Recently, my boyfriend and I were invited by a new friend of his to attend his wife’s birthday dinner at an upscale restaurant (over $150 per person) but were not explicitly told whether we would be expected to pay for ourselves or not. Unlike the other three couples invited, we are not wealthy and this would be a HUGE expense for us. Is there a proper way of asking whether we will be expected to pay? If we aren’t expected to pay, I would like to get the birthday girl a gift or a bottle of wine for the table… but I am hesitant to buy a gift if it turns out that we will need to pay for our dinner!
We have tried to indirectly ask the other couples whether they know if we will need to pay, but we have had no luck with getting an answer. Any suggestions? — Anonymous
Have you already accepted the invitation? If not, I would say something along the lines of: “We so appreciate being included in your wife’s birthday festivities and would love to help celebrate her, but I’m afraid that particular restaurant is out of our budget. Do you have plans following dinner that we may be able to join?” This gives the the host the opportunity to tell you directly whether or not he’s paying for the entire meal (and if he is, you thank him, and let him know you’d like to buy the birthday girl a bottle of wine that she would love), and it doesn’t put you in a position of incurring a huge expense for someone whom you’re just getting to know. It also sets a precedent going forward that when including you in group activities, your budget should be a consideration and that, if someone else is covering the tab, it should be explicitly expressed.
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