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What to do - wealthy sister booked extravagant restaurant for family member's birthday!

My sister and aunt are very very wealthy and I'm not. They are taking my stepmother out to dinner at a very expensive restaurant ($45 and up a plate) and just expect the entire family (some of whom are like me and not wealthy) to eat there and pay (not to mention the expensive wine). I think that if you expect others to pay, you should make the restaurant choice up to the entire group. They are making me feel ashamed that I just cannot afford it and don't want to put more on my credit card than I feel comfortable doing. I cannot afford, nor do I like, being extravagant. But I don't have a choice because I'm absolutely expected to be there and I'm staying with my stepmom.

Who is in the right? What should I do and say?

(Does it matter that I'm in stepmom's town, as everyone is, to attend my stepmother's kids' bnai mitzvah. I am flying across the country to attend and am staying with her, as a lot of people are. I would love to take her out just not to such an expensive restaurant, and I think it's inconsiderate for my sister to just assume that everyone can afford this. To her, it's practically a sin to not be wealthy. I'm not ashamed at all - in fact I'm proud that I'm more practical and not extravagant and don't put social standing above all else)

What are your thoughts? Anyone else with family members like this?

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  1. Could you just order an appetizer and beverage? Your sister sounds inconsiderate. But you already know this.

    4 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      My aunt just agreed to pay for my meal but now I'm embarassed. I just hate being put in this position. I'm actually a very generous person, but I just don't like other people spending my money. My sister said that I basically owed her (my stepmom) because I'm staying with her. I agree I owe her a gift but not a $200 dinner (what it'll be when all is said and done). I'm very careful about my money.

      1. re: pamsanclemente

        Smile, and say "thank-you," and pay half.

      2. re: sueatmo

        An appetizer and drink wouldn't work because everyone who is "expected to pay" is expected to just lay their credit card on the heap and split it however many ways.

        1. re: pamsanclemente

          OK. So you don't live by their rules. Who makes these rules anyway? Order what you can afford, put a smile on your face, look your best, and pay for your own meal. If the others want to give you grief about something, they'll find it no matter what you do.You have to choose not to be a victim.

          You don't owe anyone anything that you can't afford. This isn't a debt. In this case you will have to be gracious, even if the others aren't. And you will look better than they.

          Or you can choose to take your aunt's offer.

          Good luck.

      3. You talk to your sister. Be truthful, swallow your pride. She is the one who needs to be ashamed, not you. Tell her what you told us. Alone. Don't put any judgement about her into it, just tell her the facts, it's out of your price range, period. If she still insists, then go, get a drink and a bowl of soup. And smile when you place your order, saying you want it with the meal, not as an appetizer or before others get their main dish.

        1. Tell her exactly what you just told us. The truth will set you free!

          7 Replies
            1. re: joe777cool

              I did tell her! She said that I owe it to my stepmom because I'm staying with her and it's her favorite restaurant.

              The truth only sets you free when you are dealing with people who are considerate.

              1. re: pamsanclemente

                then politely decline this invitation as you have planned something very nice for just you and the stepmother. alone.

                1. re: hill food

                  Yes, what hill food said. She can go find someone else to manipulate or shame. Your love for your family is not measured in dollars and cents. Hold your chin up and politely decline, if you like.

                  Edited to add - if you are comfortable being paid for, then sure, say thank you and accept and STILL hold your chin up. Status schmatus. Someone's being tacky and it isn't you.

                  1. re: Vetter

                    "Status schmatus. Someone's being tacky and it isn't you."

                    now THAT is a mantra I need to remember.

                2. re: pamsanclemente

                  You could always whip a bag of McDonalds out of your purse! Joking aside, she needs to be reminded that these events are about the family coming together not about whos bank account is the biggest. It would be nice of you to treat your host to a nice meal, but it has to be within the comforts of YOUR budget, not what you sister deems necessary.

                  The "charity" of your Aunt seems innocent but would indeed rub me the wrong way as well. If your wealthy aunt/sister are so gracious to invite the family, shouldnt they be gracious enough to pay the ENTIRE bill?

