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Summer Party - should we ask for a donation?


The last few years my SO and I have had a yearly summer party for around 40 friends, family members, and co-workers. We buy a few kegs, a big jug of adult punch, steak tips, sausage/onions/peppers, a pork or chicken dish, several sides to compliment, and desserts. This isnt your average hotdog/hamburger cookout......

This year we are struggling financially (compared to years past), in addition to trying to save for our wedding. We are also expecting probably closer to 60 people this year.

Heres my question - would it be acceptable to put on the invitations that donations would be accepted? Maybe $5 per person to help out with some of the costs? I could reference some of the reason above.... My only other option is to considerably cut back on the costs (alcohol and meats) which we also really dont want to do.

Your thoughts on this would be appreciated

  1. IMO, nope, you don't ask for donations, you scale the party back to what you can comfortably afford. That may mean fewer people invited, or less on the menu. Or, make the party a potluck. You won't have the same control over the food/drink, but your guest list can be larger & include everyone you want.
    Again, just my opinion. Everyone has their own :)

    8 Replies
    1. re: elfcook

      "You won't have the same control over the food/drink"

      I considered the pot luck - but you comment above is my exact fear.... most of the people we know are culinarily challenged. I know this will sound snobish but our food is usually 5x better than at any other party we go to.

      1. re: joe777cool

        then I guess the question is, is the focus of the party the food, or the friends? Believe me, I have been to many a family gathering with food that I wouldn't serve, but I don't expect gourmet there & I just pick at what is least offensive. I'd rather eat something else, but I chose to be with the people & have a less-than-stellar meal. I can always eat my food another day.
        Sounds like you have a wonderful tradition of good food & good guests. This year, it might have to change a bit, but I am sure you can still pull out a great time.

        1. re: joe777cool

          Well, it does sound snobbish. Very. I'd cut back to hot dogs and hamburgers and ask everyone to bring their beverage of choice. Asking for a donation is about the tackiest thing I've ever heard of. It's about the coming together of friends. Period.

          1. re: c oliver

            its NOT just about the coming together of friends when we have a passion for cooking and good food.

            thanks for the opinion but you are off base in your comments

            1. re: joe777cool

              I grind my own beef so claim bragging rights not head hanging over serving hamburgers. I'm a better cook than most of the people I dine with. It doesn't matter. And if you don't think that asking people to pay to eat your food is tacky, I don't know what you would consider tacky. You don't like my comments but I think they're completely on target. As often happens on CH, it appears that you posted in anticipation of people agreeing that it was alright to charge. It doesn't appear so far to be the case. 'Course if you DO charge them, you'll probably have few show up so you can pull out all the stops!

              1. re: joe777cool

                if it isn't about the coming together of friends.... and more about food, why not just have a nice dinner for your family. Problem solved.

                1. re: Firegoat

                  Im not quite sure where its being lost in translation, but to us its about BOTH. We enjoy a nice day with our friends, we enjoy cooking for them and the enjoyment they get from a good meal. I dont understand why it has to be about one or the other.

                  1. re: joe777cool

                    I understand what Firegoat is saying, which is if it is about great times and great food you serve with friends, why are you not happy with great foods, great times with fewer guests?

                    It really comes across like you are trying to have this Maximum Event , not a party (difference being you can charge tickets for an event) and food -wise with the maximum kudos of a Fantastic Party.

                    You want all the acclaim but don't want to bear the production costs.

        2. I say no. If you can't afford to throw an extravagant party then you really shouldn't. Asking for "donations" strikes me as tacky. If it was me I'd much rather receive an invitation to a pot luck rather than getting invited to a party where I was asked for a donation.

          5 Replies
          1. re: bookhound

            tacky was the word i had in my mind too.

            In a pot-luck, is it acceptable to dictate what opthers bring? I mean im not going to give people recipes or demand certain items but I want food items that will mesh together and be part of our overall theme.

            1. re: joe777cool

              It seems to me from reading this thread you have pretty high standards and even if you did hand out recipes you probably wouldn't be pleased with the results. Many people deviate from recipes thinking it won't have any affect on the final results.

              I really think you should just cancel this year.

            2. re: bookhound

              ^THIS. Whether you think so or not, it's tacky. You throw the party you can afford, don't throw it, or have a potluck and as others have said, focus on the COMPANY, not the food. I go to dozens of family and friend gatherings throughout the year that have nowhere near the chowish food that me and my DH cook up at home, but the focus is the people, not the food. If you want to throw really great parties with excellent food, do it on a smaller, dinner party scale that you can afford. Or just do apps and punch or something, but no, do not ask for donations.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                I concur; do not ask for a montary donation unless you are donating to a charity cause (ie Haiti; anti-AIDS in africa, local food pantry, etc.) have people bring a pot luck dish, a can of non-perishable food for a pantry and a game idea for all to mix with)

            3. Think about it. If you received an invitation to a party w/donations accepted would you not think it tacky and just strange? As a family who's income went south for the foreseeable future I feel your pain but realistically just because you know your food is so kick a$$ does not mean your guests feel it is worth paying for. Possibly more importantly do your guests want to pay for the privilege of hanging out with a bunch of other people they may or may not *want to* chat with, but now have to? It just screams awkward.

