A Little Poll (and it’s about dating / marriage)

Ladies (and gentlemen), I need some opinions.

Here’s the situation. Your man (husband / SO / whatever) has his boys over to watch the playoff game. You make something for them to eat. You bring it out to the game room. Who do you serve first? Company or your SO? I know most of us want to say put it on the table and let them get it.  Or, that he should be in the kitchen helping.  But, for the purposes of this the answer can only be company or your SO. I’m also asking some race and age questions so I can attempt to quantify the totally non-scientific results.

Needless to say this came up recently and I gave the ‘wrong’ answer.  So, I’m soliciting opinions. Feel free to ask your SOs what they would expect to happen too and leave it in the comments.  Feel free to share the link to the poll. Also, feel free to say why you voted how you did. This has been quite the topic at my job this week 😉


  1. Obviously, I’d put whatever it was in a serving dish, put the serving dish out and ask everyone to help themselves! However, to answer the question as it was put, I’d serve company first. I’d feel rude not to serve company first. And, I think, serving my husband first in front of his friends would embarrass him because he would be their host, and, as a thoughtful, host he should put their comfort first.

  2. What was the “wrong ” answer? I was brought up to serve company first. But I acknowledge that other cultures may do things differently. For example, at a formal dinner the hostess would be served first(cotillion rules) so that guests knew how much to take and how to eat the food. But nowadays I’d say do what makes your company feel comfortable

  3. Oh, and being a middle aged white woman (from US), I would always serve company first. 😉

    I’m sure internationally, there are definitely different answers.

  4. White, with Turkish DH, and our option not included – serve the oldest person/people in the room first. Then the guests, then the DH and then the youngsters… Age more important than guest status so if we were entertaining younger people I would serve DH first. If it’s a group of guys, my son takes the food in and serves them, not me.

  5. My answer was company first. I am interested to know what the ‘wrong’ answer was and who decided that it was wrong. I was always taught that it was rude to correct someone else’s manners or grammar!

  6. This is an interesting topic. First I am black, 39, married. I would definitely announce that I made something and place the platter on the table if it was a group of people. If it is just he and a friend I would serve company first. Recently during a game my husband had a friend over and I cooked some wingettes. I had my son take them into them, mostly cause I was trying to get back to my sewing machine:).

  7. Serve guests first, always. We are casual people but even when doing more upscale evenings with upscale people, we stay casual and people are not formally “served.” Food is either set out buffet style or it’s passed around the table. We’re not into formalities and it’s comfortable and homey that way. Important to note, I’m Midwestern white gal but my husband is from India where there are regimented serving rules. But even our Indian friends know, those rules aren’t in our home and at many events we go to with Indian friends in our generation (30s & 40s), they do what we do. I hope it doesn’t sound like ungrateful free-for-all that a host throws at guests — it’s organized, it’s comfortable, we always serve tons of great food and good fun!

  8. Well, that’s part of the problem with “serving” people at an informal gathering: Somebody has to be first and somebody has to be last. And there is a third option: Hand the first plate to whoever happens to be closest to you.

  9. You serve company first, that’s just how I was brought up as African-Canadian.

  10. My SO usually watches games at my house and sometimes wants to invite his friends over, which is fine with me (more uninterrupted sewing time for ME!). I always serve his friends first even though he is technically a guest as well. My mother would come down here and slap me upside the head if I did otherwise! 🙂

  11. Always serve company first and if you’re SO has a problem with it, there’s a problem with him.

  12. I’m also curious as to what brought this up. I’m a 30yo white female and I would serve company first. That said, in reality, for a group of friends over for the game (be it all male or not), the food goes in the middle of the table and everyone can help themselves.

  13. Also very curious what was the “wrong” answer in your instance. The general rule of thumb (decision tree) is, company first; women before men (that’s how it is); older person before younger person.

  14. i’m 29 y/o black female. if i had company over while my SO was there i would serve my company first because they would be considered “our” guests even though we don’t live together.