                  1. re: joe777cool

                    Exactly, they want to be gracious, they want to be generous, they are wealthy so why not pay for the whole thing.

              2. Take some advice from a former first lady: just say no.

                1. Since you and other members of your family are not wealthy and paying that much, even though the bill is split equally, would be a financial drain, you should get together with them and see if you can propose another restaurant that is affordable. After speaking with them and selecting a place, you should approach your sister with them as a unit and propose the more affordable place. If you sister still insists on splurging on your stepmom then she should alone and not at the expense of others. I don't know where you live, but there must be good but less expensive options. I doubt that your stepmom would enjoy the meal knowing that it'll be hard or impossible for others to pay that much (and feel comfortable enjoying the experience). I know that you and at least a few of the others probably won't enjoy the experience as much.

                  Also, if your sister is so wealthy, she surely can foot the whole bill if she wants so badly to eat at a particular restaurant and give your stepmom the experience of dining there. Personally, I have a group of friends with whom I dine with regularly. Some have financially lucrative jobs and some are poor grad students with an ever increasing load of loans. We try to find a place that both sides can feel comfortable with. It can be a challenge sometimes when the majority wants to eat a certain place, especially a new acclaimed restaurant, but one person doesn't feel comfortable spending money on an expensive restaurant. The same is true when one friend wants to spend several hundred on an extravagant meal that the others don't. We compromise.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lulumoolah

                    Wouldn't work. The other family members who aren't wealthy are on my stepmom's side of the family and... I don't know..... they (we) just have no say. My stepmom is wealthy too. It's just assumed that it will be an expensive meal since that's basically what the family is about - expensive meals. When my dad was alive he would pay for everything.

                    But thank you everyone for making me feel better. My sister is so unbelievably strong willed, that I just get swept up into her way of thinking. Thanks for supporting me.

                    1. re: pamsanclemente

                      Take a deep breath. Go halves with your aunt, and then be sure to send everyone that did anything "for" you (put you up at their house, the aunt), a nice, handwritten thank-you note. Smile, kill 'em with kindness, be gracious, even if they aren't.

                  2. Your aunt agreed to pay for you....problem solved. So just say thank you and enjoy the evening rather than making it you needing to prove what a jerk your sister is. If what you have said about her is true, then I think we would all agree she is a jerk. There, now go have a nice dinner and be glad you have an aunt with money.

                    1. I agree with Esco, let the Aunt pay, have a nice time, enjoy the food, and try and make a nice memory.

                      Then take the Aunt out for a lunch that you can afford and think she will like, or get her a nice gift in your budget, so she knows that you really appreicate being able to attend.

                      I have a well off brother. I have stopped trying to compete. We meet several times a year in a cool town half way between our homes. He pays the hotel, I bring great wine I make, and tasty snacks from home. I pay my way there and back and we hang out and enjoy ourselves.

                      Make a nice memory.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Luna2372

                        As I have gotten older, there is one question that often gets issues solved: Would you rather be right or rather be happy? Because, unfortunately, you often cannot be both at the same time so take your pick. (I used to go for "right" far too often.)

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Guilty of that myself.

                          But why not make a great memory. Be funny, tell a joke, be kind. BE A SPARKLING GUEST!

                        2. re: Luna2372

                          Luna2372 is right. Smile graciously and let your aunt pay for your meal then take her out the next day to a place you can afford. Or buy her a box of nice chocolates to thank her.

                        3. Why does this remind me of the post-Thanksgiving sale ad I saw in the paper today for a talking doll that says not "Ma-Ma" but "Crazy Bitch!". Look. You are going to have issues with your sister. They will surround her like an aura wherever she goes. She is all about money and power and money and power. Don't let her issues become yours and ruin your life. How gracious of Auntie to cover your dinner. Thank her kindly. Provide a thank-you gift for your hostess (supermarket flowers will cost you <$5). Don't let any of this get to be about you, and try to end the visit without a confrontation. Then fly home again and remind yourself why you don't live in the same town with your family.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Querencia

                            That doll thing is shocking. Truly shocking. I had to google it. wow

                          2. It's a difficult one - and one I don't have an answer to.

                            My partner & I had good jobs before we retired and have good pensions now. One of my sisters in law also has a good job. None of the other family members have been that fortunate in life.

