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Supper of my Discontent

By Hildie Westenhaver

You guys, I am a friendly person. I am a natural chit-chatter, and I think my easy-going, fun nature is fairly obvious to most people at church. But that doesn’t seem to matter. You see my family has never been invited to anybody’s house for dinner.  I have been chalking that up to my six kids.  I am perfectly aware how scary it must seem to not only feed, but entertain a horde of strange children, no matter how nice their manners are. The thing is, no one invited us over when we had just one child either.  Back then my reasoning was that our friends were older and had no interest in hosting a young family like us. I figured that once we were a “real family” with several kids things would be different.

At one point I blamed the lack of family dinner invitations on unfriendly cliquish Utah Mormons.  But having not been invited to supper in other states as well, that must not be the case.

As a child we’d often have families over to our house for Sunday dinner (It was my job to sit by the window overlooking the driveway and yell, “they’re here!”).  And I remember going to other people’s houses for dinner too (didn’t you hate the people who served powdered milk to company?).  So I always assumed that it is simply the thing that grown-ups do.  My husband and I have always invited people over to eat, but the invitation has never been reciprocated.  All these unrequited meals are beginning to bug me.   A lot.

As I said, I’m not some sort of freak with a goofy husband and a bunch of hyper kids with food allergies.  In other words, it’s not us.

It’s you. 

Or rather, society. Has inviting people over for dinner become some archaic custom along the lines of quilting bees and dancing around the Maypole? Is there no time for friendship when more important things like working late and soccer practice are on the agenda?  It’s one thing to be invited en masse to the neighbor’s Fourth-of-July BBQ. Quite another to welcome another family into your house and get to know them.

Now, don’t reply and say, “Jennie, I’d invite you over if you lived nearby!”  Because I don’t believe you.  After all, when was the last time you had someone over to eat? See what I mean?  It’s a dying tradition.

Am I alone in this?  Do you invite families over for dinner?  Or even dessert?  (In many ways a dessert invitation is even better.  It eliminates the stage fright of serving an entire meal.)   Are people inviting you to dinner?  Am I just being paranoid  or are get-togethers another victim of our overscheduled lives? 

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

84 thoughts on “Supper of my Discontent”

  1. We have been in our current ward for 1 year – and we have been invited over to three different families homes for dinner – had a great time. However there are two reasons I don't invite people over: 1)'entertaining' other people stresses me out. I know some people really enjoy it, but I'm not one of those people.
    2)I physically don't have the capacity have lots of people over. We only have enough chairs for our family members, and with not even a picnic table or picnic chairs to help out, everyone would be sitting on the floor or standing. Not my idea of a good time if I'm the hostess.

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  2. I have invited families over to eat and never had the favor returned except once for a "new elders quorum presidency" dinner. I stopped inviting though because it is too demoralized to never get invited back.

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  3. Dang! See, now I did think it was Utah, because we lived here for over 5 years and never associated with people for dinner. We'd try to invite couples over for games or what-not, but it was never very well-received. Then we moved to California, and talk about social heaven! We were always inviting very willing families over for dinner and vice versa.

    Then after a year, we moved back. And it's back to "no socializing allowed!" At least that's what it feels like in the ward. And instead of trying to fight it, we've just gone along with it. Now I'm sad. 🙁

    But perhaps this post is just what I need to get going again. Hmmm…who could we invite over on Sunday? (oh, and that's a whole other thing –people who can't have a lovely dinner with each other because, holy crap! It's the Sabbath! *rolling my eyes)

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  4. I love having people over, and I really love being invited over. We just moved into a nice ward in Michigan, where we have enjoyed lots of great dinners with new friends. I admit, though, to not inviting people over on Sunday. I get a little too freaked about having the house clean and preparing time-consuming side dishes to make for an enjoyable Sabbath as we prepare for guests. Then I feel exhausted afterwards. I'd much rather have friends over on another day when I can do all those things and not feel sad about missing my "day of rest"!

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  5. We've been invited for dinner a few times. I have often felt a bit guilty for going, however, since we have eight kids. It seems like a lot for someone else to feed. We have invited others to dinner as well. It stresses me out, but it always ends up being fun after all. We have had repeat invites (and have repeatedly invited them back) with only one family. They have six children so it makes for houseful, but it's always fun. They have become good friends of ours. We hope to continue. This particular family invites a LOT of people over, however. They are well-loved by the whole ward. They love to entertain and love and serve and love and serve. They are awesome…and unusual for the day.

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  6. We've invited families over, but it's often kinda awkward, and someone doesn't like something I served, and I get all stressed out trying to get ready. We've been invited to other people's houses as well and it's kinda uncomfortable too. Honestly, I could do without it on both ends without a problem. As a kid we never had people over and no one invited us (we had 9 kids) It's honestly never crossed my mind to be bugged not to get invited over, though I always feel bad that I don't invite more. I know it's a great way to help new families feel included.

    Ever thought of starting a dinner group? Get 3 other couples/families and take a turn once a month to host a meal. Maybe, like me, the people in your ward are just out of practice and aren't sure they can pull it off with everyone having a good time.

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  7. I enjoy having other people over for dinner, especially since I've appreciated people who in the past went out of their way to have us over. So, I continue to do it, even when most people never reciprocate… ever. I've decided to assume it has nothing to do with my family, but rather the stress they might feel hosting, being uncomfortable hosting, or not being interested. But, I don't want what other people do to dictate whether or not I continue to have people over.

    As for the friends on Sunday thing… my ward family has become my family. Sunday's can be long when you have one child (which I do) and live far away from family. So, maybe some people's lives are too full to see that others might love an invitation to socialize.

    So, Jennie, I would keep inviting and yes I'd invite you over! A few months ago we had a few families over, and one has 6 children all under the age of 8. Our house was full, but we a had a great time!

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  8. Please, please come to my house for dinner. We love guests and we have a fabulous view. I've lived in Utah all my life and never remember being invited to dinner to someone's house growing up. As an adult we have had families over for dinner, and it's been reciprocated–although both have been rare. We had an openhouse at our house on a Sunday evening and over 100 neighbors showed up, laden with food. On the other hand, I had a meet the Democratic candidate legislator running from our district and I had one person. Life in Utah! Email me. I don't know you, but I'm sure I'll like you just fine.

