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Group dining etiquette poll

1. If there is a significant variation in the price and quantity of food and beverages ordered by people in the group, is it still fair to divide the cost of the check evenly?

2. If a birthday celebrant invites people over for dinner in a restaurant, is he responsible for the bill because he's hosting, or should the group pay for the birthday person's share?

3. Split the check, yes or no?

4. Is it gauche to use a calculator?

My answers:

1. It's a question of fairness versus ease. If there is a wide variation in socioeconomic status in the group (e.g., mix of graduate students and financial analysts) , I think fairness trumps inconvenience and people should pay what they ate and drank. Otherwise, split the cost evenly.

2. Treat the birthday person.

3. Ask the server at the first opportunity if it's all right to split the check. Otherwise, see #1.

4. The use of technology itself is neutral, but it is the sentiment behind using the calculator that may be considered boorish. I don't think it's boorish to want to pay only for what you consumed. I'm tempted to mention a few anecdotes when I was a starving grad student, but I'll spare you.

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  1. 1. If it's an expensive meal then it's not fair and you should pay for what you eat/drink, otherwise if it's 25$ instead of 20$ i don't really mind..
    2. Who invites ppl to celebrate their own birthday at a restaurant lol.
    3.agree with you
    4. ok by me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Evilbanana11

      On your number 2, HUH?! Lots of people do. I just attended a b'day party of one of my SIL's. She invited her family to a restaurants. Lots of my friends do. The inviter always pays.

    2. 1. If you agree to group dine...be prepared to share the cost of others choices if the "group" decides to "just split it"....i.e. know your friends and don't dine with cheap, arrogant, or picky people.
      2. Inviting people to your own Bday dinner is tacky. Have a BBQ and treat your friends.
      3. Just split it- otherwise you end up worrying about a $3.00 difference and it looks stupid.
      4. Learn to roughly count by TENS and not use a calculator. 20 percent of 100 bucks is 20 bucks. How hard is that?

      1. 1. If there is a significant variation in the price and quantity of food and beverages ordered by people in the group, is it still fair to divide the cost of the check evenly? *I never think this is fair and you always come up short. Either get separate checks or someone needs to play Mother and calculate what each person owes, plus tax and tip and give each person an amount due.

        2. If a birthday celebrant invites people over for dinner in a restaurant, is he responsible for the bill because he's hosting, or should the group pay for the birthday person's share? *If you invite people, you are hosting and should pay. Some people may offer to contribute, but they are not obligated to. If you can't afford to pay, don't have the party.

        3. Split the check, yes or no? *Is this a stand-alone question? Or are you saying if you're in a big party, should you split the check? Either way, my answer is yes.

        4. Is it gauche to use a calculator? *No.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rockandroller1

          "1. If there is a significant variation in the price and quantity of food and beverages ordered by people in the group, is it still fair to divide the cost of the check evenly? *I never think this is fair and you always come up short."

          My experience, especially when out with a group of women friends, has been just the opposite. Without even having a conversation about it, when there is significant variation in the way we've ordered, the bill generally gets passed around the table, and we each put in what we feel we owe, tax and tip included. Invariably, the amount collected comes to much more than the total would have been if we had split the bill evenly and added a 20% gratuity. I think it's tacky for anyone to play "Mother." We're all responsible adults. If someone wants to take the responsibility for splitting the amount equally and calculating the total with the tip, fine. But it'd be off-putting to me to have someone figuring what each person around the table owed, based on their order.

        2. 1) either way, but i have no problem splitting the bill. over a lifetime these things even out, or at least amortize out to being no big deal

          2) depends how formal the invitation is. with good friends, its often the b-day person who picks the place and makes the calls. but i say people should not have to pay for themselves on their birthday, much less pay for others. i say treat the b-day person, regardless of how it was arranged.

          3) splitting the check seems tacky. we should be able to all do simple math, no?

          4)see # 3 re math.

          1. 1. I think it really depends on the situation. I think it's unfair in a group situation to ask people who don't drink alcohol to split the bill for the alcohol no matter what the situation. I also think it's important to take people's economic situations into account. If you're with someone who has lost her job and you have a fairly stable one, chances are your friend will be ordering what she can afford while you're ordering something that's more within your budget. I've been in that situation before where I make sure to order only what I can afford, only to be told I am a stingy person who has money problems because I won't cover someone else's bill.

            2. It seems odd to invite people to a restaurant to celebrate your birthday and the spring it on them that they need to pay the bill. Typically it should be the friends inviting the birthday person out, not the birthday person picking the restaurant and expecting everyone to foot the bill.

            3. It depends on the group of friends. I had one group of friend with whom we always ended up being way over what we needed if we had one bill, while others would end up really short. If you know you're with the former group, then there's no reason to bother the server with splitting the bill. If you know you're with the latter group, then ask the server when you arrive if it is okay to split the bill.

            4. Nothing wrong with using a calculator.

            1. 1. Depends on who I am with, how often I go out with these people and the variations in what was ordered. I have friends that I go out with frequently and we usually just split it evenly. We go out often enough that it works itself out. That being said, however, if someone has extra that others didn't (dessert, cocktail), that person will usually estimate and throw in a little extra.

              There are other groups that I go out with very rarely so there is no even-ing out of the over/under payments over time. I have found for these groups we tend to have the waiter split the bill for us (which answers #3)

              2. Thew - I agree with you on this one. Anytime I have been out for someone's birthday, we split the b-day person's bill, but they have tended to be casual events, mostly arranged by NOT the b-day person, but the b-day person may have made some of the invites if it was an invite to someone not mutually known to the arranger.

              3. Here in Toronto, I have often had the server make the offer to split before it was even requested. I say go for it. Can reduce the bitter feelings that might arise, depending on the group.

              4. I can do math in my head, but I know not everyone is wired that way. Most cell phones have calculators on them, so it's not like someone is pulling out the adding machine out and running a printed tape for everyone. It can be done discretely.

              1. A host is someone who invites and pays for dinner. The mode of invitation should be a clue about whether it is hosted or dutch.

                Outside hosted situations, unless every member of the group has expressly agreed in the present or customarily agreed to split the check evenly in the past in similar venues and contexts, it is profoundly rude to assume the check will be split evenly. The default is every tub on its own bottom, as it were.