  15. Actually, it depends on the company – if it’s his boys, I serve him first. If it’s his or my family, I serve them first. If it’s my girlfriends, he can order himself a pizza.

  16. Personally, I would put food on the table and let them serve themselves, but for this question – I would serve him first, then company. I’d do this since it would make him feel good in front of his friends (although we’ve been married for 24 yrs and serving him first might scare him-LOL).

  17. I voted based on the options. But my husband would have been helping with food prep. Would have sat everything out buffet-style and everyone would just dig in. Sidenote: I have never had to “serve” any of my husband’s friend in such a casual setting.

  18. The only “wrong” option in this situation is for someone to be offended at not being served first.
    Nothing is more rude than being quick to judge and take offense.

  19. I had to laugh. If the boys are watching a football game I would leave them to it. That’s what they appreciate most if you ask. LOL!

  20. Like everyone else, I’d love to know how this came up, and what the “correct” answer is (I don’t dare assume it is necessarily the popular answer). I’m a middle ageed white married woman raised in both the North and South. Working class roots, living a yuppie lifestyle now (you didn’t ask about economic class, but it might have an impact on answers). If my husband had a bunch of guys over, he’d probably make the snacks (tho I might help) and would serve buffet style.
    This made me think of the first time my brother-in-law visited without his wife. I made burgers for dinner and we all helped ourselves. Except for the bro-in-law. He was waiting for me to fix his! I didn’t realize that was why he hadn’t helped himself yet…my husband realized and fixed a plate for his brother. I can’t imabine my husband waiting for a woman to wait on him, but it seemed natural for his brother.

  21. I would always serve company first, it’s common courtesy, no matter their age and I’m not even touching the ethnicity thing. It’s a pretty horrifying thought that someone might deliberately choose to serve a guest of one nationality before another. For the record, my SO and his friends would all be trying to help and wouldn’t stop thanking me, plus I’d have to fight them off to clean up after.

  22. Based on the way I was raised – I answered that I would serve my husband first. Now if it was a more formal to-do… honestly not sure.

  23. My DH would agree with me, no question. It’s how we were both raised. I serve everyone else first, eldest female to youngest male before I set my own plate down. Of course, then I expect everyone to wait for me to sit before they dive in with their forks. Silly, old-fashioned me.

    On game day, I would place the first platter/bowl whatever furthest from DH and move closer to him with each serving item. If there were more than one, that is. And not while there was any action on the field. This is why we have commercial breaks!

  24. Company first. If it was a mixed gathering it would be the men first and then the women. But in my house if I having a mixed gathering I would expect my husband to be serving the men while I serve the women. Basically it still would be company first.

  25. Definitely guests first! I just can’t imagine not doing that. I love DH, but really, he can wait for our guests, and if he can’t he can get himself a little something in the kitchen while he’s helping (lol, like that ever happens)

  26. Ooh oooh, interesting! Ok, as an Asian-American born and raised on the East Coast, my instinct would be to serve guests first. This would never happen though as my partner doesn’t watch sports AND he would definitely be helping with the cooking and serving. BUT! As it turns out, I also have a vast collection of vintage etiquette books which I have consulted. General table manners, as posited by Amy Vanderbilt in 1952, dictate that:

    “When the hostess is serving at least part of the meal from in front of her place, with or without the aid of a servant, she is served next to last and her husband last. For her to serve herself earlier will mean her food will be cold and her filled plate in the way.”

    Of course, you’re not talking about eating at a table, but rather something more informal. Here is what Amy has to say about cocktail parties:

    “Cocktails being served by a bartender or by a member of the family are never served first to the host and hostess, and neither the host nor the hostess… Hors d’oeuvres equally are passed first to guest, next of last to the hostess and finally to the host.”

    And this about a tea party, which sounds like it’s sort of set up like your football scenario:

    “When guests are seated around the room, they come forward to take the teacups from the hostess – she does not rise to serve the guests. Gentlemen present take tea to women guests, of course.”