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  9. We regularly invite friends over for dinner; in the last area we had two families that we were good friends with (not in our ward) and would have dinner together at least once a month with each of them. We have friends here that we do the same with. But are you talking specifically at church? We moved in to our ward last fall and have invited a few people over; we've usually had reciprocation too. We only have a small table with four chairs, so we usually eat in shifts or we have the little kids sit at the table while the grownups sit on the couch. I love cooking and 'entertaining' people in my house; this post reminds me that I haven't invited anyone over recently (the inviting is the hard part for me, actually), so maybe I'll do that during the next week or two.

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  10. People are inviting me to dinner. I don't think there's anything at all wrong about saying, "Hey, we should have dinner together one of these days. Do you have next week? Oh, at your place? Okay." Ha ha. Don't feel rejected, though, if invitations don't come on their own. Seriously. Some people might think it's harder from your side to bring all your kids over. Others just don't think about it.

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  11. We our children were smaller (and fewer)we would invite families over for dinner and we did have a few who would reciprocate. (We even invited a family with eight children to dinner when we just had 3 it was great.) It was an enjoyable time in our life.

    But then we moved to a new town and though we continued to invite, no one invited back. And our family continued to grow. So eventually with no one inviting back and our family gettting bigger, we stopped inviting people.

    Now we are in a new town and we have invited a few families to dinner- but only one family (who also happened to have the many children) no reciprocation.

    SO, I guess I am saying I understand your frustration and disappointment.

    Every once in a while we try again. Though I have been doing dessert/visit/games instead of dinner.

    I need to be like Andi above and not take it personally when no one invites back!

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  12. Thank you for this post! My husband and I have invited couples over for dinner in the past to get to know the people in our last ward and no one ever invited us over to their home or even said thank you after we saw them again at church {very awkward}.

    This is perplexing to me because as a convert to the church, even MY family growing up would reciprocate and invite people over if we had gone to their home for dinner.

    I feel it's pretty rude (especially considering the state of our country as far as financial matters go) to accept a meal for you and your family and to eat good food that someone has prepared for you and then to not offer to have them back over {even if it's just for dessert or playing board games or watching a movie} at some point in time and I believe it is in very poor form as far as I'm concerned.

    I don't put much into the argument that it's stressful- any one who hosts in their home is going to be a little stressed to make things look right and taste good. I think the more you do it, the more at ease you get to be with it all.

    I agree with you and this post 100% I just don't understand why people don't try to get to know their ward members {outside of church}.

    If making dinner frazzles you, invite the other family OUT to dinner or do a picnic/BBQ at a local park. Don't just accept an invitation you know you'll never ever reciprocate. And remember to say THANK YOU. That goes a long way too.

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  13. I'm inviting you over. Seriously. I'm sure we'd have fun. I love having people over. We try to invite people for dinner (or desert if the month is really hectic) at least once a month. We get to know people better, I love cooking for others, and it's FUN. Flip side – we've lived here 2 1/2 years and been invited to dinner maybe twice. I would totally dig a dinner invitation just once in awhile.

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  14. we frequently have sunday dinner guests. sometimes it's last minute though (i make something and then invite people at church) so really, the big families never get invited because i still haven't gotten used to making big meals.

    really, i love having people over. i love getting invited over. but it makes me feel bad that i'm supposed to invite the people over who've invited me over. sometimes it just doesn't happen for another year or two. sometimes it just doesn't happen. we like to invite people over who we'd like to get to know more, so often we don't have repeats.

    still, as i type this i realize we have a couple of families who are frequent repeats…

    hmmm.

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  15. I've been married for over 2 years now, have a little girl and when our friends moved out of the ward we realized we didn't have really any other good friends. As our ward is constantly changing and is fairly large (we're near BYU) we decided to go out on the limb. We invite couples over for dinner, desert and if that night is still young a game. We haven't for about a month but there were family circumstances that prevented us. But we're planning a Brian Regan movie and dinner night in two weeks. It's helped us tremendously to break out of our shells and hopefully help others in the ward too. It also makes it since we can';t get out as regularly and easily to have fun with other people.

    It's been about a year since we've been invited over but we understand most of who we talk to are young families who's kids schedules are different from our daughter's or couples who just don't have room in their very tiny studio apartments. But it's convenient for them to come here and they love it and help with a dish for dinner or dessert. Works great for us:)

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  16. We spend way too much time being offended by things that are probably not intentional. (and even if they are intentional, who cares? life's too short to take offense to every little thing!!) If you enjoy having people over for dinner – invite them! If you don't get invited back, don't take offense, just keep having people over if that's what YOU like. It does seem like places outside of Utah tend to do more dinner swapping, but that's most likely due to the family connections lots of people have in Utah. If you have family close, you tend to do more stuff with them and less with friends. It's not a snub.

    I guess what I'm saying is just be yourself, don't worry about everyone else.

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  17. Thank you for this post! I was starting to feel like the ward lepor, so it's nice to know I'm not the only one who has noticed this. My husband and I are very social, and love having people over to dinner. I realized a few weeks ago, after another couple invited us over, that we never get invited to dinner. We love having people over, but it would be nice if our efforts were reciprocated more.

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  18. We have people over for dinner all the time! But, now that I'm starting to think about it, it's pretty rare that we go to someone else's. Huh, I had actually never realized that before this very moment.

    I grew up in a house where neighbors over for dinner was a VERY common occurrence. Maybe it's just a dying tradition. We still love it though. I'd say we have people over at least once a month.

    And I kind of don't care if we don't go anywhere else. I think I'd rather be the one hosting. Maybe it's a freakish control thing, who knows…

    Don't stop inviting people over, Jennie! You'll miss out on so much fun!

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  19. When we first moved to Utah (December 07) We were in a ward that was very un-social. We had come from Kansas where everyone is genuinely super friendly, so this was a big culture shock to us. We tried to make friends, but it was really hard in that ward. Then we moved to Clinton and our new ward is completely opposite. We've got dinner or game nights going on at least weekly and I love it. Move here! 🙂

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  20. I can't even think of the last time we were invited to someone's house for dinner. But I don't invite people over either, so I can't complain. We really don't have any "couple" friends at all. We're in that weird situation of being older parents of young kids, and its hard to find friends in our same situation.