              1. You're not really hosting a party if you're requesting donations. Try the potluck approach. I think you could get by with providing simple recipes for the truly clueless, just as a suggestion,but this is sailing pretty close to the tacky wind.

                1. OK, OK - its clear the donation part isnt going to work.

                  Again I ask about the whole pot-luck etiquette...... is it ok to steer people into the a particular direction in terms of what you want to serve (and dont want to)

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: joe777cool

                    I don't go to a lot of potlucks but in my opinion you cannot dictate what others bring unless you know it's one of their "specialties". As in, you know aunt Kay in known for her potato salad, you can ask her to bring that dish. But in general you can instruct a guest to bring an entree and another a dessert but not what that entree or dessert will be.

                    1. re: bookhound

                      Down South when someone entertains that someone dictates the events. If he's having an informal gathering for no particular reason other than just getting together it's very common for him to supply the main entree and ask his guests to bring a particular item such as the baked beans for a 4th of July gathering. It's common in such an event for each guest to provide his own beverage. The host will always have a complete bar in case someone comes that doesn't adhere to common southern practice though. If the event is an important one such as his anniversary, someone's birthday, Christmas or such then the host provides all food and the bar.

                      1. re: Littleman

                        My MIL usually provides the main entree but she always just says, "bring whatever you like" and that has resulted in some odd combinations. Recently, my SIL took over hostessing and instructed me to bring a potato salad. Even though I very rarely make (or eat) potato salad I was happy to do so. The resulting dinner was much better than usual.

                    2. re: joe777cool

                      Will you be expecting your guests to bring a dish that will serve 60 people??? I personally feel that if you can't afford to throw a lavish party for 60 people, either reduce your guest list or scale down your menu--you seem to agree that asking for a "donation" is tacky, but, imo, so is asking for a specific dish to feed a crowd...perhaps the least tacky option, imo, is to specify byo beverage (alcoholic--you should provide soft drinks).

                      1. re: Marge

                        this may just be the road we travel - we will do what we normally do in terms of food and just make it a BYOB.

                        This party is a big deal for us, and our friends look forward to it every year; we are just trying to meet the high expectations everyone has come to have while not breaking a reduced budget.

                        1. re: joe777cool

                          i fall strongly in the "no" camp on the donation idea, and it doesn't sound like a potlcuk would work for you because you really can't control what people bring. anyway, i think you've got your answer - make it BYOB, and try to find ways to reduce your food expenses by getting creative with different cuts of meat or alternative recipe ideas...if you post your initial menu ideas, i'm sure we can all help you with scaling down the cost and/or reworking some of the dishes.

                          1. re: joe777cool

                            That's probably your best idea yet. Liquor is pricey, and people will bring what they want to drink, so have plenty of ice , drink containers, and maybe a few mixers.

                            One thing I want to point out- if you're having 60 people over, and say you were having a pot luck, figure 30 couples bringing one dish per couple (for example's sake), nobody's going to eat all thirty different dishes. So there'll be a lot left over.

                            I'm very much against against asking for donations of any kind when planning a party, either to cover the cost of the party or for a charitable cause. It just reeks of a shakedown no matter how carefully you word it. It would also cheapen your event in many people's eyes, and from reading your posts I'm guessing that's the last thing you want to do.

                            Check out Judith Martin's (Miss Manners) opinion on the matter. She has columns in the Washington Post and also on MSN.

                            Your friends will understand your financial situation and your desire to still put a fabulous party together.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              i often find ms manners (and her peers) to be about as relevant to 21st century life as whalebone corset studs

                          2. re: Marge

                            the whole idea of a pot luck is that if mostly everfyone brings a family sized dish of something, no one will go hungry...they're alot of fun, some pot lucks ask people to bring copies of their recipes as well. to share

                          3. re: joe777cool

                            imo you can coordinate what people bring, but not dictate... when/if someone calls to ask say "mary's bringing this and joe that, so we need..." but you can't tell them NOT to bring something. you can ask for their specialties.
                            if you can't afford to do what you normally do, and you can't cancel, you're going to have to let some of the control go and enjoy what you get. :)

                            1. re: joe777cool

                              A friend of mine always has a "cuisine theme", ie mexican, comfort food, greek, italian, picnic, etc. and runs a dessert contest with wooden spoons spray painted gold, silver, and bronze foe the three top contenders; a judging panel of about four of the elder guests, and an "olympic type of winner/announcements; a good time is had by all.

                              1. re: betsydiver

                                That sounds like a fun potluck.

