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Nov 13, 2010 04:15 PM

Asking your friends to pay?


I have a birthday coming up and what I really want to do is cook a 3 course meal. Antipasti, Lasagna (from scratch with fresh pasta) with veggies and salad and a desert plus wine. For 10 + this meal could run to around over $400. That's more than I can afford/want to spend. Is it bad form to ask the invitees to chip in, about $30 per person? Have you ever cooked a meal for your friends and asked them to pay you?


  1. How well do you know these "friends", what do you think they would think?

    Personally, I'd be somewhat miffed if you asked me to chip in for your birthday whether you cooked the meal or invited me to a restaurant.

    1. Maybe it's me, but I don't see how a lasagna (made from scratch) dinner for 10 could cost over $400.
      I'm sure some of the guests will bring wine. I don't think it would be out of the question to ask a few of the closer friends to maybe supply the salad and desserts.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monku

        I can see the cost if you are doing top quality ingredients all the way. If you are including wine, the cost can skyrocket depending upon taste. However, never would I ask my friends to chip in for a homemade meal. That is my gift to them (I'd like to think). Otherwise, I would set it up as a potluck with suggestions--if asked. Cocktails/wine can always be scaled back if you decide to go it alone. Good luck and happy birthday.

      2. I think it's bad form to ask guests to pay. Otherwise, they are not guests, they are sponsors. However, there's nothing wrong with lamenting aloud to your close friends that you'd love to cook a really nice dinner for them and a few others, but don't really have the means, and see what happens.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Isolda

          Sorry, have to disagree. Fishing for compliments is bad, but fishing for contributions? The only thing for which one should fish is . . .fish.

          1. re: gaffk

            I wasn't suggesting an overt fishing expedition. I was thinking more along the lines of "I was thinking of cooking a fancy three course meal for you guys, but (laughing) I'd have to charge people if I tried something like that. I am going to make myself a birthday cake, though. Why don't you come over for pizza on Friday after work?"

            Hearing that, I'd offer to make the cake or come up with ideas for making the three course meal less expensive, or even offer to bring some of the ingredients and help as my birthday gift. If others don't, well, then pizza and beer are a fine birthday meal for a person in his/her 20s, as I assume the OP is.

            1. re: Isolda

              personally i'd be insulted by a friend who uses subterfuge or less than direct speech.

              if these are friends - then "i wan't to cook dinner for all of us, but to do it the way i want to, given my economic state, i'd need help paying for all the ingredients" is truthful, direct, and refreshingly lacking in bullshit

              1. re: thew

                I wasn't thinking of subterfuge at all. My hypothetical commenter is more than willing to make the pizza and have that instead. I agree that subterfuge is wrong, but subtlety is fine. I think we're so used to direct, in-your-face language these days that people have forgotten how to give (or read) gentle hints. I think a direct plea for help paying is crass, but a joking hint that entertaining is expensive is fine.

                But in all honesty, I think people should entertain only in a style they can afford without asking for help. This goes for small birthday celebrations to weddings. If you can't afford booze, have cake and punch for your celebration.

                1. re: Isolda

                  Here's the problem with "gentle hints" (ignoring the manipulative aspects).

                  Many people do not get "gentle hints". Then when people do not respond as the hinter wishes, the hinter gets upset. The person who didn't get the "hint" doesn't understand why the hinter is upset with them, and then that person gets upset.

                  Let's not do the "gentle hint" thing. Adults really don't need to behave like that. Being direct doesn't have to mean being rude. Just be direct, without being rude.

                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                    I agree with you about gentle hints. I know there are lots of things I'd like to do but can't afford, so I can't see mentioning one of those activities as coming across to someone else as a hint that I'd like him or her to pitch in. If someone told me he'd like to host a fancy dinner at his house but can't afford it at the moment, I'd think that he was just giving a reason why he's serving budget-oriented options or having a potluck. It would not even occur to me that he's giving a gentle hint for contributions.

                    In this case, I still think the direct approach is just as bad, as it puts the guest on the spot. However, at least when someone says no or looks uncomfortable and says yes, you know that person understands what you mean.

                  2. re: Isolda

                    "gentle hints" I have to tell you, nothing annoys me more than people who cant say what they mean and mean what they say. ESPECIALLY in this case a direct approach would be best. Too much can be lost in translation.

                    leave the "gentle hints" to what you want from your spouse for christmas

                    1. re: joe777cool

                      The reciprocal of this is: never make a request if you are not prepared to hear No as the answer. Often, people making requests are not so prepared.

                      This dynamic is a bit easier between (1) total strangers, and (2) full intimates.

                      But, groups of friends often include people who are in-between; there may be higher-activity-but-lower-intimacy relationships in the group. Indirect communication tends to thrive in relationships where intimacy levels are shifting and evolving. Food and feast rituals can exacerbate this because they involve appetites and pre-rational impulses.

