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Mom's 70th Birthday Dinner at restaurant w/ friends. Who pays the check?


We are celebrating my Mom's 70th Birthday next month at a nice restaurant and we will be inviting 4 other couples which are close friends of my Mom's. We will be sending out invitiations to join us for dinner to help celebrate. There are 4 of us (Mom, my husband, our son and myself) plus 8 other guests.
My question is are my husband and I expected to pick up the check for all 8 guests? We can't exactly afford that!


  1. Who would you think is paying if you got an invitation in the mail to any type of party, held at _____ (any location)?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      Who would assume that someone else would pick up the bill just because they got invited out to dinner to celebrate a birthday? Wow how RUDE it that???

      1. re: KFARGY

        Invitation in the mail.

        ANY type of party (wedding shower, baby shower, wedding, graduation, retirement, birthday).

        ANY location (home, rented facility, restaurant, public park).

        Not rude. You invited me. You pay.

        Ask your mom who she thinks is paying if she gets an invitation in the mail for someone's party. Be hypothetical and say you got one. Tell her that you are expected to pay. Then ask her the definition of rude.

        1. re: KFARGY

          The only people who can invite are the hosts. They are HOSTING, and paying.

          Events that require the person attending to pay issues tickets, monies collected up front or at conclusions.

          Which is your Mother's dinner?

      2. You issue the invitation, you're paying. That's the name of the game.

        Otherwise, just buy and make some really good food and feed everyone at home yourself.

        You might see what a local Personal Chef would charge for dinner for 12 to be prepared and served at your home. As a Personal Chef, my fee for that service is $350 plus the actual cost of groceries. You're not going to get individual orders that way, but I would offer two entrees to chose from.

        1. When you invite people to dinner, it's on you.

          1. Usually he who invites pays. If you can't afford that, you can informally invite the couples and make it clear that it is dutch. They may not be able to afford it either, and shouldn't be put in a awkward situation at the restaurant. If it is a financial burden, your family can dine out, then invite the friends for cake and champagne at your or your mother's home afterward.

            1. Maybe you should live in Egypt! We were invited to birthday celebrations at restaurants two times while we were in Egypt -- invited by the celebrant -- and both time the event was Dutch! But that is not the custom in the US, and if you have mailed invitations without specifying that you were expecting the guests to chip in, the assumption would be that the guests are being invited and treated. Why don't you call the restaurant and work out a simple, more low cost menu that is something that you can afford. Once the invitations are issues, I don't see how you can go back and ask the invitees to pay.

              1. Pick a cheaper restaurant.

                1. I always get invited to birthday dinners for others and pay for myself only. The host usually pays for the b-day person, while everyone else pays for their own meal, or sometimes, we will all split the b-day persons meal among us. But never has a host picked up the entire tab.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: mymomisthebestcook

                    You must be very young. As an adult, if you invite people to dinner, they don't expect to pay.

                    1. re: purple bot

                      I can't imagine age is an issue. I'm in my 20s and would expect to not pay if I were getting an invitation to a birthday dinner. As mentioned, if it's an informal thing (even at a formal restaurant), then I'd expect to say, but getting an invitation? That's a clue to me that I'm not paying (not that I might not contribute money at the end of the evening).

                      In short, if there's an obvious host, I'd expect to not pay. If there's no obvious host, then anything's fair game, though the norm in my case would be to pay for my meal and kick in a portion for the birthday/anniversary/whatever person(s).

                      1. re: Ali

                        Right.. it's all in the invitation! I haven't even bought them yet, so it looks like I'll be calling and casually inviting them. That does make a huge difference.
                        thanks Ali!

                        1. re: KFARGY

                          Your initial reaction that it's rude to assume someone else would pick up the bill at a birthday dinner is contrary to everything I've ever known to be the case. But I've found that different circles of friends and families have different 'routines' and 'customs' for this kind of thing. If you DO know that these people will all know they're expected to chip in that's fine, but unless you're sure, I'd find some nice way of making it clear. In my world, the difference between a written invite and a call would not convey that.

                          I do agree, though, with another poster who suggested that this could be an age thing, but when someone seems to be taking on the role hosting a celebratory dinner for their mother (as in organizing it and inviting her froiends), it can be interpreted as something other than 'let's all get together to celebrate Mom's birthday'. That, to me anyway, would be more likely among peers than in this situation. I'd just think it'd be better to be sure than to create an awkward situation.

                          Hope it all works out well.

                      2. re: purple bot

                        im 50. amongst friends on someones birthday, we usually all pay together, and all together cover the B-day havers check as well.

                        this of course only applies to close friends who are peers

                        1. re: purple bot

                          I was thinking the same thing. Either young people or a group of co-workers will do that, but not after receiving an invitation, it's more like, "a group of us are planning to take so and so out for her birthday and split the tab, would you like to be included?" Common, not analagous to the OP's question.