    We've been in two different wards that did dinner groups. In the first ward, we didn't have kids yet, and we always got put in the dinner group with the elderly couples and elderly single sisters/widows. We were in our thirties, they were in their seventies and eighties. Now, they were great people and lots of fun…but I did feel like we were outcasts from the rest of the ward.

    Our current ward tried dinner groups several years ago. Both times, it was very awkward. We always seemed to be the family that got "left over", not fun enough to be put with the families that had kids the ages of our kids. Once they even forgot to assign us to a group, so they tried to make a special group of two families, us and the activities committee chair. I don't think that family was even planning to participate, but they felt bad for us that we didn't have a group. The whole thing was just weird.

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  21. The only time we were invited to dinner (by people who weren't family) was one little rural ward in Utah. We didn't have kids then, but they told us they liked to invite one new family in the ward to dinner each month. My folks rarely had anyone over for dinner.

    We've invited a neighbor family over for dinner once, and I was embarrassed by the fact that I didn't have enough chairs for everyone, that our apartment wasn't sterilized, that my plates and flatware don't match. It was kind of a last minute thing, so I was stressing over whether or not I had enough food to go around (it turned out okay).

    I am normally shy, and having people over besides the missionaries showed me just how hard it is for me to talk to people. I try to ask people about themselves, but it's hard trying to think of new questions that aren't potentially "too personal" after the basic "where do you work, where did you grow up, what do you like to do".

    I don't feel in the least bit worried that no one has invited us to dinner. I guess I'm just the antisocial kind.

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  22. I know this will sound really anti-social, but here goes. I'm only posting this because it might explain the reasoning of some people… ummm, including me.

    When we moved into our ward in the Midwest we were invited to dinner by three people our first couple of Sundays. We turned all of them down, because we were a)exhausted from moving, b)getting kids in school the next day and didn't want to have them up late (church ends at 4), and c)did I already mention exhausted from settling in from our move? We needed our space. We finally took someone up on a dessert group one Sunday, but we didn't want to. I was actually irritated by the invites because I didn't like seeming anti-social, but we honestly were over the edge for about two months after the move.

    Now, we have every opportunity to have people over. Church ends at noon, and we're settled. We know lots of people. We're actually pretty social. I know, you don't believe me. But we still don't do dinner parties. I realized I simply don't like them.

    I jealously guard my free time. My husband travels a lot, and my three kids always have things going on. The last thing I want to do is socialize when I have free time. I want to regroup, reconnect, relax… not do all the things it takes to round up my kids to go somewhere else, or the flip side of preparing my house and a meal and then cleaning up afterwards.

    So I guess my point is some people are like me. They like people, but they don't like dinner parties?

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  23. Mormonhermitmom, I am with you. My house is not cute, my chairs are mismatched, half of my spoons are lost so we use plastic, and although I am a pretty good cook I feel like my whole house is on display, and it makes me panic. I am really uncomfortable and stressed out by entertaining. My ward has done small group dinners in the past, and people get their tables all fancy with centerpieces and so forth. Centerpieces are just not something I think about with anything except resentment for having to think about it.

    If I could have people over who I knew would not care at all about the fact that my walls, carpet, and couch are all three different and clashing shades of green, and would also not care that I don't plan to fix that for a very long time, then I could maybe relax about it. I love the people in my ward, so much. They are amazing. I'd like to do more stuff with them. All these conflicts are probably in my head. But they're there anyway.

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  24. Usually when I read on Segullah I find something to connect with and understand. Today it makes me sad to hear so much whining amidst so much wealth.

    Be grateful you have enough on your table to share. Be grateful your husbands are members and are happy to have other people into your homes. Be grateful you don't share your home with three other families to make ends meet and every dinner is shared. Be grateful you are able-bodied enough to make dinner, clean house and care for those 6 healthy children. Be grateful that you aren't on church assistance and the branch president has told you not to share your food with others. These are all things that happen (and more) in my little branch here in the East. This church is world-wide, don't forget your comfort and wealth, not just materially but also in blessings of the gospel.

    If you want to have people over, have people over and enjoy it. Serve them dinner in a Christ-like manner, expecting nothing but their company in return. Otherwise, don't invite them over.

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  25. I can sometimes get away with inviting groups of people over but my husband will not consent to one family at a time. He is not the social type, as they say. However, when I know a friend's husband is out of town I will often invite them over, as then he is not on the hook to go one on one with their dh. I wish he were more willing, I would have people over all the time.

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  26. I don't like going to other people's houses for dinner. Why? Because usuallly their house isn't prepared for feeding two little kids. Feeding a toddler on your lap is no fun, and then you have to follow them around so that they don't break stuff.

    We do invite people over, but only on Sundays because we know that they usually don't have anything else going on. Also, they're probably ready for a meal at the same time as us since we just all got out of church.

    Our kids go to bed really early, so it makes sharing a dinner here or there akward. A 7pm bedtime makes it difficult to get dinner it with others. We usually eat around 5:30 and then go straight to the bath.

    We prefer having others over for dessert at 7pm. That way, we know that the kids' routine is out of the way and we can just tell the older one to get back in bed.

    Perhaps brunch…but then choir gets in the way of that…

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  27. We havnt been invited over for dinner in almost three years. We invite people over three or four times a year. But usually its people I know really well. Since my dining table is almost too small for my family, if we invite people over it has to be the type of meal you can eat on the couch or standing up. So I have to be pretty comfy with whom Im inviting over to force them to eat on my couch.

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  28. We love having people over! And we do not get many return invites. Although it would be nice, I am okay with it. I love to cook, my husband loves to host, and not everyone is like that. So we do it anyway, return invite or not. People seem to enjoy coming over.
    Once we've invited people over more than once or twice without a return invite, some people feel awkward or obligated. And I can usually sense that, and say something like, it would be such a huge help if you could bring the salad or dessert or whatever, it makes so much less work for me. (Which is true, it does). That way they feel less like they have to reciprocate if they just don't feel comfortable doing it.

