HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Birthday Dinners... who pays? what is the etiquette?

I have seen alot of diversity regarding the etiquette of who pays if a group of people go out to a restaurant to celebrate someone's birthday. It looks like people expect one of three things:
- the birthday boy/gal is considered to be the host and pays for everyone
- it is considered to be a gift to the birthday boy/gal so everyone pays for their own plus covers the meal of the guest of honor
- everyone just goes dutch, including the guest of honor

I typically follow the last option and expect everyone to go dutch unless the dinner invite is phrased as an invitation to a party (then I expect the party host to pay) or the friends all decide ahead of time the dinner will be a gift to the birthday boy girl (then we chip in for their diner too).

I know this has been debated alot, particularly in the context of the bill being split unfairly (which always happens) but I wanted to get the concensus of what everyone expects when invited to these dinners.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think a lot of it depends on who is inviting them out and how the invitation goes- we just did a combined birthday celebration where we took 20 of our friends to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in DC (Dino, where they did an amazing job). The invitations said "We would love to have you for dinner" or something like that- indicating we were taking them.

    If people invite the birthday person to lunch for their birthday I think it's expected that they are taking the birthday person to lunch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jpschust

      I truly do not believe that there is a standard etiquette. For example, when I am invited out for someone's birthday, I come to it with the intention that I will chip in for the birthday person's meal and cocktails. I never go to a function (even my own birthday or party) and expect that people will pay for me. If they offer, I graciously accept and end up buying friends a drink or two, but I never assume anything. If I am say, planning my best friend's birthday dinner, I go into it thinking that I will pick up hers and mine, and potentially a round of drinks or some apps, but unless I specifically state that I am paying for everything - I don't expect my guests to think that I'm covering the bill. And normally, they don't...and they offer to split it up.

      If I am aware that some friends are financially strapped, then I tend to go a different route, either having a cocktail party at my house where my guests are not obligated to pay for anything, and simply show up and have a good time, then I am considerate of that.

      But in all my years of going out and celebrating with various circles of friends and family, I think that the benefit of never assuming that others will pay unless specifically stated, usually ends up an advantage where people's generosity is never overlooked (say splitting a bill, or at least the offer), as opposed to people assuming their meal is paid for, the host will pay, etc.

    2. Your three options seem about right - I'm not sure there's any concensus about this. My experience is the younger the people are the more likely the whole group goes dutch. The most common I've seen is everyone except the birthday guy/gal pays and they cover the cost of birthday guy/gal's meal. I think having the birthday g/g pay the whole bill only happens when the b g/g has explicitly invited everyone out in their own homor (which is kind of weird when you think about it). When it's more casual, especially a work group ("Hey - it's Fred's birthday - let's go to lunch!") I expect to pay my own and my part of Fred's meal.

      1. Ah yes the old birthday dinner split discussion, or more appropriately titled, "let's not talk about the bill til it arrives." Hence the issue.

        Invited to the party are the following people:

        Not Me - This person assumes that someone else is paying since (s)he was invited.
        The Over-orderer - Doesn;t get out much and sees that the bill will be split 20 ways, so looks for things that (s)he normally won't order if paying for. So what the heck, the foie gras with the truffle supplement and the 3 lb. lobster sound good. And the $30 glass of port will go nice with the souffle and creme brule. Take out a $20 and throw it on the tabel.
        The Birthday Person - The only one who might expect to eat for free. But that depends on whether (s)he was the invitor as in, "I'd like to take all of my friends out for...". Then the B'day persdon becomes the payor.
        The Cheapo Out-o - Amazing when the bill arrives, this person either has a bladder attack, a "mysterious" cell phone call (noone heard it ring or vibrate) and suddenly disappears simultaneously to the bill arriving. Nowhere to be found until the group is outside saying goodbyes.
        The Accountant - Grabs the bill and starts telling everyone what they owe. A reall gifted Accountant actually watched how many glasses of wine Tom drank versus Jane and has split the cost of the bottle of wine pro-rata
        The Splitter - Grabs the bill, divides by the number of guests and proclaims the amount.
        The AMEX Tossers - Bill arrives and everyone throws their AMEX (or Visa) cards unto the bill. Waiter takes them away and splits evenly amongst the cards.
        The Mensch - Grabs the bill and says (s)he'll pay for the whole thing
        The Semi-Mensch - Grabs the bill, tells everyone to pay what they thought they owed and the rounds up to the correct amount including tip
        The Mom - Oh how many time the argument ensues about whether the Mom of the Birthday person has an automatic free pass to not pay. If the table is badly split on this topic one of two things happen. The tip is less than it should be or the Mensch throws in the extra money to bring the tip to standard.
        The OMG'er - Jfood feels the most sympathy for this person because he was this person at a dinner 30 years ago. Someone invites this person and the OMG'er says that money is very tight and really can't afford it. Is convinced to attend. Orders water and a small salad while everyone else sucks down porterhouses. At the end of the meal, the Splitter divides the bill evenly and the OMG'er is faced with loosing face or succumbing to pressure and paying $50+ for a $7 meal (several other threads on this topic)

