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Summer Party - should we ask for a donation?

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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.