Sticky situation :
My fiancé and I have been invited to his boss's cottage on the lake for the weekend. He will be hosting us with his wife. My fiancé's western counterpart will also be there along with his wife.
We are flattered to be invited but don't quite know how to inform our hosts that I am a vegetarian. We know we should bring a host gift, but what? And while we are at it Julie, please answer the famous question: when leaving, do we make the bed or strip it?
Accepting a weekend invitation is like agreeing to play in a movie where everyone has a role; guest or host.
Here are nine guidelines, including the answers to your questions, that will surely get you an Oscar nomination.
1. Set the scene
Your husband-to-be received an invitation. As with all invitations, you must respond to the four letters, French request. R.S.V.P. (Répondez S'il Vous Plait). You normally reply in the same method as the invitation. In special situations, like yours, it is best to reply in person or on the telephone. Either way your guy can inform his boss of your dietary restrictions and offer to bring a meal at the same time.
It could sound like this: "Chuck, Lucy and I would be happy to join you this weekend. I should inform you that she is a vegetarian. She has a delicious lasagna family recipe that everyone loves. If you wish, she can make a batch for the weekend and you could serve it at the meal of your choice."
As an invited vegetarian at a bigger gathering such as a backyard buffet barbecue, you would simply R.S.V.P. without informing of your dietary restrictions, unless they were medical. You would keep things low key and make do with what was available.
The other part of this conversation is to ask the host if there is anything that you need to bring.
2. Know your sides and bring your stuff
For a weekend on the lake you will, of course, need all your toiletries, but also your bathing suit, your beach towel, your sunscreen or that special stick that relieves you of bug bite itchiness.
If you are asked to bring bed linen or sleeping bags don't expect your host to supply the comfy extras. Make sure to bring along your pillow, inflatable mattress or whatever you need to sleep comfortably.
When bringing alcoholic beverages, bring a cooler. You don't want to fill your host's fridge with your favorite coolers and Chardonnay.
If you are contributing a meal or treats, in turn ask about food restrictions. It is also a good idea to write the list of ingredients on a note card and to present it to the allergic guest when serving.
3. Hurry up and wait
Show up earlier than expected and the hosts may not be ready. Show up late and it may ruin a meal preparation.
Make sure to confirm directions and to exchange travelling day phone numbers, to announce unexpected delays.
Leave at the agreed upon time. Your hosts may have other activities planned or may even be expecting other guests.
4. Quiet on the set; scene 1, take one
If your host has planned a predawn fishing excursion, get up and be ready well before the boat leaves the shore.
If your host is a late sleeper and has made brunch the day's first activity and you are an early riser, make sure to bring reading material or to have a headset to listen to your ipod as the rest of the cottage crew sleeps.
5. Picture, rolling, action!
Don't stay in your bubble. Put aside your cell phone and your computer screen. You know the saying: Face time is better than screen time. Participate in the activities and the conversation.
Ask once to help prepare a meal, set the table or clean up. If your hosts turn you down, enjoy the company of the other guests. Some hosts need to concentrate, while others like the assistance.
Leave everywhere you've been as you found it; picture perfect for the others.
6. Make it easy on the stage hands, the film's budget and the entire crew
Although you feel like you are on vacation, remember that you are not a hotel guest getting the star treatment; be pleasant, agreeable and flexible. Don't whisper and psst, be discreet in your loving attentions with your fiancé. After all, you are in front of his boss.
Clean up after yourself. Make your bed every day and keep your stuff organized in your assigned quarters. Keep the bathroom fresh for the other users. Put up towels on the designated hooks and use any visible cleaning products or devices such as cleaning towelettes and a squeegee.
Don't hog all the hot water, close the lights as you exit rooms and don't tamper with the thermometers without speaking to your host first.
7. Stand-ins to set
If possible let your hosts regroup and reenergize themselves for an hour or two. Go for a walk with your future husband or offer to make a trip to the convenience store to freshen up on favorites.
8. Before the director says: "Cut!"
Strip the bed and place the sheets along with all your towels in the pillow sheets. Deposit those in a visible corner of the room. Remake the bed with the duvet and all the decorative pillows. This way the room is still pleasing to the eye and your host chooses when to do the laundry.
Double check the room, the closet or drawers. Only leave behind memories of you.
9. Roll credits, please
They invited you, so yes, they really like you. Now it's your turn to show your appreciation.
A weekend host gift can be offered at your arrival, during the weekend, when you depart, or when you are back home. The choice is yours.
A weekend of fun and games warrants more than the traditional bottle of wine. Besides, your host probably paired wines and meals to ensure ultimate delicious combinations. Unless you were asked to bring the wine, try other more original and personalised gifts.
Here are a couple of suggestions: serving dishes; you can never have too many, cheese knives and plates, seasonal pitcher and glasses, a gift certificate to the couple's favourite restaurant or activity, a hamac, a book about the couple's passion, a potted garden of fresh herbs, a souvenir photo of the weekend in a frame that will complement their décor, or a piece to add to an existing collection.
If the couple has children, it is a good idea to also bring them a gift such as water toys, a board game or puzzle.
Whatever you give make sure to add a personalised thank you note.
Enjoy and break a leg on the guest of the year award!