; others won't.

Don't concern yourself with this, since you have no control over it.
Have the open house and enjoy it.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 7:01AM
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We also have a newly completely remodeled and expanded house. So to solve the problem of so many people who want to see it, I am having a baby shower next week which will take care of a lot of the friends, and they can then bring something for the mommie to be. I am going to have either a pre-thanksgiving or a pre Halloween cocktail buffet. People often have other things to do then, so even though my list is long, they won't all be coming.
As Linda C said a buffet that is scheduled for 5:30 to 10 gets clumps of people over certain periods of time, and you can handle that. She is in Iowa and I am in SoCal and its just as true here. If you invite 108 people, you get some that just "drop by to say hello" and others who practically stay overnite --a total of maybe 60-70 people over the whole time. People in So.Cal don't drink as much as was true years ago, and in 30 years of entertaining, I have never run out of food.
What I would like to know is--what are you all serving for these cocktail buffets these days? I haven't done any entertaining while we have been remodeling. Since you are all over the country do they serve sushi in SoCal and cocktail meatballs in Iowa or vice versa? I am having dim sum and Chinese Chicken Salad, etc. for the shower because we just got back from China. Don't know how popular that will be.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 4:40PM
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lol -- I am also serving dim sum this week, and also because we went to China this summer!

And we are in Ohio, marge. Believe it or not, we actually know about more than cocktail meatballs here in "flyover country."

Sorry to be snarky; I know you weren't being critical. I do get so sick of people assuming that the midwest is tacky, backward, and unsophisticated. I have lived in Milwaukee, Manhattan, Boston, Washington, Wilkes-Barre, and Columbus, and I can tell you that you can meet pretty much every kind of person, sophisticated or tacky, friendly or rude, smart or dumb, in every one of those cities, and in the identical proportions, too. The main difference I have noticed is that the people in the midwestern cities have a better sense of the coastal cities than the people in the coastal cities have of the midwest. In fact, NYC is the least cosmopolitan city I know; it is astonishing how little awareness many -- not all -- New Yorkers have about the rest of the world.

Okay, sorry for the rant! Back to your question --

The dim sum is for a pot luck, which doesn't have a Chinese theme. I am also planning on making oven-dried tomatoes on crostini.

Sushi is still very popular on buffets these days. Tiny lamb chops are wonderful, and I wish they were even more popular! My favorite. Artisanal cheeses (how pretentious is that!) are still big, and hummous shows no signs of fading, even though so many people don't want carbs (and therefore the pita or pita chips). Even better than lamb chops is blini with sour cream, caviar, onion, and egg, but I haven't seen that too much lately. Unfortunately! Yummmmm.

I haven't seen this outside my own family, but our sure-fire appetizer is miniature meat blintzes, which we serve with a mustard sauce. Talk about gone in sixty seconds -- we have never even had enough to last until the last guests arrive, let alone any leftovers.

You are nice to give a baby shower. Have fun!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 9:28PM
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Hummous is also good with carrot, celery and capsicum sticks to dip.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 6:12AM
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LOL about regional and the NY hicks!
I was raised in northern NJ...had traveled to Niagra Falls and Florida and lots of places in between, but before my DH to be dragged me out to Iowa I had never been west of Philadelphia!
Cocktail buffets here seldom would have sushi....but maybe the younger crowd would be more likely to serve it.
Here the typical is cheese. Being home of Maytag Blue, cheeses of all sorts seems to be "the thing" as well as hummous and pita chips, a plate of smoked salmon, veggies and fruits of all kinds....and if it's a catered affair coconut shrimp, salmon caviar on a bread round ( blech!), mini egg rolls and of course tiny meatballs! Blessedly the mashed potato bar seems to have gone on it's way, although a lot of people loved it.
I am remembering one time when we sent our 14 year old daughter to spend a week with my parents. My mother took her every where she went including to a luncheon. One of my mother';s friends said how glad she was to meet my daughter and asked "Now, where is it you live?" and my daughter said "Iowa"...and the woman frowned and looked a bit puzzled and finally said."Oh well, dear, here we pronounce that Ohio."
Just give a party....your guests will bring gifts, and it may be hoped that they will be things consumable!
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 1:59PM
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