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Restaurant Birthday Party- You're Invited But You Have to Pay

So, my neighbor recently told me that she and her spouse were invited to a friend's birthday party at an upscale restaurant/nightclub. They attended. There were about fifteen people. Everyone ordered off the regular menu. Cash bar for alcohol before the meal, then people ordered drinks with their food. At the end of the meal, the birthday boy went around with the bill, asking people what they had ordered and collecting money. My neighbor said she was surprised, as she had assumed that since they were invited guests, the hosts would pay for the meal. Her spouse had to run to an ATM to get enough money. This story started me thinking. In our 20s, my spouse and I attended a couple birthday parties like this, but it never bothered me because I knew that none of us at that point in our lives had enough money to pay for everybody. My neighbor is older and she was really offended. Was this type of celebration in bad taste?

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  1. For me it depends on how the invitation was worded. Was it formal? Was it "we're having dinner at restaurant X for Y's birthday. Would you like to join us?" Or "please be our guests for Y's birthday at restaurant X" If it's the former, I would presume we're coming along for the company and would pay our own way. The latter implies the friend would pay. Either way I'd be sure I had enough money to cover the cost of our food and drink.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gourmanda

      ^^^ This is very well said.

      If I am a "guest" at a birthday party, a wedding, a bar mitzvah, etc, I will of course bring a gift to the former and put cash in a card for the two latter events, with the expectation that as a guest, the host of the event pays the bill. Don't know if a formal, written invitation was involved with the OP's described event.

    2. Yes. Unless an "invitation" makes perfectly clear that attendees pay their own way, they are guests of the person extending the invitation.

      1. There have been many threads about this over the years, and they almost always turn mean...

        For me, it all boils down to the social norms of your group. In my social circle, we always pay our own way. We're all in our late 20's/early 30's, and most working in academia, so no one can afford to pay for the whole party (and no, we can't just go to a less expensive restaurant - even dinner at McD's for 20 would be a financial challenge). It is just understood that we split the check based on who ordered what (except on birthdays, when the group covers the honoree). It works for us, and that is really all that matters. On the other hand, I have a friend in a different, slightly overlapping circle, who loves to host groups and she can afford it. When she organizes a dinner out, I'm always prepared to pay my own, and see it as a pleasant surprise when she treats. She understands that the rest of us cannot reciprocate in the same manner, but graciously accepts our invitations to more modest events.

        So in short, I always assume I am paying for my own dinner, but appreciate the generosity of others if they treat.

        7 Replies
        1. re: mpjmph

          Well said. I was thinking the same..."i've seen this thread before". and yes, some people feel very strongly one way or the other. As for me...I have gone to parties at restaurants and paid for my own, and I have gone to parties at restaurants that were picked up by the host. And as best I can remember, I have ALWAYS known from the tone and context and content of the invitation which it was going to be. I can't ever remember being surprised.

          1. re: danna

            Oh I have been surprised. Very surprised.

            I've gotten invites that are VERY clear about being a guest etc., come celebrate - and then you have to pony up. At a place you would have never chosen.

            So now, sadly crass as it feels - I just ask. Cuz I am DONE with surprises and $60 snacks.

            1. re: danna

              Agreed. I've never been confused either. And I think I would generally assume that if we're going to a restaurant for dinner then I'll pay my own way - I wouldn't expect someone to pay for my dinner unless it was an event in a private dining room and a large group. That way if the inviter ends up treating its a nice surprise.

            2. re: mpjmph

              This is our norm, as well. Everyone pays their way except the celebrant. It's worked for our group for 15+ years. Everyone gets a turn, so it all evens out.

                1. re: PotatoHouse

                  This is our norm as well. I would not expect everything to be paid for if invited to someone's party at a resto or bar unless it was clearly stated on the invitation. The default assumption would not be that everything is covered, it would be to bring cash and expect to pay for what you order. My friends are older (over 50) and all have money.

                  It is easy to make the invitation clear and I have never been surprised. I have been invited to two big parties very recently. One clearly stated that a full bar and sit down dinner is provided (choose your entree from 3) and the other stated that drinks (hosted bar until 11) and apps were provided.

                  The difference seems to be what people expect if the invitation is not clear. I always expect to pay my own way but I am delighted if I dont have to. Perhaps this cultural/social expectation is changing due to general economics..... "hosting" definition change, maybe hosting is more about coordinating..... Interesting discussion.

                2. re: lsmutko

                  If you're part of a group and that's the group culture and expected, fine. But if I'm invited to come celebrate, I expect the party's host will pay and I'll bring a gift that will at least cost more than the dinner. Otherwise I expect to hear "we're all meeting up at Chez Cashcow for dinner and all treating X, whose birthday it is. Pot luck/ Dutch treat aside from the birthday girl/boy."