    Anyway, that’s the most relevant stuff I could find (most of the rest seems to be assuming you have a bunch of servants doing the serving, which I also assume means you’re not sitting around the flat screen). But that first one is interesting then because I could also imagine someone arguing, “serve the husband first so that his food gets cold while everyone else is being served and the guests get hot food” but then again, I doubt they wait until everyone is served before they start digging in.

  27. While I’d say company first, I’m not sure if I’d consider SO’s kids company. That’s what makes it tough. I think my family also fed the kids first to get it out the way and then went to guests. I guess the age of his children matters. Just with my last relationship, my SO would think I did it wrong whichever way I chose. lol

  28. In truth this is a hypothetical question for me as my husband does all the food prep/cooking when we have guests. He loves entertaining. I usually do the cleaning up. If it was left up to me, I’d probably just throw a packet of chips and some dip onto the coffee table and let everyone help themselves.

  29. In this scenario, I would serve guests first. I can’t really think of a situation where my SO would be served food first.BTW I am 28, married and black (gotta practice for the census!)

  30. First, I am a 58 year old, white female, raised in Pennsylvania. Old rules are to serve company first, oldest to youngest. But, who does that anymore? When our group of friends gets together, it’s always buffet style. If I had an open house, I would put out the appetizers as a buffet and everyone would help themselves.

    For football, you put out tv tables and put the food there and SO and his kids can do self-service. If I was serving soft drinks that I had to pour, it would be company first.

    My husband would also be in the kitchen helping to put together the food. He would be sampling as he went along! LOL!

    All that said, I wouldn’t consider SO’s kids as “company”. They are family. The only “family” rules we honor is oldest first to youngest. In that scenario, then SO would be served first as he would (I assume) the oldest family member.

    Wow.. this is something I never think about. It’s so irrelevant anymore with the informal entertaining we all do.

  31. I voted that I would serve company first, as that is the “best” answer available. The rest of the correct answer would be that the host is served last.

    But who “Serves” food for watching a game? Invite them all into the kitchen to get their own drinks from what’s offered, and have each one take a plate of food into the game room to put on the knee-knocker coffee table.

  32. I answered the poll and said that I would serve “guests” first. But then I looked at the demographic info and thought “maybe the rules have changed.” So I posed the question to my 18 year old daughter. Her answer was “Me”!

  33. I’m fortysomething and white. I voted to serve company first. By making food for the guys, you’re acting as a host as is the boyfriend (or date or whatever) who extended the invitation.

  34. One ALWAYS serves the guests first! Family hold back, and all that! I notice from the age break down that I am among the oldest respondents.

  35. Always company first – I’m Indian, raised in India. However, if my 90+ year old grandmother was around watching a playoff game (I’m going to stop for a minute to laugh at that image), she’d get served first. So, age also matters?

  36. I’m 57, white, married for a long, long, long time, born and raised in Nebraska.
    I cannot imagine, under any circumstances serving my husband first. I always serve guests first.

    I’m dying to know what brought this up and what is the correct answer!

  37. Since you said sweetie/significant other, I assume he is a guest, too, versus someone who lives with you. Consequently, I voted to serve him first; if you and sweetie lived together and were cohosts, I would serve the guests first. Linda

  38. I’m southern, white, 45 years old, and single. In our house, company always got served first, no matter what. Daddy would have never allowed himself to be served ahead of company – he would have been doing the serving, urging our company to eat and offering them the choicest piece of steak.

    As a single woman, anytime I have had a SO and I have had others over, I always served company first. No SO has ever had a problem with it – it has never even been mentioned!

  39. I voted (serve company first) but I wanted to vote “if they are SO’s guests, he should be preparing the refreshments and serving them to his guests first, and then to you.” I think if you prepared and served refreshments, you are a very kind and thoughtful and generous partner, and no matter who you served first you couldn’t be considered ‘wrong’. I consider myself an authority on this subject because I’ve been married for 37 years!!

