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Etiquette for a casual birthday get-together - paying, etc. ??

  • m

Hi all, I'm new here. I found a similar thread while doing a search for this - but it was directed more towards someone inviting people out for their own birthday. In this case, it's my husband's birthday, and I want to surprise him and have friends meet up around 7 or 8 p.m. for drinks. We have young kids and we don't usually go out that late (have sitter for kids for this), but I was thinking about it and probably a lot of people in this group are used to going out and eating dinner later on a Saturday night, so now I'm wondering if this will be expected to be a dinner thing. I'm trying to figure out if I should be planning to buy everyone's dinner, pay the entire tab, or just some appetizers and first round of drinks, etc.? We would probably stay at the same restaurant/brewery the whole time, so people would be hanging around drinking for a while, and I don't want it to be awkward as far as who's paying for what. ?? This will be like 12-15 people- siblings and close friends. I didn't send out invites or evites but just mentioned it to people casually, like oh for his birthday if you are free I'm trying to get some people together. No one asked if it would be dinner or just drinks or what, but I guess they probably don't know what to expect. What is the proper etiquette on something like this? Thanks!

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  1. You will likely get a lot of different answers. If it were me, since it is more of a "just drop in the bar if you can" kind of thing..I would order up several pitchers of a good beer and some big apps for the drop ins. Let them decide if they want something else, something more or if they want to order a full dinner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sedimental

      Excellent answer. I attended a party recently where the host did something similar and it worked out well. They had apps, pitchers of beer and soda for the taking, anyone wanting a $12 Cosmo was on their own.

      To the OP... as far as etiquette is concerned, as long as you are clear on what you are providing, I don't see any breach of etiquette. Not everyone can afford to foot the bill for a huge feast, but that should not preclude a fun get-together.

      Just my 2 strips of bacon :)

    2. If you are really asking what 'proper etiquette' is, folks on these boards will tell you that the host (you) should pay for everything. But I feel that this is not a formal invite kind of event and agree that paying for the first round/pitchers and maybe some group apps should suffice. just let the server know what is on your tab before everyone else shows up. He or she can say "would you like to start a tab?" when someone orders additional food/drink and there should be no awkwardness.

      1. There is no reason you have to pick up everyones tab!! I agree with maybe getting some apetizers and maybe a round of drinks, just is a nice touch. That is dinner time for me , so if i was comming I would get something to eat. i would never expect you to pay for my meal

        1. I agree with all these posters. No need to pay for everyone if people can come and go as they please. Rounds of drinks and some apps should do the trick.

          1. If I were invited out to a birthday gathering at 7 or 8 I would definitely expect it to involve dinner. By setting that time for the celebration, you have invited people for dinner, not drinks, whatever your intention may have been. Proper etiquette would be that the inviter (you) pays for the meal. That said, in my group of friends I definitely wouldn't expect you to pay.

            1. First of all, you should not be worried about paying anyone's tab, bar or otherwise. It might be a little inconvenient for some guests to not know if it's a sit-down dinner or cocktail party, but that's not your problem. They are free to ask you.

              It's hard to wrangle a large group, especially if everyone has their own ideas about how to pay. You are merely asking them to come to the party. Could you be more explicit? Maybe. But do not feel like you have to pay for dinner, or rounds of drinks. After the "surprise," your friends should be buying drinks for you.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chorosch

                I so agree with you. Having a party can be a logistical nightmare and also quite expensive. I applaud anyone who does what they can to bring together people in the real world to talk and socialize. And of course we never know who is suffering financially so the couple that comes but can't buy a round of drinks shouldn't be shunned because of that. Imagine being that couple and hoping you can afford to come.

              2. You need to tell people what to expect. If you are doing drinks and "heavy" apps then tell them that. If it's just drinks make it earlier IMHO. I enjoy "heavy" apps rather than dinner but have been to parties where some of the people then order something larger or leave to eat elsewhere, their choice and their bill but they need to know what you have planned.

                1. Why not just tell everyone? Problem comes when it's not clear. "oh for his birthday if you are free I'm trying to get some people together. I'll buy beer and apps." One additional sentence and there is no guessing.