                              2. re: joe777cool

                                No. I mean, if people ASK, "What should I bring?" you can say, "Dessert/salad/appetizer" etc. But you need to get the idea that if you're asking someone to cook and transport food, they're entitled to pick a recipe that works for THEM. Some people have no problem whipping up a few homemade pies, whereas others may only want to deal with a couple of batches of simple cookies. You've stated in this post that your guests don't cook as well as you do. If you ask them to bring food, you're going to have to deal. You can't insult them on top of it, whether you mean to or not.

                              3. If someone asks "What can I bring", and you do decide to go the potluck route, you can certainly say "How about you bring the potato salad?" Or whatever. You can't hand them a recipe, but you can, if they ask, assign a dish.

                                It may be potato salad from the grocer's deli, but it's still potato salad. ;)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tzurriz

                                  For the potluck, one idea would be to say something like, "Last names beginning with A-H, please bring an entree. Last names beginning with I-N, please bring a side." Just an idea. I've never thrown a potluck.

                                2. For my sins, I've coordinated many potlucks over the years. This is a task requiring great diplomacy. You can always tell someone, "Bring a main dish." You have to know, though, if this person can cook. If they do, leave them to it. If they don't, say something like, "If you're at a loss for what to bring, I have I great simple recipe that I'm willing to share."

                                  I think that in these days of dire financial woes, people know that hosts cannot always carry the entire load. You just have to be very attuned to accepted manners and people's sensitivities.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    or "bring a bag of chips and a dip"

                                  2. I don't think it's appropriate for people to be asked to pitch in. Is it possible to switch over to cheaper cuts of meat? With the right preparations, the cheaper cuts can be just as delicious as the more expensive cuts, and you won't have to resort to hamburgers/hot dogs. I think people understand that in this economy, people can no longer afford to go all out like they used to. I think BYOB is also an acceptable option for that amount of people.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: queencru

                                      As I posted above, I grind my own beef and don't feel like I'm resorting to something lesser. They're to die for. Otherwise I agree with you completely. Recently we did a house exchange and our daughter and SILcame up to visit for the day with NINE of their friends (there was a pool!). I was very comfortable telling them to BYOB. And they did and more.

                                      1. re: queencru

                                        I agree! In fact, there's a myriad of ways to create an impressive meal without blowing your budget. It's just a matter of getting imaginative with what you can afford.

                                      2. We have gone to a traditional BBQ every year with some friends. The invitation reads - "The theme is (insert theme here - i.e. Mexican, etc.). We will be grilling (insert your favorite meat(s) here - be it BBQ Chicken, Ribs, Pork Shoulder or Prime Rib!). Please bring something to share, as well as BYOB. If your group is anything like ours, you kind of get to know what people may bring. Maybe it is an appetizer, maybe a side, maybe a dessert. Make do with their generous offerings (heck - it might even be Kentucky Fried Chicken). I am never offended to bring something. Its about the people.

                                        1. Okay, I've resisted posting because somebody surely would have said this by now. And maybe they have and I've just missed it. But...

                                          Just make it a BYOB party. A big part of your budget is going to booze. Cut that out of the equation and you're probably good to go.

                                          Asking for donations is crass. Full stop. Having a potluck can be fun, but the drawbacks have been discussed already.

                                          If you still can't swing the freight for the mains you want, definitely consider adapting the menu to the recession. Nobody doesn't like a good potato / macaroni / pasta salad, and I have yet to hear anybody dis my home-ground burgers.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            the BYOB idea appeared about 10 posts up - i agree with you that it's the best solution, and it sounds as though the OP is leaning that way. you're right about the food too. simple, traditional fare done right can be just as successful & popular - if not more so - than haute cuisine.

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              yep. what alan said. we host a LOT of parties, large (70+) and smaller groups of friends who ALWAYS will bring a bottle or two of wine to share with everyone. we don't even have to ask, it's how it's done in our circle of friends.

                                              the only time we explicitly ask for BYOB are the large gatherings, b/c we simply couldn't afford to pay for all the booze.

                                            2. I just have to say, I think BYOB is the best approach, but I don't think you were so off base to think about donations. My friends and I have get togethers all the time where we will ask people to chip to cover costs (it's usually for bday dinners and a much smaller group of friends though). None of us can easily afford to cook a huge dinner for everyone, so it's always been a cost share as default, and no one considers it tacky or gauche.

                                              Is it just the size and scale of the party that is the issue? Or is it just because it would be changing the annual tradition of hosting it to a donation basis?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: upsidedownorchid

                                                In this case, the OP has been hosting this event for years. To suddenly ask for a donation after never asking for one before is inappropriate. However, the size has increased and paying for alcohol for 60 people is probably going to be cost prohibitive. It's pretty easy to come up with some classic dishes that don't cost a lot of money, but I'm guessing that most people aren't going to go for Natural Light and 2-buck chuck as the only drink options. A bday dinner is something different entirely because presumably it's a group getting together to celebrate for a friend and only one person can host at a time.

                                              2. "should we ask for a donation?"