                          1. re: mcf

                            That's what I was getting at. Plus, the person I was responding to is called "mymomisthebestcook" -- sounds like a young person. Nothing wrong with that or with people splitting dinner for a b-day, but the OP's description was different and more common as you get older (and presumably have more $$): hosting, by invitation, a dinner for their older parents and inviting their parent's friends. The way it was presented, I'd definitely not expect to pay. It wasn't meant as an insult to young people.

                            1. re: purple bot

                              I agree. When my 16yo daughter and her friends get together to celebrate a friends birthday, they each pay their own way and chip in for the birthday person's meal.

                              This is not the case when my husband and I get together with friends to celebrate. In our group, whoever does the inviting also does the paying. I would be very surprised if we were asked to chip in.

                              I think it is important to choose a restaurant that is affordable for whomever is hosting. We have celebrated and hosted at all sorts of places including everything from 5 star restaurants to sports bars. It all depends on the hosts budget and we always have a good time. I just don't think it is cool to invite people and then expect them to pay particularly if it is not made clear up front.

                              1. re: purple bot

                                I was just agreeing with you and expanding a bit. Still agreeing. :-)

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Ahh, the subtleties of online text. I knew you agreed with me, you just said it better than I did. I felt like others were insulted by the "you must be young" comment, but you got what I was saying. =)

                          2. re: mymomisthebestcook

                            I'm in the same boat. I've been to a lot of birthday dinners where someone calls up and says "we're taking so and so out for their birthday, want to join us?" In this instance I've always paid for my own dinner, and often chipped in on the guest of honor and his/her spouse.

                            But on the other hand, i can't recall EVER getting a formal (written) invitation to a restuarant where I would be ordering off the menu (as opposed to a private party in a separate room at a restuarant w/ a set menu - in that case I would expect the host to pay). If I did receive such an invitation, I think it would be good manners for the host to pay, but I also wouldn't go if it were somewhere I couldn't afford, because you never know.

                            1. re: danna

                              The 'invitations' haven't been sent and I will probably end up calling up and casually inviting them. You are right in that written invitatations are usually for the private party, seperate room atmosphere, this is not the case.
                              thanks for the input

                            2. re: mymomisthebestcook

                              That is sort of my thinking also.. Not that we wouldn't be prepared to pay, but just to sit back and let one person pick up the bill when it is a casual, 'get together' for dinner would be rude, IMO. I know I don't do that.

                              1. re: KFARGY

                                "casual, 'get together'" is a casual informal, hey we're getting together for...blah blah blah. information delivered in person, over the phone or email.
                                Sending invitations, makes it formal and the social etiquette rules apply.

                            3. If you cannot afford it, then it's time for Plan B. I liked the suggestion of you having dinner with your family and then inviting the other couples over for cake, champagne and coffee after dinner.

                              1. A few years ago, my sister and I were invited to our cousin's 40th birthday dinner at a restaurant. I said on the invitation "dutch treat". So we knew that we would be paying for ourselves. If you are planning to ask people to contribute money, then you have to be clear from the beginning. Otherwise, they will assume they are being invited to a party and the bill will be taken care of by the hosts.

                                Would I ever do such a thing? Never. If it's a casual thing where people get together and say "hey, let's take xxxx out for their birthday", that's one thing. But something where you are inviting people out? You should be responsible for paying.

                                My sister and I still laugh about the "dutch treat" thing. And not in a kind way.

                                1. Yes, we did this for my Mom's retirement party, and we couldn't really afford it either, but we paid for it. We had a limited menu and the restaurant printed up cards with the selected entrees, that helped cut costs. A couple of people gave us money towards their dinners, but we didn't expect that. You only retire once. You only turn 70 once, etc. If you can't afford any kind of party where you have to pay for others, celebrate at home and just have cake and some apps or something.

                                  1. If I received an invitation in the mail I would assume that I would not be paying for anything and would bring a gift. I would especially not expect to pay if I was in my 70s and my friend's grown up children in their 30s and 40s had issued the invitation.

                                    Even if you call them, I would still not expect them to pay. I really suggest you strongly rethink this outing. Your mom would possibly be very embarrassed to see her friends pay. How much can you afford? Find somewhere that will do a set meal for the figure you can afford including drinks, tax and tip. If it still does not fall into your budget consider an afternoon tea shop or a sunday breakfast or brunch, or cater at home either brunch, lunch or supper. Either give this to your mom with love and respect for her and her friends or just take her out yourselves with no friends, and invite them over for coffee, cake and a drink after dinner.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: smartie

                                      Ah. Now there's a consideration none of us thought of. For me, being on the younger side of the equation, an informal celebration is definitely something where I expect to pay, but I have often had lectures from my parents (in their 60s) about why I didn't pay when going out with friends. In fact, now that I think about it, I can't recall a single ocassion where I've been out with my parents/their friends where the check was split, and I've picked up the check once or twice myself. I always wrote this up to being Asian ...

