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Do you pay for everyone at your birthday dinner out?

  • a

Or does everyone split it? Or do they pay for you?
We've always split it or paid for the birthday girl/boy. But as I get older, I'm thinking it might be nice to pay for the whole thing. Wondering what others do.

  1. It depends on how invitations are issued. I have invited people over to my home for takeout that I have paid for myself. I have been invited to birthday dinners by the honoree who has paid. In other words, the honoree has been the host, both doing the inviting and providing for the hospitality.

    But, more typically, friends ask the honoree where he or she would like to be taken, an invitation is issued by them on behalf of the group that has a custom of observing each others birthdays in this manner, and people split the cost (including the honorees portion). In this context, there is no host as such.

    1. I'm a traditionalist. I think the birthday celebrant ought to have his/her meal paid for by the rest.

      Perhaps if the OP's been celebrating her birthday with the same general group of people for a few years, it's a lovely gesture of her to want to pay for the whole gang -- and she ought to if she can afford it and thinks that they're worth the gift.

      1. From personal experience as you get older (maybe after college) throwing a birthday party for "yourself" seems self-serving and you could be expected to pay.

        If others want to throw you a party then they can split the costs for you.

        1. It really depends on your group of friends and and your history. Are there new people invited or is it a core group? In my group, the friends pay for the Birthday Boy or Girl....however, since you indicate you want to pay for the whole thing.....just do it and forget whatever anyone else tells you, like myself.

          Whenever I want to pay for the group, upon entering the restaurant I give the owner my Credit Card and I tell him I'm paying......no arguments. When the others ask for the check, they are told it's already been paid for.

          1. Recent thread (not entirely on this topic – but, partly so): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654575

            1. I must really live in a bubble – I have never heard of a birthday honoree hosting their own party. That’s just wrong on so many levels in my bubble mind.

              When people ‘honor’ me with a birthday party it would be gauche for me to offer to pay. These people have decided to do something for me; the party is part of the gift. Do you offer people to pay for the other gifts they brought you?

              On the other hand when I have been invited to partake in a birthday celebration for another person usually the party coordinator (the one who writes/emails the invitations) puts forth clearly how it will be handled. If nothing is noted on the invitation then I will assume that it has been paid for by someone else. Otherwise they should state that to cover the expenses please RVSP with $XX per person.

              The idea of splitting the bill at the event is also very tacky, the guest should never see any of this. Your intention is to honor him/her in a celebratory way passing a tray for a money collection will make him feel slightly guilty.

              7 Replies
              1. re: RetiredChef


                yes you live in a bubble......between friends, etiquette is sometimes ignored. There have been topics on this before and talked to death. It seems the younger generations like to party hard at nice places and sometimes the birthday boy or girl likes to order very (many) expensive bottles of wine and champagne.....in such cases, invited guests find it offensive to have to pay for such silliness on their dime. In my mind, if the birthday boy or girl wants to enjoy him or herself, order the entire menu and wine list...and pay for his friends in the process.....it called being generous, not gauche. Not all situations follow the same rules or guidelines for social greatness.

                Now if someone invites you out for dinner to celebrate your special day, then I agree with you, you should let them pay if they have the means and will not put them in hardship.

                1. re: fourunder

                  >>>between friends, etiquette is sometimes ignored.

                  Then they should not be your friends – no!?!?

                  >>>It seems the younger generations like to party hard at nice places and sometimes the birthday boy or girl likes to order very (many) expensive bottles of wine and champagne.....in such cases, invited guests find it offensive to have to pay for such silliness on their dime.

                  First of all if the birthday person did that they are being gauche and it’s the hosts responsibility to control the costs. Wine selection and service or 1 drink maximum limits can easily be arranged and SHOULD be if this is the type of ‘friends’ you associate with.

                  Then any person who wishes to imbibe upon more expensive wines or engage in more libations will be informed by the server that they will be opening a tab for their purchases.

                  >>>In my mind, if the birthday boy or girl wants to enjoy him or herself, order the entire menu and wine list...and pay for his friends in the process.....it called being generous, not gauche.