                                                Ouch. Absolutely, positively not.

                                                1. i disagree with the general sentiment here - but then my friends and i are good friends, very casual together, and never stand on ceremony, so YMMV.

                                                  if this is an expected party that people look forward to, they will be bummed if it doesn't happen. if they are real friends they will understand economic stresses and not think less of you. If they are not real friends who gives a rotten rat's ass how they feel?

                                                  on the invite say that donations are not required, but would be welcome. real friends will get it.

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    With 60 people that includes co-workers, I don't figure it's all "real friends."

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I agree. Once the party ends, you're going to have to see your coworkers on a regular basis. If they end up holding a grudge because they were asked to pay for an event they felt obliged to attend due to work custom/expectations, it's going to make the work environment less pleasant regardless of whether they were "real friends" or not. Even if it's not required, people will probably look at others to see who donated and who didn't, and those who didn't donate are going to come across as cheap. I think it's a lose-lose situation when compared to BYOB.

                                                    2. re: thew

                                                      Actually, in years past some of my friends have offered to pitch in money. Generally we have said no, just bring X (chips, ice, soda etc).

                                                      Maybe i misworded my op, but when I say the word "donation" I think it emplies that it is not required. And you are right. All of our friends know that times have been tough for us (several things have happened that I am not sharing on a public chat like this), and if they are worth their salt they wouldnt think twice about it.

                                                      that having been said, im still leaning toward a byob to make this a moot point.

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        Good friends shouldn't ask other good friends for cold hard cash.

                                                        They can ask for a side dish, a dessert, or a beverage, alcoholic or otherwise, but a donation is beyond insulting.

                                                        1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                          Insulting? dont you think that is a bit much? and a post above referenced possible "work place grudges" SERIOUSLY? Over a $5 non-mandatory donation? We are inviting our friends, family, and a few coworkers that really fall into the friend category. These people know us very well, and vice versa. If I ever thought that asking for a donation would create any of the hostility mentioned I WOULD NEVER do it.

                                                          Its probably alot easier and cheaper for somebody to give $5 than to prepare a dish and all the work that entails. You cant even make a pasta salad for $5!

                                                          And in regards to the workplace comment, its much more likely there could be hostility from the people we arent able to invite should we have to trim out list down.

                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                            People might not hold a grudge, but I'm fairly confident that at least a couple of the guests (likely more) would be quite gossipy about it. When I was in middle school I was invited to a friend's house for a pizza/pool party. On the kitchen table, nestled between the pizza and other snacks was a big fishbowl that said 'pitch-in pot'. Even as a 14 year old I found this incredibly bizarre, and so did everyone else. I still distinctly remember it 15 years later. I was good friends with the girl and never saw it again, but interestingly, my aunt was invited to a barbeque at their house a few years later and once again they had a collection pot. Again, many people found it pretty strange and word spread rather quickly.

                                                            1. re: pollymerase

                                                              That's what I was thinking, too--that it would provide a lot of office gossip for weeks, maybe months/years later in your case. Or, possibly a new thread on this board, "Invited to party and then asked to pay..."

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                Oh, chowser, that's hysterical! People have been folded, spindled and mutilated for less, haven't they?

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Whatever the OP does, just don't ask anyone to bring ribs!

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    ha ha ha, or a lasagna big enough to feed everyone

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      lol a most memorable CH thread

                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                        And wasn't there one where the host ate steak and the guests hamburger?

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Oh how funny!!!! I'm sorry I missed it.

                                                                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                              I'm not surprised that my 2010 New Year's resolution to not post on NAF failed miserably :)

                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                              c oliver - any idea where I could find that thread? Would love to read it. What a hoot.

                                                                              1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                I googled and searched CH and can't find it. And I'm not 100% sure that I got it right. It could have been that a guest brought steak for himself while others ate burgers. Maybe somebody with better searching skills can find it.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  I remember reading it, but I can't find it. I wonder if it was a subthread on the ribs or the lasagna one

                                                                                  1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                    I found the rib thread! It also contains the rib eye item.


                                                                  2. re: joe777cool

                                                                    joe777cool, if you've already made up your mind, why did you ask the question?

                                                                    1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                      I think its clear from the the post that when I posted the question I hadnt made up my mind yet.

                                                                  3. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                    I am in the don't ask for a donation camp. Potluck or BYOB is the way to go.

                                                                2. this may be a record for chowhounders: unanimity! if you feel compelled to have an even bigger than usual gathering, even with your financial difficulties, byob is the way to go. it's not odd or weird and you won't have to compromise on your menu, nor your standards.

                                                                  1. So you want to have a huge party that you can't afford, don't want to cut back on anything, and then want to ask your guests to help pay for it? Tacky. An if I were a guest at your party, I'd question why you are even having a party if your financial situation is as bad as you are making it out to be.