                                      OP - this definitely an important consideration. What will your mother think if her friends were to chip in? Would she be embarassed (my mother would be)? Or would she think it was normal (as I'm inclined to)?

                                      Without the consideration of age, I stand by my answer, but since you did mention 70th birthday, smartie was a smartie in mentioning that it might be an important consideration.

                                      1. re: smartie

                                        I completely agree with you on the not paying/gift thing. And when my sister and I were invited to this birthday dinner (mentioned above), we knew we would be paying yet we still brought a gift. Because it was the right thing to do. But we were the only people that brought a gift out of about 15 people.

                                        1. re: smartie

                                          You know, the gift question might be the perfect way for the OP to be sure her guests know the drill. She could say something like "this is a casual affair, we'll be going dutch, so please don't bring a gift, your presence is your gift."

                                          I had not thought about the question of what would Mom think. The OP probably knows what is customary in her Mom's circle, but if not...maybe she should feel her Mom out on the subject.

                                          1. re: danna

                                            It's really considered bad manners to tell folks what/how or what not to gift.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              I think we've already gone past the point of excrutiatingly correct manners here and are just trying to insure no ugly surprises at the dinner.

                                        2. This one is easy.

                                          If jfood receives an invitation to attend a b'day dinner for a mom, a son/daughter, a spouse, or other member of the invotor's family, then the person inviting pays. That is VERY basic decorum.

                                          If a group of friends get together and take a birthday person out to lunch then the bill is split amongst the non-celebrant.

                                          Whether the invitation is snail mail, e-mail, or a phone call you asking people to join in the celebration of your mom is 100% on your nickel. Calling versus sending in writing has absolutely nothing to do with it.

                                          Jfood could not imagine anything else.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            I'm with jfood.
                                            Your mom's 70th birthday and her friends, you pay.
                                            You think there's going to be a 75th?

                                            What would her friend's think if they had to pay...their kids probably threw them a party and your mom was invited and didn't have to pay.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              Go to a Chinese restaurant, order off the menu and you could get out of there for $100 including tax and tip.

                                          2. I am not 70 years old, like your mother, but I would be absolutely mortified if my family invited people to celebrate my birthday with dinner at a nice restaurant and expected them to pay for themselves. Ye Gods!

                                            It wouldn't make one whit of difference if they sent engraved invitations via the U.S. Postal service or made telephone calls. He who invites, pays. Period.

                                            With money being problematic, would you consider a brunch instead of a dinner? Brunch is much less expensive AND your bar bill shouldn't be as high as dinner would likely be.

                                            1. Usually, if you invite people anywhere, that makes you the host, and traditionally, the host pays. If your group of friends has some other arrangement that is usual for you, then the most important thing you should do is to sort out who will pay before you invite them. With my group of polite, old-fashioned friends, I would be shocked to receive a call, evite, or other form of invitation and then be asked to pay.

                                              So you might think of a cute way to say up front that each couple will pay for their own meal and then contribute to your mom's meal, however you think it should go.
                                              But honestly, if you're not able to treat everyone, I think it might be better just to have a nice dinner for 12 in your own home. Unless your mom is a formal person, it wouldn't have to be a sit down meal. You could do an interesting buffet and maybe order a cake from a really good bakery. I always think it's more polite to entertain in a style you can afford than to expect others to pay.

                                              1. It's our usual family tradition that we celebrate birthdays at someone's home. However for my 60th birthday last week, I decided we'd go to a restaurant. I paid, of course - would never have crossed my mind that I'd expect guests to contribute.

                                                1. DH and I were actually on the opposite end of a Birthday invite recently. The invitation said Drinks and Dinner and that cocktails would be served by the host couple. This to me, meant that they were providing drinks, but dinner would be on us, which was fine. Especially knowing ahead of time. But when we got there, both drinks and dinner was on them. Go figure. That said, unless it was agreed upon before hand, I would expect if I invited someone to dinner, I would pay. If we are discussing on just "getting together", then I would expect "dutch".

                                                  1. I agree with everyone who said that you should invite them to an event that you CAN afford to pay for, whether that's a less expensive restaurant, brunch, cake and champagne after a smaller dinner, or whatever (and calling doesn't solve the issue).

                                                    1. My guess from your responses is that you are going to ask people to pay. In that case, there are precedents about how to do that. Here's one link on how to do that gracefully.