        How to lessen the attendance by any of these folks. It's called COMMUNICATION. The person who sets it up, sets the pricing policy and this policy is totally and completely communicated to all invitees at the time of the invite. If Bday person is treated, tell them, Mom is a guest, likewise tell them, everyone will contribute what they ate (better make sure a Semi-Mensch attends) then tell them. Pretty basic in addition to time & place.

        12 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          jfood - your accuracy in naming the type of people for outings is SO uncanny it is scary! And yes, I believe communication is the answer. Period. Because I have been the OMG'er, and I have 1 specific friend that is the over-orderer. Those OO's suck. :)

          1. re: snoboardbabe77

            Having watched not an OMG'er but just a non-drinker get roped into splitting the bill equally, which she always graciously did, I have become the Voice of Reason - piping up (loudly) that no way should this person pay an equal share when she didn't have a drink.

            Now it doesn't even get suggested with this particular group of friends.

            The scenario does make me chuckle because there's an early episode of Friends when the 3 friends with no money (Rachel, Joey and Phoebe) complain about the bill splitting with the other 3. Rachel says she'll have a side salad and thank you. The waiter asks what it will be beside and she says you can put it right next to my water!

          2. re: jfood

            This is hilarious. I'm always glad to have an accountant at the table because it's totally unfair for an OMG'ers fork out cash they don't have. That being said, I couldn't be an accountant because I can't do any math without a calculator.

            In the past, my friends and I have split the bill differently. The alcohol drinkers pay a certain amouont and the non-drinkers pay a lot less. Somehow, alcohol always seems to double the tab.

            1. re: jfood

              So what happens when the organizer makes it clear the dinner will be dutch, w/ everyone chipping in to cover bday person's meal, and attempts to pick a resto that OMG'er will not feel too strapped at? Been there done that, DISASTER:

              OMG'er nixes practically every suggested resto, until we finally settle on one place. Then OMG'er proceeds to moan & mutter about pricing when everyone's looking at their menus. Organizer (me) offers to split an entree w/ OMG'er so the final bill won't hurt OMG'er's wallet too much. OMG'er nixes that suggestion, then proceeds to order the most expensive entree on the list. (at this point, most of the group if not all of us are puzzled and confused about all the moaning).

              OMG'er mutters about the inedibleness & lack of quality of the food (OMG'er is not a CHer at all by the way... Applebee's is a quality resto to this person), and makes halfhearted attempts to make this known to the entire table as well as wait staff. At the end of the meal, OMG'er states there is not enough $ in his/her wallet to cover his/her share -- morphing OMG'er into Cheapo-outo & Overorderer... the others will of course have to cover the difference (which is about $30).

              Upon leaving the resto, OMG'er pulls out a $100 bill and announces that he/she is treating everyone to the movies. But most of the group did not have the time for movies & had to leave.

              I have since become wary of inviting this person to a similar gathering ever again.

              1. re: S U

                Did anyone ask OMG'er to use the $100 to cover his/her portion of the dinner?

                1. re: heathermb

                  we didn't know about the $100 in OMG'er's wallet until after tab had been paid and we all headed out the door onto the sidewalk... and OMG'er knew most ppl would not have time to "watch a movie", due to extensive scheduling negotiations for the dinner.

                  I didn't ask for the $, since the tab had already been paid and I felt it would have been bad form to demand repayment to all the folks who chipped in more than their share... but it was probably even more rude to claim they didn't have the money when they do.

