Broken Glasses: One of the Many Hazards of Hosting
Question: I was having dinner at a friend’s house last week and accidentally broke a wine glass. She (my friend) was obviously upset but tried to laugh it off and make me feel better. I still feel bad about it. Should I try to replace it? Get her a new set?
Answer: I can't even count how many wine glasses I've lost to butterfingered guests, let alone treasured wares. A houseguest even managed to warp the side of a brand new espresso machine once, after turning the neighboring gas range to full throttle. I didn't expect her to replace it. No, no—my only hope was that she felt complete and utter shame for being so absentminded with the flame.
Broken dinnerware—not to mention lamps, chairs and even toilets—are the hazards of hosting. Unless maliciously handled or intentionally harmed, guests aren't to be monetarily punished for their klutziness. The thoughtful guest offers to replace or repair the item and the good host always declines. So where does that leave you? Delivering a self-deprecating apology, repeated to the point of awkwardness, that's where.
The truth is that most broken items aren't easily replaced. Not necessarily because they're antiques or heirlooms, but because product lines change so frequently. The china pattern on Sally's registry was discontinued two years ago, and who wants a random replacement anyway?
If the glass is still for sale and within your budget to replace, then by all means, consider doing so. Though not required, you'd alleviate your guilty conscience and win a million points in the host's book. You'd also improve your odds of being invited back again.
For heirlooms, antiques and other truly irreplaceable objects, follow up with a handwritten note. Apologize once more for causing the item's demise. Though you can't resurrect it, paying homage to it will make your host feel at least a little bit better.