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“Can I Ask My Party Guests To Pay For Their Own Dinners?”

My boyfriend’s birthday is coming up and I’m planning on throwing him a nice dinner at an upscale steakhouse in Beverly Hills. I have already gotten confirmations from 18 of his/our closest friends and family on Facebook. Today when I called the steakhouse to make reservations, the banquet coordinator informed me that for a party that large I must fill out a contract with my credit card info agreeing that we will spend a minimum of $2000 on food and beverages excluding tax, gratuity (17%) and service charge (4%) and that there will be a $500 cancellation fee. While I can understand why a restaurant would implement a cancellation fee, a contract that we must spend such a large minimum is very disconcerting to me. On top of that, if any of our friends do not show up, it still binds us to this contract. My question is: am I obligated to notify our friends that they will be spending a minimum of $150 per person for dinner? Most our friends are working, but some are still in college and I’m not quite sure what the etiquette on this is. Also, I am stressed that if any of them do not show up it will cause more financial strain to those who do. Help! — Party Planner


Oh, no. No, no, no, no. You cannot invite guests to a party that you’re hosting and expect them to pay $150 (or more!) for their meal. This is the epitome of tacky. It would be especially out of line to ask each person to spend such a large amount when so many of you are young/in college/ not rolling in money. If you want to “throw your boyfriend a party,” that means you cover the whole cost. YOU pay for the entire dinner. That’s what it means to be a host. It’s like when someone throws, say, a baby shower. The host doesn’t require the guests to pay their way — even if it’s being held at a restaurant (and by the way, it’s customary for a restaurant to charge a minimum fee for a party of more than 12 or so people). Or, when a couple — or their parents — throw a wedding, they don’t ask the guests to cover their $100-$200 dinner plate. Can you even imagine?! Likewise, you cannot throw a birthday dinner for someone and require the guests to pay for their meal. It’s simply not done. At least, not among people who care to keep their friends.

So, if you can’t afford the steakhouse — which would be totally understandable considering how expensive it is — then either make it a dinner for two followed by drinks with friends at a nearby bar afterward, have a party at your home where you provide beverages and snacks, or invite people over for a potluck, which is the only appropriate way you can ask guests to contribute to their meals. Keep in mind, when you say you’re “throwing someone a party,” that means you’re assuming most of, if not all, the financial responsibility. Sometimes, party guests will offer the hosts money as a small contribution, but again, it is not to be expected, and when it happens, it should be with much gratitude that the offer is taken. If you’ve got your heart set on enjoying a dinner with many of your boyfriend’s friends and family that they pay for, choose a very affordable restaurant, and let people know when and where you’ll be meeting and that you’d love for them to stop by if they’re free. Generally, when you keep the invitation casual like that and avoid using the words “hosting,” or “throwing a party,” it’s understood that the cost of admission, so to speak, will not be covered.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 65 comments… add one }

avatar TheOtherMe March 28, 2011, 3:08 pm

Ouch ! I agree with Wendy if someone would invite me to a birthday party and expect me to pay $150 a person, I would definitely decline the invitation. If there is a way for you to change the venue it might be best.

avatar ReginaRey March 28, 2011, 3:09 pm

I work as an event planner, and I can tell you that it is 100% standard for upscale restaurants to utilize contracts for a party that large. As Wendy said, it’s very tacky to invite guests to a party and expect them to pay (and that much!) for their dinner. If you can’t afford to pay the $2000 by yourself, then you should absolutely not sign any contract, nor have dinner at this restaurant. I would do as Wendy suggested – take your boyfriend out and then invite everyone to meet up with you at a swanky bar or lounge afterwards. That way you get the upscale swank, without incurring a $2000 debt.

avatar ArtsyGirl March 28, 2011, 3:10 pm

Eh I have to disagree slightly with Wendy. This weekend I am going to a Thai restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday and I expect to pay my way and help chip in with the birthday girl’s dinner. I feel that most times when you celebrate at a restaurant with a menu you should pay for your own dinner (mainly because someone might order the side salad and someone else might order the porterhouse). Now the fact that the LW is having a very expensive fixed price each friend must spend would tell me that this is not the best place to host a dinner. Rather what you should do is find a more affordable location and maybe as the host pay for the first round of drinks or appetizers.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 28, 2011, 3:17 pm

That’s how we always did it in college, but I think it was slightly different. That was a group of us going out to celebrate (with the location usually picked by the birthday person), not someone “hosting” a party.

avatar thyme March 28, 2011, 3:22 pm

Exactly. “Hosting” implies “paying.”

avatar maynard March 28, 2011, 3:20 pm

I think using the term “throwing him a party” is what would make Wendy think that she should pay for it all. She didn’t say she was “coordinating a dinner” which may be what she actually meant.