                            It's always been difficult at family occasions. The other family members can't really afford to eat out at even casual places. The unspoken solution is that we and the sister in law always end up paying for the whole group. I suspect that no-one is thrilled with that.

                            1. You said that they expect everyone to lay down their credit cards and pay equally no matter what they ordered. Why can you not ask for your order on a separate bill and pay in cash? Just say that you don't have a credit card that can be used and have only enough cash to pay for your own small meal and to contribute your part to step-mom's meal. I'm sorry, but we go into debt for no reason at all and I wouldn't be bullied into doing this. Your sister doesn't sound like a person you'd want to be around a lot. If nothing else, take up your aunt's offer graciously, and thank her afterward in whatever way you can afford.

                              1. I must be in the minority here, I would NOT take the Aunts "charity" as it would make me feel uncomfortable. Order what you can afford, and then pay seperate as others above have mentioned. Dont feel pressured to acclimate to their rules or lower your pride and accept a free meal.

                                1. Let me try to distill this down so I can get a grasp. A relative has enlisted you in a situation without clearing it with you first. You declined and stated your reasons why. Another relative volunteered to solve your problem without recompense.

                                  Please be gracious, and just say thank you.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                    I'm w. INDIANRIVERFL. This seems to be the best way to cut the drama. And, if your sister persists, say what I heard today. Just smile, and say, "I hear what you're saying". And, leave it at that.

                                    1. Wow...ton of issues here, probably not solvable.
                                      First of all, a dinner reservation was made out of your price range. It happens to all of us I think, I don't think that the assumption that since Sis made the reservation and is wealthy she can afford to treat everyone. That's just wrong. The truth is, we don't know what everyone's financial truths are. People are living a lifestyle on a ton of credit these days, so those who appear to have everything may be spending to keep up appearances on credit rather than being honest about it. You are just being honest about it. What I do in these situations is say, oh sorry I wont be able to make it for dinner, but I'll be there for dessert, for sure. Then I'd bring in my own sheet cake and.... LOLOLOLOL just jokng...I'd order dessert and coffee. If I'm challenged on this, as I often am, I don't justify or explain, I just reply with Yes, I KNOW it's CRAZY I won't be able to make the main part of the meal but I'm really happy to be there for dessert. You don't need to justify or explain anything. Its really nobody else's business, IMHO.
                                      Second, it isn't your sister's business where you stay and how you thank your stepmom. That's between you and your stepmon. Sis has no business telling you that you owe her a gift and blah blah blah. I'd keep her out of the loop on this one.
                                      You always have a choice, always. Sometimes its easier to go with the flow; sometimes you have to do what feels right to you.
                                      Now, I know that Aunt is paying for you, and if you hate this, you can say Thanks, but I'll be coming for dessert and coffee only, note how much the dessert and coffee and tip come to, then chip in that amount at the end of the meal. No need to ask for a separate bill, it can be done gracefully, as in (to the person gathering the money)...Hey there, here's my part for dessert and coffee. I chucked in some for the tip! And give CASH. Makes it easier. No one will say OH you owe for everyone else's meal and if they do, just say, No that's OK, here's my amount for dessert and coffee.
                                      If you speak quietly and just repeat the same thing over and over, people generally "get" it...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: freia

                                        LMAO at the sheet cake thing! you are a good sport :)

                                      2. I expect I'm in the minority, but I would strongly consider just taking the hit on this, and just going and having a grand time. Sometimes expenses come up in life -- the transmission on your car for instance -- and you find a way to make it work.

                                        Question is: are you really unable to handle the financial burden, or are you mostly bristling because this decision was foisted upon you?

                                        If I were in that situation, I'd have to think about how I will likely remember this occasion later. If the memory of either bailing or not paying my way would make me cringe at future discussion or my own memory, it would not be worth $200 in the short term.