                  And if I'm invited to an expensive place I hate and it's not the BD girl/boys tip-top favorite, I'm pissed that I don't get a chance to help decide the venue. And I often call up the BD g/b and say, "I have a gift for you! Sorry I couldn't make your dinner!"

              1. I am wondering if ordering off the regular menu should have been a tip off to her that everyone was paying their own way. I would have expected a special menu if the host was paying, more as a way for him to control the cost of the meal. I think I would have checked my wallet at that point!

                1. Many years ago, a friend invited us to his girlfriends party at a relatively inexpensive restaurant. We had to pay for ourselves, not sure if we knew beforehand but no problem, but what irked us is we also had to pay for him and her. I could sort of see for the birthday girl, but not him too. And then as we walked out the door in a noisy mob, he grabbed a T shirt for the place off the wall and presented it to her as a birthday gift. We were a little older than the rest (30s vs early 20s) and sort of shocked, even though it was supposed to be funny. I can say gladly now he has matured quite a bit over the next 30 years or so!

                  I also remember having a gathering in a private room of a nice local place for my husband's 50th Bday, we were maybe a dozen in all. Most of his relatives declined, claiming it was weird to have a party dinner during the week, however I always believed in celebrating on the actual day. I went over everything with the maitre d' and they had a special menu made up with a few choices, and open bar. I was sort of surprised that some people didn't even bring a token gift, and the ones he did get were sort of chintzy. Turns out no one knew I was paying! Guess I should have shouted it from the rooftops but thought it was understood. One person who didn't bring anything did buy us a drink at the bar afterward, not that we needed it.

                  Maybe there should be different names for "we pay" "you pay" so it's understood beforehand? Everyone seems to have their own perceptions, but seems rude to lay it on the line I guess.

                  1. This is almost always a communication issue.

                    I think invited guests have a reasonable expectation that the meal and/or drinks will be taken care of unless otherwise specified. However, I do think that if the payment situation is not explicit that the guest should arrive willing and able to pay their own way and understanding if they are expected to. In fact, amongst my friends it is fairly customary that the celebrant, or birthday boy in this case, would not pay.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: MonMauler

                      It's common for a group of friends to take someone to dinner to honor them at group expense (not including the guest of honor), but in that case the group is the host. When the person being honored does the inviting, that person is not a guest of honor but the host.

                      As you say, it is a communication issue. But the reason that people are sometimes offended when the communication is inadequate is because long-established conventions of behavior are being flouted. Etiquette is designed to facilitate the amicable functioning of social events without having to specify the rules for each event. The problem is, these days, many people just don't have any manners.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        I am not sure how you meant it, but saying "people just don't have any manners" sounds disparaging of those people. I don't think that's fair, because people only have the manners they were raised with and what they see in their social group - in other words, people have different standards of behaviour. I do agree that it's when different manners meet that we have these issues.
                        If I started following some of the rules of "standard" etiquette I hear about on this board, most of my social circle & family would frankly think I was a terrible snob and a party pooper.

                        1. re: julesrules

                          It was "many people" not all or even most people, and, yes, it is disparaging.

                          1. re: julesrules

                            I have to agree with GH. Manner are in decline. I don't practice "manners relativism" any more than moral relativism. Sometimes things are just wrong, sometimes people are just wrong.

                            an example: if I don't RSVP to an invitation, my manners are bad and it doesn't matter if my Mom and her mom before her didn't RSVP. It's not cultural, it's bad manners.

                            1. re: danna

                              Interesting you mention morals, because I think that's my issue - people elevating etiquette standards to morals, where there's right and wrong/bad and good. I see the rules as arbitrary standards that clearly evolve over time and differ between classes and cultures. The recent immigrant families at my daughter's school don't even know what RSVP means so I certainly don't think they are rude for not replying to party invites. Meanwhile I'm sure I've done/said things they find very odd.

                              1. re: julesrules

                                Well said. I disagree with you, but appreciate your thoughtful response.

                                To continue the example...if I travel to a foreign country, I would attempt to learn something about the culture lest I be termed "ugly American". Shouldn't these immigrants do the same? Isn't the whole point of having "etiquette" to make social interaction run smoothly ?

                                1. re: julesrules

                                  It's hardly surprising that an immigrant to a country has no knowledge of what is meant by an abbreviation of a French phrase.

                                  Unless, of course, the country to which they have immigrated is a French speaking one.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    R.S.V.P. Is used throughout the English speaking world, isn't it? I've seen either RSVP or Regrets Only typed on Britiish Invitations.