                  1. re: S U

                    In my youth, I would have bitten my tongue with this particular OMG'er.

                    At my age now, I have zero tolerance. I would waste no time calling that OMG'er out on having that hundred bucks and suggest that we go back into the resto to make change so s/he can pay back the benefactor(s) of his/her meal.

                    The nerve!

                2. re: S U

                  >morphing OMG'er into Cheapo-outo & Overorderer
                  I think treating the individual in your story as an OMG/Cheepo/OO in
                  some kind of quantum superposition is the wrong approach.
                  The person is apparently a liar and seems to be kind of a shabby
                  individual. And coping with that is beyond the problem of Fair Bill Splitting.

                  They say "hard cases make bad law" ... and most norms for dealing
                  with normal people may not smoothly stretch to deal with sociopaths.
                  e.g. How to deal with stuff like this can turn on very situational factors
                  like "is the sociopath a relative/SO of somebody you value" etc ... in which
                  case cutting them loose might not be a simple option, until you hear
                  about the divorce.

                  attempting to deal in a OMGer isnt doomed to disaster. what
                  led to the disaster was this person being a reprobate. to me
                  this is an easier case to deal with than the OMG who is just a
                  downer ... by making comments about finances and being
                  somewhat "ostentatiously" cheep.

                  ok tnx.

                3. re: jfood

                  I'm generally the OMG'er. At least now I've learned to order something to drink (non-alcoholic). Money isn't tight and I can afford it, but darn it, it's not fair that my large salad, iced tea, and tips came to $15, but I have to pay $45 because of the two bottles of wine I didn't drink and so-and-so and their blind date ordered the lobster dinner with appetizers, dessert, and after dinner drink!

                  I've now seen more aggressive, frustrated former OMG'ers, who take the bill and make some statement like, "let's see how much my food was" or something like that to set the tone that we are paying for our portion in general, and you who ordered everything need to put in your $75, while we put in our $20. No one minds putting in another $3 to cover the tips when the calculations didn't come out right (even cheapo me) or when the $75'er is short.

                  1. re: jfood

                    >The Mensch - Grabs the bill and says (s)he'll pay for the whole thing
                    the Potlatch Move is nice, as long as there is some reciprocity.
                    otherwise at some point, Mensch may cease to be the best description.
                    (the only place i frequently saw the Potlatch Move was in NYC, where
                    the parties were inevitably well-larded with corporate credit cards)

                    >(better make sure a Semi-Mensch attends)
                    a semi-mensch who will voluntarily step up is good to have,
                    but i wonder if it is a good idea for the host to tap somebody
                    for this role ... call it a demi-semi-mensch or sub-semi-mensch
                    or undermensch, who will assume the mantle if asked, but
                    perhaps not spontaneously do so.

                    i agree on the communication, but it's a little weird to announce
                    whether you are itemizing or going with "standard deduction" for
                    a particular dinner.

                    BTW, i also think The Menschs have a role before the
                    the bill comes ... to be the CADMIUM ROD.
                    i.e. to slow things down if the bill is going north a little too fast ..
                    "Er, how about a California red instead of the Guigal Cote
                    Rotie la Turque" ... helpful if the SM knows the crowd well enough
                    to know if he need to restrain a "strategic orderer" or lookout
                    for an OMG aka Humanities Grad Student.

                    boy who would have though math skills would be part of Menschlichkeit.

                    1. re: psb

                      Jfood would add that given the derivation of the term Mensch, the person designated to this mop-up role should be named The Chosen Mensch.

                      1. re: jfood

                        And if the Chosen gets sick of the job ...

                        I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my host for
                        another term as your Mensch.

                        But let diners everywhere know, however, that a strong, a confident, and a
                        vigilant SubMensch stands ready tonight to seek dining peace--and
                        stands ready tonight to defend a fair division--whatever the price,
                        whatever the bill, making change for however many $20s bills that duty
                        may require.

                        --Johnny B. Mensch

                  2. I think after jfood's post, no other commentary is necessary.

                    However, I order what I'm going to order (somewhere in the middle - neither over- nor under-ordering) and expect that I'm going to pay more than my food actually cost. Because there's always the stingy one, the evasive one, the lobster orderer, the complainer, etc.
                    And I would rather pay $5, $10, however much more to keep peace with my friends.

