Okay to Cancel?

Have you ever looked forward to an upcoming dinner date, and then at the last minute the hostess cancels on you? Or are you the Reluctant Entertainer who has planned a dinner party for a long time and a couple hours before the dinner, the family you’ve invited over has to cancel?

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve had families call an hour before to cancel because of barfing kids, or sports injuries, or the adults are sick. I’ve also had to cancel a few meals over the past years, due to sickness in our family, or last minute things that come up, or even, (do I dare say it?) over commitment!

I don’t know what Peggy Post says, but I say, “It’s okay to cancel!

My rule of thumb is, if possible, to give the hostess at least 24 hours (if not more). I know that I do my shopping the day before a dinner party, so the hostess can decide if she wants to have someone else, or just bag the whole idea.

On the receiving end, if you have to cancel, here are a few rules I follow:

Use the home phone: not everyone uses email 24-7, or even cell phones.

Make sure and talk to the hostess directly (don’t leave a message!)

Apologize sincerely, though you don’t have to tell the whole story. *

Reschedule/compensate: this demonstrates that you are not trying to wriggle out of the dinner date completely, which can make the hostess a little nervous.

Make it up to them soon!

Don’t delay: don’t put canceling off in fear of irritating your hostess. A “no” is better sooner than later!

I’ve learned over the years that family comes first. No matter what. It wasn’t always that way for me though. As I became more passionate about entertaining, and would put tons of energy and planning into the evening, even two days prior when my husband would say he just couldn’t do it, I’d be so disappointed and letdown.

Now I know to listen to my family and to their needs, and read the dynamics of what is going on. I figure out in my mind if it’s worth taking a whole evening away (plus the energy that entertaining takes) from what we should be putting back INTO the family.

I’ve also learned in the busiest seasons to plan very little, if nothing at all. Soccer league playoffs are amongst us right now and a pre-occupied soccer coach, like my husband, would not make a very good host! Besides it is a season where we are flying by the seat of our pants.

*My wise friend Faye told me just this last week, “It’s okay to cancel, Sandy, and you don’t have to tell the whole story!” I was actually canceling a dinner date with her, and started explaining all of my reasons. I thought she gave good advice. People really don’t want to hear the whole story!

At least I can trust that when our friends call and cancel a “Coughlin dinner” – I know it’s for a good reason.

(Photo: my middle son on the soccer field last weekend)

12 comments on “Okay to Cancel?”

  1. Real life phone calls are the best way to go!

  2. Great post! In this season of life it is unreasonable to expect that everything will always happen as planned. I love the advice about not telling the whole story. I’m guilty of feeling like I have to explain every little “why” on occasion!

  3. Reschedule/compensate: this demonstrates that you are not trying to wriggle out of the dinner date completely, which can make the hostess a little nervous.

    Make it up to them soon!

    Thats the part I sometimes have trouble with. Getting back to them soon and rescheduling.
    Good point.

  4. That is a good reminder. I especially like the part about not needing to tell the whole story!

  5. Wow, Sandy, I bet you made a lot of people feel better with this post! Thank you, as always, for your wisdom.

  6. Great post, Sandy!

    I love your point that family comes first – no matter what. Fortunately for me, our entire family loves having friends over. But still, there have been times when everyone is especially tired…then we cancel! True friends will understand completely.

  7. Good post. Once we prepared the meal and the table was set. So we called another set of friends, explained that someone cancelled on us last minute and asked if they were busy. They weren’t and came over. They thought it was great and we had a great time.

  8. What a great message!

    You inspired me to post my picture of myself and Liz Curtis Higgs. Thought you might be interested. :o)

  9. What Great words!! Every Friday morning a friend and I have been getting together for coffee and conversation.

    I needed to cancel this week, and come to find out she was relieved as she did too! Our weeks got away from both of us!

    We have reaffirmed we are back at it next week. We’ve already agreed that if next week isn’t any better, we will still get together… if for nothing else than support and to cry on one another’s shoulders. :-)

    Great ideas here on how to cancel and that it really is ok. And kudos to you for the mention of putting family first!!

    My husband is in a very busy time of life with work right now. What a great reminder and challenge to me to not push the entertaining thing and to not be disappointed when he’s not up to it during his busy time!

    Always a pleasure here my friend!!

  10. As disappointing as it may be (coming from both sides) it does happen. But thanks for reminding us that it’s ok!


  11. Yeah, why is it that we feel we need to convince the hostess that we do actually have a good and legitimate reason for cancelling instead of saying it just doesn’t suit us? I’ve always wondered. But I agree. When someone calls me to cancel, I don’t really care why they’re cancelling — just that I’ll have a spotless house all to myself for the evening!!!

  12. What a good reminder, especially now that the season of busy is falling quickly!

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