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  29. I'm not bitter about not being invited over. It's just really perplexing to me. Especially when I feel like there's a real "Love Connection" (remember that show?) It's not about food or how my house looks, it more about "why don't you like me enough to invite me over?" or "Is there actually something the matter with us that I'm not aware of?"

    I honestly don't care about people's decor or even the food, really. I'd be totally happy having a pizza together. or ice cream floats. Or even PB&J. It's one of those things where it's all about the gesture.

    We still invite people over all the time and I plan to keep doing that. My husband groans and grumbles because he'd rather be vegging out than entertaining. But he knows how crappy it feels to not have friends, so he goes along with it.

    We really try to include the larger families, since I know everyone else is intimidated by them.

    I really like the idea of meeting at the park. No housecleaning involved!

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  30. We have people over a lot- in fact we are on saturday. My husband is gone 3 sun evenings a month so it puts a cramp in my normal style. I can think of more than 20 families we've had over since being here. I grew up in a family that has people over alot. My parents are empty nesters and regularly have 20ish or so for dinner (seeing as neither me or my sister are close by- they take take of the young families in their wards). I think part of it is geography, here our friends are our family. I think our ward is a very invite peope over place- it's how we survive and stick together.

    don't worry about mismatched plates or ungourmet meals-it can be simple- the hospitality is never unappreciated.

    I think this ritual should not die- it is an important way of bringing other good role models into your children's lives and modelling friendship!

    So all you invite someone today!!

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  31. Meeting with other families for dinner was never part of my upbringing, so I'd probably be one of those people neglecting you without realizing that you were hurt. I grew up in a family of eight kids. We had barbecues with other families maybe a couple times a year for holidays, but honestly we hardly had enough room in our three bedroom house for our own family; adding another was impossible unless we could eat outside.

    Maybe that's not a great excuse for the people in your neighborhood and ward, but I guess I was brought up not doing dinners with other families so it's something I've hardly thought of.

    Thanks for sharing though. If it's a big deal to you I guess I need to think about it more.

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  32. This is an interesting thread. I thought I'd add one more piece of the puzzle that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet, and that is life's crazy schedule. I'm reluctant to invite people over on Sunday when I don't know when my husband will be home from the church (every week it's different) and we have to be back at a specific time for ward choir or a fireside. (Imagine saying "Please come for dinner between 5:10 and 5:55" or whatever!) Weeknights are out because with work and commuting, not to mention sports and play practice schedules, we also never know when people are going to be home – even on Friday. And Saturday is spent either with youth activites or cleaning the yard which is so exhausting, even if we're done by a decent dinner hour, I'm too tired to want to put on a "company" face. And I love to cook and am not stressed at all about having people over. I just have to plan in advance, and that's not possible. Having said all that, we DO try to have people over – general conference weekend usually works, and we had someone over after stake conference last month as well. We actually had dinner guests more often when our 6 children were younger because the schedule worked better. And, no we didn't receive reciprocal invitations, but that honestly didn't bother me a bit. Just do what you can, and keep trying to improve.

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  33. We try to have people for dinner about once a month, but I admit, we rarely invite an established family. We live in a branch, and usually invite new converts, single moms with a kid or two, widows, a husband who's wife and kids are out of town, etc. We do occasionally invite a couple with a small child or two, but those are in the minority. Our thinking seems to be: who's lonely? But, we really should invite more of the established members with kids just like us. It would be good for us all.

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  34. Somewhere in life I came up with the idea that if I feel awkward there is a 99% chance the other person is also. I think this applies to your dinner situation (does this make sense?). The people you invite over might feel that you do it so well they could never measure up to how well you have done it. I wouldn't take it personally. If you really want to encourage sharing of the responsibilities talk with them about a round robin type set up or something.

    My guess is that you are so socially savy that you put others at ease in your home and they enjoy being there. So they want to continue.

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  35. jendoop: AMEN

    I ended up moving into a ward that had two sisters of one of my friends from BYU. They frequently invited us over to their (small, not perfectly clean) home for a potluck style family dinner. They had a bunch of kids and we had zero and really couldn't return the invitation. But they kept inviting us back because they enjoyed our company (and we brought good food, but I don't think that was the main reason they invited us back). It gave us family even when we lived far away from family. It was nice to feel like they weren't putting on a show for us every time we came over.

    We recently invited a family with three kids over. Since we only have three chairs to put around our table, we decided to just lay out some beach towels in the living room and everybody could eat on that. The 4-year-old was so excited to have "A INDOOR PICNIC!"

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  36. I never thought I would be the type to regularly invite people over. I love my time with my family, I love peace and quiet, and I love curling up for hours with a good book. But my husband and I have become regular hosts to family, friends, missionaries, and ward members. And I love it. Just one hour in someones home means so much more that a year or two of "hello" in the halls of church. There is a level of intimacy that cannot be gained through casual acquaintance. And not every one has either the budget or desire to reciprocate. But I don't think you should limit your own growth to match someone else's. I don't think the dinnerparty should go the way of the thank you note.

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  37. It seems to me that there are some people who just love to invite people over and some who are not so into it. One of my best friends had people over to her house every Sunday and loved it. Everyone loved going there, too. But she rarely got return invites, though she was a great favorite with everyone. It's just that she made going to her house so much fun nobody wanted to change the equation. One thing she did was to have people bring something so it was more of a potluck, which helped with the expense.

    I do not enjoy cooking, but I do like having people over occasionally. I invite them for dinner once in a while, but I like the idea of having people over for dessert instead. That's a little easier to handle. It's funny, I can write and direct a program for the whole stake without blinking an eye, but having someone over for dinner puts me on edge. I am just not that reliable a cook, lol. Once, when we had the missionaries over (thankfully, on a Saturday), the oven failed to cook my stew (turns out it wasn't heating properly). We ended up having to take all four of them out to dinner!

    It was a bit embarrassing, but really not that big a deal in the scheme of things.

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  38. We have been invited over twice in our current ward of 3.5 years. I also invited myself over for conference breakfast once (it was a "let's do this together" and they have more space). We have not invited anybody over in this ward because of the state of our house and because it's stressful for my introverted husband.