That said, take Wendy’s suggestion, LW. $150 is WAY too much to ask all your friends to plunk down for a birthday dinner. Either find a cheaper place or take everyone out for drinks after a private meal with your bf. And if you refuse to change the plans, I would say you are absolutely obligated to let the guests know how much it costs, and then you should absolutely expect some cancelations, and absolutely expect to pay a good chunk of that contract anyway.

avatar maynard March 28, 2011, 3:40 pm

To further clarify (for whatever reason): I think “throwing a party” and “inviting friends to join us at dinner” are two different nights out

avatar camille905 March 28, 2011, 3:21 pm

I disagree as well. If I’m invited to a party at someone’s house or something of that nature then I don’t expect to pay (though I would probably bring a bottle of wine or something) but when I go out to a club or restaurant I ALWAYS expect to pay my way.

LW definitely should find a more affordable place- or if she really wants to take her bf there, have it be just the two of them and his immediate family or something.

avatar nawilla March 28, 2011, 3:22 pm

I’d agree that paying ones way was reasonable at an affordable location IF the letter writer had presented it that way AND it was agreed upon by all parties.

“I’m planning on throwing him a nice dinner at an upscale steakhouse in Beverly Hills.”

Her word choice indicates she is hosting a party, not ‘organizing a dinner out’. That so many people agreed to go, including people who would consider this place expensive does make me wonder if the guests are aware they are in fact not guests.

avatar maynard March 28, 2011, 3:35 pm

And I also think this is an age/maturiuty thing. If most of the LW friends are in college, (and i’m guessing low 20s at most) then they are probably used to paying their own portion when out to dinner simply because they aren’t having “dinner parties” in a more formal sense – as one might have in their later 20s and upwards.

Dear Wendy Wendy March 28, 2011, 3:51 pm

I go to lots of birthday dinners where I expect to pay my way and chip in for the birthday girl/guy’s meal, too, but there’s a difference between that kind of scenario — a casual invitation to a reasonably priced venue — and someone cordially inviting others to a party she’s hosting at an upscale restaurant.

It’s partly an age thing. In my early 20s, it never even dawned on me that I might get a “free” meal at someone else’s bday dinner. But as you get older, and you and your friends move to a higher income bracket, it becomes slightly more common to be a guest to a special occasion where the host generously picks up the tab. One tip-off that you might be going to such an occasion is when older family members are invited, which lends a sort of formality to the event. Another tip-off is certainly when the host calls him or herself a “host” and says, “I’m throwing so-an-so a party.” Finally, reservations at a pricey place, where it would be inappropriate to expect guests to pony up sum a large sum for a meal, is a pretty good indication it’s going to be covered by the host.

avatar TheGirl March 28, 2011, 4:04 pm

Got to agree with Wendy! This many people at this fancy of a place (especially when you are inviting college students who have no money) certainly gives the impression that you are picking up the tab. Plus, once you add in the contract, which most likely involves a set menu, you are clearly hosting a party and not just inviting a bunch of people to go out to dinner with you.

Besides, who really needs to go to dinner with 18 people? Its not like you’ll get to talk to all of them while you’re eating. Better to keep dinner intimate and invite everyone else for drinks and dancing afterward… or better yet, find a friend with a backyard and have a BBQ! Most guys I know would prefer that anyway.

avatar ArtsyGirl March 28, 2011, 4:11 pm

I totally agree. I am 25 and most of my friends are under 30 so we are still mostly poor. Even though my husband and I host a lot of parties, they are normally low key and maybe we would spend a $200 altogether as hosts – def not $2,000!

On a side note, I accidentally cut out a sentence when I posted (related to the side salad and porterhouse). If the LW decides that she still wants to have the celebration at the expensive steakhouse she NEEDS to inform the guests if they are footing the bill. If I was invited to a party at such a pricey place it is most likely I would only want to order a small appetizer, drink, or small salad (which would still be the price of a meal at a more modestly priced place) – but if I then found out that I had to foot a $150 bill I would hit the roof.