                                                                    1. No. If you cannot host the party this year, it's fine to skip it. Since you've already send out invitations I would suggest that you go ahead and accept any offers to bring a dish.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Kater

                                                                        So you ask for $5 pp; you're going to get $300 tops; you probably can't even count on $200. That amount is really going to make or break you? For the kind of meal you seem to be planning I can't imagine even $10 pp helping you out that much and at that point you are going to get fewer people ponying up. This seems like a bad idea based on logistics alone. BYOB is the way to go, plus it is a fairly accepted practice. Asking for donations just isn't. Very few people do it, and that really says something.

                                                                      2. Some posters are starting to make some incorrect assumptions.

                                                                        We can afford the party, we just have less disposable income like so many other compared to years past. BY NO MEANS AM I CRYING POOR HERE. Like I said, we are saving for a wedding, and are dealing with a poor economy just like the rest of us. We also are expecting more people this year.

                                                                        Not having the party has never been a choice, so if thats your advice dont bother posting it.

                                                                        Invitations have not been sent yet.

                                                                        I am willing to compromise/cut back, specifically on the alcohol, I think I made that quite clear already

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                                          FWIW, the first time I let everyone (about 30 guests) know we would be providing the food as well as iced tea, bottled water and lemonade and they could BYOB, two (bachelor) guys each brought a 6 pack, three people brought 2 bottles of wine each and everyone else drank what we had.

                                                                          I did it because of potential liability issues, not cost.

                                                                          Since then, the parties have been about the same size and we provide the grill, the meats and the same beverages and the sides and desserts show up and everything always seems to work out.

                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                            Your original post said you are "struggling financially (compared to years past), in addition to trying to save for our wedding". Your words. 'Struggling financially' usually means you are having a hard time making ends meet and is more along the lines of not making the rent this month, not that you can't afford to serve steak at your party. Most people who are "struggling financially" are not throwing parties for 60 people.

                                                                            Like the others said, make it a potluck or BYOB, not both.

                                                                          2. If I receive an invitation to a party that requests a "cover charge" I'm immediately turned off and would not go. If it asks me to bring a dish? Of course I'd go. That assumes I'm not a complete idiot and can cook something and bring some fun to the party. BYOB, I have no problem with.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Firegoat

                                                                              a "donation" is much different than a "cover charge" There wont be a bouncer at the door collecting money from people. No wrist bands or tickets. This was an OPTIONAL donation. Lets no get the wrong idea here.

                                                                              You would go to a party that "required a dish" but turned off by a simple request for $5 donation? I understand that this is out of the norm, but IMO there isnt much difference between the 2.

                                                                              1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                As a matter of interest, how would you collect the donations? Would you just expect people to walk up to you and hand out $5 bills? Or put out a pot for people to stick the money into?

                                                                                1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                  just put a pot out for people to put in or not put in at their discretion.

                                                                                2. re: joe777cool

                                                                                  There is a HUGE difference between a $5 donation and bringing a dish. The dish would be shared amongst all the guest while the "donation" goes right into your pocket. Donations are generally given to charities not to your friends in exchange for food and drink at a party.

                                                                                  1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                    >>"IMO there isnt much difference between the 2."<<

                                                                                    If your opinion is the only one you care about, then by all means solicit donations. But if that's the case, why did you post here?

                                                                                    Your original question was whether people here thought it would "be acceptable to put on the invitations that donations would be accepted." You got your answer, and it was unambiguous: no, it would not be acceptable.

                                                                                    That doesn't mean you can't do it. Just don't expect the folks here - or your guests - to share your opinion that it's okay.

                                                                                    1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                      Well I've never gone to a potluck that required a dish. Nor have I gone to one that has a bowl at the door for money. The difference between the two? I like cooking and I like sharing it with my friends so I love potlucks. Do I like just paying cash to eat whatever? Not so much. I know you've already basically said none of your friends cook up to your standards, but really? If you're in financial straits, which most of us are now, give them a chance to contribute and enjoy. Sometimes it isn't all about you and your fabulous cooking. Sometimes it is about the friends.

                                                                                      1. re: Firegoat

                                                                                        "Sometimes it isn't all about you and your fabulous cooking. Sometimes it is about the friends."

                                                                                        um.... ok. like I have said, on multiple occasions, this event is about both.

                                                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                          This brings to mind a friend of my wife who she went to H.S. with, and with whom she is still good friends with. This woman thinks her cooking is absolutely wonderful. There is no doubt in her mind that she cooks rings around everyone else that she knows (and even those whom she doesn't).

                                                                                          After 3 or 4 dinner parties at their house over the years my opinion is firmly in the opposite camp. We just never know how people truly perceive our efforts. They may tell us one thing to our face and be thinking something entirely different (and laughing about it behind closed doors at home).

                                                                                          So my advice is, make the parties about the company. Good company and good conversation will remain in my positive memory banks long after ordinary food has faded into the mists of time.