    We invited people over for game nights in our old ward, and had a couple of invites there as well. It just hasn't happened here, and I'm not sure why. Different stuff going on, I think.

    I do invited friends over for lunch or play time during the day, but not as often as I would like because I forget to think about it sometimes.

    One of my favorites things was a few weeks ago, dh was gone and I needed out of the house, so I called a couple of elderly sisters in our ward and asked if they could go out to dinner with me and our toddler. It was fantastic. I want to make room in the budget to do it more.

    I think there's something philosophically "better" about cooking for someone, but I sure liked no set up and no clean up.

    Growing up in California, we had a family who regularly invited us over for scones and candied popcorn, and my parents still have friends they game with every weekend, but I don't remember any dinner invitations at all.

    Oh, and Conference Breakfasts are my most favorite–whole wheat pancakes, fresh strawberries, etc. I need to plan on that next month. It's so fun!

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  39. Six of my friends and I decided to start eating dinner together once every couple of months. We each have several children, and some (o.k. most if not all), of our husbands don't enjoy "dinner parties". So it's just us and our infants. Hubbies and the rest of the kids get some daddy time.

    We call it our "Cooking Club"…but really it is a group of women with different backgrounds sharing a meal and conversation together. We each host once a year…so the other months you don't have to do anything but come and enjoy. We share our recipes. We prepare "girl food". And we sit and chat until we are ready to go home several hours later.

    Cooking club is one of my favorite activities. I've come to know some ladies I didn't know very well. Meeting with the same people has been a great blessing. We are all so comfortable with each other now, that much of the stress of trying to host is gone. Sure it can still be a little hectic, but the love we share has made it so I don't have to worry about being judged. We all look forward to our "meetings."

    I don't invite entire families over for dinner, nor has my family been invited over. I'm fine with it. I'd rather meet with other families for snacks and a playdate because it is much less stressful for everyone, the host and the hosted.

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  40. Didn't get a chance to read all the comments, but wanted to add my two cents… The lack of dinner invitations in Utah is something my husband and I call "the curse of Zion." It feels like everyone is out having dinner with families and extended families! We started inviting people for dinner and FHE on Monday night instead.

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  41. I don't care so much about being invited to a formal dinner, but I do enjoy being invited over for game night or other casual get togethers. I feel that my family is often over-looked and I feel really left out and sad when I find out about other families getting together. In our last ward I really wanted to be social, but there seemed to be separations among the members based on income. There were loads of wealthy people in the ward and families would literally go to Mexico or Hawaii together. Not being part of that money-making group, we couldn't hob-knob with them. We recently moved to a new area. Five monthes into this move and someone finally invited us over for games. It felt good to be invited. Maybe I'll actually think about having some people over to my house…

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  42. Jennie, I ask myself the same questions when we aren't invited over, especially when I hear about others' get togethers. They are plaguing questions sometimes, aren't they?!

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  43. Red, I did find it true that when we lived in Utah there was no neighborly socializing going on. Not only did we not receive any dinner invitations, we also had to beg people to go out to dinner (just couples). And forget the holidays! Strictly for extended family in Utah. I don't want to bag on Utah, but I've done more fun things with other people in my new Texas ward in one year than I did in all six years in Utah combined.

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  44. When I was growing up, we had the missionaries over for dinner. Once.

    And that was it for company.

    It wasn't that our home was messy. In fact, it was museum organized, and kind of sterile. Not very welcoming or inviting to others. I really only felt perfectly comfortable in my own room.

    I have never figured out why, but my mom is a fiercely private person, and she just never let anyone past the home teacher room.

    We would go out with friends sometimes, but not often.

    Some people just have a need to keep their home private, I guess.

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  45. I invite people for dinner. We get invited occasionally, but less often. I thought it was our six kids, but maybe it is cultural as well. I love it when I find families who are comfortable with themselves and others and laid back enough to enjoy a big family and friends meal, because some people seem to get stressed out by it. I agree more socializing happens in less predominantly LDS communities. People Utah and parts of Idaho seem to have lots of extended family commitments.

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  46. We used to get invited to a lot of parties and social things, but we never reciprocated, so it sort of drifted off. Life is just so busy. On the weekends I just want to relax and be with my husband and kids. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my friends, love them, and think there are so many smart/fun/amazing women in my neighborhood who I could be great friends with, but there just isn't time for everything. It seems like we see each other constantly anyway – at church, at school, around the neighborhood, at ward activities, at dance classes, at book club – and I think that kind of fills my bucket. I just don't require that much social interaction. I enjoy it when I get around to doing it, but I don't CRAVE it.

    When we temporarily moved out of our ward they had a girls night/going away party for me and there were (no joke) probably thirty-five women from the ward there, but they were almost all women who I loved and kept MEANING to get to know better but had never really gotten the chance to know in the way I wanted. It's like there was all of this mutual affection, but very little time for doing anything about it. When we moved back again I swore that would change – that I'd MAKE the time – but then life and procrastination got in the way.

    This was actually my goal this year – to make time for my friends. To make time to reach out to all of these awesome women I like so much. GOOD JOB, SELF.

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  47. I go back and forth on this topic. We go through phases of inviting people over–always in a bit of a rough and tumble BBQ, kids eat first, plastic and paper sort of style because that's what we have. But we are very rarely invited to reciprocate and that hurts after a while (and I can never figure out if it's the size/ demeanor of our family or if it's the timidity of other people or some general forgetfulness or displeasure with/of us, not that it really matters). But if I can let go of the hurt, I remember the fun those evenings are and want to have more no matter who did the inviting. Sometimes. Sometimes it's all just too much and I just crave and horde quiet time with just my little ones and my man and fight tooth and nail to order our schedule around something other than flitting from event to event in craziness. I am, by nature, not a social butterfly. I prefer quiet times with dear ones. But dear ones must be created and cultivated and that necessitates some social events and so, I go back and forth.

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  48. We LOVE having people over for dinner!It has been the best way to make friends with members and non-members alike. My husband is in dental school and friends are all we have out here far away from family.

