two thoughts (1) if the host says not to bring food, it’s polite to bring a small host(ess) gift that you think the person will like (2) it’s okay to invite people by saying “I’m asking each person to bring a side dish, would you be able to do that?”
About host(ess) gifts:
- Flowers are generally considered appropriate
- But not roses, especially if you are a man and the host is a single woman. Roses are associated with romance and are likely to be seen as intrusive flirting.
- If the host has children who will be present, something for the kids can be a polite choice. But make sure that it’s either a thing that can be shared easily or that there is one for each kid (eg: if there are three kids, three kaleidoscopes, not one).
About inviting and saying you’re asking everyone to bring a thing:
- It’s better to tell someone this *before* they accept the invitation
- Because if they’ve already said yes, there’s no polite way to change their mind after being asked to bring something
- Especially since some people are uncomfortable declining directly and make polite excuses like “I’m sorry, that sounds lovely, but I have other plans.”
- So they might say yes and not really be ok with it because there’s no polite way to say no at that point