                                                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                                                            I have a friend like that also. She loves to cook, has good cookbooks and doesn't hesitate to buy expensive ingredients. The results are rarely above ho-hum and sometimes far less. But I RAVE about her dinners. Why not? As I and others have said, it's about the coming together not the food.

                                                                                  2. From reading this thread, I am finding some of your responses to the other posters a little aggressive. Remember they are just posting their thoughts, per your request. :)

                                                                                    Having said that, here are my thoughts. There are 3 main suggestions floating around - BYOB, potluck and scaling back. All reasonable but only you can decide which one will work best for you since they each have potential cons.

                                                                                    BYOB- Will you be disappointed if everyone ends up bringing beer? Or will you be expecting people to bring decent bottles of wine or mix cocktails to complement your menu?

                                                                                    Potluck - Are you ok leaving the majority of food choices to your friends? Remember, you can't dictate specific dishes, only indicate the type of dish they can bring (dessert, appetizer etc.)

                                                                                    Scaling back - will people be hurt/not forgive you if you don't invite them this year?

                                                                                    You've written that "we are just trying to meet the high expectations everyone has come to have while not breaking a reduced budget" - if these people are your friends than it's reasonable to think that their expectations might be reduced this year too. They know you are saving for a wedding and for those friends that know about your reduced financial circumstances, it will be double reason that they may not expect the same level of entertaining as in years past.

                                                                                    When the invitations go out, don't be surprised if some of them offer to help/ask if they can do anything. If they do, you can certainly ask them to bring alcohol or food but please don't ask for cash. Doing so reduces your party and friendship to a catering event and business transaction.

                                                                                    Hope you have a fantastic party!

                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                      Very good advice. Just an fyi, I have found a few of the posters to be a bit condescending and in some cases have come to rather far flung assumptions in their responses. Some of which have been deleted by the moderators - hence my "agressive" tone in a few of the posts.

                                                                                      We have basically come to the decision that we will cut back significantly on the alcohol and slighly cut down on the menu. We will also take full advantage of peoples "offers" to bring items more-so than we have in the past. We saw steak tips went on sale for $2.99/lb (usually $4.99/lb) last week,, so we already stocked up the freezer.

                                                                                      Thanks again to everyone for posting!

                                                                                      Party will be mid-late August, I will report back how everything went.

                                                                                      1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                        Excellent. BTW, what are steak tips? Not something I'm familiar with. Maybe you could share the recipe on Home Cooking.

                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                          I am not exactly sure what cut of meat "steak tips" are but the way I prepare it is as follows:

                                                                                          (and please excuse the in exact measurements....i do it to taste)

                                                                                          Night before - marinade

                                                                                          Fruity red wine (not too dry)
                                                                                          soy sauce
                                                                                          white sugar
                                                                                          freshly chopped garlic
                                                                                          freshly minced ginger
                                                                                          red pepper flakes
                                                                                          meat tenderizer

                                                                                          I taste the marinade several times and add more sugar, soy sauce as needed. I like it a little bit sweet.

                                                                                          Cut the steak tips in 1 1/2-2 inch stips and place in pan, sprinkle lightly with meat tenderizer, then cover with marinade and refrigerate overnight. I let them sit at room temp for an hour or two prior to grilling.

                                                                                          always a big hit

                                                                                          1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                            What does the lable on the meat say it is? Interesting marinade.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              it says steak tips honestly..... maybe its a RI/NE thing

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                In these parts, it's "sirloin tips." Tasty in kebobs or a braise.

                                                                                            2. re: joe777cool

                                                                                              That sounds like a good plan. Don't forget you are also suppose to have fun! So I fully expect you to do so! :)

                                                                                              I think it is very generous of you do this annual event, esp. given the current economic climate plus you have a wedding to plan/pay for. I hope your friends really appreciate this and not start to take it for granted.

                                                                                              Looking forward to hearing the report!

                                                                                          2. Looks as though the CH community has offered up two wedding presents in this thread, both being as valuable as they are difficult to swallow. The timing is perfect, because they can be applied to the cookout, the wedding plans and oh so many other aspects of life.

                                                                                            The first gift is a lesson in the form of advice, whose many forms here all come down to the same thing.
                                                                                            -------- "Do only what we can finance under our own means." --------

                                                                                            Yes, the responses are unsympathetic. Without exception, human beings rationalize our own behavior every day. Yet even those of us who can go on for paragraphs about what we ought to be able to do know better than to join in on rationalizing the line of thinking in the original post.

                                                                                            Why keep returning to read more responses and post more defenses? The second gift is a lesson, too, which comes in the form of this online chat experience but can be extended to so many other settings.
                                                                                            -------- "Know when to walk away." --------

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: KTFoley

                                                                                              Great post +1

                                                                                              I am gonna save this words, for help in the future. And a reminder. TY!

                                                                                              1. re: KTFoley

                                                                                                Great Post KTFoley.

                                                                                                Nuff' said! Would like to hear the outcome after the event is over.