    We try to have a family over every other week but we very rarely receive dinner invitations in return. We blame it on the fact that I'm a culinary school graduate and people must be too intimidated to have me eat their food even though I assure all I love mac-n-cheese and mormon casserole as much as the next person. I've noticed that the ones who do invite us over have done so more than once and they are so laid-back and fun. We always have a great time.

    Maybe it takes a I-don't-care-what-my-house-looks-like or what-my-food-tastes-like attitude to invite people over and just have fun getting to know each other.

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  49. I definitely noticed the extended family thing in Utah as well, but I think it's interesting that it happens a lot here in CA too. We moved here for school and I assumed that many other people in our 'student ward' would be far away from their families, but at least half the families here spend most of their free time with nearby relatives. Same thing when we were living at a university in WA–as the church becomes more established I think there are more places where people are grounded in an environment surrounded by family. We still can find people to invite over, but I was surprised by how many people are here specifically because of the family connection.

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  50. We don't socialise as much as we intend to. We try to have a family over every month but don't often make it. I do get stressed trying to get the home organized though, not as much as I used to as I am trying to quit the perfect syndrome, but it still happens.

    We do tend to do more in the summer as we don't have a big house and it means that we can all eat outside, I actually prefer doing things like BBQ's because they are more relaxed for everyone. In Winter we have to let the kids sit on the floor and picnic because we only have a small dining table, but they like it anyway.

    What does happen more and more is that each week we will end up bringing home a few kids from church. I never know how many kids I will be feeding on a Sunday anymore. My kids know they can invite just about anyone and it will be o.k. My theory on this is that as long as they have good church friends hopefully it will help them stay active, so if it means feeding half of the youth and primary each week I don't care.

    As for being invited back, I have given up on that and just don't expect it. I am not a particularly social person anyway, but feel I should be trying more in that direction. It is nice not to have to cook on a Sunday every now and again though.

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  51. Years ago there was a family in our ward who routinely invited a few people over for waffles and games most Sunday evenings. The menu was simple and pre-determined, the guests varied from week to week. They had a bunch of little boys in a small house and not much money, so cleanliness and perfection of decor wasn't really much of an option. I think we used paper plates.

    I loved going there because it wasn't about the centerpieces or the home decor or the impressive culinary expertise, it was about making friends and enjoying one another's company.

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  52. This is reminiscent of conversation I had with a couple from the southern part of the US. They invited people over and expected reciprocation. It was a surprise to have no invitations in return. They decided it was a difference in the culture between the states.

    Maybe we don't talk about good manners enough anymore. Maybe we don't see good examples. We don't have much incentive to socialize with all the other kinds of entertainments that are available to families.

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  53. I don't remember ever going to other people's houses for dinner when I was growing up. And the only people we had to dinner at our place were the missionaries, and they can't exactly invite you to their place in return.

    I do try to have two or three dinner parties at my place each year though. A Spring one (it's next weekend), a Summer one (because I like throwing myself a birthday party), and a Christmas one. But more than that would really stress me out.

    Could it possibly be that these days dinner isn't the same type of production that it used to be? If I were cooking more than tator tots, chicken, and having an apple for dinner maybe I'd want to share it. But dinner itself is not the same meal it once was.

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  54. My husband and I love to have people over! The best part about it for me is that when we do, dh does the cooking!! 🙂 Having people over is more important to dh than it is for me, but I definitely enjoy it. We have only ever lived in one bedroom apartments, but that hasn't stopped, us whether our friends had kids or not, even before we had our sweet daughter. One of our favorite things to do, and haven't done for a while, is to invite ourselves over to other peoples homes to cook them dinner in their own home.

    A favorite tradition on dh side is cookie parties for the holidays. Since we live 400 miles from family, we've tried to keep that up with friends. It hasn't happened every year, but it's something that we love, and the more kids the more fun!! I make the sugar cookies, dh makes tons of frosting in various colors (his frosting is OHHHH so good), and we use all kinds of decorations, for a fun evening of sugary goodness 🙂

    We don't get as many invites to others homes, but that doesn't bother me. Having little Chickadee now I prefer to host, to be able to get her to bed as close to on time as possible.

    I guess I'm saying that it still happens in some places, we do live in Ca though.

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  55. It's always interesting for me to read other peoples' heartfelt opinions about circumstances I've never even considered.

    This is my opinion:

    When we were a young married couple, we had dinner with other couples all the time. Once a week wasn't unusual. We built strong friendships that way and we all loved the socializing. Once our kids started coming, it became harder and harder to manage.

    And life has become more complicated, more busy. We're worn out more often and planning dinner for my own family is hard enough, let alone trying to think about cooking something nice enough for company.

    Also, my husband deals with depression. It's life-threatening at times, and at times, it's simply another barrier to having a chaotic but fun night with another family. It takes so much effort for him to prepare himself mentally for that kind of an experience that I have simply given up on the idea of socializing often.

    And the last thing…through my experience with my husband's illness, I have found that it is ALWAYS my responsibility to find my own happiness. Right now he's well, and I get lots of love and affection and support. But often he's not, and when that's the case, I can't gripe that I'm not getting what I want. I have to make a way to find it in my own life. So I will agree with those who have said, if you crave connection with other families, make it happen. Become a social center. Show people how to live well, how to extend themselves to others, how to make their homes inviting places for large numbers of people, and even show them what kinds of meals work well for crowds. Be an example, and maybe there won't be enough time to wonder why people aren't responding the way you wish they would.

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  56. Oh this hits a nerve with me. The memory of sitting at book club listening to how this family invited that family over and this family is new so these families were inviting them over and wondering why, in the four years we had lived there, WE had never been invited.
    Sadly, I've concluded it was us. I'm just not that social. But I'm still nice! Really I am! Just kind of quiet, that's all. And apparently, that's enough to discourage people.