                                                      Some excerpts from that link

                                                      'If you are not providing anything like appetizers and dessert I would not call it an invitation. The word Invitation denotes that the host is treating to something.

                                                      That sort of gathering would only need a postcard saying, "We are gathering for a Dutch Treat dinner to celebrate John's birthday." Date, Time, etc. and phone number to call to RSVP Yes or No.'

                                                      The writer of the article goes on to say "I think it is fine to ask guests to pay their way. You will have organized the event for them and are creating the day to bring people together ... It isn't tacky at all."

                                                      If you google on party invitation guests pay you will come up with lots of suggestions on how to handle this situation.

                                                      While this site states" In the strictest sense of etiquette, it is not proper to ask guests to pay to attend a party. Etiquette experts agree that hosts should deploy cost-cutting measures (have an informal dessert party, whittle the guest list, etc.) rather than requesting guests foot their own bill." It goes on to say some people do it these days and gives an example on how to handle it

                                                      Emily Post says when asked about a similar situation "How wonderful that you’d like to treat the birthday girl to dinner out! Unfortunately, since you wouldn’t charge guests to attend a party in your home, it wouldn’t be appropriate to charge them to attend a party in a restaurant and ask them to pay extra to cover the birthday girl’s meal. It’s best to make it clear when you extend the invitation that you both are acting more as “coordinators” than as hosts."

                                                      I love how polite people can phrase things ... calling the person asking the question wonderful for being thoughtful for wanting to organize an event ... and gently advising them about the situation. Well done, Emily

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        Take the above advice and THEN SPRING FOR THE DESSERT. That'll sooth any ruffled feathers, I bet. After all, it *is* a Birthday Party and they need cake and ice cream. ;-)

                                                      2. So why not take her out to dinner and forget the others (can you afford to pay for just your mom?).

                                                        Then again, I'm sure she didn't ask whether she could afford to raise you before she had you!~) Maybe it's the least you can do on her 70th... Lm

                                                        1. I am against asking the friends to pay, but even if she does go ahead then it's going to look even tackier when it's time to pay and who is going to divvy up the check, figure out who had what and drank what. And is the OP going to at least foot the bill for alcohol like some champagne for a toast?

                                                          And then what if one of mom's friends who can afford it, or who feels that they ought to pay for the whole check goes ahead and pays? To me that would be embarrassing.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                            Ah, it was late last night when I posted.

                                                            I did mean to add that the payment should be arranged either before the dinner or after ... OUTSIDE the restaurant. Do NOT get the bill and settle up at the table in front of your mother. That would be like giving her a group gift and then telling everyone to pay up in front of her.

                                                            If you decide to ask the friends to pay, I would either

                                                            1. Estimate the charge and collect the money before hand. You'll have to google to find out to handle that gracefully. Tell people if the meal is under the estimate you will refund the extra money after the event.

                                                            2. Ask the restaurant for a set menu and price and include the menu with the invitation. Sort of along the lines of wedding invitations that ask if you want chicken, fish or a veggie entree.

                                                            So the menu would be along the lines of

                                                            Dave's birthday menu. Select one of the following in each category


                                                            - Garden lettuce salad with citrus vinaigrette
                                                            - Roasted tomato soup


                                                            - Grilled chicken with crispy potatoes, peperonata, and Marsala sauce
                                                            - House-made pappardelle with tomatoes, garlic, basil, and ricotta


                                                            - Choice of celebratory sparkling wine or non-alcoholic beverage
                                                            - Coffee, tea, juice, soft drink

                                                            Birthday cake will be provided

                                                            $40 per person

                                                            I'm sure someone will give a better way to handle this. Just don't ask for the money at the table in front of your mom

                                                            With a anticipated party of 12, most nice restaurants will often request a set menu be selected anyway.

                                                            I do want to add, you have links to what the etiquette experts say on the subject. The majority of responses in this thread are against asking for payment. So you should prepare yourself that one or more of the couples you ask will have the same response. They may or may not say it to you directly. Be prepared to be talked about.

                                                            On the other hand you know your friends better than we do. This may be perfectly acceptible to them. Any way ... my early birthday wishes to your mom.

                                                            1. re: smartie

                                                              I would really rethink the whole idea of a dinner in a fancy restaurant. In this economy, and for a group of people around 70, it seems like putting a lot on people. Even if they (or you) can pay, a lot of older people don't really want a large evening meal on any given day.

                                                              I recently got invited to a birthday celebration for someone a little older than 70. It was appetizers and birthday cake and it was in the afternoon. Basically, afternoon tea. It was charming. Do something like that and take your Mom out to dinner by yourselves, if she enjoys that.

                                                            2. you do! and unless you choose a place that is affordable, have it at home or someone's home.

                                                              but there can be just as much fun without spending a truckload.

                                                              1. Hi all. 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.