I can understand the difference between wording of “hosting dinner” and “organizing dinner”, but even with someone saying they are hosting I would still assume I would be paying at a restaurant, it would be a really nice surprise if I didn’t have to!

avatar honeybeenicki March 28, 2011, 5:05 pm

To avoid any confusing language or anything like that, I always make it clear. Sure, I’ve “thrown parties” either at home or at restaurants where I paid the bill (certainly not where it would cost me $2000!), but if I don’t intend to foot the bill, I make it clear. With something like facebook, it is SO EASY to put in the little event information that everyone is responsible for their meal and it is approximately this much or organizer is going to pay for appetizers or whatever the deal may be.

I just recently graduated from Graduate school and decided to have a fun get together and was perfectly clear in any invites or conversations that it was an informal get together that I wasn’t planning to foot the bill for. I put it something like – we are having an informal get together at such-and-such place. We plan to be there from time X to time Y and would love for you to come. I will be paying for pizza, but everyone is responsible for any drinks or additional food. It was a great get together and there was no confusion (and someone else bought all the pizza because it was for my graduation which I wasn’t expecting at all!). In situations like LW’s, expectations need to be clear.

avatar Liza March 28, 2011, 5:10 pm

I think some cultural differences are in play when people think about who has to pay at a birthday dinner. (Maybe, it’s because I’m in a southern state, not really sure.) Most of my friends are in their late twenties to early thirties- all established in their careers or graduate students with money to spare. When you “host” a birthday celebration at a restaurant the expectation is that you pay for your own meal. Granted, the second expectation is that the restaurant is a moderately priced venue that everyone on the guest list can afford. The birthday person usually ends up having their meal paid for by a guest.

At my last birthday dinner, I specifically told everyone I was paying for a certain large pricey appetizer so that everyone could share. I didn’t expect anyone to pay for it, but my meal and the appetizer was still taken care of by friends. The whole paying for the birthday honoree and paying for your own meal is still big here. We all could afford the restaurant and the various meals including the appetizer. It would have been gauche, however, if I chose this restaurant if I had broke friends or friends who had tight budgets. (Following this southern style of birthday restaurant celebrations.)

When you “host” a dinner at your place, then the expectation is that you pay for all the food and if people want to be nice they can bring wine, dessert, etc. (Unless you specifically say it’s a pot luck type affair.)

The LW’s major gaffe was expecting people to pay more than $100 knowing full well not everyone would be able to do so and would have to decline and feel left out as a result. (Even worse would be for those same people to attend and not find out until the last minute.)

However, had the restaurant not been so expensive, I wouldn’t have seen anything in appropriate with her hosting at a restaurant.

Last note, I’ve noticed if anyone pays for a guest’s dinner at a restaruant down south, it’s usually a reheasal dinner, or when the groom and bride’s parents meet for the first time. Otherwise, birthday parties you can expect to pay for your own meal.

avatar sarolabelle March 28, 2011, 6:47 pm

Yep, same here. That’s how it’s done in the south. I’m in TX and that’s the way I see it.

to the LW: I think it’s okay to change the venue at this point. Just tell your friends that you felt the place was a little too pricey so now you are going to go to [insert name of less expensive restaurant here].

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 28, 2011, 3:18 pm

I cannot believe the LW is even thinking about asking people to spend that much on a dinner. That’s more than I spend in a month on food for myself. This is why you call ahead and find out policies about large groups before sending out the facebook invite.

avatar thyme March 28, 2011, 3:21 pm

I had a friend in college who used to pick a pricey restuarant for her own birthday dinner (as in, come out to x restaurant on Friday, it’s my birthday!), and then expect her friends to split the bill for her meal because it’s her birthday. And I thought THAT was tacky, but those “pricey” restaurants were like $30/person, and it was not a “party,” so it was at least understood that everyone would be paying for their own at the outset.

I would burst into tears if I went to a friend’s birthday dinner and got stuck with a $150 bill. That’s like 3 weeks of groceries.

avatar TheOtherMe March 28, 2011, 3:35 pm

@Thyme, that’s if you went alone, if you went with your S/O, it would be doubly shocking !

avatar baby.blanka March 28, 2011, 3:24 pm

Agree with Wendy and all of the commenter’s, there’s no way I would accept an invitation knowing I would have to pay that much for dinner (with the exception of like, my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary). Also, if I accepted NOT knowing I would have to pay that… I’d be very angry.