                It is not gauche to use a calculator. It is gauche to make a scene about using a calculator, and any hosted guest should not be present for tabulation - smart guests know to go to the bathroom at this point.

                1. 1. That's one of those potentially awkward situations where people should be more thoughtful than they sometimes are. I think it's important to be mindful of the person who may not be as well off as others and who may have eaten less/cheaper, particularly when you're the one who ordered expensive. Still, there are always those who are oblivious and rush to split it evenly.

                  2. That's a funny one because in England it's really common for people to invite others to their birthday celebrations (it's also commonplace for the birthday person in the office to bring in his/her own cakes for others to eat, and I've never seen it done the other way around here). I think there should be some understanding at the time of the invitation what's expected, and I think it partially depends on how familiar you are.

                  3. Not when it can be avoided. It's not that hard to do the math, is it?

                  4. Not really. I think it's more about the attitude. Like someone else said, if you're going to use it, don't make a scene of it.

                  1. 1. I don't drink, so I used to always pay a disproportionate amt. of the bill. In a group situation, I now just contribute my share. Fortunately, the people I dine with on a regular basis are fair and would always say, "I ordered the wine (or more expensive dish) so I should pay more."

                    2. Could never understand why people invite a group out for drinks and/or dinner for their bday, then don't say a word when the bill comes (resulting in either an awkward silence or, eventually, someone will say, "Hey, let's treat XYZ!"). Sorry, but I think it's rude, and my policy is to avoid as much of these scenarios as possible and say to the bday boy or girl "I'd love to spend some quality time with you and treat you to a nice dinner--just the two of us."

                    3. Sure, why not, though it depends on the circumstances.

                    4. I'm a bit embarrassed when someone whips out a calculator, but that's just me.

                    1. 1. if significant variation - it's only fair to pay per what's ordered. we went on a double date. other couple ordered steak and sides. we ordered soup (we told them this was all we wanted prior to going to the restaurant - in fact, they suggested it as a good place for soup). the bill came - and they say: "just split it?" we said ok, but it still annoys me. plus, i would never ever ask someone to pay half if i had ordered much more. it's just rude and - when it's a significant variation - obvious.

                      2. i wish! this should be the rule unless it's a really reasonably priced restaurant. it's always awkward dividing the bill and subtracting the birthday person. and there's always someone who orders way over the top which is annoying. and the person who insists on picking the wine. it just gets absurd at an upscale place.

                      3. yes. this is not difficult and it ensures a good tip (at least from me). agreed that it should be brought up from your first communication with server.

                      4. calculator ok if it's a big group. in a small group - it's a little gauche . . . in addition to the fact that people should be able to do simple math without a calculator.

                      1. 1. Depends on the group. For a night out with friends I split evenly no matter who orders what. For a large group of colleagues from work we throw in the middle of the table our portion (including tip) and add it up to make sure it's accurate. If someone shorts it then I wills always subsidize to make sure the server is tipped well.

                        2. Add the extra person into the bill and wonder, later, who in the world would do something so tacky.

                        3. Split the check.

                        4. Boorish and ridiculous and tacky.

                        1. 1) I have a few friends who don't drink, whereas most of my crew spends exhorbitant money on wine and alcohol. We always ask for the alcohol on a separate bill. We split the food bill evenly amongst all, and the alcohol bill solely between the drinkers. It's worked out well.

                          2) We invited a large group out for my 30th. We paid, of course. To do otherwise is unthinkable.

                          3) We never need individually split checks. It just doesn't seem like a big deal (although we do the food/booze thingy mentioned above).

                          4) We've never needed a calculator, but I am ridiculously quick-witted when it comes to figures.

                          1. re Q2 - I second Kagey - in the UK it is quite normal to say 'come out for dinner, it's my birthday!' and then not pay for everyone. Expecting (hoping for?) the guests to pay for the birthday person's meal is wishful thinking but not unheard of.
                            I guess this is just a cultural difference.

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: Peg

                              Here in Toronto, Canada, it also seems perfectly common for people to arrange their our birthday dinner out with friends. I have attended a number of such events in all a variety of age groups and social classes.

                              On most occasions, the others will chip in to cover the celebrant's meal, in my experience.

                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                I'm in the US, in Los Angeles, and I'm 30 years old (for perspective). It's incredibly common for my friends and colleagues to invite people to a birthday dinner at a restaurant. It is understood that if you can not afford the restaurant, you may not want to attend, but rather find another way to celebrate the indivdual such as drinks later in the evening. It would also be considered rude to let the birthday person pay for him or herself and generally everyone chips in to cover the meal. These dinners are usually only for the closest friends and family of the birthday person.
                                I was incredibly surprised by the amount of people who posted that it would be strange for the birthday person to invite others to a restaurant.
                                Very few people I know have the financial ability to pay for a large group at a restaurant. Additionally, very few people I know have homes or apartments large enough to accomodate a group for dinner. I also know very few people who enjoy cooking enough to want to cook for others on his/her own birthday.

                                Perhaps my social sphere is out of touch with the mainstream? I wouldn't be surprised.

                                1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                  Hey, I did the same thing for my birthday, invited people to a restaurant. It looks like we'll change and do it my house however, as my friend pointed out it would be more conducive to hanging out after eating. But I did not/would not expect others to pay for me.

                                  1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                    Nope another LA girl here... albeit a few years older... but it is completely common to invite a bunch out for your birthday and not pick up the entire check.

                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                      "I was incredibly srprised by the amount of people who posted that it would be strange for the birthday person to invite others to a restaurant".

                                      I suppose I'm confused about this now that you've mentioned it.
                                      Am I to assume that a person, celebrating their birthday, invites others to attend his./her party at a restaurant and then assumes that everyone picks up their own tab and collectively pays for his/her meal?
                                      I live in LA and I would never assume others to pay for something I've invited them to (including my birthday). I'd pick up the entire tab (for everyone attending) being I'm the one who invited them all.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        Then, I would basically never go out for my birthday with friends.

