20-40-60 Etiquette: Stuck with guests who won't leave?
QUESTION: What do you do when the holiday guests just won't leave? They only live 15 minutes away but think a holiday meal should last for seven hours. None of the standard hints work. The last time after a three-hour brunch as they were settling in the living room for another four hours, I just rudely told them it was time to leave. Any ideas?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: When you invite your guests, give them an ending time for the party. Best thing to do is to let them know if you need to be somewhere or it is past your bedtime. Most people should get the hint.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: If you have an ending time in mind, tell them when you invite them. And if they linger too long, you can tell them how much fun you've had with them and that you hate to see your time together end, but that you have work to do, plans or an early day the next day and need some sleep (whatever is true, even if the truth is generic). Be direct and recognize that you're probably putting on a really fun party.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Usually during the holidays, guests tend to stick around a little longer. It just seems like the thing to do and relatives enjoy the company of their parents, brothers, sisters and cousins. If they didn't, they would be out the door after eating the holiday meal.
If you don't have planned entertainment, like a game to play, or a football to throw around, then when everyone convenes in the living room, you might suggest some other ideas. How about a movie? In a theater? How about a walk?
The most important thing to do is to communicate the time of the holiday event before guests arrive. Tell them that the party is between noon and 5 p.m. or whatever time suits you. And when that time arrives, remind them that you have other plans for the rest of the evening.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Kirsten Cash, speech- language pathologist and mother of four: This is a tough one for sure! It actually is a compliment to you that your guests are enjoying themselves enough to want to stay so long. If you were not a good host(ess), they would most certainly find their way home much sooner!
In the future, perhaps extend the invitation with a specific time range. For example, say, “We would love to have you over for Christmas dinner from 3 to 6.” If this does not do the trick, perhaps you could mention that you have plans that evening (what your plans are is not their concern — it could be plans to put your feet up!). Or, if the time comes, you could simply say something to the effect of, “I have really enjoyed having you for dinner; thank you so much for joining me. I am ready to call it a day and have some quiet time. Does anyone need help with your coat?” Sometimes, polite yet direct communication is all that is needed. Perhaps your guests can decide to move their conversation to another location if they want to continue visiting — no harm in that!
Alas, if no one takes your subtle or not-so-subtle hints, try to take a deep breath and be grateful for the time together. You never know how life may change and you could be wishing for that time back. It's only one day — until the next holiday!
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.