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Etiquette for prix fixe where everyone is paying their own way?

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Hi, I'm sure there is an answer to this, but I've never done this before and I don't know what it is...

I'm planning a party for my mom's 70th birthday this summer. There will probably be about 25 people, so I'm looking for a restaurant with a private room. However, we're planning to have everyone pay their own way since we can't afford to pay for everyone.

So it seems like with most places that have private rooms, you have to do a special prix-fixe menu for the party. So I'm trying to figure out how to word the invitation so that the expectation is clear but doesn't seem rude. From what I've gathered from etiquette sites, it's okay to do this, but it's all in how you word it. Any advice?

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  1. I think the most popular wording for this situation would be "dutch treat". I seem to remember getting an invitation to a family reunion gathering last year that just said "Dinner will be dutch treat" at the bottom.

    2 Replies
    1. re: justlauralibrarian

      And as an aside, the dutch term for everyone pays for their own is Amerikaans feest which translates to "American Party"

      1. re: justlauralibrarian

        That's funny!

    2. "The cost for attending this dinner will be $xxx." You can also add "please send a check to me with your acceptance." Also add a cost for the gift.

      This will save you the trouble of having to collect at the dinner.

      4 Replies
      1. re: PeterL

        definitely have them send you a check with acceptance - how refreshing you will know how many are attending prior to the party. Give a date by which they must accept with the check because you will not accept cash at the party ie final numbers by ............ Make sure your figure includes tax and tip. It will be tacky for your mom to see people paying for themselves at the party.

        why extra for the cost of the gift? Since you are asking people to pay I would state on the invite gifts not expected.

        1. re: smartie

          Peter is trying to say in a slightly sarcastic way that he thinks the idea is gauche....

          1. re: Bryn

            Not really, although it may read that way. That's an afterthought in case there is general agreement for a group gift. Again the general idea is not having to collect money at the dinner.

            1. re: PeterL

              Oh sorry! The problem with the internet is no subtext!

      2. Whether someone thinks it's proper etiquette to make guests pay (for dinner and/or a gift) is irrelevant.

        The OP has already decided to make the guests pay, the question is if you are going to make them pay, how's the best way to do it.

        My suggestion would be to come out and just say it -- e.g. "Cost of dinner per person will be $___.00. Please include payment with your RSVP." Or something along those lines.

        We shouldn't blast the OP for what *some* people may consider a social faux pas. What's a no-no for you may be perfectly copacetic to someone else.

        1. I do think that if you are going to want people to send you a check before then you should include a stamped self-addressed envelope. It might take some of the sting out of having to write a check. Sometimes it is a PITA to have to find an envelope/address/ stamp.

          1. I think that it's perfectly acceptable to have people pay their own way at such a party. You could state the cost of the meal, and perhaps mention that no gift is necessary except for their presence, which is the best gift of all. I do know that with my Mother, and many of her friends have enough stuff to last 3 lifetimes, so having a lovely party and dinner with family and friends in a wonderful atmosphere is better than any gift.

            Just keep the budgets of your guests in mind. And I second, or third, the wording of Dutch Treat

            4 Replies
            1. re: cosmogrrl

              I would definitely mention "no gift" , that lets people off the hook ; some of them might barely be able to afford the dinner.

              As for drinks and wine, restaurants will usually charge everyone individually for their tab.

              Ask the restaurant for the menu in advance, you could print it in your invitation,
              so people can see what the dinner is .

              My brother could not afford a wedding, he established a price and a menu and proposed it that way and said "no gifts"; he had 150 guests attend. He is a wedding singer and has a band so they did the dance music for us all.

              If people are miffed that they have to pay, so be it; they can stay home.

              DH and I always pay for everyone and host, we're lucky to be able to afford it.
              We go to events and pay our share gladly when it's required.

              I hope you have a great party for your Mom !!
              your feedback on the events and the paying part would be appreciated for future
              reference.

              1. re: superbossmom

                Another example: My brothers and I knew my parents would really enjoy a big joyous 25th anniversary party, but there was no way we could afford it because we were in high school. We saved and saved for the incidentals and arranged all the reservations, but everyone paid their own way.

                Everyone from their original wedding party flew in and stayed for a long weekend. We had dinner at a nice restaurant Saturday night and a larger more casual party Sunday night. It was a total surprize for my parents and it was a great success. They still talk about it.

                As their 50th anniversary approaches this year I look back on that party and I am sooo glad we had it. Of course several people have passed since and the parent's capacity to party has shrivelled now. It was a lovely milestone and it couldn't have occurred if everyone hadn't paid their own way.

                So, dear OP, please do not heed the negative talk here. I know that if you could afford it you would pay for everyone. But just because you can't afford a big party doesn't mean you shouldn't have one. Your mother will enjoy it and always remember it. I am 100% behind you.

                And remember, "Don't let people should on you."

                How would I say it?

                "We would love for you to attend, you are always such a big part of our fond family memories. We've secured a private room at Resto X and planned the menu. The cost for dinner is $xxx per person. Please send a check with your RSVP by xx/xx/xx so we can provide a final count to the restaurant. I hope this isn't too much to ask. We would really like to have a memorable celebration to mark Mother's xxth birthday, and the best way to ensure that is to have everyone there. We look forward to seeing you.

                1. re: runwestierun

                  Nicely said. I would also throw in the line "Your presence is the present" or something like that so the invitees don't think that you are just gift grabbing.

                  1. re: viperlush

                    Yes, I agree. That's the perfect way to say that.

            2. I think a lot of the replies here re. include check with RSVP and no gifts are spot on. I would also add that, if possible, you could plan for an "after party" and someone's house or a local bar, which will give those who can't afford the dinner a chance to join the party. Something along the lines of "Please feel free to join us at Jane's house after dinner for coffee and cake" and include coffee/cake only as an RSVP option.