                                        1. None of my friends knows all the rest of my close friends, so I am really the only one who can organize this.

                                        Plus, I just wouldn't expect my friends to organize my birthday party, that seems weird and asking an awful lot from a friend – maybe if it was a major milestone. Even then. . .

                                        2. I can't afford to pick up the whole tab, no matter where we went.

                                        Lastly, a few thoughts:

                                        A. This isn't a surprise to anyone. They know what they are getting into because we did the same for them (if not this year, then sometime in the past).

                                        B. I do not expect to have my portion covered. In fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable.

                                        1. re: Atahualpa

                                          Personally, I would never Expect my portion to be covered if I were the birthday person either. But that said, I would also never let my friend pay for their own meal if it were their birthday.
                                          I agree with Yes Please, most people I know pay for meals or drinks in lieu of giving any gifts.

                                      2. re: hyacinthgirl

                                        Also from LA. Totally normal to have a birthday dinner with friends and be treated. Birthday person's ONE meal split between other guests isn't that much anyway. I also don't know many people who can have a large party and pay for everyone. And lastly, a lot people don't give gifts as much (unless you are very close) and would rather pay for a meal or drink.

                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                          The same in my social circle - The birthday boy/girl picks the restaurant and everyone pays for themselves. Sometimes the birhday person pays for appetizers or first round of drinks, but it all depends on the person.

                                          I agree - not the most mannerly thing to do by Miss Manners. But, if it does not bother anyone in your circle of friends, then there is no harm.

                                          1. re: lerkin

                                            Yeah, that's how my friends do it too. Sure, it sounds weird on paper, but when you consider that we all go out for each person's b-day, it evens out in the end! I am in my late 20's, FWIW. I would never expect this to happen outside a close group of friends, but it makes sense if you all do it for each other. I think part of it too, is that I live in a big city, we all have small apartments, and we couldn't have big parties at home.

                                      3. re: Peg

                                        I don't think that's really uncommon, but I do think that having your own birthday dinner and expecting people to pay for you is quite rude. I don't think I have any groups of friends who would expect a birthday person to pay for the entire group, but at the same time I don't know anyone who would have a birthday party for himself and then say "Hey, by the way, pay for my meal."

                                        1. re: queencru

                                          I just think that if you do the inviting, you do the paying. I guess that's just how I was raised.

                                          I'm a 31 year old female from MA, if that matters.

                                        2. re: Peg

                                          In my experience, it's usually a friend who says "we should go out for your b-day...where do you want to go?" Then the b-day person chooses the place and the friend and b-day person invite people to come. It's usually dutch and we never let someone pay for their own meal/drinks on his/her b-day. The group usually just pitches in for the b-day person's share and if they don't, I'd just pay for his/her share. B-day person always makes noises about paying his/her own share, but is never allowed to...

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Nor mine. My experience usually starts with a mass email (and not everyone knows each other) from the bday person along the lines of "Hey, my bday is coming up! Let's all get together at so-and-so place on such-and-such date." Depending on the venue, you RSVP or not.

                                                Mercifully, I get fewer and fewer of those emails, and esp. in this economy, people are less inclined to fork over their bucks to cover for a group of people they might not even know.

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  It is in my circle. But we're talking about a circle of a dozen or so actual friends, who've know each other for many years, not some amorphous crowd like gloriousfood refers to below.

                                          1. 1. big disparity=pay for what you ate/drank
                                            2. inviter pays regardless of occasion. that said, your scenerio strikes me as inviting yourself to a party...seems a bit desperate to invite people to your own bday party. Shouldnt one of your friends be setting this up?
                                            3. yes and no. split it 2 ways, sure. 3 ways, maybe. 12 ways, NEVER!!!
                                            4. no. calculators make you look unable to do rudimentary arithmetic. never attractive!

                                            1. Here's my $0.02-
                                              1- no, unless prearranged.
                                              2- holy cow, who has friends that tacky? I wouldn't go, period, nor would I dream of arranging my own birthday party and expecting others to pay for me. The very thought is embarrassing
                                              3- sure, if you want to and there's no restaurant policy against it. I'm assuming you mean separate checks, right?
                                              4- not really, use your cell phone or a small one, though, not a big honking one with a printer!

                                              1. 1. If we are going to an expensive restaurant where I have to order an app as a meal, nurse one drink and pray everyone else does the same then to me that means I cannot afford to go. I always split the check evenly. We all ate and now we are all full and hopefully had a good time enjoying each other's company! I am happy to share the cost with friends rather than analyze a check to avoid spending a usually not too significant amount of money.

                                                2. If I go to someone's birthday I obviously care about them or at least have a very strong obigation to them! So of course they shouldn't pay! Besides, the cost of one meal split among all the rest of the guests usually isn't too bad.

                                                3. I don't like to split checks with the server. I know its not but to me it feels petty to have to split it down to the penny! I average out and try to always carry cash.

                                                4. No calculater. Again no need to analyze the check like that. Arithmetic is doable in the head.

                                                1. 1. If I had more I'd throw in more, it's only common courtesty. I don't usally have less, but if the person who had less suggests splitting it evenly I don't argue.
                                                  2 and 3. The person doing the inviting is expected to pay, but for birthday situtations it depends on how it's worded - we're all going out to X celebrate my birthday do you want to come vs. I'm having a birthday celebration at X and I'd love to have you come.
                                                  4. Yes, anyone can estimate within a couple of dollars, using a calculator implies you want to figure it out to the penny.

                                                  1. 1. No. Pay more, tip more. Pay less, tip less.
                                                    2. You invited? You pay. They invited? They pay.
                                                    3. Yes.
                                                    4. No. it's a way to keep some of the party from "skating".

                                                    1. Love your poll, Amy!

                                                      1. I do not remain friendly with people who are not able to size up the situation and keep their orders reasonably equal OR proactively insist on paying a somewhat higher share of the bill.

                                                      2. Technically the person who invites should pay, however if I agree to attend your birthday dinner I am generally not going to allow you to pick up the check.

                                                      3. Sure, if done quickly and without fuss. However if there is a relatively small group my preference is to take turns treating. It is much nicer that way but you can't do it with clods or acquaintances.