                                        Of course if the expense is really too much, then you must know that your aunt would much rather have you there, she obviously loves you to have you stay with her, and it will make her happy to know that you'd rather spend the occasion with her than not go because of financial constraints.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Niblet

                                          I agree with Niblet. I think you're just mad because you weren't involved in the choice of the restaurant. I would be willing to bet that you've spent whatever you're going to spend on your meal on something else you didn't truly need or have to have, but it was something YOU wanted, so you justified the expense.

                                          Don't take your anger issues with your sister out on your stepmom, and I would probably stop complaining to everyone in earshot about the choice of restaurant (which is likely why your aunt graciously offered to step up and pay for you). It will just make it a really unpleasant occasion for your stepmom instead of a nice meal. If you're uncomfortable having your aunt pay for your meal, order conservatively and ask for your own bill, quietly and discreetly to the server. Or bring some cash to give to your aunt to offset the expense a little. There are a lot of ways to deal with this that will make you come out looking like the more mature party, but carrying on about how upset you are over the choice of restaurant isn't one of them. If you think $45 for an entree is more expensive than you can possibly imagine any restaurant fairly charging, you have a lot of life ahead of you.

                                        2. I think you should simply not go. Be matter of fact about the reason - "I really cant afford that restaurant". Don't express any anger. Be upbeat about it. Maybe even invite your stepmom out for a nice breakfast. Thank the aunt for her offer but decline graciously. Don't insist on any change in plans because of you. You will probably be missed and there may even be some awkward discussion about your being absent at dinner - maybe others will be supportive to the point where they express to your sister that they, too, can't really afford these type of meals.
                                          I bet it's the last time the sister will be able to do this.

                                          1. Since "they are taking [your] stepmother out to dinner", as hostesses, they should be footing the bill for the entire party. Since that is obviously not what they had in mind, wish them a good time, and take Stepmom out yourself, just the two of you. (If you really want to be snarky about it, make it for lunch on the same day as the extravagant dinner party!)

                                            To answer your last question, yes, I have relatives like that. I have no problem opting out.

                                            1. Seems like you have 3 options:
                                              1) Go for the dinner, let your aunt pay and thank your aunt later by cooking a meal for her or something to that effect.
                                              2) Don't go for the dinner, and have a nice meal with your stepmom alone instead. If she (your stepmom) is considerate enough I'm sure she'll understand.
                                              3) Explain it to your sister and have a couple suggestions for other restaurants handy. If she still insists, bitchslap her with a lightsaber and say "I.. have no sister" in a Darth Vader voice (okay that sounded much funnier in my head).
                                              Number 1 seems like it'll satisfy everyone, although personally I'd prefer 3.

                                              Although in all seriousness, if you really are thinking of changing the restaurant, I feel that you should be the one who asks all other guests personally if they would be alright with the change, since you're the one changing it. Especially your stepmom, since she's the "Guest of Honor". Also, consider Niblet's point. Are you just frustrated that your sister is making you go to this particular restaurant? If it were the same amount of money spent somewhere else which you suggested, would you mind?

                                              1. You could explain to the aunt that offered to pay for your meal that you would be comfortable giving her say $25 for your portion of the meal before you eat. Order conservatively, don't drink and when the check comes you and your aunt both say that you had already settled your portion with her before dinner.

                                                1. I personally think that we're focusing on the event, and not on what is really going on here. It isn't about the cost of the dinner, and it isn't about whether or not the OP will go, and at what cost, and who pays the bill at the end of the night.
                                                  I see it as a difficult family dynamic, that has just reared its ugly head in this venue, and it will continue to happen because that's how these things tend to roll. The OP feels that she's been shamed because she doesn't feel valued within her family unit, that the person making the reservation on her behalf without her input isn't really taking how she might feel about being in this situation. That's it, plain and simple. And to feel like a charity case may be hard for the OP. This may be a recurring theme and it becomes tough to take when you feel less of a person, not even worth the consideration of a simple "gee, we want to do X how do you feel about it?". Its the expectation that no matter what plan is made, you'll suck it up for the team and do what you have to do to participate. Wouldn't it have been better, since the sister knows the financial status of her sister, to just have called and sounded her out? There are other ways to thank a relative and to celebrate a relationship than going out for an expensive dinner, and perhaps it would have been sensitive for the relative in question to maybe have considered that option.
                                                  Just a thought...