                      1. re: joe777cool

                        You folks would totally hate my family, then! I grew up in a family of uptight WASPs where *nothing* was ever stated explicitly. Subtle hints were how we did business. But I will concede that many of us did need therapy....;)

                        Example 1: "What an interesting dish!"
                        Translation: "Wow, this really sucks! Everybody stay away!"

                        Example 2: "He seems nice enough, but his table manners are a bit common."
                        Translation: "Your boyfriend ate with his face level with the table, used his fork like a backhoe and shoveled his food in his mouth, making the most appalling noises."

                        1. re: Isolda

                          Isolda: "she's so sweet... bless her heart"

                          meaning; I think she's mentally disabled

                          or "law no it is delicious, but I could not have another (second) bite"

                          meaning: gimme a moment and look the other way while I spit it into my napkin

                  3. re: Isolda

                    I wish people would read all the comments, otherwise why post? OP said he is no "spring chicken". Hopefully, that is older than 20s.

              2. I would not feel comfortable asking my friends to pay for dinner at my house, especially if it was to celebrate my birthday. Then again, I usually go away for my birthday in a vain attempt to avoid any celebration (buggers always want to take me out before I leave or after I return).

                If you want to entertain your friends, but do not have the budget for a three course meal, why not invite them over for wine & apps or wine & cheese? You can even ask your closest friends to bring a bottle of wine if you like.

                Like monku, I don't know how a lasagna dinner for 10 cooked at home could cost $40/pp. Then again, I don't know what kinds of wine or food you have in mind.

                11 Replies
                1. re: gaffk

                  Maybe they're charging for their labor too.

                  Just out of curiosity maybe the OP can provide an itemized list.
                  Antipasti =

                  1. re: monku

                    Profit =

                    You forgot profit.

                    How do I put this delicately. Anyone enterprising enough to charge for a dinner party at home, surely accounts for at least a minimal profit margin (after facctoring in for overhead -- i.e., things like water, electricity and/or gas, use of silverware and plates, tables and chairs, etc.)

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I've made killer lasagna in those disposable turkey roaster pans(easily could feed 10) for like $25. No fresh pasta but everything else from almost scratch.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Somebody sure sees the glass half empty! While I think $30/pp is a bit steep of an ESTIMATE, depending on the alcohol and ingredients it could come close. The op spoke in very general terms "could run" and "about $30," to jump to the conclusion that the author is trying to make a profit off their friends isnt fair at all.

                        I put up a similar thread over the summer about a party I was throwing and wether it was ok to ask for donations or not. Hopefully this thread stays civil, as mine sure didnt. Some posts turned condescending and downright personal. Not all of us have the money to throw the parties that we once did or (as chowhounds) would like to - and that leaves us looking for other options. If you dont understand this or cant offer a suggestion without being condescending than maybe this isnt the post for you! (not directed at anyone)

                        Anyways - my advice, after having a similar situation, is do what you can afford. Turn it into a potluck of sorts - 1 guest brings a bottle of wine, 1 a dessert, 1 a salad - and you provide the main course. You cant have artistic control of a meal and expect others to pay for it. If you want to have 100% control you will have to pay for it 100%.

                        1. re: joe777cool

                          Maybe poorly chosen words by the OP, but ......

                          "Have you ever cooked a meal for your friends and asked them to pay you?"

                          joke or no joke.......sound's like they want to "profit" off their friends.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          Sorry, but no. I give the OP the benefit of the doubt and think (s)he is using high-end ingredients for an over-the-top dinner. Unfortunately, if (s)he charges for dinner, this is the type of comments that will be circulating. Especially if it is for his\her own b'day.

                          Go with the apps & wine or cheese & wine--whichever you feel you can afford. If you "charge" your guests, you will be subject to like of minku & ipseditx, who think you are looking to make a profit from the dinner. And although I am a reasonable friend--really?

                          Now here's where I get snarky--if you're over 18, your birthday is no longer a national holiday. If you're over 25, run the other way on your b'day.

                          1. re: gaffk

                            I don't think I ever said the OP was looking to make a profit.
                            I'm surprised a home cooked lasagna dinner for 10 "could run", "about" $400.

                            When you say "high-end" ingredients what are you talking truffles in the lasagna? The OP never mentioned using high end ingredients, that's an assumption other posters are making.

                            1. re: monku

                              If the OP could make pasta with truffles for only 40/person, I'd like to get her supplier's info.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                       sells this pack of 7 oz truffle peelings and two 250 mL bottles of truffle oils. $100 That should be enough for ten people.


                              2. re: monku

                                I am still not getting how it can cost that much without alcohol. I remember the most expensive meal I made, it involved $30/lb prime steak, uni and lobster, and less than $40 per person without alcohol.

                                1. re: ribeye621

                                  I am including wine in that number. And as I said it was just an estimate.


                      2. wow $400?? I am doing T-giving for 10 and I don't expect to spend more than $100-150 which will include the turkey, sides, dessert and apps to eat before we sit at the table. Wine can be bought for $5-10 a bottle - ask your friends to bring the drinks.