  40. I would serve the guests first. If we are having a buffet, I would offer to serve any older guest first or ask them to the table first. If it’s a gathering of peers, I would just make an announcement that the meal was served. I do think that age matters.
    If we are passing appetizers, then the guests come first. I ususally do the food and my husband does the drinks. We would offer a round of food then leave food where guest can help themselves.
    I’m black of West Indian descent and my husband is a white American.
    I would consider the SO to be one of the hosts if you were entertaining friends together.

  41. Always serve company first, race doesn’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Take care of your guests… I was raised to honor those people who come to your house and serve them the best food even if your family eats the cheap stuff. Kind of odd isn’t it?!

  42. My SO and I agree – serve the guests first – assuming whatever is being served. Around here, we introduce people to the kitchen and refrigerator. We both grew up in Wisconsin, and are both (eek) middle aged…

  43. Company comes first. I asked DH and he agreed with me. He would be helping to serve along with me. Actually, his friends would be coming in the kitchen asking to help carry the food.

    I’m spoiled, when we have dinners at his family’s house, most of the time, he fixes my plate first or makes sure that I have food and everyone else has food before he fixes his plate.

  44. Boy, someone got upset over this? I never give it a thought, but I think I would serve whoever was closer first. In the poll I said company, but really I think whoever was sitting closest to the door as I was coming in would get the tray offered to them first – assuming it was nibbles. If it was a meal in the plate, I would give to guests first and I would give them the nicer looking one. I do that with the my girls too – I let them choose which meal they want and I take what is left.

  45. I’m guessing that as a “military brat” you grew up a a bit of a different view of who should be served first. Perhaps being conditioned to serve those of highest rank and down? Perhaps that influenced what happened? Interesting topic

  46. I’m no math genius, that’s fo sho, but it looks to me like *94 percent* of respondents (not 32) believe you should serve others first and only 6 percent of respondents believe you should serve your significant other first.

  47. Always company first. I am white but my husband is SE Asian (Filopino) and grew-up in Alaska. Most of our friends are mixed Filopino and Tlingit (Alaska Native) plus other Alaska Natives. They all agree that company is always served first regardless of circumstance.

  48. Well, not many of your readers are 65 or older are they? Anyway, I would assume that the Significant Other has been around long enough to be not only significant, but significant enough to be the host of this gala event. That said, the host and hostess are just that and guests are always served first (it’s a matter of courtesy and respect) if there is any serving to be done. A buffet service would alleviate most of the confusion, but the host and hostess should wait until everyone has had a chance to serve themselves. If said host is afraid there will be none left to him he needs to spring for more food.

  49. I am french and white. My husband and I always serve children first. First the guest kids, then our own. If there are many kids, they might be sitting at a seperate table. Then we feed adult company, women first, then men, then the hosts.

  50. No doubt some people (female as well as male) still think that the guy should be served first, and the best and biggest piece.. not to mention you should meekly eat the leftovers in the kitchen when everyone is done (preferably veil on your head and sitting on the floor).
    But apart from that, company trumps family every time, that’s totally what company is about. And I say that as a woman who usually has company eat in the kitchen with me, and doesn’t keep a special living-room for them that I never use and with plastic on the sofa to preserve it in pristine state :-).

  51. So who are those people, Marie-Christine? So far, absolutely no-one on the board has come up with that answer. I live with my Muslim husband in a Muslim country where women wear the “veils” you mention, but according to Imam Ghazali no less (probably the greatest ever authority on Islamic law and life), whenever guests are served, portions of the food that is served to them should be put aside FIRST for the people of the household (whether they are in the house or not at the time), otherwise the family members may come to resent having guests. Of course, in Muslim countries, people take their shoes off before entering the house and often do sit on the floor, men and women, on clean carpets. So that is the common practice here and in the rest of the Middle East. Men and women are served at the same time. So, who are these people you mention, exactly? I am sure that you didn’t mean to be racist, ignorant and/or offensive and you are merely being brainwashed by the media. I am equally sure that Cidell just missed the undertone of the racist stereotypes in your posting and that’s why she didn’t delete it.