                    Why? Because they are my friends - we will break bread together again down the road, and it all evens out in the end.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: laurendlewis

                      What a hot topic this is.

                      One of my personal pet peeves in life is listening to people squabble over a bill. It seems juvenile and cheap to listen to adults whine and moan over a check.

                      If I have invited friends out to dinner, I will pick up the check. I also insist on doing so discreetly by handing the host my card upon arrival. Gracious guests will say thank you and leave it at that. That is my policy, whether the check turns out to be $100 or $1000.

                      1. re: OrganicLife

                        Ha! I love your style, when i am going out i take cash and cards in order to make sure i have no problems. However, the circle of friends, most of the time don't think this way. I was invited to a it's my birthday via group message. As soon as the bill comes , the birthday girl starts whinning about i don't have $230 to pay , well excuse me, but if you don't what makes you think we do? (I do btw) my point being if you can't afford to pay your birthday bill then don't invite the rest of us in on the joke! Btw i had a $50 cash envelope ready to give as a gift but since i had to pay for my own meal, i left with the envelope still inside my purse! I have no time for classless people, this should be a lesson not to go next time!

                        1. re: OrganicLife

                          In my circle of friends, We usually take cash or gift cards, and it baffles me to think that the birthday girl still had the nerve to make each party cover their own portion and still take the gifts!

                      2. If the birthday boy/girl is doing the inviting, I assume it's dutch split dutch, since that's how I plan mine.
                        If someone else is planning the party I would assume the entire party would cover the birthday meal, or the person planning is.

                        1. I have never gone to a restaurant expecting someone else to pick up my tab (with the exception of rehearsal dinners and such). Even on my own bday I'll bring enough to cover my share. If people want to chip in to cover my bill, thank you very much. But I don't expect it.

                          I do chip in to cover the bday boy/girl's tab when dining with a group. But honestly, this doesn't happen much any more. If anything, we'll get together for drinks as opposed to dinner or have a cookout at someone's home. Maybe it's my age (mid-thirties), but dining at a restaurant in large groups is just not fun.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mojoeater

                            Ditto. More than one other couple aside from me and my wife and I tend to be seriously desirous of skipping the whole thing. Not only because of the whole dealing with the bill thing, but I'm not likely to get the chance to talk with more than the 3 people right near me anyway, so I'd rather spend time with people in smaller groups. We've definitely perfected the "we'll have a drink but then we're going to have to get moving" concept. Order one drink each, overpay for those or pay the server or bartender directly and move on. I do think by mid-thirties these things aren't as frequent as they were when I was in my twenties.

                          2. It depends on the cultural difference also.
                            If it's a Korean dinner, it used to be that - among the "old school" Koreans - that the birthday person pays and the guests bring gifts. Nowadays, sadly, this (birthday person paying) is not necessarily true. I say "sadly" because not every guest can afford to pay for the portion of the birthday dinner (which is usually held at a pricey place, at least in my circle) AND the birthday gift. I'm sure most people would be fine not getting a birthday gift and just having your presence at the birthday dinner, but I personally would much prefer to give the physical gift and not attend. Otherwise it's very awkward when everyone else at the table gives the birthday person his/her gift and you have nothing to offer (except your delightful company of course but it doesn't make you feel less awkward). I'm sure most people feel differently, but I much prefer the "old school" Korean way.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: koreankorean

                              It may be the Chinese way as well. I've seen people push, shove, grab arms and get into near fist fights in order to pick up the tab. I never see that kind of enthusiasm coming from Americans when the bill comes.

                              1. re: yehfromthebay

                                And then the people who does not end up paying have to arrange for another dinner to pay back the person who did pay. It's an endless cycle.

                                1. re: yehfromthebay

                                  My dad's caregivers came from an urban part of China (in case it makes a difference) about four years ago, and she said that it is custom to invite others to their own birthday party and pay for others. I told her no such in here! :-)

                                  1. re: boltnut55

                                    That really is the custom. That's how I was brought up--probably why to this day I'm still shocked that someone would invite a bunch of people for his/her bday and then just sit there when the bill comes (happens more often than the other way around). I just stop going to these group celebrations and tell my friend to pick a time and date and I will treat her to an intimiate, nice restaurant--just the two of us.

