September 20, 2007

q: how do I ask my friends to pay?

Dirty Thirties

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I'm hosting my own 30th birthday party, and I'm reserving a room at a lounge that requires a minimum to be spent on food and drinks. How do I let my friends know that they’ll have to pay their own way? — Ellen

The best way to go about having your guests chip in is to be up front with them. Add a gentle, tactful message to your Evite invitation such as, “Separate checks will be provided.” This gets the point across that they have to pay, but only for what they ordered. You can also note that this contribution should be in lieu of gifts to keep people from feeling like they need to pony up lots of dough for your big day. But if the minimum is not met at the end of the evening, as the host, you should be ready to cover the difference.

Some restaurants will work with you on arranging a set menu for large parties. This option lets your guests know exactly how much money they’ll need for the evening and what that money gets them.

If you’re opposed to asking your guests to pay at all, then consider hosting your birthday party at home. Whipping up some hors d’oeuvres — or even buying them from pre-made from the market — is more economical than footing an entire restaurant bill.

It’s great to keep all your friends in mind as you’re planning your event, but in the end, it’s your party. We think your friends will be happy to chip in for your big 30th.

Posted by Lindsay on September 20, 2007 in Etiquette

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25 responses to "q: how do I ask my friends to pay?"

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en general es complicado en las invitaciones saber quién hace algo por quién, hay gente que la invitas a algo y parece que si acude te está haciendo un favor


There is no polite or correct way to ask your friends to pay for a party that you are hosting. Part of hosting an event is covering the costs associated with it. NEVER host an event that requires your guests to pay an "admission fee" for the pleasure of your company.

You should work the with lounge to arrange to pay the minimum for all your guests yourself before the party or to ensure that the bill is presented to you at the end of the party. If you cannot afford this option, you should host your event at another venue.

ok, I dont get it. she is hosting her Bday party but she wants her guests to pay to celebrate her birthday???? I does not make sense to me at all.

You are an idiot for thinking you are 'hosting' a party. Who hosts their own birthday party. Get over yourself.

I think you should change your plans and do something you CAN afford. How TOTALLY tacky to invite friends to a party and then ask them to pay!!

I think it's ok to have cash bar if you're already at a bar (esp. since cash bar is already considered ok--but not ideal-- for weddings). I completely agree that the host should be prepared to cover the minimum order not met-- and just hope that it is met! Also, I think leaving it at "separate checks" or "cash bar" is more tactful than saying, hey guys, I wanted this fancy place, but we have to spend at least $1000, so pony up, blah blah blah. I also think the host should pay for food.

ps. Excuse Mr. Joe for the single hatred!!! If you are a grown-up single, who else is going to throw you a birthday? And what's the difference between someone having the confidence to celebrate one's milestones oneself, or forcing one's friends to slap their names on your lovely evite?

I'm not sure what everyone else is talking about. It is absolutely NOT tacky to ask each of your guests to cover their part of the tab. Most parties I've been to are exactly like that...No one expects the host to foot thousands of dollars for a group outing. At least not when your still in your 20s and early 30s. I agree that the most tactful way to suggest it is to state in your Evite that "separate checks will be provided." That's how I'd do it, anyway.

I agree with Rachel... single people can throw parties themselves!

I did this a few years ago. I arranged with a bar to have an area for my group. (it was a newly opened bar and happy to have a crowd) I brought a cake (since it was my own party... I didn't have 'Happy Birthday' written on it.. just a plain old cake. And I ordered a bunch of appetizers and expected to pay for drinks.

This arrangement wasn't explained to my guests... why should I? They should just assume they are my guests!

Imagine my surprise when many people, confused that their tabs weren't brought to them (or maybe the waitress told them I was paying for it) left cash on their tables to cover their drinks. In the end, I spent about $40 over what I expected to pay for appetizers, including the tip... because my guests willing covered for themselves.
There was no way to know who left what money... so I couldn't return the cash to them... I just considered it by birthday gift.

My last birthday party was in my yard... I provided food and drink and others always bring a dish or bottle... it works out great. But I never ask anyone to bring anything or pay for anything.

It is no longer taboo to ask your guest to pay for their foods. My suggestions is to put "regular menu prices apply." I have had gatherings and required folks to pay and I have attended gatherings where I had to pay. If a person can afford it, he/she will go.

I was invited to a "Grad" Party last month and was told to "come and JOIN me for a drink". Unfortunately, It seems like the IN thing these days. I will sum it up in ONE Word................TACKY!

If you can't afford something, don't bother. Invite a smaller group of people to a resturant and pay yourself, or go somewhere cheaper. You want your guests to have a good time, not to be forced to worry about a check. But, if it's under 10 bucks, I don't think that people will care.

I think when we are all young and less financially solvent it is reasonable to ask guests to contribute to the bill. they are your friends after all and if it is a question of being able to celebrate your birthday or not at all, i say your true friends will know that you aren't being tacky - you are simply wanting to share your life with those close to you.

What's the difference between your friends all taking you out to dinner, and you inviting them all to join you for dinner? You call her tacky for wanting to eat out with her friends for dinner, on her birthday? Do you always pay for everyone when you go out to a restaurant? My friends and I do this all the time for special events, if we're not having a party at someones home. No one has the money to pay for 10 or more ppl to eat out.

I've found this happens A LOT in New York City - you get invited to a birthday party "hosted" by one of your friends at a bar, and then the invitation continues to tell you that it's $40 all-you-can-drink or whatever from 8 to 11. Being from the midwest, I find this reprehensible. If you're going to host a party, you should be prepared to HOST it, which includes treating your guests.

