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Mar 22, 2012 04:14 PM

Birthday Dinner for a Child - Is Host Expected to Pay for Guests Alcohol?


My husband and I are hosting a birthday dinner party for our 7 year old son. This is a family only dinner party where there will be 14 people in attendance. Since money is a concern, is it tacky for the hosts not to pay for alcoholic beverages that people might want to consume? Just looking for opinions? Thanks.

  1. Opposed to what? Family members buying their own at , I'm assuming, a restaurant?

    It seems to me if a host is hosting a party they're paying for everything unless there's been discussion beforehand and other arrangements, for someone else to pay, are made.
    The only way around not having to pay for alcohol is to go to a restaurant where it's not offered.
    If you haven't been proactive (discussing it beforehand or going to a restaurant where it's not served) you may run into a situation where it may end up being uncomfortable for everyone.

    1. Bridget , I see that you are a first-time poster, so I'll try to be gentle.
      My Webster dictionary defines the word "host" as follows:
      "A man who entertains guests in his own home or at his own expense ....."
      Certainly this covers your stated situation. When you host a dinner party, including birthday celebrations for 7 year olds, it is wise to host in a way you can comfortably afford. If this precludes alcohol for your guests, choose a venue that is appropriate for your circumstances. (and yes, it is tacky to select a fancier-than-you-can-comfortably-afford dining room and put restrictions on your guests.) By choosing a venue that you can comfortably afford, you are also reinforcing a valuable life-lesson for your young son -- do not live beyond your means. Make a game out of involving him in the planning; give a budget and some help explaining about tips etc. He'll likely be onboard with the project, especially since he has the opportunity to tailor his birthday party. I hope that you have a wonderful success and a great time. Happy Birthday wishes to the lucky birthday boy.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sherri

        While I agree with Sherri on general principles, I think there might be a bit of flexibility here because it is all family that you are hosting. Your family should be aware of your circumstances and understanding that you have to set some kind of budget for the event.

        You also don't mention what stage of planning you are in. If the invitations have already been issued and accepted then it might be too late to change the venue. But a "family" restaurant that does not serve alcohol would be a good choice (easier to find in some places than others). If you could change the time, then a brunch or lunch party would mean that most people would not expect to be drinking.

        If you do have to stay with the original dinner plans then I do not think it would be terribly tacky to let your guests know that you will be providing a bottle of wine or two (or pitchers of beer, whatever is appropriate at your restaurant), but outside of that they are on their own for their bar tab. That keeps you in control of the budget, just make sure your server knows up front about what goes on your check.

        A 7 year old's birthday party is not really an appropriate occasion to be boozing it up, so it is also tacky for your guests to expect to do so, at your expense, at this event.

        1. re: pamf

          I would say anyone drinking at a 7 yr old's birthday is tacky. I smoke and have an occasional drink and I would never do either at a child's birthday. I never saw any adult doing so at any children's party, and if they did they would be asked to leave. If ghe child is attending a party for an adult that's different, but even then all drinking should be kept to a minimum in front of kids. I never, ever saw my parents or their friends drunk, although we had wine at all our dinners, g and ts in the summer etc.

          1. re: dianne0712

            So then what makes you assume that other adults aren't capable of the same 'restraint' or decent behavior while drinking alcohol as your parents and their friends?

            1. re: dianne0712

              At the last birthday party I went to for a child (there were maybe 6 kids there and about 30 adults), the dad (a proficient home brewer) had made a special beer in honor of his daughter's special day. She turned 2, so she didn't partake, but it was a lovely gesture and a tasty beer.

              I didn't give the child a present but I did gift the parents a bottle of good champagne, but it seems to me if you can keep a kid out of harm's way (and your own sanity) for 2 whole years, that's a champagne-worthy event. They must have agreed, as they cracked the bottle for a toast.

              No one was drunk, no one scared the children. Everyone had fun, though--kids and adults.

        2. Welcome to Chowhound... it's a rough crowd. People can get into a lot of arguments about what, as the hosts, you are obligated to pay for. The way around all this is communication. Spell it out on the invite. Just say that food and non-alcoholic beverages are on you, and alcoholic beverages can be purchased. Everyone will know exactly what to expect, and they can decide if they are OK with that arrangement or not, and accept or decline your invitation as they see fit. These days, I think most people would be pretty happy with you paying for just the food. There are people out there who will invite people to a party at a restaurant and expect them to not only pay for their own meal, but pick up the hosts' tab as well. Now THAT is tacky. In your case, I think you are in good shape as long as you make it clear from the get-go what you are buying, and what the guests are responsible for. Particularly for a child's party, I think this is very reasonable.