                              2. I just can't help but think it's weird when people send out evite invitations to a birthday celebration for themselves, and then seem to assume that their "guests," are going to know how to handle the situation. To me an invitation still seems like an invitation... With that said, I am starting to accept that it means we are taking the "host" out.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: jacqueline f

                                  I keep reading these threads. I keep thinking the same two things:
                                  1) who in the heck are these people who act like that?
                                  2) people need better and more considerate friends.

                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                    there is one other person at these dinners - the schnorrer - he grabs the bill, tells everyone what they owe, pockets the cash, puts his credit card in and manages to come out with a profit.

                                    1. re: smartie

                                      Very nice, how could jfood forget the Schorrer. He was formerlythe Accountant and given the audience knows that by his "rounding up" his adding a 20% tip while leaving a 12-15% and doing it in the most friendly of manner, he has a free meal and change in his pocket.

                                      Thanks Smartie, your years in FL have introduced you to many of these.

                                      1. re: smartie

                                        A couple of more.

                                        The Arm Crosser - usually related to someone else at the table and expects that person to pick up his sahre. When the bill arrives, he leans back and crosses his arms. the wallet, firmly crazy-glued in his back pocket will not see the light of day until he is safely in his car.

                                        Two results can occur if the arm crosser is in your party. First, if this is two families, each with two generations and one of the four is an armcrosser, either the other member of that party pays 50% or the bill is split three-ways.

                                    2. re: jacqueline f

                                      We have two ways of celebrating birthdays among my circle of friends. First of all, it's understood that we get to invite each other with or without SO/kids when it's our birthday (we talked about this before). We only pay for the birthday person, not the SO and family, so the SO and family have to pay their own share (the kids are all minors). For our 40th birthday, the birthday person invited the group and paid for everyone's meal. This year, we're 41, so it's back to the first method.

                                      Gotta communicate. I know. The friends ones are easier. It's the coworker ones that are harder.

                                    3. What is most important is that everyone involved clearly understand what the arrangement is and agree to it before hand. Alas, that rarely happens. And, somehow, no one is ever surprised to find out they are paying less than expected.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: inuksuk

                                        Well at work,when we go out for someone's birthday,we each pay for our own lunch,and the boss pays for the birthday person or persons.
                                        When I took my friend Nancy out for her birthday,I paid for hers.And when she took me out for mine,she paid for it.

                                      2. Touchy subject, no doubt. My friend always tells me, on my birthday, that she is treating me to dinner - where would I like to go. She has a lot more money than I do, but she is very generous and tells me not to take cost into account. When it's her birthday I do the same for her, but have to save up, but she is sweet and picks moderately priced restaurants.

                                        Now when it comes to our family we always end up spending more than we would if we went alone. Our daughters and their families/boyfriends order appetizers, sometimes drinks, and then, while we have cash, and one daughter has cash, the other only has a credit card. Last time we went out it cost us $50, the cash daughter (with only a boyfriend) $40, and the family of four said put the rest on their card and ended up paying $30! Next time we are going without them!

                                        The ultimate in insults was when we were invited to go to a place to celebrate a friends birthday. It was implied that the host was footing the bill. Well, not only were we given separate checks, we were limited to ordering one of two different items (neither of which my DH liked.) Some of the other people there had no money, no credit and we ended up picking up the check for them as well! Now I ask first, "so is this dutch treat?" and that settles it up front.

                                        1. In our circle, it's generally option 2.

                                          In a group setting I usually order whatever I want and pay my own share, even if others are splitting the bill evenly amongst themselves. This is because I like to drink plenty of wine and don't want to cut back just because I'm worried that my consumption will hike up the tab.