I would suggest living in your friends’ price range for the moment and then maybe having a solo dinner with you and the BF if you really want to visit this steak house.

avatar Pinky March 28, 2011, 3:35 pm

Why, oh, why, dear LW, did you announce this on FaceBook? Heavens. You can still save face, sweetie.

This isn’t written in stone. I’m in my 40′s and a lot of my friends split the tab on someone’s birthday and chip in a little extra for the birthday girl/boy. However, we do NOT go to extremely expensive restaurants.

If you want the friends to pitch in, go to a less expensive restaurant. However, make the bar tab separate. Alcohol is EXPENSIVE. I recently went to a birthday dinner where a bunch of guests got several drinks, tossed a $20 bill on the table and split. That is a crappy thing to do to the guest of honor because it makes them feel bad. It is also a crappy thing to do to your dining companions because they have to take up the slack.

If you don’t want to deal with this kind of drama, buy a bunch of pizzas and go to the park. Get a pinata. Go to the movies. Play miniature golf. Go bowling. You can have fun without breaking the bank.

avatar honeybeenicki March 28, 2011, 5:07 pm

Completely agree! I’ve been in situations where it was a dinner out with everyone paying for themselves and then agreeing to split the bill for the guest of honor (generally they don’t assume… we offer) and we got stuck with someone elses bar tab. This is especially obnoxious to me because I don’t drink. Why should I have to pick up someone’s $40 bar tab (that I didn’t agree to pay) when I spent $2 on a soda?

avatar ArtsyGirly March 28, 2011, 7:43 pm

This happened to me once. We were out at a large function (about 15 people) and 4 friends of friends got shitfaced – not drunk, shitfaced. They got up and left the restaurant without putting any money down. My husband and I ended up having to pay for those four including an $80 bar tab and we didn’t even know them! I actually got their address and sent them a note informing them that they owed us for the dinner with a copy of the receipt, never heard back from them.

avatar Anne (I Go To 11) March 28, 2011, 3:37 pm

LW, why on earth would you plan on a party and NOT call the venue BEFORE inviting people? How were you to even know they’d have the room for all the guests you wanted to invite on the night you were going? Sorry, but your lack of appropriate planning does not mean attendees are required to foot any part of this bill. If you can’t afford to go, pick someplace else. Period.

avatar fallonthecity March 28, 2011, 3:43 pm

LW — Like Wendy said, if you want your friends to pay their own way, you should learn to use different language, such as, “Hey, would you like to _meet_ us at Fancy Steakhouse at date/time?” Also, “organizing,” or “coordinating.” If you use the words “throwing him a dinner” it implies that you are taking care of everything. If you do decide to go ahead with the steakhouse thing, make sure your guests know how much money you’re expecting them to shell out. I don’t usually carry that much money with me when I go out, so if I were surprised with a bill like that I’d be in trouble…

Side note: LW, be glad you asked Wendy this question, and not Miss Manners :)

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't March 28, 2011, 3:53 pm

LW, if you decide to organize this party and then spring on your friends that they have to pay for their own meals, I am willing to bet that you will have 18 less friends by the end of the night.

“hosting” a party implies that the host pays for everything. “organizing a dinner or drinks” means people are expected to pay their own way.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't March 28, 2011, 4:08 pm

errr didn’t phrase that so well. When you say “hey, meet us at X location for dinner or drinks”, that implies that everyone is responsible for their own bill.

avatar Heather Girl March 28, 2011, 4:03 pm

I have been in this situation before. I was invited to a birthday dinner and expected to pay about $80 for my own dinner. Now to some people that isn’t too much, but to me it is. If you want to get your friends together for a birthday dinner, make it somewhere affordable, and then splurge at the fancy place and just take your boyf.
If you change your mind though and want to pay for everyone, I can provide my contact info.

avatar princesspetticoat March 28, 2011, 4:18 pm

“My question is: am I obligated to notify our friends that they will be spending a minimum of $150 per person for dinner?”