                  The problem I see with this is that the meal will already have been paid for or arranged to have been paid for before hand. It puts the restaurant in a tough position, the host, who brought you this business, has already said they will be responsible for payment. For me to ignore the client and take money from the guest is wrong, for the guest to decide that he wants to pay for one of his GIFTS (the party) is in bad taste. A GIFT is a gift because it is given to someone, if they end up paying for that gift it’s not much of a gift anymore.

                  I agree though that if he wants to buy drinks, and expensive bottles of wine that can and should be on his dime and have no problem with that. Many of these parties have spilt over to the bar afterwards with the birthday person buying, again that is their prerogative.

                  I think my real issue is the fact that the party is part of a GIFT – it’s like telling someone no thanks for your gift that you bring them, you don’t want it, it wasn’t up to your standards, that to me is highly disrespectful and wrong.

                  If you have any more insights into why my thinking is incorrect I would love to hear it. Or is this just a difference of opinions (maybe the mature crowd vs the young crowd) and so there is no right and wrong, just opinion.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    A friend recently had a birthday party for herself. She arranged a set menu with the restaurant and we were all invited to celebrate with her. I don't see anything wrong with that.

                2. re: RetiredChef

                  I recently threw a 40th b-day dinner for my husband-- invited 8 friends to join us at our favorite restaurant. It wasn't a surprise so, arguably, he helped to throw his own party. Doesn't seem gauche to me at all. We picked up the tab for all as we had done the hosting and inviting.

                  1. re: GSM


                    This is different that what I meant, I have done the same for my wife and she has for me. I don't find this gauche either since as you put it YOU threw the party. I was referring to your husband deciding to host and throw himself a party, to me there is a very big difference. If you had not suggested it, would he have gone ahead and made all of the arrangements and invited people to HIS birthday party. That is the idea that is very foreign to me.

                    1. re: RetiredChef

                      Just depends on culture I think. Like Bdachow mentioned below, very common in asian cultures to have the birthday person take everyone out to dinner. That's what is expected and accepted.

                      It can be befuddling for someone of that culture to come to the US and encounter the more accepted practice of everyone chipping in to pay for the birthday meal. You go from expecting to be treated to a meal to not only having to pay your own and also part of another one.

                      1. re: RetiredChef

                        I don't think it's that gauche, personally. Even in a better economy, people within a friend group may not have the same level of income or cash to spend on entertainment. I think some people would rather pay for themselves so they can pick a place they like/afford and can ensure that their friends and family aren't worrying the whole time about how much they have to spend. I've certainly been in split-the-bill situations where the planner did not take into account everyone's finances and found it very uncomfortable because I was ordering water while everyone else was ordering a lot of food.

                  2. I think there's a cultural divide here as I've seen both. Being born Chinese, we always celebrated by going out for a big dinner with the family and the birthday person would pick up the tab for the entire meal. On the other hand, going out with North American friends, we usually split the tab amongst us and the b-day person doesn't pay.

                    Having said that, I recently had a birthday dinner where I paid for it all as all my friends had flown in for the occasion, figured if they can pay for the airfare, the least I could've done was pick up the tab for the meal.

                    1. i usually pick up the tab for the bash, they are all my friends and fellow winos.

                      1. As a single person, it appear my only options are: a) throw my own celebration, b)ask a friend to throw one for me, or c) not celebrate my birthday at all.

                        If none of my friends offers, I absolutely plan and host my own celebration. Because I am the host, all costs are my responsibility.

                        I don't see why this is such a problem. It would obviously be very rude to expect other people to pay for an event that I've planned, but if I'm paying, what's the problem?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: merkay

                          >>> I absolutely plan and host my own celebration

                          NOTE: There is no judgment being made here just a question.

                          Is this a normal or common thing for someone to plan out a birthday party, make reservations and invite people for THEMSELVES????

                          The only reason is that I have asked numerous people, including my adult children, their spouses and SO’s and a few other people and none of them have ever known anyone to do this. Also I have owned restaurants for over 20 years that have been home to literally 1000’s of parties and I have never had one (that I was aware of) where the host was the guest or recipient of the party.

                          I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around this, is this a new concept or have people been doing this for decades?