          1. bridget, you said this was family only and if your family doesn't understand money is a concern who will? That said, avoid the potential for misunderstanding by explaining your position and why. This way your family knows what to expect.....or at least you did the best to explain it.

            Which brings me back to about 10 years ago when I hosted a party for 30 gals at a mexican restaurant that did not serve alcohol. They did offer mocktails and every guest ordered one, including some of the younger gals (17). One of my guests (SIL by marriage) had brought a bottle of rum with her to the party to spirit her mocktail and offered the bottle to everyone, except me because "I hosted a party sans alcohol"... Yes...she did!

            Never mind that I covered the tab for 30 people...she was miffed about the booze...lack there of...and brought her own.

            My point being I selected a restaurant that was in my budget for 30 guests and it was the food and the celebration I was focused on. My SIL wanted rum in her drink so she brought her own (and thankfully the restaurant didn't make a fuss about it). But that wasn't my problem to deal with. I hosted with the best of intentions. My guests (minus one) had a good time. I was clear about the menu, directions, timeframe and the lack of alcohol....and still couldn't please 100% of the people...and she was "family."

            Every year since that party my SIL receives a mini bottle of dark rum from me for Christmas. It's a running joke btwn us....or at least for me it is a running joke. If I have my way my SIL will never be without her rum.

            So, plan your party. Understand you can't please everyone but you can please your 7 year old son. And that's the point of a birthday dinner for a child.

            1. Dinner on you, cash bar. No problem. There is no reason for adults to be drinking at a 7 year old's party anyway.
              Just be up front about it. No reason to explain. Just let them know you'll be picking up the food tab (and arrange something you can afford) and if they feel the need to drink, there is a cash bar. No big deal. And if it is a big deal to somebody, then they shouldn't be there.

              9 Replies
              1. re: wyogal

                I have to disagree with you here wyogal - "There is no reason for adults to be drinking at a 7 year old's party anyway". I have no children but many of my relatives do. So when I'm invited to one of these events I need a drink or two to even tolerate all the screaming and noise! But I am always happy to pay for my own. And no I'm not the obnoxious drunk uncle propped up in the corner at the party!

                1. re: TSAW

                  Since I didn't mention it in my post, we are planning on having this party at a family friendly Italian restaurant where the prices are very reasonable. Yes, our familiy is aware that money is a concern. My son and his cousin would be the only children at this party. But, thank you everyone for your opinions/replies.

                  1. re: bridget1970

                    If you could do it family style for everything, it might be easier all around. Not having a choice is fine in that case. It might be less expensive, too. You might be able to get away w/ a bottle of wine at each table and one or two types of soda. But, if everyone is ordering a dish, and the server asks what he/she wants to drink, it would be hard to control, plus I can't imagine dealing w/ the check at the end.

                    1. re: bridget1970

                      You are the host - you have a choice to make it a dry event but you must let your guests know this in advance.

                      If you are having a cash bar - which personally I feel is a bit inhospitable, but to each their own - you must also tell your guests in advance.

                      It's okay not to serve alcohol - your guests should just be made aware in advance. they can then make their own decisions (stay dry, grab a drink before .... or possibly stash a flask!)

                      1. re: bridget1970

                        Could you ask the owners to put a carafe or two of their house wine on the table for those that would like a glass of wine? Usually that is pretty inexpensive and should satisfy those who would like a glass of wine with their meal. Just a thought.

                        1. re: Mother of four

                          That's a good idea, but again, you should make sure everybody AND the waiter is aware that that carafe or two is it- no ordering more carafes. Or make sure the waiter knows that any additional carafes are to be put on a separate check, given to the person(s) asking for the separate carafe(s).

                          1. re: Mother of four

                            Thanks, I like your idea about the wine.

                      2. re: wyogal

                        You are so "on the money" here wyogal. There is no need for the parents to pick up the alcohol tab for their own family. Let's get real here and not act like this is some esoteric dinner party, it's party for family. If it was at home, I would assume folks would bring bottles of wine/beer etc and there would be little cost for alcohol. If the family is miffed because you're not paying for their booze, you've got bigger problems ahead. Have a great party and happy birthday to your son!

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Thank you for the birthday wishes and for your response.