                                                                                                1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                                  And I think the OP will find the HC board a kindler, gentler place than NAF :)

                                                                                                2. re: KTFoley


                                                                                                  first of all. im not looking for sympaty or anyone to agree with me. I posted a question because I wanted to hear differing opinions on the matter.

                                                                                                  "know better than to join in on rationalizing the line of thinking in the original post. "

                                                                                                  Im not going to dignify this with a response (other than this one line lol!)

                                                                                                  "Why keep returning to read more responses and post more defenses?"

                                                                                                  Im looking for various opinions on the matter and advice on what people have done in similar circumstances. Many have been very helpful, others not-so-much.

                                                                                                  "Know when to walk away."

                                                                                                  I will stop responding when I am ready to. If I see a condescending and/or degrading post I will defend myself - you can call it "rationalize behavior" if you like.

                                                                                                  I think I have made it QUITE clear that I have moved on from any notion of asking for donations. If anyone else has any additional light to shine on cutting party costs or anything else that will help me out feel free to share it. I enjoy the conversation.

                                                                                                3. We do a big party like that every year, but maybe for 120 people. We rent a tent, tables and chairs and do a real southern style BBQ -- pulled pork, ribs, slaw, Brunswick Stew, multiple house drinks, hors d'oeuvres, desserts, etc. -- and we hire servers to help. It is hugely expensive and incredibly hard work since we make everything. Everyone always thanks us profusely, but no one ever reciprocates. This year, because we spent so much money traveling abroad, we decided to skip the whole shebang. We will use a portion of the money that we would have spent to take a family vacation instead. I think that people get used to annual parties, and get cavalier about the whole thing, always expecting that it will be there. It's good to take a year or two off, and let it become an event again instead of just an assumed invitation. Have you invited everyone already? If not, you should think about not having it for a year...

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                    My SO and I also do a yearly XMAS party (less people), and decided to cancel it this past year. We look forward to these parties every year as much as our guests do and really dont want, and in all honesty havent even considered cancelling it.

                                                                                                    I wouldnt say that any of our friends have become cavalier about the party, and many of them hold similar parties. I think the main issues is we are trying to live up to our own expectations - when it may be close to impossible this year.

                                                                                                    Regardless it will be a great time.

                                                                                                    1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                      I'm not going to beat a dead horse by restating everything above but do want to add that if this many of your friends hold similar parties, then this is, in some respects, reciprocation and it would be even worst to ask for donations. If your friends hosted without asking you for donations, then asking them for donations is wrong. If there are "free loaders" who come to your parties without ever reciprocating, then cross them off your list. Friendships, parties, hosting are about give and take and we don't need to keep the takers around, especially if you can't afford it.

                                                                                                      1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                        Sorry, didn't read the entire thread before I posted. OK, you didn't say what you HAVE BEEN serving, so it's hard to know how to cut back.

                                                                                                        For booze, consider pitchers of sangria or margaritas, beer and box wine.

                                                                                                        I just made food this weekend for a family reunion (not mine) and they wanted to keep it low cost. I got a chuck roll (roll - 30 lbs., not roast) and "fake "deep pitted it, and 20 lbs. of pork butt which I did in the CrockPot BBQ Pit, and turkey hot dogs. 15 lbs. of potato salad, 15 lbs. of cole slaw, and twenty lbs of ranch beans, and condiments including salsa, was $200 for food. This was for a reunion after a wedding, and most of the guests had traveled and were staying in a hotel, so no one could bring anything.

                                                                                                        And box wine (at a public park - no glass) and beer. Almaden makes a passable sangria in a box.

                                                                                                        Would this fall into your budget line? There were about 75 people, there.

                                                                                                    2. Please, please don't do this. Either cancel the party, or serve less, or less expensive food, or invite fewer people.

                                                                                                      The manners boards are filled with horror stories about this very type of thing. You will not be the host, you will be the fund raiser/coordinator.

                                                                                                      The answer is no.

                                                                                                      1. people have thrown rent parties and a million other types of parties where a donation is asked, or even required, for many years. This emily post-mortem attitude i see here from some people is ridiculous. Friends get it. what anyone else thinks doesn't matter. If the party, and you, matter more than 5 bucks or a bottle of something, there will be no ill will. anyone who would get their nose bent out of shape over it is someone who isn't worth fretting over, and better to know that's the sort of friend they are now, rather than later.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                          I think the issue is that it is common in some cultures and not common in others. If the OP is asking, my guess is that it's not common for his culture and would not be welcomed. In cases where it's the norm to ask for a donation, I don't think anyone would think twice.

                                                                                                        2. I just had a rethink about this post having not contributed to it before but it seems to me that if the OP asks for $5 a head that will only be maximum $120 which is really neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things - so what is the point?

                                                                                                          The most expensive part of most parties is the booze unless you are only serving beer and soda. So the easiest thing to do is to ask people to BYO. Anyone with manners (another thread lol) will bring something to drink anyhow and those who bring nothing are hardly going to put $5 per person in a pot.