                          Sorry to hijack, but I am truly perplexed.

                          1. re: RetiredChef

                            I attended just such a catered party, a 65th b'day at an eastern Long Island restaurant last year. I attended one at a Roslyn restaurant, an 80th, a couple of months ago. So yes, it's just YOU, since neither of these self dealing birthday party throwers was a young'n. ;-)

                            If someone is happy and proud and wants to celebrate their birthday by including others they care for and they are paying for it, what's the harm or etiquette breach in doing so?

                            1. re: RetiredChef

                              <Is this a normal or common thing for someone to plan out a birthday party, make reservations and invite people for THEMSELVES????...is this a new concept or have people been doing this for decades?>

                              Among my friends, yes, that's the standard procedure. And it is not a new concept; we've been doing it for (two and a half) decades. If I want to celebrate my birthday with my friends, I invite them to a restaurant or a bar and we eat and drink. Sometimes everyone pays his or her own tab. Sometimes everyone pays his or her own tab and also chips in for my share. I can't afford to pick up the tab for 30+ people (and neither can most of my friends), so it's a way for everyone to get together without the birthday person going bankrupt, which is not a pleasant way to spend a birthday.

                              There are exceptions. For a "big deal" birthday, the guest of honor's significant other or best friend will sometimes make the arrangements. It's a charade, since the guest of honor is most likely a) providing the list of who to invite and b) choosing the venue. I also have a few friends with beaucoup bucks, so when they have their birthday parties, they pay for everything.

                              1. re: small h

                                I'm going to second mcf and small h. I guess I'm the de facto "party planner" of my group of friends and I routinely suggest restaurants and times to meet. I check w/ the group and see who's in and whose out, then I make reservations. Then we all show up, have a good time, and pay our own way. Generally, someone has to take on the responsibilities of "hosting", but in my mind that's a pretty casual thing, and I certainly don't then want to have to pay for everyone just because I sent out an email saying, "who wants to do dinner on Tues or Wed at X?".

                                I don't recall it being much different for birthdays, either my own or someone else's in the group. I send out the usual email, but it might be "let's make it Wed this week since it's my birthday, or Thurs if that works better for schedules". Then we all show up, as usual, and everyone pays their own way.

                                Maybe we're just more casual/informal than most, but it really is pay your own way regardless of who made the initial phone call and/or reservations. My group of friends just go out too routinely (pretty much once a week) to have one person bear the brunt of paying for everyone.

                          2. If it's my B-day and I throw a party for myself--regardless of location--it is my responsibility to bear the cost.

                            If friends invite me out for my b-day, I would expect them to pay.

                            If I am in a group going to a restaurant and have been invited by someone other than the birthday guy/gal, I expect to pay for my own meal/drinks and chip in for the B-Day person's meal/drinks. Party at a person's home thrown by wife/family/close friend then I bring a gift for the B-day person and expect the meal/drinks will be provided.

                            I think the key here is who does the inviting.

                            1. I think it all depends on who is organising the celebration.

                              If it is friends for the birthday person then obviously the friends should cover the costs of the birthday person.

                              On the other hand if it is the birthday person making the arrangements then they have to be clear about the method of payment. It is perfectly fine to pay for it all if that is their choosing but it is not unreasonable to have the guests pay for their share. Of course a nice compromise can be for the birthday person to stump for all the drinks whilst everyone pays for their own entrees.

                              Of course it also depends on the type of place the birthday is being hosted. If the honoree wants to go to somewhere expensive then they have to be upfront about whether they are willing to pay for the whole thing, and figure out a way where if they expect people to cover their own expenses the invitees can decline the invitation without embarrassment.

                              Of course if the celebration is being hosted at by the honoree at a dumpling bar where the total cost of the meal barely reaches $60 for six people then without question the organiser has to stump the costs and maybe some drinks at a nice bar besides.

                              Whatever may be the case just don't do what happened to a friend (j) of mine recently. She was invited to x's birthday dinner which x was organising. J agreed they're friends after all, days before the dinner x told j that the dinner was being held at a rather well known restaurant, and everyone would chip in to cover the bill. X also told her that the last time she went to dinner at this place with a group of four (same as the booking for her birthday) it cost $130 per head plus drinks.

