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COVID-19 disclaimer: Denmark has largely lifted their restrictions on social gatherings

I was at a social gathering with my coworkers, and as a host gift we all, individually without discussing it, brought different variants of alcohol.

Recently I have been looking into moving into something bigger, and when I find something, I would like to host a move-in party of some kind with my family and close friends, where some of them might be inclined to bring a gift, as we did.

The thing is, I very rarely drink alcohol, and there are very few types of alcohol I enjoy, and even then I would prefer a cola if given the choice. Is there a way to inform guests that, were they to bring a gift of some kind, that they avoid giving me alcohol, as it would probably go stale anyway?

I'm calling out a move-in party specifically, but it could also be a social event with coworkers or my group of HEMA enthusiasts.

I'm 25 and live in Denmark.

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    Hey Troels, welcome to IPS! Why do you think just telling them "if you bring a gift, avoid giving alcohol" won't do? Are you afraid they wouldn't listen to you? Or that they might find you rude? – Ael Jul 3 at 7:52
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    @Ael Personally, I would be worried in saying so because it would be awkward to make this statement in a situation where gifts aren't expected. It sounds like a hint asking for gifts, which I think is not normally considered OK. – gerrit Jul 3 at 8:35
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    @gerrit I was under the impression that gift were expected. But maybe it's those kinds of situation where everyone knows that people will bring gifts but the host is still suppose to act suprise when receiving them? – Ael Jul 3 at 8:55
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    Bringing host gifts is fairly common, but I wouldn't mind them not bringing one, what I'm asking is, IF they consider bringing one, how can I explain them not to bring alchohol? – Troels M. B. Jensen Jul 3 at 9:09
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    "how can I explain them not to bring alchohol?" -> What have you considerer doing? – Ael Jul 3 at 9:31
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When I host a party, I usually always do the same: inform the guests (long enough) before they attend, and tell them what they can expect. Because I know what some friends/coworkers like, but not with enough details, I want them to be able to give feedback, so I can adjust the settings. So, in order to not miss the target, I give them hints. In your case, if I'd be the one in charge, it would look like:

As ya'll know, I'll be happy to host my [ special event ] party on [ day ]. You're very welcome. There will be [ type of food / buffet ] and [ wine / beer ]. For the ones who don't drink alcohol, (like me :)), we'll have [ soda / water / whatever ]. If any special need (like [ gluten-free / sugar-free / any-free ]), please let me know by [ day ]. FWIW: do the same if kids are coming, ask about special needs.

They know what type of food and drinks, in case they don't like something. They know what to expect, and you even show concern about their health or beliefs.

Adding the "for the ones who don't drink alcohol" is the trick. I don't drink either, like you, but some very special type of alcohol, and very rarely. That's how I let them know. If you don't drink, they'll pick up the clue, and most probably forget about the bottle of wine.


The following is not really needed in your case, maybe, but I always add it.

Starting time is 7PM - you can park your car [ address or maps if new location ] - Closest subway / bus station is [ IPS.SE ]

Never forget the above - some people might not know the town / area

If you can't or don't want to drive back home, public transportation ends at 00:15. If needed, please don't forget to book a cab ;)

Even more important is the above especially if some may drink too much and you can't safely keep them home.

This way, I give important information with the fewest possible sentences. It's almost cross-culture / universal. I take care of 90% of their needs, and it's easy to put things right during the party if someone needs something different.

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  • I normally ask my guests specifically what I intend to provide (like you say) and ask them to bring anything special themself (eg. I provide beer, but hard liquor is on them). Then, if the first persons ask what they can bring "for me" I ask for whiskey which usually results in several people collecting. In turn I have a pretty nice collection of good whiskeys right now ;-) – fho Jul 5 at 16:33
  • That's also a good way/trick too, but I've seen that more on the US/GB side, when living there. I omitted it because OP said "Northern Europe" and I wasn't sure about this fitting their needs ;) – OldPadawan Jul 5 at 16:38
  • Wow, your friends must be bookworms. I'm lucky if my guests read the start time, let alone a whole sentence or more of follow-up details/instructions! – TypeIA Jul 6 at 10:59
  • @TypelA : not really :)) as I said, it's just a couple of sentences, and only when needed, for new place or people, otherwise, it's just time and special things if any. – OldPadawan Jul 6 at 11:15
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I help to host an annual party that has been going on for years, with dozens of attendees. In the early years, it was almost like a potluck: people brought things they'd made. Cookies or tarts, home made bread, party dips, cheese plates, that sort of thing. The kitchen was humming with people putting the finishing touches on their special dish.