  52. I’d say company first, from the oldest to the youngest, if they are all adults. In case of kids being there, I would serve them first so that adults can then eat in peace 😉
    But do men watching sport really want to eat at the same time???

  53. super interesting….I too would always serve (or offer) the guest first or kids if they were part of the guest pool. I think the race question is an interesting part of it too. I’m white, SO is A.A., and most of our friends are great mix of both, and S. American, European, you name it and when we are guests, i feel overwhelming generosity from them, and would recognize that guests are typically served first, But there are all other kind of situations where different influences could effect the outcome and there are a lot of variables too. What that group of men prob doesn’t realize, is that If im the one cooking, Ive been picking on that food since it’s been out of the fridge, so really, IM the one who gets served first!

  54. Good Morning

    I am 41, married for six years..If there is 1 guest maybe 2 GUY FRIENDS over to watch the game, I will be nice and served them first but if there is more than two, every man for himself. I have done my part once that food is cook, plates and folks are laid out. Amen..laugh. I cannot wait to find out the anwers.

  55. My 2¢: In this case, I consider the SO/husband to be the host and should not be served first. Company always gets served first.

    If my SO insisted on being served first, I’d think he was being terribly selfish.

    (Black, 55-64)

  56. I would always serve company first. If he’s my SO/husband, he understands WE are entertaining/hosting and he goes last. As far as the ethnicity/age questions, are you asking that about the answerer or if we would distinguish who gets served by age/ethnicity? I didn’t answer that part because I wasn’t sure.

  57. I gotta hand it to you, Cidell, you always come up with the most thought-provoking posts! In my house, the most likely scenario would be my DH entering the viewing area with the food he has prepared (he likes to cook, I don’t) and serving it to his guests. Next scenario would be me entering the viewing area with the food and handing it to the first person I reach. DH would not specifically be served first.

  58. If we live in the same household, then I would serve the company first because we are both hosts. If we live in separate households, then the most important guest is be my significant other so I’d serve him first – if serving – because I’m all about setting it out and help yourself. You didn’t list this option.

    White – 47

  59. Hmmm, I think there’s a cultural difference with Hispanic and African American relationships. I know all my exes would have wanted me to serve them before their boys if we were throwing an “all guy” get together, but if it was like a family gathering or business dinner or something they would have wanted me to serve the company first.
    I think its like a Macho, I’m-the-alpha-dog-in-my-house type thing with the close guy friends.

  60. Oh and I’m 29 and black and have dated black and hispanic men. My white exes would have been ok with me serving their friends first– except one who had (dare I say it) a sort of hood mentality. He would have been offended if I’d served him after his friends.

  61. Well, your question is boobytrapped, you ask about formal etiquette, in a very informal setting.
    Generally i say, guests first, race doesnt matter, but age does. elderly before children, women before men, and wait till hostess has sat down to dig in please. However, in this situation, let him serve the food, I presume they are his friends.

  62. As a thirty something Puerto Rican (really Nuyorican), I always serve kids first, then the man, then guests. It’s how I was brought up to do it, so no strange looks on this side of town.

    Count me in with the curious bunch!


  63. You lost me at “You make something for them to eat.” I mean, if there were guys over watching tv, I would make food for *me* to eat, and eat it someplace out of their way. There’s certainly food available via telephone.

    More seriously?

    If it were any kind of formal meal, or there were people present who ‘raised the bar’– like a boss, or parents/grandparents/elders, the guests eat first, and I’d start with the older folks first. Next, other adults, then the kids are seen to, then the hosting adults.

    In informal meals, my guests have kitchen privileges. Food is set out in the kitchen for self-serves. Even then, the older folks are either brought their food (after we ask what they’d like), or we allow them to go through the line first.

    Note that I’m white, Midwestern, of no particular ethnic heritage.