As opposed to not telling them and letting them find out how much they owe at the end of the meal? Please do not spring $150 on someone unexpectedly!! I get really upset when I’m coerced into unnecessary spending… I like to know how much I’m going to be spending ahead of time so that I can plan accordingly. Also, I’m the type of person who would go to fancier restaurant but order something more modest so that I can have the atmosphere and experience but not blow my budget. Arriving at a dinner and finding out that I HAVE to spend at least $150 would really upset me.

As others have suggested, please pick a more reasonable restaurant, or change it to drinks after dinner. If you’re set on going to the fancy restaurant, please, please let the guests know about the restaurant’s policy so that they can decide whether or not it’s in their budget ahead of time.

avatar Spark March 28, 2011, 5:39 pm

Oh my gosh, I wrote almost the exact same thing below! I was so annoyed by this LW and that very statement that I just had to comment right away, before even reading the other comments! I wholeheartedly agree with you!

Heather Heather March 28, 2011, 4:19 pm

“Ok guys, I’m hosting a party for my boyfriend. We’re going to a super nice steakhouse in BH. Very classy. Who’s in?”

“By the way, I should probably tell you guys that we signed a contract saying we’d spend 2k in one night, not including gratuity and service fee. So if you’re coming, you’re expected to pay at LEAST 150 per plate!”

“WHAT THE EFF! My friends suck, they cancelled out on me! After I already signed the contract!”

LW, that seems mean. But that’s how the situation would play out. It would definitely be very tacky.

sobriquet sobriquet March 28, 2011, 5:14 pm

Definitely choose a different restaurant. Seriously, do not burden your friends (or yourself!) with the issue of money on your boyfriend’s birthday! If there is only one tab, you will be the one in charge of paying it. Even if everyone pitches in, you will be in charge of asking them for the money and paying the remainder. And you will always have one or two friends who refuse to pay the entirety of their bill, or refuse to tip. There is absolutely no way 18 people will get it right.

This happened to me on my boyfriend’s 30th and it was a DISASTER. There were only 8 of us (6 of his best friends) and no one threw in the correct amount of money. I was left with a hefty bill simply because his friends didn’t each throw in the extra $15 they owed. I will never invite friends out for a dinner party again unless everyone gets individual checks, or I plan to pick up the whole tab.

avatar Darlin' March 28, 2011, 5:28 pm

When I go out with friends for birthdays, we always divide the bill between all the guests, minus 1 share for the birthday guy/gal, so we all share the cost of their meal. It’s imperfect because some of the group are drinkers and some not, but that’s the dynamic in our group. A tasteful way to let everyone know they are expected to pitch in is to send a link to the restaurant’s website with the online menu. That way everyone can see what the restaurant offers and the prices they can expect. However, you can’t ask that many guests to committing to paying a certain dollar amount, they need to be able to order according to their bugets. I would definitely choose a less pricey place or just take a select group of close family/friends.

avatar Spark March 28, 2011, 5:36 pm

I would never even think that being sent the menu is an implicit statement that I’d have to pay. I would assume that the host is trying to show everyone the types of food offered.

avatar Darlin' March 28, 2011, 6:06 pm

Sorry, I meant to imply that you would let them know it’s everyone’s responsibility to foot their own bill, and to look at the menu to see if that’s something they can afford to do at said place. I certainly wouldn’t reccommend just sending the menu and hoping everyone gets the message. LOL Bottom line, that’s a LOT to expect someone to shell out for a dinner, and not letting them know the expectation in advance is rude and a great way to lose friends.

avatar Spark March 28, 2011, 5:35 pm

“My question is: am I obligated to notify our friends that they will be spending a minimum of $150 per person for dinner?”

Wow. That they *will be spending* that much money. There’s no choice here.

If I were a guest, even if I thought I would be expected to pay for my dinner, I would never expect to split the bill evenly among 20 people whose dinners I had no control over. I would probably go to the party for my friend, but I’d pick a more reasonably priced appetizer or two rather than a meal, and I’d probably get water. When the check came, I would be horrified to realize that I “owed” more than $150 for my appetizer!

I would bet anything that the guests who assume that they will be paying their own way also assume that they will have the flexibility to choose a menu item that they can afford. It is inconceivable to me that anyone would invite people to a party with a hidden, pre-determined cost.

avatar princesspetticoat March 28, 2011, 9:37 pm

Haha that’s awesome, we totally did write pretty much same thing! Definitely agree with you!

avatar Calliopedork March 28, 2011, 5:49 pm

Please do not alienate your friends by forcing them to either spend more than they can (probably afford) or have to decline a friends birthday so that they can afford food for the rest of the month. Pick a more affordable place and post the menu on facebook so they can plan. Or invite everyone for a casual happy hour out and do dinner seperately.

