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)

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