  64. hmm, I completely misunderstood the race/age questions. I didn’t think you were asking about my race/age! I checked the 65 and over box indicating that if there were an elderly person in the mix,I would serve them first regardless of whether they were family or company.

  65. 37, white, female. Company first. My 50ish black SO agrees. Both of our mothers would agree.

    In your scenario, he’s the co/host whether or not it’s his house, because they’re his friends. I’d do the same thing he did for me when my godchildren came over during my team’s last regular season game. I’d prepare some snacks so that he could visit with his friends, I’d put out the snacks/food and offer it to the guests.

    I see it as inviting the guests to partake, whereas he (as host or co-host) knows he doesn’t need an invitation to eat food that came from our kitchen.

  66. A couple of years ago, my SO had some friends over for a football game. I did set everything out buffet style, but they were so into the game and talking trash that I did ask his guest individually, “So [friend #1…etc.] what can I get you?” My SO was last and he didn’t have any problems with that [as its understood WE are the host/hostess]. Now, I only did that [serving each individually] because the food was getting cold and I did not want to have to take the food back upstairs to warm up. Seconds was totally on them. I am a black female 35-44 age group and like most was brought up that you serve your guest first and make sure they are comfortable.

  67. I’m totally with Gwendolyn, comment no. 22. “The only “wrong” option in this situation is for someone to be offended at not being served first.”

    But, as a general rule, company first. SO is either host (served after company) or company (served with everyone else). But an SO who complains about being “served” after company should be politely shown the door. Permanently.

  68. I find it -fascinating- that only 35% of people voting actually answer the main question. The rest are happy to inflict their age or ethnic identity on you, but not get to the point. There must be something to conclude about knee-jerk reactions and privacy there…

    • That’s actually not the correct interpretation- the WordPress poll is treating the statistics as though this is a multiple choice question. That is to say, the percentages are not reflective of what percentage of *people* voted for that option. The percentages are reflective of what part of the total number of boxes checked were cast for that option. You’ll notice that if you add up all the percentages for serving preference, age, and ethnicity, it totals to roughly 100% (the fact that it’s slightly over is probably due to the rounding of fractions of percentages.) So only 35% of the boxes checked were for the serving preferences, which makes sense -assuming people checked one box for serving preference, one box for age, and one box for ethnicity, then only about 33% of total boxes checked would have been for one of the serving preferences.

      If you add up the numbers by serving preference, ethnicity, and age separately, you’ll see that (as of the current data at this moment):

      557 choices were cast for serving preference
      572 choices were cast for race (people may have marked more than once choice if they are mixed race)
      532 choices were cast for age

      So, roughly speaking, it is likely that just about everyone who felt comfortable giving their age or ethnicity also felt comfortable answering the main question.

  69. Company would always be served first. My husband would not expect to be served first at all.

    (I’m 40ish, white and married.)

  70. Ahem…over 64, and white.

    I was taught to serve company first. But, after raising boys, for a football game, I would just put the platters on the table and let people help themselves. A more formal occasion, company first with the oldest of the company served number 1.

  71. 44, white – DH, 60, black.

    In this very hypothetical situation – We both agree – Company first.

    Actually, he looked at me funny, like ‘why would you even ask?’

    In reading the comments, though, I do have an exception. If an elderly family member is present, they are ALWAYS served first !

    In reality – DH would be doing the cooking and everyone would serve themselves 🙂

  72. A little bit late to the party, but here are my two cents: I am 60, Puerto Rican. In my culture you serve company first. The only exception might be if the SO is an extremely elderly or ill person, and even then the SO would try his best to defer to the company.

  73. Hi Cidell,
    Very interesting question. I’m 29 and Black West Indian. Here in Barbados, in a formal setting company is served first. If there are elderly people there, they would be asked what they would like and have it brought to them. Then children. Then the men. Then the women. In an informal setting, food would be placed out with serving spoons and utensils and everyone invited to help themselves. Again with the elderly being helped first. Like you, if that way of doing things mattered very much to my SO I would consider serving him first. Some things aren’t worth the battle.

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