                                                      4. Yes. It is just not that difficult to add on a nice tip, divide and round up. But I rarely went out during the years when I did not have ample funds to pay my way.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Kater

                                                        You do not remain friendly with people who proactively insist on paying a somewhat higher share of the bill? I hope that's not so. Or is that "not able to" also meant to modify "proactively insist"?

                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          The latter. Either order equally, or offer to pay more.

                                                      2. #1 This should have been pre-determined before the event. Whatever the host/hostess specified on the invitation should be followed if the host/hostess neglected to specify they are in error.

                                                        #2 I can’t get this whole self-serving ego thing in my head, who in their right mind would invite people to their own B-day party? Anyway if they invited you THEY are hosting and unless they put something on the invitation then you are a GUEST and they should pay.

                                                        #3 Depends upon the situation and agreement

                                                        #4 NO

                                                        11 Replies
                                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                                          Re #1 - Don't you ever just decide to meet some friends out for dinner? Is everything always hosted with invitations?

                                                          Re #2 - How the heck will people know when to celebrate my birthday with me if I don't invite them? Am I supposed to bully a friend into throwing a celebration for me?

                                                          1. re: merkay

                                                            >>>Don't you ever just decide to meet some friends out for dinner?

                                                            All the time.

                                                            >>>Is everything always hosted with invitations?

                                                            No, but I was assuming that this was a large group event, preplanned, when it’s just another couple or two the food is usually pre-paid or a fight will ensue over who GETS to pay.

                                                            >>> How the heck will people know when to celebrate my birthday with me if I don't invite them?

                                                            This question was actually asked before and I know that I am in the minority here but I have never had to host my own birthday party, people have always thrown me one. Same for my wife and my friends, as a matter of fact in my 60+ years on this planet I had never heard of any one throwing THEMselves a birthday party. I have even asked and emailed friends if this was common, including my adult children and not a single sole that answered had ever heard of this before either.

                                                            However, CHer’s have pointed out, that I am living in bubble and this appears to be a common occurrence. I am still having a hard time with this one, it’s like throwing your own bachelor party or a woman hosting her own baby shower.

                                                            >>>Am I supposed to bully a friend into throwing a celebration for me?

                                                            It’s just my opinion that anybody worth celebrating your birthday with will already have thought of you and planned something or has already been invited by the person doing the planning. Like I said in my circle of friends and in every birthday party I have ever been invited to it was never the birthday guy/girl doing the hosting and inviting the guests. They were being honored and a party was being throw FOR them.

                                                            I have tried to understand this, but it just seems very strange to throw a party honoring myself.

                                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                                              Not even my closest friends would have contact information for the rest of my friends – let alone know anything of their schedules, issues, etc. . .

                                                              Even if my best friend organised my party, they'd have to be in constant contact with me anyways. So, I'd still basically be organising it; I'd just be using my friend as a "cover". Frankly, I don't see the point.

                                                              Throwing my own party wouldn't be a case of ego, it would be about logistics. The only other solution would be to have/allow each smaller sub-group of friends throw their own birthday party for me which would get tiresome and awkward.

                                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                How many people normally join your birthday dinner and do you have a large one every year?

                                                                My friends and husband know who my friends are but the idea that all of my friends would turn up for my birthday dinner is overwhelming and unappealing.

                                                                1. re: Kater

                                                                  I usually do not celebrate my birthday at all. However, I have gone out to dinner with 5 or 6 of my closest friends on my birthday in the past.

                                                                  My 5 or 6 closest friends would not necessarily know each other very well – certainly wouldn't necessarily have contact information for each other.

                                                                  I mean I have close long-time friends who are starving artists (literally) and end up moving from cheap basement apartment to even cheaper basement apartment with an alarming frequency. I have enough trouble keeping track of their contact information. My other friends, from work or from my hobbies, who see these friends two or three times a year are not going to know how the heck to get in touch with them.

                                                                2. re: Atahualpa

                                                                  My goal would not be to try to invite every last person you know instead get some of your closest friends. If it were me I would ask your SO for you list of friends if you don’t have a SO I would certainly know some of your friends who would know others, and they would know others, etc, etc all the way down the line.

                                                                  My wife and I organized a party for a delightful man we had met when he moved to our area. 3 months after they arrived his wife unexpectedly passed away and we found out about his upcoming birthday right after that. We knew ZERO of his friends and associates and had 55 days to plan a party for him. It took less just a small amount of investigative work (slightly mischievous I might add, a quick look at an old fashioned address book they had in their kitchen and I asked if I could borrow his computer because our internet was down, all I did was email his friend contact list to me from outlook – if two senior citizen’s can figure out to get address that way I bet young whipper snappers would be able to acquire them off your friends PDA with an infrared link or even better and more covert ways.)

                                                                  Bottom line was in 72 hours we had over 40 people we had never met, RSVP to his party we were hosting. Not a single guest lived in the immediate area and most would be flying or driving across the country to be with him on his birthday.

                                                                  We coordinated with a local hotel in the area for reduced group rates and with a van service to provide transportation for the arriving guest. After losing his wife he was obviously depressed and got more so nearer his birthday. On his actual birthday he had no clue that anything was going on, he actually thought that all of his OLD friends had forgotten him, long story short; he was floored and very grateful for the effort everyone had made. His birthday was on a Friday that year so most of his longtime friends stayed Friday – Sunday. It buoyed his spirits, greatly, and we were happy to play a small part in that. The bonus is we met some wonderful people and made more friends that we have kept in touch with.

                                                                  Now let’s be honest, this gentleman could have called up these people and invited them on his own to celebrate his birthday and knowing these people, many if not most would have come. Maybe I missed a couple of friends that he would have invited to his own party but I didn’t hear a single complaint.

                                                                  Here is a question for you which party do you think he would have preferred his one or the one we threw him? And be honest, which party would you prefer?

                                                                  If you honesty prefer throwing yourself a party – more power to you – I just cannot comprehend that and like I said I have never known a single person to do that, but it seems common outside of the little bubble I live in.

                                                                  1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                    It was a wonderful event you organized for him. You really should be commended for the effort. Of course I would rather have someone organise such a thing for me. Especially in a similar situation. However, I would ever expect anyone to put that sort of effort into an event for me. Maybe if my wife had just passed away and I was a long way from home a kind and generous soul would step up like you did, but, hopefully, that sort of situation is rare.