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  57. wanna come for root beer floats sometime? we could meet mid-day while guys area away, or whenever. i'd love to see you irl during 2009! ♥

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  58. i had a lovely invite from one of the ladies here for homemade ice cream and treats one sunday. it was such a highlight for me and my kids. we meet with family sometimes, but the 1-4 schedule on sundays coupled with the 1.5 hour drive to their home makes it more difficult to do every other year. so mostly we're loners. if i wanted to i could be more proactive about having people over…and we do when friends from out of town are visiting.

    my sister lives in hawaii and has been part of a "FHE Group" for the past 10 years. 3 families who rotate homes and have FHE 3 weeks a month, the 4th they're on their own. They always have a potluck for the meal, and the host family does the lesson. There are a zillion kids and babies, and it's not fancy or stressful in terms of house keeping or dishes etc., but they eat and are enriched spiritually. this tradition has knit them together in the gospel, and it's a wonderful experience for them as they are all far away from extended family.

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  59. In the 2 months since we moved to our current location we've had about 5 families over for dinner, but as yet have received no invites. Honestly, I hadn't even thought about it until now. My husband and I are so anti-social, though, that inviting people over to dinner is the only way we get to know people (we don't talk that much at church) so I would be surprised if we did get an invite, unless it's the kind of family that goes out of their way to invite over every single new family in the ward. Someone did say to me "such and such family will ask you over to dinner" but they just had a baby so we have brought them a dinner, but still haven't been over for dinner. If they never invite us, though, my feelings won't be hurt.

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  60. Women aren't raised to be hostesses anymore! I think that many women don't like it and aren't given any training. We have microwaves and frozen pizzas so that is what we are comfortable with and cooking something fancy enough for guests seems way too much trouble or too out of our league.
    I experience some social anxiety so what I prefer over a planned event is actually if someone stops by and we end up inviting them to eat dinner (or lunch when its moms & kids) with us. Then I don't feel the stress of planning what to eat, etc.
    I love having people over, but I also dread it. I force myself to do it anyway every so often. I like to hang out with people.
    I would love to hang out with just adults though. I am sick of being in mom mode while being the hostess because then I don't really get to relax.
    My advice is to continue to invite people over. I hope they ask what they can bring, so you can go ahead and ask them to bring dessert or salad or whatever to take a little burden off you.
    We are having someone over for dinner Saturday night. Acquaintances that my husband now works at the same place. I am trying not to stress about it.
    I used to have a great friend who was always inviting people over for dinner or games and dessert. It was awesome.
    I just want people to come over for games!
    Oh, sometimes I have been turned down trying to set something up like dinner out with just me and an acquaintance. They've had extended family plans. I think those who have a lot of family around have less room for times for inviting friends over.

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  61. continued
    So this dinner on Sat. night is actually less stressful for me because I didn't plan it or pick a date or talk about it or anything. My husband invited the guy & his family and then told me. Since we were free I was cool with it. He got half the stress out of the way. I hate anxiety. Often having less choice makes it so much easier for me. The dinner was set up. The wife called. I picked a time right then. Easy, no stress.
    Now if I just didn't have to think of the menu or try to get my family to help clean the house to a level I am happy with.

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  62. Camille,
    I started the same type of group last year and we call ourselves Friends for LifeSupport or just our Club for short! It's been fabulous. No pressure, we all bring something to share and eat. But we sit and talk, laugh and have really created a bond of friendship.

    Now as I'm serving as Activity Chairperson in our ward, I took the same idea and we are having Game Nights once a month. Last month was the first and we had 25 people at two homes. Everyone was mentioning how nice it was to just get together and visit and we played getting to know you games. One unsuspecting sister said she didn't know if this was appropriate, but she had gone skinny-dipping at Lake Powell! Talk about getting to know you. We all had such a good time and it was SO easy. Everyone brought snack foods, but I made a crockpot of soup, just in case someone was actually hungry. Easy.
    I do think that most people are in the same boat. Wanting to have more connections with people, but feeling overwhelmed by how hard it can be. Make it simple, because in the end it's all about people. Thanks for your post!

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  63. Count me as one who likes people, who enjoys getting together with others, but for whom dinner parties are often too much for where I am right now in my life.

    I would like to get to the point where I can do this more, but for those of us for whom this might be a little much or just not our thing, *please* don't take it personally.

    There is nothing written in our doctrine that I'm aware of that to be a True Friend, you must have dinner parties. NOT that they aren't good things, but this seems as simple to me as saying that not everyone speaks the 'dinner invitation' language of love. 🙂 Let's not make it a bigger deal for each other than it has to be. If you like to do it, great. Bless you. If others don't, please don't assume the worst (and maybe even consider that their lives may be hard).

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  64. Diane,

    Game night is a great idea! I'll have to file that away in my "just-in-case-that's-ever-my-calling folder!"

    So many people I know are not alone, but lonely. We are surrounded by others but never make the time or effort to really become friends. It is important to get to know each other – saying "Hello, how are you?" as you quickly pass in the hall on Sunday just doesn't cut it!

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  65. We moved to Southern California almost 5 years ago. I can count on 1 hand how many people have invited us to dinner in that time. My husband is not active but does attend Sacrament meeting and ward activities. He knows most of the men and we have hosted parties, dinners, whatever at our house. Sometimes my husband blames the lack of invites on his inactivity, but then I will be talking with one of the ladies and they tell me how funny my husband is and how much they like him (he is awesome and funny!). We know we have to invite people over to be social. I am thinking most people just feel overwhelmed with inviting others. I know I do. But it's the only way, so we still do it. We do this with our kids, too. We insist they invite people over-even just to hang out and eat pizza. I don't care about the expense because we could easily stay in our own little shelter and be fine, but it's more important to reach out and have some social time. Don't give up! To top it off for us-our closest friends here are now moving out of state. There will be no more invites for us so all the more reason to host another gathering….

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  66. I've reached the conclusion that the only way to end up at a dinner party is to host one. And the only way to attend a lot of dinner parties is to host a lot of them.

    When we lived in Ohio we reciprocated a dinner invitation, and the family–such a cool family–was so excited. They had had everyone in the ward over at one time or another to share fabulous dinner with homemade corn tortillas, and we were only the third family who had ever invited them back. They figured it was the four kids that overwhelmed people. But three years is a long time in kid years, to the kids they hadn't been invited to another family for dinner in "like, forever!"

    I tried to hard, with a soup that was a disaster, some main course I don't remember, and a orange cake frosted in chocolate that was a too far from the norm, but dang they were fun. Everyone liked them.