But over time, the attendees aged. They didn't have the energy to get up early to bake 4 loaves of bread before they leave for the party. They bring something bought: cookies, tarts, bread, maybe. New attendees were less engaged: instead of being "the best friend of the host for 30 years" or "someone who worked with the host for over 10 years", many attendees are "the person who lives 5 doors down and sees the host twice a year" or "the child of a former attendee who likes to stop by and see everyone." These less-engaged people aren't going to get up early to bake 4 loaves of bread before they leave for the party. They also bring something bought instead of making something for the party.

But as people get even older, or as even-less-engaged attendees start to come, remembering to go to the store the day before the party to get something to bring gets less appealing. These people bring something that's not only bought, it's nonperishable. And here we are with wine, possibly liquor, or a box of chocolates. The sort of thing you can buy 5 of and set aside to take to parties, to wrap up and give as a Christmas gift to a visitor who unexpectedly bought you one, or use at a party of your own. If when "the season" dies down you have some still, you can just consume it.

That's what's happening in your circle: people are grabbing something non perishable, either because they can buy it well in advance of the party, or because they believe the host can consume it well after the party. They're not very engaged with the work of "bringing a gift to the party" -- putting in thought in advance, making something, buying something at just the right time.

Now, you can look at this as a benefit. People who don't drink much often don't have a lot of alcohol in the house. Gaining a dozen bottles of wine means that there's always wine for the rest of the year if you're having a smaller gathering. It's not going to "go stale" the way chocolates might (and you can always put chocolates in the freezer.) Depending on the party, the food, and just what's been brought, you can open it on the spot and everyone can have some.

But, if you don't want alcohol, then tell them what you do want. Maybe it's nothing. Invitations used to say "we invite your presence, not your presents" and that sort of thing to say "please don't bring anything." (You could go with a simple "no gifts please.")

If it's something else instead, then tell them what you want, not what you don't want. For example, if you'd like to cook more, you could ask people to bring a potluck dish that suits a buffet along with the recipe for it so that you will have a little repertoire of foods to make. Or if you now have a backyard, ask them to bring an inexpensive item that non-backyard-having people don't realize they need, as a form of education. Or, sticking with the drinks concept, you could ask people to bring an interesting non-alcoholic drink for everyone to try, or a mocktail recipe and the ingredients for it. If there's a particular season coming up, you could ask them to bring you a Christmas ornament or a beach toy or a packet of seeds. All these instructions should be wrapped in some sort of disclaimer like "presents are not expected, but if you can't resist, please bring xx."

In general, it's hard to tell people just "don't do this really specific thing." Either ask them not to do the general thing (bring a gift) or give them some guidance about what sort of gift to bring. "Let's teach each other" is a good explanation for why you are guiding the gifts. So is "my party has a theme" -- Xmas, Hallowe'en, new backyard, etc.

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I have several friends who have hosted endlessly-growing collections of gifted or left-behind alcohols accumulated from parties. There are a few things that can happen to such a collection:

  • Serve them to friends at subsequent visits; abundant offerings of drinks, even if you don't take them yourself, are almost always taken as marks of generosity and friendliness and nothing more
  • Re-gift them to other friends when you visit their homes
  • Use bottles of, for example, gin or vodka for making homemade liqueurs which you then gift in small quantities at for example Christmas. Similarly, a bottle of wine can be made into mulled wine which (in my country at least) is a novelty enough that visitors can be encouraged to drink it at the appropriate time of year where they might not otherwise
  • Cook with it (penne alla vodka, a huge variety of Italian and French dishes including wine, fruit cake including liqueurs)
  • Offer them as prizes for tombola if such things occur where you live

All of these presuppose accepting the gift, which of course is not what you asked. Gifting of this sort is as much for the benefit of the giver as it is for the receiver, and you are showing them graciousness in accepting.

What I feel may be left out of your question is - does it bother you to have alcohol lying around? It may well do for a host of very good reasons, in which case the need to find a resolution is understandable. I agree with your premise and with the other posters that trying to find a way of saying this directly in advance is hard and risks being seen as abrupt. If you do choose not to take any direct action now, you may consider making a light-hearted remark along the lines of "I don't know what I'm going to do with all this, ha ha ha", which is sufficiently indirect that it is not insulting but can be taken as a polite insinuation that future alcohol gifts are not necessary.

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