Heather Heather March 28, 2011, 5:49 pm

Not entirely related, but of the idea of “owing” on a huge group tab:

When I was a sophomore in high school, the JV and Varsity Volleyball teams went to an expensive italian restaurant before attending a University volleyball game. Me and my friends on the team brought $20, because the coaches told us that that should be more than sufficient. Well, as it turns out, the Senior Varsity girls took it upon themselves to order way more food than was necessary-appetizers, plenty of specialty drinks, etc. And at the end of the night, they didn’t want to trouble themselves with splitting up the bills between who actually got what. So they divided the total among some 30 girls, and we younger girls all owed way more than we brought. The coaches had to cover a portion of it, and reprimanded the entire team for “not being prepared”.

That’s why, when going out with a group, I will always do my own tab, unless I’m taking someone out for their birthday and we can evenly cover that person’s tab alone. It’s stingy, but I refuse to ever get screwed over again. Especially because I know people who do like to do the group tab with the sole purpose of knowing everyone will have to pay, so they can get away with getting more.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't March 28, 2011, 6:52 pm

This is a huge pet peeve of mine too! I don’t mind splitting the bill if we all ordered approximately the same thing (i.e. an entree and drink), but I can’t stand when I go somewhere and order like, an appetizer and water because I’m not hungry/ it’s out of my budget and someone else orders an appetizer, an entree and a couple of drinks and then goes “why don’t we just split the bill?”. That’s just rude!

Heather Heather March 28, 2011, 8:48 pm

“Why don’t we just split the bill?

“Why don’t you just shove all those extra appetizers and drinks up your ass?”

rofl.

avatar belongsomewhere March 28, 2011, 8:11 pm

Something really similar happened to me in high school. I was in a club, and we went to a fancy Moroccan restaurant. It was Friday night, and the organizers hadn’t done enough research to know that the only menu options on Friday-Sunday are either the vegetarian or meat 5 course dinner (shared by the whole table). I had been planning to order lentil soup, a cup of tea, and a small dessert, which would have been well under $20, so that was all I brought. But because the teachers and head of the club hadn’t done their research, three people who had RSVP’d failed to show up, and I was the only vegetarian, I had to pay $35 for a meal I was unable to eat, and obviously that sucks a whole lot.

Heather Heather March 28, 2011, 8:47 pm

Oh jesus, that is way worse. I had to fork over money, but at least I got to enjoy my food. That sucks Belongs!

Definitely why I’m a huge proponent of separate checks.

avatar brendapie March 28, 2011, 9:29 pm

It bothers me so much and I hate being “that person” who asks for a separate check but I’ve been stuck paying for more than my share and I felt like my friends had taken advantage of me.

I don’t drink alcohol which makes it even worse when people run a huge tab on drinks – I’m sorry but I won’t pay for your cosmopolitan.

avatar Fairhaired Child March 29, 2011, 12:59 am

agreed! Usually when I’m invited to “group dinners” I ask the person doing the inviting if there will be a split tab and do research myself on how much things can cost. I remember something like this happened in highschool to one of my Spanish Classes where we went out on a “field trip” to the Spanish restaurant to practice our Spanish. Some people ordered a TON of extra stuff then left (we didnt have to go back to school it was at the end of the day and some parents had come with their kids) paying barely anything towards the bill without looking at what they actually ordered. My “almost step dad” ended up paying $80 extra dollars to cover the money that was “suddenly left over” from extra orders that no one fessed up to getting (deserts etc).

I’ve even had this problem with smaller groups where I’m purposefully watching my spending and thinking oh well its only 6 of us so we can get individual tabs.. then someone tells the waitress no problem we can do one tab.. and instead of only paying the $15 I ordered i’m spending $25-30 because of tip (because i feel like no one else tips well giving the “whole bill” amount) and because other people have ordered expensive drinks and we state we’ll split it even… :( Now I say right away I want a separate bill when i’m out with friends more than 1 or 2 other people.

avatar absurdfiction March 28, 2011, 6:18 pm

Hahaha I just read Dear Prudence’s live chat from the Washington Post today, and I have a hunch that Wendy’s LW already issued her edict, um, I mean, invitation:

“Q. Birthday Etiquette: One of my best friends has decided to celebrate her birthday with a large dinner at an expensive seafood restaurant. The economy has affected my pocketbook and because of my dietary restrictions, there is nothing for me on the menu at this restaurant. I have tried to make alternate plans to take her out for dinner on another night close to her birthday, but she is unavailable and wants to know why I am ‘trying to get out of going to [her] birthday dinner.’ Do I just suck it up and go to the big dinner, or can I bow out and say I’m sorry there’s no other opportunity for us to celebrate her birthday?