                                                  1. Sit on the lawn of the restaurant and hold up a sign that says "Occupy (enter sister's name)"

                                                    Seriously, you spoke with your sister and she dismissed you, but I encourage you to have it out with her again since it is crystal clear that she has no respect for you (given that she didn't ask your opinion). I'd say take one for the team, but look at where that got us as a Union? The compromise is paying for what YOU can afford.
                                                    Peruse the menu before you go, plan accordingly, bring cash and tell your sister EXACTLY what you're doing. If she has a problem with it then that's too bad, she'll just have to deal with it and get over it.

                                                    As a med student, I cannot afford much but perhaps one day I will; even so, I would never assume others could afford or not afford exactly what I can.
                                                    Kill with a smile and have a great time.

                                                    1. Is the restaurant any good? Will the OP even enjoy a meal? And I don't see how letting some one who loves you, buy you a meal equals "charity".

                                                      The OP says quite clearly she can't afford it. But does she actually want to go? Is she dreaming of the yummy food, or does she really think it's pretentious crap?

                                                      This is about a nice woman's birthday. One who has hosted her for this trip. I know the OP put out for the trip, not for the birthday but for the Mar Mitzvah. But I did like the post pointing out how much trouble the birthday girl has gone to having the crowd at her home.

                                                      GIVE THE WOMAN A NICE MEAL!

                                                      1. This has happened to us too many times. Honestly chaps my hyde [that some think] it's ok to make the decision of how much 'you' will spend on a meal. Apparently if everyone chips in and the bill is diviided by how many are there, it's ok if you order pasta primevera and soda and auntie orders steak/lobster and bottles of wine.
                                                        I say come out beforehand and tell her how much you're comfortable adding to the bill amount and let her decide whether you're thoughts are valid in her eyes or not. if not, I'd take stepmom out on my own to someplace I like and she'll like as well. beg off if she won't budge. someone's gotta put a stop to this very convenient ploy.

                                                        9 Replies
                                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                                          I do agree that it is crazy to just "chip in", in our family we do it by couples. A small conversation with the server is all it takes. Often some one will order the "expensive" bottle, we all have a taste, the the "affordable' starts to flow. That way families have some control over their finances and we all get to have a great meal.

                                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                                            I had a "memorable" evening last spring in California. Went out for sushi with friends. I had eaten a late lunch, wasn't too hungry, so I ordered miso soup, a cucumber roll, brown rice/green tea. The others ordered enough for 12 people. Red Dragon Rolls, something called a Godzilla roll, 3 orders of sashimi, miso soup all around, 2 orders of California rolls, it went on and on and on. SO...the bill comes. After they asked for the remaining significant leftovers to be packed up into 3 takeout containers (I was at a hotel and couldn't store the leftovers as the hotel fridge charges you when you even OPEN the freaking fridge door and automatically bills you if any product is actually moved, my how things have changed from the good old days of mini bars), they decided to divide the bill by four (there were four of us). Seriously. So then it comes down to either saying something or sucking it up for the sake of harmony. I sucked it up. I don't see them that often and it wasn't worth the aggra to make a fuss. But that cucumber roll and miso soup and tea cost me $50 plus tip. I won't be going out for dinner with them again when I'm in town, that's for sure. Maybe a lunch, and I'll be proactive in my order and bill arrangements right from the start. But honestly, it caught me by total surprise.

                                                            1. re: freia

                                                              Errrg...those are times when I wish I could be more pro-active. My close core of freinds and I always ALWAYS spill the deets on what we can or can't afford that week. But when you are seeing ppl that you don't have that kind of relationship with it's hard.

                                                              1. re: freia

                                                                I have had that happen to me on more than one occasion, especially considering I dont usually drink alcohol. Boy is it tough to not look cheap in that circumstance! Now if I dont know the people well enough to know how they will handle the bill splitage, a seperate bill it is.

                                                                Its even harder when its a large group...there are always a few that under chip in, dont include tax and or tip!

                                                                1. re: freia

                                                                  1 out of 4 people worry about looking cheap.
                                                                  3 out of 4 people don't worry about looking like freeloaders.

