A while ago there was a post on this board by a host who was unhappy that guests did not volunteer to bring dishes to a dinner. I am having the opposite problem.
I am having a party on Saturday. It will be relatively large (for me), about 50-60 people. As indicated on the invitations, there will be a big spread of food, including various savory hors d'oeuvres, cheese and the like, and a lot of cookies etc. It's an annual event, but since this area is quite transient, the cast of characters changes a bit every year. Although I always get a certain amount of this, for some reason this year I am being deluged by gracious but very insistent offers to "bring something," often by people who have not been to this party before and don't realize just how much food there will be. I try to put off these offers in a jokey way--"no, just a big appetite!" or something like that--but some people keep pushing (in a nice way) and I'm afraid they aren't getting the message.
I love to cook and, especially, bake, and for me this party is the main event of the holiday season. I spend a lot of time planning the menu, and even more time executing it. I use every plate, platter and bowl I own to house the spread, and the oven and stovetop are full all night warming dishes. The table is heaving. There's no room for anything else, and it's difficult enough to manage the process without factoring in other, unexpected dishes, or unwieldy space-consuming things such as big bunches of flowers.
Above all else--it's a PARTY! I want to cook for, and entertain, my friends, not have them feel obligated to contribute.
I know people are just trying to be nice and helpful, and as there is hardly a surplus of niceness and helpfulness in the world today, I feel churlish complaining about it. But is there a way to gently but firmly get across the notion that we want our guests to be, simply, our guests?