                              J felt a bit put out by this given that she is a student supporting herself, and her work is winding down for the next few months so she needs to carefully manage her budget and meal would likely cost her a week's worth of rent - all of which x was perfectly well aware!

                              I guess the point I'm trying to make is that the organiser should be mindful of who they are inviting and whether it may be a stretch for the invitee to cover the costs. Of course this can be ameliorated by giving several weeks notice so the guests can have some time to put aside enough money and/or by insisting that the expense of the celebration negates the need for a gift (which the guest can disregard if they feel like it).

                              1. I once mentioned to some friends that I wanted to arrange and host my own bridal shower, which I would have paid for myself. You'd think by their reactions that I was going to go out and hunt down kids or something.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                  That’s funny, my wife’s comment was that she didn’t think it was wrong to host your own birthday party but it is kind of a “weird thought” and she qualified it by saying “It would be like hosting your own bridal shower or baby shower.”

                                  1. re: RetiredChef

                                    To be honest I think there's less wrong with hosting your own bridal/baby shower. Some women just abhor the traditional showers with games/activities and by planning it themselves they can avoid all that.

                                    1. re: queencru

                                      I can't agree with throwing your own shower. Just seems like you are demanding gifts.

                                      1. re: Sooeygun

                                        From what I've seen with my friends, many requested no shower and their bridesmaids complied. However, someone at work or an aunt/MIL decided the bride had to have a traditional shower anyway. I think both of them were incredibly uncomfortable/miserable the whole time. I think if you want a non-traditional shower, it's just better to set it up yourself and it's totally fine to specify that you don't want any gifts.

                                        1. re: Sooeygun

                                          I didn't want to say it earlier, but if you throw yourself a formal birthday party doesn't that have the same connotations - look at me, give me gifts.

                                          1. re: RetiredChef

                                            Again it's not that hard to put on the invite "No gifts, please"- some people just want the opportunity to go out and enjoy themselves with all their friends.

                                            1. re: RetiredChef

                                              No, specifically because I've never been invited to such a party where the invite didn't specify "no gifts please" or "presence, not presents." In these cases, folks who want to gift typically make a charitable donation in the inviter's honor.

                                      2. re: gloriousfood

                                        Well, throwing yourself a shower really is very bad etiquette, traditionally. Same with a parent or family member throwing one for you, since showers require gifts. It's like hosting a fundraiser for oneself.

                                        The folks who throw and pay for their own birthday parties have always specified "presence, not presents" IME. That's a big difference. Showers are all about getting stuff.

                                      3. I personally prefer to pay for everyone for my own birthday

                                        1. If you can afford to treat your friends on your birthday, by all means do so. I can't imagine anything that would feel better. I know my uncle is really big on this, every birthday takes a group of friends out for a great sushi meal.

                                          It's something I aspire to but my pocketbook is not always up for it at this point.

                                          1. I guess I'd like to suggest that there is a distinct difference between throwing your own birthday party and going for dinner out with friends on your birthday.

                                            If I have reserved a room, sent written invitations, and so on, then, yes, I expect that I would pay for the event. I have never celebrated a birthday this formally, but, I know others who have.

                                            If I call or email my friends and say something along the lines of: "My birthday is coming up, who'd/would you like to go out to dim sum with me to celebrate on the 30th". I certainly don't expect to be paying their way.

                                            True, it would probably be even better if one of my friends could suggest to my other friends that we go out on my birthday. That would make the distinction clearer. However, none of my friends even knows who all my other friends are, let alone how to get in contact with them or their schedules.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Atahualpa

                                              exactly- you said it perfectly!

                                            2. I think it depends on financials. Most of my friends are barely 30, and not exactly wealthy, where we're living comfortably. When my husband threw my 30th birthday party, we paid the bill and wouldn't have had it any other way.

                                              When I'm invited to a friend's birthday meal, I expect to pay my share and a portion of the birthday person's.

                                              1. Hi folks,

                                                We've gone ahead and locked this thread, as it seems like everything that can be said has already been said.