                                                                  But really, freia answered the whole problem: if caught by surprise just suck it up and write their names down in your notebook with a Sharpie along with a memo to ask the waiter to give you your own bill. You can always rattle your change purse at people to embarass them, but those 3 out of 4 people mentioned above think your awareness of budget is more disgraceful than mooching a discount for their feast.

                                                                  1. re: mlou72

                                                                    I don't know, I'm on the fence about which way is the proper direction to take this.
                                                                    like you say, 1 of 4 worry about looking cheap, but the others don't care and chalk it up to hey, you were willing to join in on the fun and frivolity of dining together, now why ya gotta b!+ch about the bill.

                                                                    sure I mentioned this one place on this web site somewhere.
                                                                    5 of us went out for a dinner in Seattle.
                                                                    one of us had constantly all day and all night bragged about how he always picks up the bills, it makes him feel good and after all, everyone knows he has the money so it's not an issue. so we decided to go get drinks first. the eldest gentleman said he'd get that bills, 2 drinks each and appy's. Ok, very kind, then off to the real place on the water for dinner. still light out, so we dine out on the deck overlooking the port. I go to the restroom when we get there, and on way back pick up a glass of wine to take back to the table. figure they'd already all ordered their beverage. paid for it at bar.
                                                                    we're talking, chatting having a nice time and the it's time to order. braggart orders 2 bottles of wine and a huge tall appy tower. very long story very short, bill came and braggart is handed the bill. he looks at it and says, ok lets just split it 5 ways you each owe $$$. I somehow knew all that cr@p from earlier would surface so I stepped in a said, "um no I don't think so.I didn't order the wine or drink the wine, I didn't order the appetizer or eat any of the appetizer. These 2 lady's had a beer each and minimal food." he threw down the bill on the ground, cussed like a sailor and said fine, he[the elder gentleman] and I will split it." the older man said that's fine. I said, oh no, I don't want anyone paying for my bill, I know what I ordered and what I'm responsible for. but these other gals [who's mouths were standing open at his suggestion] weren't maybe prepared for this and they might not have the money for splitting. they then affirmed they didn't have hardly any money. I said I'd pay for the extra amounts on their bills as well as mine, and did.
                                                                    He was furious and we stomped back to work with smoke coming out of his ears.
                                                                    the gals thanked me for doing that and it was fine. but honestly, the dog with the biggest bark is the one with the smallest..........................paws

                                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                                        so... you're saying this guy drank 1-2 bottles of wine and "stomped back to work." i don't really care, but tell me he wasn't flying a passenger plane or doing surgery, please!

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                          don't know if he drank 1 or 2 bottles of wine by himself or not.
                                                                          I wasn't watching, I know the other girls nor I drank any of the wine, the elder gentleman may have had some, not sure. work was the building, we were very done with work much earlier, but our cars were all there.

                                                                2. not entirey OT but reminded me of my situation: i'm a nys resident; both sibs moved to CA almost 40 yrs ago. For 1st 20 or so yrs, the only way I could see them or their families, was to fly out; I usually rented a car since the 2 of them live 1/2 hr apart; spending way more $$ than I could afford (not to mention airport parking fees at home) I am single, no kids and understand that is was easier and cheaper for me to travel than for my sister w/4 kids. Still, the reciprocal visits over those 0 yrs, totaled about 2 for sis (who brought just one child and 1
                                                                  from bro. Some of us just cannot imagine ourselves in the others' moccasins... I went into hock over this situation; did the visit about every 2 yrs; also visited Mom in Fla maybe 2X yrly which also contributed to credit crunch... at this time, my sis takes care of 93 yr old mom; my brother is blind at age 64 and I had a debilitating stroke at age 58; none of us can travel but at least we had those visits on which we were able to build adult relationships which now sustain us as a family; I give thanks to God for them (esp my sis) we're not as close as we could have been; I'm still in hock; but we're all still alive and care for one another...wish we could share more holiday and birthday dinners but those are the cards we've been dealt; still in the game...sort of!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: betsydiver

                                                                    This is a lovely post betsydivrer :)

                                                                  2. So what ended up happening pamsanclemente?