                                                                                                          What is your usual cost for this party? If it's usually $800 and you can only afford $400 make it very clear that you are not providing alcohol so they must bring their own and enough to share. Then cut down your food expenses by making cheaper things. Accept offers of desserts, ice etc.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                                                                            I agree, it's hard to see an upside to asking for donations, even if you leave manners out of it altogether, You won't net very much money, unless you ask for such a large amount that people will then think they deserve some input into how it is spent or that they can second-guess how you spent it. Plus, you won't know until it's over how much you are going to get, so you're not going to have the advantage of knowing how the money affects your budget up front.

                                                                                                            The beauty of BYOB, besides its being an accepted practice, is that you can throw the alcohol part of the budget out, removing uncertainty. From the guests' point of view, it allows them to drink exactly what they want. (By the way, some non-drinkers get annoyed at having to chip in for meals where a large percentage of the cost is liquor, so there's that problem solved.)

                                                                                                            I once attended a funeral where it was mentioned by one of the speakers that the deceased used to put out "donation" pots when he entertained. It was mentioned like it was a foible but really, who wants to be that guy? (No, there was no donation pot at the reception after the funeral.)

                                                                                                            1. re: bibi rose

                                                                                                              I think you need to take a look at what, precisely, makes the party too expensive for you and then address those needs. You'll find that many of the items aren't at all expensive and you have no problem with providing those. Now, figure out what you can spend on the party and look at how many of the expensive items are indepensible or could be brought by those guests who always ask, what can we bring? I suspect that you are going to find that the biggest expenses are the booze -- the byob idea as suggested by many here works well for that -- and expensive ingredients like sirloin steak tips. Although they are ever popular, you could replace that dish with something that costs considerably less. My mom used to discuss entertaining during the depression when they were quite poor. She said that she never turned away from the idea of a party due to lack of money. She just served something inexpensive and friends brought the wine and all had a great time.

                                                                                                          2. I'm just posting this here cause I can't think of the right place. Does anyone here watch the Suze Orman Show (we TiVo it)? She has a segment called "Can I Afford It?" People have to submit their whole financial package: take home pay, all debt including student loans (amazing how many people never pay those off), liquid savings (8 month emergency fund), all retirement $$$, etc. Then she tells the caller if they can afford it. She's said no to people over $100 purchases and yes to $100k purchases. This party sounds like the kind where she says: "DENIED. You can SO not afford this." Parties are totally discretionary and come after the other things are taken care of.

                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              just an fyi, I worked as a financial advisor for several years (sold stocks, bonds, insurance etc.) and the consensus in the industry was Suze Orman was on the same level as Money Magazine. Useless.

                                                                                                              1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                Well, she's not "struggling financially." But the point I was making is a simple one regardless of who says it. Until the basics are taken care of, there's just no room for the "fluff." In my life, there's no room for the luxuries like large, too elaborate parties when I have credit card debt (any). Each of us makes our own entertaining choices within the context of our personal code about spending money. My/our code is a pretty conservative one. We've laughed that we have dear friends who we would never travel with because they live "too high" for us. Could we afford it? Yes. Would we be comfortable with it? Not on a bet.

                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  and neither is Paris Hilton - I am well aware of the point you are trying to make and have made references to it in my own posts.

                                                                                                                  1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                    Well, I gave you an example. It would be easier to give you ideas if you said what you were spending versus what you could budget now.

                                                                                                                    For me, BYOB was fine when I was in college and in my twenties, but now, when I entertain, I entertain. I don't think it's cultural, I think it's age related.

                                                                                                                    If you had a few things like beer and wine and folks wanted something else, they would be welcome to bring it....

                                                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    I think you're spot on. If you have to charge your friends to throw a party, just so it can be up to your culinary standards... then just don't throw the party.

                                                                                                                  3. re: joe777cool

                                                                                                                    I'm not a huge fan of the woman, but she DOES offer some pretty darn practical advice, especially to clueless people trying to live beyond their means while ignoring the reality of their financial situation.

                                                                                                                2. My other idea for you is to host a cocktail party and do hearty hors d'oeuvres. You can still serve some great alcohol, but small appetizers would be far more budget friendly.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Jadore

                                                                                                                    I gotta say though that making hors d'oeuvres for even a small group is a LOT of work. I did it a few years ago cause I love making them. But figured out that I love making one or two, not enough to feed a crowd :)

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jadore

                                                                                                                      thank you Jadore for your out of the box idea - I think that we will be doing something like that for our Xmas party this year in place of a full dinner.

                                                                                                                    2. "Know when to say when"

                                                                                                                      At this point the same points are being beaten to death by the same posters and the tone is becoming increasingly unfriendly. If anyone else has any new ideas or advice to share I will respond, otherwise I have gotten what I came here for - and then some.

                                                                                                                      1. Hi, folks. It seems like everything there is to be said on this topic has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply