Material Girl Jodie Bruton on decoding party invitations this festive season

WHEN invitations come thick and fast at this time of the year the only problem is decoding them.

When they state: Don’t bring anything! What does that really mean?

Don’t bring food but bring your own beer. Don’t bring wine but a bottle for the hosts is acceptable and, in fact, the proper thing to do. Don’t bring cut flowers; the whole family suffers badly from hay fever. Don’t bring your children – if they outnumber you five-fold – but your partner is welcome so long as he lays off the spirits.

Then comes the awkward texting around to see what others are not bringing to the party in the way of anything at all.

Costume and theme parties are even more fraught. Do they expect the whole superhero or just something token like a cape? There’s many ways to rock the ‘90s and will it translate to people you’ve never met before? Will you regret getting into a taxi dressed as the Blue Wiggle?

Twenty-one years ago my then boyfriend and I got invited to a Rotary function on the west coast of Denmark during our summer holidays there.

The invitation plainly stated albeit in the Danish language: Snacks and drinks provided.

As I’d gained 10 kilograms on a student exchange year there during 1989, I wasn’t having a bar of it.

I warned my future-husband: “There will be 17 courses tonight and it’s rude to refuse even one especially if it’s the herring; you may have to cast that fishy dish off to me. The only way around it is to skip lunch all together and go for a long bike ride around the fjord where the Danes can’t find you to force-feed you.”

That night we had two welcome drinks at the function centre with the Rotarians before we sat down to long, white cloth-covered tables that were strangely minimalist in the cutlery stakes.

Surely it was an oversight; the knives and forks will come out with the smorgasbord.

We had a couple more over-sized beers and a few overly-long speeches including mine. There’s nothing like Danish beer to give you Dutch courage. (Thinking back on it, the Rotarians must have thought the Australian was speaking fluent Double Dutch!)

Then the MC invited the guests to help themselves to the “snacks”.

Several bowls of chips and Twisties appeared on a table with dessert spoons to serve them on to small, side plates.

The Rotarian sitting next to us explained: “We had our 750th anniversary of the club last week and blew the catering budget for the whole month!”

We greedily grazed on the snacks, knowing they were no meal replacement especially after the full day of self-imposed famine and our 45-kilometre bike ride to boot.

Later we ended up at a house party on the fjord hosted by one of the Rotarians listening to the Beatles White Album and speaking more Double Dutch than you can Imagine until the very early hours.

The next morning, I couldn’t move.

I told my Danish host father, a GP in the coastal town: “I had way too many snacks last night!”

In true Viking fashion, he offered me another Tuborg. I politely declined it at 10am.

In summary, invitations to functions stating: Snacks and drinks provided, simply mean snacks and drinks will be provided. Having done the research for you, I can safely say it’s the same the world over. You’re welcome.

Party hard – in moderation – everyone!