                                          1. when someone invites you for a birthday party,dinner whatever he/she pays for everything and we the guest buy him a gift.this is how we do it or how i did all my life until i came to US and found that the guest pay for their own food.My husband s sis called us saying she had made reservation in a posh japanese restaurant and said we had to be there.so everything was fine until we paid a bill of 100 dollars for two people s food(me and hubby)isnt that insane.we didnt drink any kind of alcohol with our dinner.had i know this in the first place i wouldnt have gone.what if somebody is having a financial problem huh?like i said me and my friend always invited people we wanted to be with for our birthday treat and they brought us gifts if they wanted to.when it came to choosing food we choose what we normally would if we were paying.so there wasnt a proble.if you are worried about somebody over eating or drinking you should know better not to invite that person.if he/she s your friend they wouldnt over order unnecessarily.but if you call anybody and everybody this is what happens.

                                            1. I'm completely easy, which is to say that I refuse to get drawn into discussions/disagreements about the bill. My policy, regardless of who invites me:
                                              1) take plenty of cash to the restaurant;

                                              2) know when I'm ordering what my meal is costing (including perusal of the menu and the wine list so that I never have to worry about trying to examine the bill that others are passing to and fro);

                                              3) when the bill comes, throw in the general direction of whoever's taking charge of the bill an amount in cash equal to first, the *greater* of a) the actual cost (including tax and tip) of my meal or b) my "split" of the bill, assuming an even split, plus second, the *greater* of a) my "split" of the birthday person's actual cost meal or b) the birthday person's "split" of the bill, assuming an even split, plus third, ten or twenty bucks to reduce the chances that somebody's minor miscalculation (whether inadvertent or purposeful) will cause the whole rigamarole to start over again.

                                              Worst case scenario, the bill is still short and it's well and truly not my problem any way the people are calculating it. The rest of the time either it works out just right and I don't have to talk money with my friends, or there's extra money to be re-distributed and I'm generally the first person that money starts sailing toward--if it's a nominal amount, I demur and say "add it to the tip"; otherwise I say "thanks" and return to toasting the birthday person.

                                              1. I'm all for taking out the birthday guy/gal to celebrate... but more often these days, I find that the bday guy/gal is picking the restaurant (often pricey and not one i would have chosen) and sending out invites/evites to join them in celebrating their birthday. If it's that kind of an invitation, then they are the host and I firmly believe they should be paying.

                                                Take a kid's birthday party, for example. The parents invite the kid's friends to join them at a party venue. THEY are the hosts and hence THEY pay, and the guests just come with gifts.

                                                If I suggest that we take the birthday girl (unrelated to me, by the way, because if it's for my own wife, then I have no business proposing it unless I am paying for everyone) out for lunch/dinner, then, by all means, we will be treating her for a meal. We can even go the extra step and ask her where she would want to go. But I think it's ridiculous for her to go around sending out 100 invitations to a fancy restaurant and expect people to come and pay for their food as well as split the cost of hers and her husband's. Then there's the gift portion. Many people, from the kindness of their hearts bring gifts as well!!

                                                Not that it's a trade-off, but I always thought a "free" meal is a pre-thank you to a gift that you'll probably get for your birthday.

                                                It really bothers me when I get these "pay for me and bring a gift too" invites.

                                                1. If the birthday person is the instigator, that person is the host. One doesn't invite people to pay for their dinner. Commonly, a friend or relative will arrange the dinner party, making clear that the guest of honor's tab will be split by the others.

                                                  1. At my workplace, we typically use option #2, it is a gift for the birthday person, so everyone pays for their own plus covers the meal of the guest of honor. Problem is, I wasn't invited out for my birthday, so I end up feeling a little put upon having to pay for other's lunches, so have declined to participate in future birthday lunches...be it right or wrong, that's just how I feel...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Michelle

                                                      Many years ago, the exact same thing happened to me. The office person in charge of organizing the birthday lunches conveniently forgot to schedule a lunch on my birthday, which was the previous week, but I said nothing (I had no reason to believe I had offended her either). When the check came, somebody wanted to split it evenly 7 ways with the birthday gal not paying her share. I said I'd pay for my own lunch (they ordered several apps that I did not eat) and my share of the birthday gal's lunch. They thought I was cheap. One of them asked me about it later and I mentioned that it was my birthday the previous week. She basically agreed with me and used the b word on the other co-worker. Do I still sound bitter?