                                                                    Most of my birthdays pass without any sort of notice. Most of friends don't mark their birthdays as well.

                                                                    If, for some reason, one of us decides to use our birthday as an excuse to gather friends together, we organize the occasion ourselves. This is because none of us would even think of doing it for another – either because usually that person, like me, doesn't mark their birthday at all, or because we wouldn't know what sort of an event they would be comfortable with, or because we don't know who all the important people are in their life right now.

                                                                3. re: RetiredChef

                                                                  You are not living in a bubble. Perhaps we happen to have stumbled on a pocket of folks who organize their own birthdays, but I do not and have never heard of such a thing. I haven't celebrated as many birthdays as you, but I've celebrated enough to confirm that friends and loved ones normally contact the birthday guy or gal and suggest an outing.

                                                                  1. re: Kater

                                                                    It's very common to do this in the Chinese culture starting at certain milestones. I think for my parents and their friends, it was when they turned 50 and every decade after that. However, the host (or the host's family) always pays for the whole shebang, which can be quite substantial as the banquet includes the best of the best in terms of Chinese food and also includes any and all drinks.

                                                                    As long as the person who's doing the inviting pays for everything, I have no problems with throwing your own party. Heck, I even wanted to throw my own bridal shower with me footing the bill. Well, you'd think that some of my friends thought I said I was going to hunt down babies.

                                                                    So I ended up telling my friends no bridal shower and I had a wonderful a two-night stay at a luxury hotel by myself, getting spa treatments and having gourmet meals.

                                                                    It was the best bridal "shower" for *me.*

                                                                  2. re: RetiredChef

                                                                    I've had three experiences in the past month that pertain to this. My group of friends ranges in their 30's and 40's:

                                                                    1) I am sort of the "hub" for a couple groups of friends, and am the only person with contact info for them all. This year I looked over my lovely man's shoulder while he emailed my bday invite to our friends to join us for dinner and a concert. So while the invite came from him, I was really organizing it. The entire thing fell through anyway due to 2.5 feet of snow.

                                                                    2) A single girlfriend of mine has made it a tradition to host her own bday party at her house. The first party she ever had was when she bought her home 7 years ago. It was a combo housewarming/bday. Now we all expect a blowout every January. It is always potlock.

                                                                    3) Another single girlfriend of mine emailed a bunch of us that her bday was coming up and she'd like to get together at our favorite restaurant. I had no idea when her bday was though I've known her for years. Very excited to join her this weekend and plan to pay for our dinner and drinks and part or all of hers, depending on what other people do.

                                                                    If I had unlimited funds I would always treat my friends. Unfortunately that is not the case. A lot of our friends are teachers or work for non-profits, so we all know that everyone pays their own way without it having to be stated in the invitation.

                                                                    1. re: RetiredChef

                                                                      My husband and I throw ourselves birthday parties every year. I haven't had someone throw me I party since my sweet sixteen. I see it as perfectly reasonable to bring together my own selection of friends. When these parties take place in restaurants, as they often do, I pay as I did the inviting. If guests want to buy a round of drinks, great. If not, that's fine too.

                                                                4. 1. No - it is inconsiderate to those who make less and spend responsibly. If you want to just split the check when you're with one of those people, you should also feel free to completely cover their part of the split (in some discrete way, of course).

                                                                  2. I've never been invited to a birthday dinner by the birthday person herself. If I were ever to invite someone to my own birthday dinner, I would pay, so I would assume the birthday person would as well in this situation.

                                                                  3. If the restaurant is willing, sure, why not ?

                                                                  4. No, and that's because I teach first- and second-year college math, and a significant number of my students can't add one (1) digit numbers without a calculator. Yes, one (1) digit numbers. That's not a typo. Others need a calculator to find ten percent (10%) of a number.

                                                                  1. Personally, I don't think it's right to assume that a bill should be split evenly. That said, I've been out with friends & family where we have all thrown money in to cover the bill regardless of whether we've charged up a certain amount. But that dioesn't mean that it should be assumed that's the way it's going to be.

                                                                    I've been to parties where the invitor has thrown the gathering....as a matter of fact, a cousin of mine & myself were intending on throwing our own birthday party (our birthday's are a day apart) in 2009 because we wanted a 70's party but because of the weather, we had to cancel it. It's not unusual to do this.

                                                                    Treating the birthday person is what we do in my circle.

                                                                    I have pulled out my cell phone for the calculator in some instances...and not because I can't count but to make sure I wasn't being cheated by the restaurant, which incidentally has happened to me in the past.

                                                                    34 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                      I am throwing my wife a surprise 30th birthday and she has a ton of friends. I am inviting 90 and expecting 50-60. Is it rude of me to ask people to pay for themselves? I have reached an agreement with the restaurant to get a private room with a 4 course dinner and all you can drink sangria, wine and beer for $40 per person. But is it tacky to put the price on the Evite? Should I really be expected to shell out $2000 for a party? Please help!!!

                                                                      1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                        Well, if you are inviting people to an event and expecting them to pay, you need to provide them some way to gauge cost before they have to accept or decline, and you should use wording that does not imply that you will be hosting (for example, anything that smacks of "will you be my guest?"); instead, the idea is that people are joining forces to celebrate this event (and you are merely facilitating). It might be that you attach the menu with the cost (and whether it is inclusive of tax and tips). Even so, with a group that size, be prepared for stupid people not to understand your intention.

                                                                        1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                          Um, yes you should shell out $2000 for the party. You do not invite people to an adult's birthday party and expect them to pay their own way, particularly when it is your spouse!

                                                                          Were you planning this for a friend and inviting other friends to join that would be another matter.

                                                                          1. re: Kater

                                                                            I disagree. There is nobody in our circle of friends that could afford $2000 for a birthday party, and most would prefer to be invited and pay their own way. Some would in fact be offended not to be invited and at least be given the option. Since we are talking about guests in their late 20's and early 30's, I expect this is the case for the OP too.