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  67. I'm right with you here. When I was young, my family were inviters and invitees often. But it doesn't seem as fashionable now, especially with non-family members. My husband is a bit anti-social so he hates it when I want to host something. But I do agree that it is a good way to make new friends and get to know people better. Chatting for 5 minutes in the hall at church is just not the same. I think I'll pull out my ward list right now and make a short list of families we could have over. Thanks for the push.

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  68. I think people in my ward must have read this post because someone called us today and invited us over. Just my husband and me, but I'll take it! Yee haw!

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  69. ah jennie- we like to call those blogging miracles–

    Really for those of you who find it daunting- don't let it – make it simple- do chili and cornbread and a fun dessert you can make it the day before, or taco bar or build your own pizzas- it's easy than you think and paper plates are fine!

    Off to make Moroccan for friends tonight…

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  70. I loved this. I've not read the other comments so I hope that I am not repeating. I probably wouldn't invite you over. It never crosses my mind to invite friends over for dinner. I have my brother and sister over once in awhile, but I never think of inviting friends. I guess it's a dying thing (like Christmas cards), and I am going to make a goal to invite someone over. And soon. Thanks for the kick!

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  71. I just came in the house after taking out the garbage and looked into the window of my neighbor's house where she was having another family in the neighborhood over for dinner. They looked so happy…laughing, eating, talking. It made me so sad that no one has invited us. I thought, "I'll just walk over there and tell them I'm lonely and can I come in." but I didn't have the nerve. I think you are right on in this!

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  72. MissMel, you get yourself over to our house. We'll light a fire in the fireplace, eat fancy food, tell funny jokes, and look all around pastoral in every sense.

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  73. We invite people over pretty regularly– especially when the weather is nice– but rarely is the invite reciprocated. In Utah, most people have family dinners and are so frantic running from one place to the next that they never consider having anyone over.

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  74. I read your comment and I just wanted to say how wonderful I thought it was that you are understanding of your husband. I suffered with very serious depression and when you're going through it, your ability to be social is about zero. I didn't have many friends or much family support and on top of being very depressed I had to deal with feeling abandoned and lonely. I have significantly improved and now I am very close with my family and have many good friends. It is important for me to know that my inability to be a good friend was not due to my personality but because I was sick. I know my parents suffered immensely when I was sick and I'm sure it must be almost as hard on you as it is with your husband. As someone who has been the depressed person I just wanted to tell you how much your support is appreciated. God bless you.

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  75. We've got someone over at least once a month for a real sit down around the table dinner. It's always fun. We've done it for years. We've been invited maybe once or twice in 15 years. I try not to let that bug me.

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  76. We don't invite people as often as we'd like, and when there's a new baby in the house and I'm barely treading water, it does feel too overwhelming to contemplate having anyone in the home besides family, but under other circumstances, we love it and do try to invite someone each month or so. And we've gotten invites in return, sometimes even first–in CA, UT, MI, and NC where we moved last summer, so its not just a regional thing–we've covered most of the US in the last 3 years.

    Sometimes the dinners haven't been in the home–we had a couple friends we used to do beach bonfires with on a regular basis, but it was still a dinner invite and I think picnics and BBQ's count as entertaining. Maybe there is more of that these days than sit-down dinners at home, but it accomplishes the same goal.

    I will say that UT was the least "inviting", but I really do think it has something to do with how many people have extended family within an hour or two of them and so they have built-in dinner groups. The couple families that we did exchange dinners with mostly didn't have a lot of family around.

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  77. I agree with the person who said we (women especially but just we as a society as well) aren't raised to be hosts and hostesses anymore. For many women, even cooking is a lost art. Cooking for a large group, cleaning the house enough to be presentable, and entertaning a large group afterward is just totally out of their league. And as for the ones who can cook, clean, and entertain and still don't, I also blame society for the fact that we aren't raised with social manners anymore. I don't mean "please" and "thank you." I mean SOCIAL manners: introducting ourselves and others (have you noticed lately you can go into a party and the host doesn't introduce anyone and no one will introduce themselves??), having parties, greeting people you don't know, making polite coversation, etc. It's really a lost art in this world of casual everything and anonymity. People can easily maintain phone or internet friendships with people thousands of miles away, so why bother getting to know your neighbors?

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  78. I see plenty of possibilities that could explain why people extend few to no dinner invitations these days. One that really stands out in my mind though is the pernicious "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome." Those of you who have ever been introduced to Flylady—I'm a Flylady dropout, by the way—will probably recognize that syndrome: C.H.A.O.S. I think I can count on one hand the number of homes I've been in over the last—how many?—years where the person I was stopping in to see didn't apologize or otherwise express extreme embarrassment over the condition of her home, her family, her life, whatever. And I practically have to beat myself to make myself not do the very same thing when somebody drops in on me. So many women I know apologize for everything, it seems, and cringe when others come into their space, because it's just not good enough yet. I bet there are many people who fully intend to have people over . . . when the house is clean enough, when the kids are big enough, when they feel confident enough, when they get over the blues, when they can "do it right," etc., etc. I think a lot of us are just scared to share ourselves, for fear that we might be found out for not being what we wish we were.

    Maybe that's too intense an answer, not broad enough. But I bet it's true of a few people. I'm one.

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  79. It's true. We're having people over tomorrow and it is not the food that worries me, it's the house! I love it when people arrive, it is the build up to it that drives me mad. I honestly do not want to spend today getting ready for tomorrow, I do less than I ever used to in that direction. But still, what a waste of my energy. I accept other peoples houses when I go there, surely they are just as accepting? So, why the guilt!!

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  81. We've actually been turned down frequently enough in the last two years in our current ward when we invite people over (for games, dinner, or just socializing) that we've stopped trying. It bothers my husband a lot, since he's the one extending most of the invites (more social than I am..) and he felt for a bit like it was just us. People just always seem to have excuses and are so busy that they put us off, and being put off even once was enough for us to leave the ball in their court. Did they even know the ball was in their court? Probably not. Luckily (?) we're moving in a couple of months, so hopefully that will get our ambition to put forth the effort renewed.

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