“A: Adult birthdays are replacing weddings and baby showers as sources of bad behavior. You don’t want to be stuck with a $75 bill for a salad and glass of wine to celebrate this momentous occasion. You don’t need to offer any excuse. All you have to say is: ‘I hope you have a wonderful celebration. I’m sorry I can’t be there.’”

Advice columnists change enough identifying details that it *could* be true ;)

fast eddie fast eddie March 28, 2011, 6:20 pm

The occasion should not be about how much you spend but what is being celebrated. $150 for a meal is just plain outrageous unless you’re among the rich and famous and she said some of the guests are students therefore not rich. To even consider asking them for ante up that kind of money is grossly unthoughtful. There are better ways like a catered buffet at a park or beach. We had our wedding in the backyard and the catering was excellent for less then $30 a head, not including drinks, and they even provided the tables and chairs.

Skyblossom Skyblossom March 28, 2011, 7:13 pm

My question is: am I obligated to notify our friends that they will be spending a minimum of $150 per person for dinner?

Yes you are obligated to let them know you would expect them to pay $150 each for their dinner and then don’t be surprised when only you and your boyfriend go to dinner.

If any of them don’t show up you can’t expect the friends who do show up to cover the cost so you should do that yourself. You are the one who picked the restaurant and so you are the one who should be paying for these high priced meals.

Hopefully you haven’t yet contracted with the restuarant and can change the venue. If you can’t get out of it expect to pay $2000 and learn from your mistake.

avatar anna728 March 28, 2011, 9:25 pm

Dear god change the restaurant! $150 is insane. As a college student myself, I can say that even if you do have a job, you probably don’t work many hours and it’s probably minimum wage or close. It would take me over three weeks to earn that- and then to blow it all on one night! At a steakhouse of all places- I hate steak. Glad I am not invited to this event. Even my prom dress was much less than $150. Seriously, there are zero people in my life for whom I would be willing to spend $150 on their birthday celebration. If I was under the impression that the hostess was paying, and I got there, ate, and then suddenly discovered that I owed $150, I would be furious, and frankly I simply would not have the money. The LW is worried that some guests might not show up, which I bet a lot won’t if they know the price tag, but then she wonders whether she should tell them, because if people don’t show it will cost those who do even more. Soooo does that mean the game plan is to not mention it, trick everyone into showing up because they don’t know what they’re in for, and thereby be able to divvy up the bill between more people? That is really, really crappy. Change venues or switch the whole plan around. Even the friends who are out of school and working do not want to drop hundreds on your boyfriend’s birthday dinner, I promise you.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't March 29, 2011, 6:12 pm

$150 buys me groceries for like three weeks. $2000 is like, tuition for a semester. Maybe it’s the area code of this restaurant, but if my dinner cost $150 it had damn well better be served on solid gold plates.

avatar anna728 March 30, 2011, 1:23 am

… that I can take home with me!

avatar Robin March 29, 2011, 12:14 am

This doesn’t directly have to do with the letter, but is inspired by it.

Question: what do you do if you agree to split dinner with your friends and then your friends start making dinner way more extravagant than you were planning? I’ve had this happen twice lately, where I assumed the dinner would be around $20, then fought panic as my friends kept ordering additional appetizers and dishes and pitchers of beer. The restaurants were family-style, so even if I was too full to eat much of the latter dishes, I couldn’t claim that they weren’t “mine.” And even the beer was shared. Is there any polite way to say, “Whoa, can we stop ordering?” It’s scary to watch the bill creeping up toward $100 and not knowing how to stop it.

avatar WatersEdge March 29, 2011, 8:50 am

I don’t think you can stop your guests from ordering as much food and drink as they want. Your choices are : only split with other budget-minded people, or drop an apologetic line about having a budget and needing a separate check beforehand.

avatar jena March 29, 2011, 12:20 pm

If they are your true friends, discuss with them beforehand that you can only afford to pay for what you eat, or x amount of dollars.

avatar Kim March 29, 2011, 9:36 am

Wow — If you send out an evite, facebook invite etc that you are hosting a birthday party for your Boyfriend then you pay ….if you HOST the party and plan it then you are expected to pay. Especially since you picked such a fancy place with a $150 person minimum you cannot suddenly expect them to pay for themselves.