                                                    2. I had a friend invite me (along with a group) to go eat at The Cheesecake Factory for his birthday. Now, if any of you have ever gone there, you'll know that it's not cheap (especially when everyone involved is a college student). By the time you order the 15 dollar entrée, the 3 dollar drink, and the 7-8 dollar slice of cheesecake (tip too), things can get a bit pricy. Luckily for the rest of us, who were shelling out ~30+ dollars to eat dinner, he had brought along a gift card to pay for himself...I mean, it's not a huge deal. Just struck me as a bit rude to invite your friends out to a decently expensive restaurant (for a college student) and make them pay full price while you whip out the gift card...

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Baskerville

                                                        Would you have rather paid for him? What does it matter if he took out a debit/credit card, cash, coins, etc? Technically he still paid for himself regardless of the form of payment.

                                                        Or am I missing something?

                                                        1. re: Baskerville

                                                          Yeah, I'm not sure I see your point, either. You said that everyone involved was a college student, so I'm assuming that would include him, too? Did you expect him to pay for everyone? In my group of friends, we would've pitched in to pay for him and insisted that he save his gift card for another time. To hear this story, I'm actually glad he had the gift card. Sounds like he would've been paying for his own Birthday dinner otherwise.

                                                        2. "it is considered to be a gift to the birthday boy/gal so everyone pays for their own plus covers the meal of the guest of honor"

                                                          This one

                                                          1. This is great that I just saw this thread, because I'm in this exact situation. I'm the "birthday boy" in this scenario.

                                                            I decided to have a low key birthday and just asked a few close friends to come out to dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine to celebrate. My husband and I are at odds over who pays. I felt most comfortable paying for everyone, since it was my idea and my restaurant choice, etc.

                                                            He feels that it's unnecessary and pointed to all the similar birthday celebrations we have been to in recent years, in all cases everyone paid their own share and for the Birthday boy as well.

                                                            But, my gut feeling just tells me it's "classier" if I pay for everyone, so that's what I'm going to do.

                                                            It reminds me of my Dad's 75th birthday. We took him and my mom out to dinner and a Symphony concert. I knew that he wasn't going to let me pay, so I arranged with the waiter so he never saw the bill. Boy, was he upset with me. My Mom had to shake some sense into him.

                                                            1. I have solved this by purchasing a gift card from the restaurant venue 'pre-party' for the birthday person, I then gave it to him to use to pay on his tab or the amount it would cover for him, then paid for my own. Worked perfectly, he used the card, 'It covered all plus change for his dinner and drinks: All others paid for their own tab.l....

                                                              1. I solved this by planning my own "gathering" at a bar. Several other people have done this and if you communicate it's informal, no gifts, just come by and have a drink if you are in the area, it works out well. After that was scheduled, I asked ONE friend if they wanted to meet me for dinner beforehand. I had no expectation friend would offer to buy my dinner and neither did friend, though friend did buy me a drink. We paid for our own food.

                                                                At the bar, people repeatedly offered to buy me a drink but I was taking my time so very few drinks actually got bought. Some people stopped by and then went on to other nearby places to get a later dinner, some people came after dinner, etc. Only a couple of rule-breakers brought gifts, which I didn't open at the table as I didn't want to make non-givers feel weird.

                                                                It actually went very well IMO. It's probably super effing gauche to throw your own party this way, but tough.

                                                                1. This is the method I have pretty much perfected for this scenario.....for my birthday of course "you" treat. For your birthday we invite a third person who wants to impress us and invite them out, they pay, then we never invite them anywhere again.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                      Could be, I've got to admit, I've gotten around.

                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        Yeah, that's what it said on the stall wall.

                                                                  1. I was the birthday girl at one of these. It was supposedly a surprise party for me in a reasonably priced pub. My meal was being paid for was my understanding. I bought a bottle of wine for the table. All was going well until a friend showed up with three friends, two of whom I didn't know and all were very drunk. One man dug his hand into the plate of a friend, practically bringing her to tears as she had been enjoying her food and rarely got to go out. My wine glass was picked up by another who finished my wine, which I had been enjoying. The special desert was demolished by these people, with me not even getting a taste of the birthday cake. They had all ordered drinks but disappeared when the bill came. Needless to say, the party organizer was frantic. I pulled out my wallet and paid the bill not covered by the others. I don't think the party organizer ever organized another party and my relationship with the gal who bought the drunks was never as friendly again.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: susanl143

                                                                      Sounds like it was quite the surprise party!