A few guidelines from Lizzie Post of The Emily Post Institute:
• Deliver invitations, and your requests, as soon as possible. If folks don’t RSVP, “get on the horn really quickly. Say ‘I hope you got the invite. Just wanted to start organizing things.’”
• Advise guests on how many people you’re expecting, and if there are any guests with food allergies they may need to be mindful of.
• If a guest wants to bring something you don’t need, it’s OK to say no — and ask for what you need.
• Be prepared and expect that some guests may not follow through: “A good host is always going to have the backup of takeout ready.”
• Bring what you agree to bring; don’t show up with something else.
• Don’t like/can’t do the host’s suggestion? Be honest. Ask, “Is there anything else that you could have me bring? Because I’m not good at that.”
• Bring any serving utensils or special platters that are required with your dish.
• Bring a card that lists a dish’s ingredients for those who might have allergies.
• Do not expect to prepare food at the potluck site unless you first get the host’s OK.
• Love what you’re making? Double the recipe, keep some at home and you won’t need to abscond with party food.
Who gets the leftovers?
Judith “Miss Manners” Martin recently suggested in a column: Anything the hosts have transferred to their own serving dish stays with them. But if the contributor still has food in his/her transport dish, it goes home with them.
Lizzie Post’s advice? For hosts willing to share, she says, “Take charge early on. … At the end of the meal, say things like, ‘Does everyone want to take home what they brought or would you rather have everyone get a little bit of whatever is left?’