                                                                            State clearly on the evite that you've been able to negotiate a great price for the event and it will cost each attendee only $40 including drinks. The cost might weed out some, but that is a good deal and her friends will probably respond well.

                                                                            1. re: mojoeater

                                                                              If you can't afford to pay for everyone, you can't afford to have the party there, and should stick to a place in your budget.

                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                What if there isn't a place in your budget? Are the truly poor forbidden from having large gatherings for their birthdays?

                                                                                If it was summer, we could suggest throwing a pot-luck in a park, but, there are a few feet of snow on the ground now and a small apartment might not be able to hold a crowd.

                                                                                I suppose there is the argument that you could reduce the guest list, but I don't see why the less affluent should be forced to celebrate only in small gatherings.

                                                                                As long as people know what the deal is going in, I don't see the problem. If they can't afford it, or don't feel like its worth coming, then they won't. Making it clear that attendance (and paying their own way) is in lieu of gifts is also a good idea.

                                                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                  "What if there isn't a place in your budget? Are the truly poor forbidden from having large gatherings for their birthdays?"

                                                                                  No, they're "forbidden" from having an expensive birthday. It's common sense. I would be mortified to throw a party, no matter the occasion, and ask my "guests" to pay their way.

                                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                    OK fine. So don't call them guests. Email her closest friends and ask them if they'd be up for all chipping in to throw her a party. See how much you come up with and that will be your budget. You will be the organizer but not necessarily the host.

                                                                                    Sometimes it takes a number of people to make an event special.

                                                                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                  IVTV- You're so right. What you're trying not to say otherwise is "We really like to live high on the hog, but can't afford the to entertain likes of you in such a grand style so we're going to ask you to pay for your share, and if we get lucky, part of my wife's and my shares too."

                                                                                  Should you be expected to shell out $2 grand for your wife's party? Hell, it was your idea! Can't afford it? Don't do it! Have something at the house instead.

                                                                                  If you insist on continuing, be sure that you follow mojoeater's advice. Do NOT blindside anybody with the you-are-invited-to-a-party-I'm-"hosting"and-you-will-also-pay-your-own-way aspect.

                                                                                3. re: mojoeater

                                                                                  If you do this... make it very very clear that no other gift is necessary.

                                                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                                                    I think there are a good number of people who could not afford a $2000 birthday party or who would not choose to spend the money that way. That is fine; it means that you don't throw a $2000 birthday party for your wife. You can reduce the cost by inviting fewer people or by hosting the event at home.

                                                                                    1. re: Kater

                                                                                      What I don't understand is it's not as if the spouse isn't aware that the person is turning 30. I started saving for my husband's 60th birthday when he was in his mid-50's in a separate account. When his birthday came around I had $5000 saved towards it.

                                                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                        I think people's expectations in their late 20s/early 30s are different from people in their 50s/60s. I'm in my 30s and most of my friends are very worried about job security or whether they'll be able to get back into the workforce at all after leaving to go back to school like I did or to take time off for children. I'm in an area that is way behind some other areas in terms of economic recovery. I think most of us would find it in very bad taste if someone threw his spouse a $2000 blowout.

                                                                                        As I pointed out earlier, I still think that the host needs to make it clear in the invite what the price is and that he's not going to be offended if someone is unable to attend because s/he can't afford to or is simply unwilling to pay for it.

                                                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                                                          Age does matter. When my husband turned 30, we were all in grad school or in post-docs. Now we didn't have a big party, just a spaghetti dinner at someone's house with gag gifts. I was just a new girlfriend then, but in any case no one in our circle would have hosted a crowd at a restaurant. We might have gone out to a restaurant and paid our own way (in a group of a dozen or less). But a 100 person party? Why not wait till she's at least 40? <g>

                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                            And that makes sense to me...what doesn't make sense is to claim to "host" a party and make the guests pay for their meal. That is tacky. Fun spaghetti dinner at home or at a friends, not tacky :-)

                                                                                            My point was that if he wanted to give his wife a $2000/party he should have planned better (regardless of age).

                                                                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                              In principle, one can arrange for a restaurant gathering where people pay their own way; in fact, it's probably the most common way for unrelated adults to arrange to dine out. Thus, the concept in and of itself is not rude. The key, as I noted before, is to distinguish such an event from a hosted event.

                                                                                              Now, many people of a certain age will tend to imagine that a restaurant-based event with dozens of people will be hosted. Like, say, a wedding or bar mitzvah.

                                                                                              What's the number of people that triggers such an assumption? It's anyone's guess. Perhaps over 25-30 people (I've definitely seen a number of 2-dozen restaurant dining groups who are going dutch, as it were). Frankly, once you're in groups of large numbers of people, you will face dramatically increased odds of the deadbeat/cheapskate factor, which is as a practical matter why such large gatherings are better done hosted than non-hosted.

                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                I think there are factors other than the number of people. In this instance of the poster planning his wife's birthday, he has set the menu, the price and will be inviting people to a surprise party for his wife. IMO that means he should be paying.

                                                                                              2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                I guess what I was trying to say (not very well) is that when we were 30, no one would have dreamed of treating all the friends to a b'day party (whatever # of people we were talking about) since we were all poor. On the other hand we weren't having parties for 100 either. So I agree with you, the scope and type of the party is kind-of out of alignment with the financial situation.

                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                  For my 30th, my husband and I had 20 or so close friends and family (I have a small family) out to a Mexican place that we love. We wanted to celebrate extravagantly, but knew a $100+ per person dinner was out of our budget. The food was great and the drinks flowed. We had an amazing time and it was only about $500. Of course, we paid, as these were our invited guests.

                                                                                                  I think yardboss should scale down the party plans and just invite those that are very close with his wife, and treat them to something he can afford. They're in their 30s now; it's time to start acting like adults. ;)

                                                                                          2. re: Kater

                                                                                            Another alternative, would be to rent a hall and get friends and family to self-cater. That could run you under a thousand. For my brother's 50th birthday, I through him a surprise birthday party at a bar with a separate room, had a cold buffet and beer, wine and soda (provided by the bar). It was not fancy, but it was all I could afford. A good time was had by all.

                                                                                            Or get some co-hosts to share the costs. Maybe her parents will go in with you and/or a best friend.

