Is It Bad Etiquette To Take Leftovers From A Party?

When attending a party at someone else's home, many people consider bringing a small gift an absolute requirement to show the host appreciation for the invitation. This could be a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or even a plate of cookies. The choice depends on the party's vibe, but if you opt for something consumable, modern etiquette dictates that you should bring more than what you'd consume yourself. Ideally, if every guest follows this unspoken rule and brings more than they'll eat or drink, there should be leftovers at the party's end.

Although it might be tempting to take home that last brownie square or the half-finished block of Gruyère from the cheese plate, it's generally understood that it's bad etiquette to take home leftovers from someone else's party. Once you cross the threshold into someone else's home, anything you've brought should be considered a gift for the host.

Leftover food should stay with the host

The host has likely contributed their own food and drinks, as well as time spent cleaning and decorating — therefore, any leftovers are rightfully theirs to claim as recompense. Regardless of a BYO policy, a good host often contributes more to the party, both financially and in terms of effort, than any attendee — and that doesn't even take into account the time they'll spend cleaning up afterward. So, that unopened bottle of whiskey someone brought might be the host's treat later in the week, and the lasagna you made could spare them from cooking lunch after a tiring cleanup.

However, there are exceptions to the rule against taking leftovers from a party. One is if the host insists. For example, at a potluck where an abundance of food is brought, the host may end the night by offering to pack Tupperware for guests. In this case, it's courteous to take some leftovers, while ensuring there's enough for others who may want them.

Exceptions to the rule

If you brought food in your own dishware, consider asking the host, as you're packing up, if they would like you to package the leftovers for them to keep. There's always the chance they'll politely decline and insist that you take the leftovers home. Conversely, if you're attending a party where you're certain there will be leftovers (such as your annual family Thanksgiving dinner where Nana always sends you home with a whole maple pumpkin pie), bringing some Tupperware along just in case can streamline the process.

It's also permissible to take leftovers home if you know for sure that your host won't touch them, although you should confirm just in case. If your host is a strict vegetarian and you brought your famous spicy meatball recipe — or if your host doesn't drink, and the half-full bottle of wine you brought will be left to go sour on their counter — you might politely ask if they'd like you to take these items off their hands. However, only do this if you're close enough to your host that you're sure it's appropriate.