If you host a party do you usually send out the invitation with the location before checking with the restaurant to make sure they have room and find out their policy? I don’t.

If a bunch of friends take out someone for their birthday usually they all pay and split the birthday boy/girl’s cost but this isn’t the case here.

Also you invited his family so it will reflect badly on you if you invite them and then expect them to pay for themselves.

avatar Leyahn March 29, 2011, 10:47 am

Um, you want steak for your boyfriend’s birthday dinner?
Invite everyone over, fire up the grill, toss a green salad, open some bottles of wine, and Viola! instant celebration.
Really, don’t ask your friends to pony up $150 dollars each to pay for your celebration. Heck, that is more than most would spend on a present for him.

As to the age and cultural differences many people remarked on in their posts – when I was in my 20s, we were all struggling and would never had picked a place this pricey for dinner – even with the expectation that we all would pay our own way. The local Mexican restaurant with killer margaritas was always our go to place for celebrations. And we never would have issued invitations to birthday celebrations without making the “who pays what” expectation very clear, which I don’t thing the LW did.

avatar jena March 29, 2011, 12:19 pm

If I went to a birthday dinner and was told I had to pay $150 (plut tip?) for ONE meal, I would be BEYOND screwed. $150 is a month of groceries/half my rent. No No NO you cannot ask your friends to pay that much for your boyfriend’s dinner party.

avatar bostonpupgal March 29, 2011, 2:11 pm

Tell them! Write an email explaining you are merely *inviting* not hosting and exactly how expesnive it’s goingto be. I would suggest not having it there at all and going with somewhere more reasonable.

I get the feeling from this letter that the LW likes the idea of a fancy shmancy bday celebration, but she doesn’t want to pay for it. Find a close friend or relative with a beautiful home or backyard and ask to have the party there, make the desserts and a few salads and appetizers yourselves, and have the main dishes catered. Hire a few waiters and a bartender to pass the food and apps, and buy a few dozen fresh flowers on the cheap from Sams Club and arrange them yourself. Throw in a few dozen tealight candles, which you can get at the dollar store for a few bucks, and tell your friends to dress up. Fancy shamcy party, small cost

avatar XanderTaylor March 29, 2011, 2:54 pm

I am a middle aged single mom (and have never been paid even one cent in child support). Many many times I have been down to $150 in my checking account w/4 days to go until payday, an empty gas tank & needing milk & cereal for the next 4 mornings plus lunches for the kids. If I were going to go, I would get what I could afford or I would decline. However, no where in my own little mind would I think that if I went I would end up being asked for a couple hundred dollars at the end of the meal. What is wrong with you? Why would you think you could spring that kind of bill on people at the end of a meal? People you know can’t afford it. By the way, “Can’t afford it” means they don’t have the money in their checking account – what are they supposed to do? Wash dishes?

avatar thyme March 29, 2011, 4:13 pm

“Can’t afford it” can also mean I have more than that in the bank but I don’t care to blow a huge chunk of change like that on your boyfriend’s birthday dinner.

avatar RoyalEagle0408 March 29, 2011, 5:34 pm

That was my thought. I have a credit card that I could always use, but I would never spend that much on dinner for myself. Well, at least not in one night.

avatar Anna March 29, 2011, 5:45 pm

Why not invite the guests to your home and grill steaks? You could probably have almost the entire party for $150 if you go grocery shopping and cook at home, plus drinks are cheaper at home too. There’s no need to dump 2 grand on one party, that’s just wasteful!

avatar anna728 March 30, 2011, 1:27 am

I really want to see an Update on this one.

avatar jojo528 March 30, 2011, 10:17 pm

On a side note, where do you all buy your groceries? I would like to only spend $150 / month too!

avatar Marisa August 2, 2012, 8:44 pm

When you “host” a party you PAY. And of course a very upscale restaurant is going to want a deposit.

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