                                                                                            Which is another issue with having the guests pay--be prepared for no-shows and the restaurant will probably expect an estimated number of guest for which you will be responsible.

                                                                                      2. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                        My opinion is yes, it is tacky (so is the e-vite, but that is too tangential for this thread). If you cannot afford 2000, reduce the guest list so that you may a gracious host. In my opinion it would be better to invite just one couple to dinner and treat them if that is all your budget can accomodate. I hope your wife has a great birthday.

                                                                                        1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                          I think whether you'll be expected to pay depends on how things work in your circle of friends. If you've been to similar events where everyone paid for themselves, I don't see a problem with it. If it's more common for people to have small events where they foot the entire bill, then you may want to consider going that route.

                                                                                          Whatever you decide to do, you need to make it clear up front how much the event will cost and not change the cost along the way. I remember once I was invited to a bachelorette party that started at $30/pp and kept on going up to about $100/pp when the event actually rolled around. I was unemployed at the time and while $30/pp was quite reasonably, $100 was not.

                                                                                          1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                            For my 30th I just invited my friends to meet at bar for a drink. They paid and drank for what they wanted. And yes, most wanted to buy me a drink.

                                                                                            For my 40th I invited them to a restaurant for dinner. I paid.

                                                                                            If you can't afford $2000... you need to either scale back the people or the place. If it even crosses your mind that it's tacky... it usually is.


                                                                                            1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                              Yes, it's rude. Yes, you should shell out the whole cost. Or scale it back.

                                                                                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                Another voice saying that it is rude. You cannot throw a party and expect the guests to pay. It would be like charging people to attend a wedding, which is another thread, or a shower. And think about it practically. How are you going to collect? In advance? when the bill comes? From 50-60 people who may be milling about? It sounds like a nightmare to me. And did you include tax and tip? It sounds like $50 or more to me.

                                                                                                I have been to relatively large birthday dinners (20ish people) where the bill is split among the guests, but usually for family. I could see a friend setting up something like this, but not a spouse.

                                                                                                While my friends and I usually split the bill and pay for the birthday person, I have never had to call anyone up and say hey it's my birthday, where are you taking me? I call them when it is their birthday and vice versa.

                                                                                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                  Exactly. I am throwing a bridal shower for a younger cousin at a local restaurant and will be paying the entire tab. My guess is that it will be close to $1000 when all is said and done. If I could not afford that, I'd either have it at my home or do something different.

                                                                                                2. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                                  I think if you expect people to pay their own way, you need to phrase it very carefully on the evite. At this point, you are not throwing your wife a surprise party (which implies that you are taking care of the bill) but getting a group together to celebrate your wife's b-day.

                                                                                                  1. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                                    Yardboss, I have a question. Have you ever been invited to such a celebration? I certainly never have. A friend of mine once attended a shower where she was given a bill at the end, which we both found shocking. That is the closest I have ever come to such an invitation (and in her case, she did not learn that she was expected to pay for her meal until she got there).

                                                                                                    1. re: Val55

                                                                                                      I have been numerous weddings where I was told by one of the parties involved almost exactly how much my "plate" cost and it was made clear that my monetary gift had to more than cover that amount if I wanted to attend. These were often, but not exclusively, Italian weddings. I have chosen not to attend some of these because the amount requested was more than that with which I was prepared to part.

                                                                                                      I have had similar experiences with baby showers and with Christening celebrations. Cash gifts only, and the needed amount was made clear. Sometimes this was stated on the invite and sometimes only in 'casual' phone calls/conversations.

                                                                                                      My own parents, some 20 years ago, organized a birthday party for me when I was in the fourth grade. It was held at our local science centre. My parents put a notice on the invitations that I already had enough "stuff" in my life and that cash gifts would be preferred in lieu of the presents. To this day, I run into people I haven't seen since elementary school who fondly remember being at that birthday party (which I, myself, don't actually recall all that strongly).

                                                                                                      1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                        I'm confused - it sounds like your birthday party fell into exactly the same situation as those you describe in the first half of your post?
                                                                                                        My son's first birthday is coming up, and DH and I will be thrilled to have made it through these twelve months. We plan on inviting everyone we know, but certainly don't want them to bring gifts - cash or otherwise. On the other hand, having a celebration that people still enjoy remembering 20+ years later - now that's awesome! :)

                                                                                                        I suppose this is getting a bit tangential for this thread, but I think the conclusion to be drawn is that money is a sticky topic and incredibly influenced by the individual situation. Yikes!

                                                                                                        1. re: kshrimp

                                                                                                          I agree. My kids also have enough "stuff" so my feeling is *no* gifts, cash or otherwise is a-ok. I can't imagine saying "we prefer cash".

                                                                                                    2. re: yardboss4201

                                                                                                      Definitely put it on the evite. If you are uncomfortable doing that, then don't host the party that way at all, but the least you can do for your guests is tell them what they're in for. Also, they will be much more relaxed knowing in advance and not worrying about it during the evening.

                                                                                                  2. 1. Yes, it's fair. But it doesn't happen that often unless the group knows each other well enough to find a way to agree to it in advance.

                                                                                                    If the birthday celebrant invites the others to dinner, the birthday person should pay. That's like asking for a gift....... not cool.

                                                                                                    3. Yes............ except as in #1.

                                                                                                    4. No.

                                                                                                    1. 1. I don't feel it's fair to make non-drinkers pay for those of us who like to have a few. Offer to make it fair. If everyone had at least one drink split it.
                                                                                                      2. Getting the invitees to pay is probably a trick that would only work once. I can't imagine anyone doing that. It sounds crazy.
                                                                                                      3. Yes
                                                                                                      4. Seems okay but I tend to just round up. You're usually talking a couple of bucks and think people get too hung up on tipping.

                                                                                                      1. 1. It's fair if the group dines together often and it will even out in the end.
                                                                                                        2. Always pay for the b-day person.
                                                                                                        3. Sure, split the check if you have to. If feasible, though, I'd rather just have one person pay the tab and collect cash/checks from others. If that's not feasible (no one in the group can float the full amount or the other people aren't trustworthy about actually paying the person back), then split the check OR get change from the server to put in the right amount of cash (everyone always has $20s and no $1s...).
                                                                                                        4. If you need a calculator, so be it, but really it shouldn't be that difficult - just round...no one is concerned about knowing their exact portion of the bill to the penny, right?