I'm a big fan of asking a group of 10 friends to join me at a restaurant for my birthday, which I do because I want to spend that day eating great food with my favorite people. But I always come prepared to pay for everyone, even if in practice, this never happens. Everyone usually pays their own way or contributes to the pot.

I don't see anything wrong with this. I actually did the same thing for my last birthday. $25 included a few drinks, food, and a private room. It actually seemed more reasonable than inviting everyone out to dinner for food and bar tabs...

I have never ONCE gone to a birthday party and expected all costs to be covered by the host. THAT is tacky to me. That's basically saying: "Oh, you didn't buy my booze and food... sorry, you're not a good enough friend worth my own money to celebrate, see ya".

It depends on your friends. If everyone on the invite list is used to going to clubs and lounges where they pay their own way and they are going to party with you and they want to party there, then that makes sense.

Otherwise, a dinner party or inviting friends that you don't go clubbing with and asking them to pay is cheap. It is totally bad style.

I've never been to a party where I had to pay my own food or drink - even at lounge and nightclubs. I've been invited to something like that before but never bothered to go.

Pizza and beer with close friends at home could be more meaningful than doing body shots at a club.

A friend and I are hosting a joint 30th birthday party in a party room of a restaurant. We're paying for a live band and plenty of delicious appetizers (crab balls, swedish meatballs, skewers, etc.) and dessert. We have let friends know that it is a cash bar and I've negotiated drink specials with the restaurant to keep costs down for my guests. I hate having a cash bar, but this isn't a wedding, so I figure it's ok. I'll feed you and entertain you--get drunk on your own. I've been trying to figure out if this is tacky or what, but I've already spent close to a thousand, so I'm tapped out.

What do you think?

Not to mention that the moochers come out of the woodwork when they hear something will be free...

You write an Evite or invitation that invites people to Join you at... to celebrate....

Don't make it seem that you are the host - make this an event to which your friends can join you - just as they might join you to the movies, theater, etc.

At the bottom you put NO HOST BAR, but I think you should be prepared to negotiate with the venue and ask them to chip in some appetizers for free and you should pay for the rest of those.

If you can't afford it then as someone else mentioned do something different where you don't have to buy food - like a boat ride where they each have to get tickets - maybe you get a group discount.

i'm 44, the economy sucks, i'm hosting my own b-day party. guest are getting appetizers 1/2 price, a free drink, free admission to the nightclub and seperate checks will be provided for dinner. enough said.

This is BS. There is a difference between hosting for an event in your life and inviting for regular party. If you are the host and it is YOUR party, you pay for it. If not in full, a part of it. If you are inviting for a regular weekend party/get-together, you can openly say that every body will get their own check. But the worse thing that you can do it, invite friends to your birthday party that you suggest to host... and surprise them with checks. You should be slapped!

Actually, I think using Evite (vs. a standard email) to "invite" guests to something that requires guests to pay is rude. I don't mind being asked to "pay for play" events, but when I get something worded as an "invitation" only to open it and find out I'm being charged -- that bugs me. People use Evite to "invite" people to plays that they're in, or speaker events that are open to the public at $30 a pop.

to me, when you're invited, you're a *guest* and shouldn't have to pay. an "announcement" is more accurate for a pay-to-go event (like a play or a speech.).

My sister-in-law and I are having a joint 50th birthday party thrown by our husbands. It is in a party room that requires you to use their food and drink. We are paying for the food, soft drinks and a band. The bar is a cash bar (and says so on the invite). If this were in my own home or backyard, yes, I would probably provide the alcohol. I can buy it a lot cheaper at the liquor store than at the venue. But for this, we are not paying for all the alcohol. If our guests are going to be upset that they have to pay for drinks when we have provided food and entertainment, then they should be ashamed of themselves and they are not there for the right reasons. $20 or less out of their pocket, or $1000 or more out of ours with an open bar? I wouldn't expect anyone to foot that expense if I am the guest. Alcohol is not a god given right. Just make sure they know before they arrive that it is a cash bar so they are prepared. If they won't come just because we won't buy them drinks, they can go take their brown bag down to the riverbank with the rest of the bums. And as to the original post, if you want to have a get together but need for each to pay for his/her own, go for it - just make sure that it is clear on the invite so they are prepared. Your true friends will understand and come if they can afford it.

Ive reciently added a home bar. I have all top shelf alcohol and a fridge that holds only beer. I have friends that always call me and ask me "lets get together tonight and throw some darts" its always at my place. I have to pay to supply all the alcohol, and it goes on at lease 2x a week. How do i tactfully ask for cash to replenish the bar? Why should i assume all costs, especially if they invite themselves? I like to party too, but how do i handle this so it doesnt always cost me?

I think the critical issue no one's really mentioned is the "gift." When you have a birthday party, wedding, or baptism or whatever your guests are invited and they usually are obligated to bring gifts. So as the host, you pay for everything and you sort of get something back from them in return for the event. But with a birthday party, if you say "no gifts please" then that should signal to your guests that them paying for their own meal is their gift to you. I don't see anything wrong with that. It's a birthday party, not a wedding. But they should be properly notified of what restaurant, where they can look it up to see how expensive it is, and as host if you need to cover the rest of the money you should be prepared to do that. And if your friends come with no gift and drink only a soda, then that's lame and you shoudln't be friends with them anymore! LOL