                                                                                                        1. For #1 -- For the most part my friends order fairly evenly and automatically put up enough money for what they'd ordered; then if we're short, everybody pitches in a few more bucks. The only time I've been in groups where there was a big disparity in ordering vs. paying was ironically with the wealthier people I know -- I'd order a salad and glass of wine; the wealthy person would order a wine-tasting flight, appetizer, soup, lobster/filet, sides, and dessert -- and then suggest we split the bill evenly. It would literally be a $150 bill in which I owed $30 including tip, and they'd want to split it. And I've had more occurrences like this than you can imagine. I know the wealthy can be oblivious when it comes to money, but with that kind of disparity I find it hard to believe it's an oversight. (As to how I handled it -- first time I started to speak up and got kicked under the table by my date, with whom I'd even *split* an entree; and I ended up paying three times what I'd ordered; after that I very comfortably speak up and say, uh, no, mine came to X, here you go.)

                                                                                                          As to birthdays -- some years a lovely friend throws a party for me; some years my close friends and I agree to meet at a not-too-expensive restaurant. And among our crowd it's understood that we pay for our own, and the birthday person never covers their own dinner. Not sure why that's considered gauche -- we're not rich, some of us (myself included) are single, and we're not in a fabulous world where there's always somebody to host a party for us. It'd be nice. Please, those of you sounding smug from that side of the fence, consider yourselves incredibly lucky and not superior.

                                                                                                          One year I do recall that a lot of people came by the restaurant, ordered something, tossed down money before leaving, and it turns out that they were consistently paying for about half of what they'd ordered -- at the end of the evening after most had left, we came up about $800 short which the few of us remaining had to end up splitting the difference. Ouch. I see that a lot: "hmm, I had a $17.95 entree, an appetizer, three cocktails, tax and tip -- $20 should cover it!" I've learned to bring change, cover mine plus some, and pay attention and hold people's feet to the fire if they put down too little. Because it's always the same people who pull that. Sorry, but after years of not saying anything and covering an extra $20-60-200 for the cheapskates, I'd now rather be blunt.

                                                                                                          Calculator? Add it up and double 10%. Easy.

                                                                                                          1. #1 Yes. Etiquette 101.

                                                                                                            You are paying for the pleasure of the company.

                                                                                                            I went to a group (over 10 people) dinner recently and at least one person thought this was unfair. I don't think they eat out in groups very often. If you go out to dinner with a group you should be prepared to split the check evenly.

                                                                                                            That said, we go out with another couple who don't drink and we always tell them ahead of time that we will pick up the bar bill. We want to enjoy a nice bottle of wine and our friends to be comfortable dining out with us.



                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                                                                              I know this is mostly an old thread, but I want to share a happy remembrance from my 40th bday-

                                                                                                              I am SURE that most groups of friends, not mostly, but sometimes, with tangental invites in the group, have issues with the 'splitting the check' where someone eats drinks too much and puts a burden on the sharing group. Be it the entitled salary-man/woman who can barely pay their bills and eats on the groups dime that night, or the rich guy who orders way outside the average apptz +plus wine plus whatever that everyone else is getting and expects the split check to cover his overage. that is why sometimes the rich stay rich on the back of the poorer. I hate that stereotype, but it sometimes rings true. Sigh.

                                                                                                              Mostly, for all this dicusssion, I am grateful that in my group of friends, when a truly felicitous occasion occurs for us all - someone's birthday, or a mutual holiday where we want to get together - someone who is not the focal point - if it is a birthday - agrees to be the host and planner, uusually with help from several 'social elves'.

                                                                                                              They send out evite, find a resto or bar to gather at, and let everyone know that it is dutch or their own tab to celebrate the feted birthday lady or man! NO birthday person would ever have to 'host' or invite people to their own birthday, their friends want to celbrate them, and their day, and the year passed and to come!

                                                                                                              WHY would a person of reasonable social standing with a circle of friends need to 'host' their own birthday?

                                                                                                              An I am a Christmas baby.... my birthday is on Dec. 23! When everyone is busy with family, time off, out of town, etc.

                                                                                                              For my 40th, a few years ago, my GF circle arranged a 'drinks and skating pary' for as many as wanted to come, which they hosted the skating. Drinks up to each. Following that, we had a lovely dinner at a nice Italian resto, with the info on the Evite clearly saying that each party would be responsible for their own dinner, but THANKS so much for coming and celebrating Shelleys' bday...

                                                                                                              I love my friends, and do the same kind of things for them. Love grows large when you create moments for it to get bigger. Not when you are thinking of yourself, and asking others to pay for what you want

                                                                                                              I must say, I was not thrilled at the begining of the celbration when they made me wear a crown as the b-day gal, or was embarassed when the roller-rink DJ announced I was the 'it girl' of the moment.

                                                                                                              But, all in all, it was a pretty great birthday for a girl who usually got her b-day ignored, or ingnored it herself due to all the holiday madness (easier on everyone, we can go to lunch in January).

                                                                                                              All that said, I guess I would encourage all posters here to think about how they can help create great birthdays or special days for their friends they love - it's much easier for friends to create a chip-in situation than the actual focal point of the event, or their spouse.

                                                                                                              I hope that resonates...

                                                                                                              1. re: gingershelley

                                                                                                                I think that's a great way to go about it! That skating/drinks/dinner party sounds like the perfect situation where nobody is overburdened or "mooching." Congrats to your friends, and you as well.

                                                                                                                1. re: kubasd23

                                                                                                                  Thank you kubasd23, It was really kudos to my friends,,, that was my point... who would think that they could ask 10-40+ people to their own fete/ sourie and if they made it about them, not pick up the tab?

                                                                                                                  All I am saying , is, if you have loved ones' who love you, wouldn't you all go in for whatever you are all wanting for a holiday, or suprise someone who is not used to a celebration, or NOT do it if they don't like to be fete'd? I Can't imagine haveing to make my own birthday and making people pay for it....