                                    While some immigrants won't know what the abbreviation means, the immigrants immigrating from the Franchophonie, Commonwealth countries and the United States probably have an idea of the meaning. I know plenty of Canadians and Americans who do not speak French, who would know what RSVP means.

                                    1. re: prima

                                      RSVP is certainly used on formal invitations here in the UK. But I wouldnt expect many folk who have immigrated here to know what it means or what is expected of them.

                                      1. re: prima

                                        R.S.V.P. is pretty much universal. It is simply asking for a show of hands of who is planning to attend. BUT...!!! It says nothing about who is expected to pay, and that is the crux of this matter.

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          RSVP would indicate to me that you are totally a guest, not a payee.

                                2. re: julesrules

                                  and to add on to julesrules' comments:

                                  i am a member of several social groups. each one tends to have it's own norms and even so, from time to time each group can vary from it's own norm.

                                  if the people truly like being with each other and are ok with the group's norms (including the price levels and types of the restaurants that get selected), usually nobody ever seems to care about the question of etiquette or manners.

                                  not one of my groups seems to care a whit about whether or not <<long-established conventions of behavior are being flouted>>.

                                  mostly the groups' norms seem to reflect the current comfort levels of the group members as opposed to the rules set up by any other outside source/entity.

                                  for instance, one of my groups of girlfriends had a norm of celebrating members' birthdays at nice restaurants with everyone splitting the bill except the honoree.
                                  when the economic meltdown hit in 2008, one of the members told us she could no longer afford these fancy meals.
                                  we changed our normal birthday celebration ritual to be a pot luck dinner at one of our homes so that everyone could feel comfortable.
                                  the only thing that concerned us was that the needs of OUR group were met and that we did not want it to be a burden for any of the members to attend.

                                  for groups that really care about each other, the whole concern about people having "manners," just never seems to come up.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    You and your girlfriends sound like classy ladies....:))

                                  2. re: GH1618

                                    "When the person being honored does the inviting, that person is not a guest of honor but the host."

                                    Here's what happened on one occasion some years ago which still rankles with me: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8158... .

                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      I agree that manners are lacking. The last celebrant's invited party I went to was my last. A contingent of people decided, at the end of the meal, that the tab should be split equally. This group had pre-dinner drinks, appetizers, wine during dinner, expensive entrees, dessert and after dinner drinks. I had iced tea and an entree. I told them that I would be happy to pay my share of the celbrant's tab, but I did not think it was fair that I pay their meals. These people had the gall to get angry with my comment.

                                  3. Unless it's explicit that the arrangements are otherwise, if you're a guest, then you're not paying.

                                    1. As I turn 30, I have never been to a birthday at a restaurant that was not "pay your own way". I also don't think this is unique to one social group since I've moved around the country and created new social networks on both coasts and the norm has been the same.
                                      So this seems to be a generational thing. Perhaps as my generation gets more established and wealthier, we will start hosting as well. But since most of our invitations are dispensed via evite, facebook and email, the culture is very casual.
                                      Actually, hosting would fly in the face of the culture so much I would assume that anyone in my age bracket that paid was trying to showoff and flaunt their income.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                        "Actually, hosting would fly in the face of the culture so much I would assume that anyone in my age bracket that paid was trying to showoff and flaunt their income."

                                        Really? This response stunned me. It must be a generational/geographic thing because I cannot imagine thinking that a host is trying to showoff/flaunt their income by hosting. I think they're being gracious hosts. Period.

                                        1. re: Sherri

                                          Maybe it's stunning if that's part of your culture but it has not been my experience anywhere in the country (or Spain or Japan where I've also lived). Maybe it would be jumping to conclusions to say that the host was flaunting but it would be perceived as quite odd.
                                          Paying for a round of drinks or paying for a couple of friends is common. But, in my experience, birthday dinners can get so expensive. I've seen bills that add up to a month's rent.

                                          1. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                            <Maybe it's stunning if that's part of your culture>

                                            What culture are you talking about??

                                            1. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                              I would think that the culture varies from person to person, within countries.

                                              Where I live, in Toronto, it's not uncommon for my friends to host a birthday party at a restaurant, and pay for all their guests, if the host can afford it. Some guests reciprocate when its their birthday, others don't. And I've learned some guests never reciprocate, in any shape or form .... but that's another thread!

                                              Other times, the guests will pay for their own meal, as well as for a share of the birthday girl/guy's meal. Occasionally, everyone will pay for their own meal, including the person having the birthday.

                                              I have different groups of friends with different birthday party protocol, and I just go with the flow.

                                              My preference, if the birthday person can afford it, is to have the birthday person treat everyone to dinner at the restaurant the birthday person has chosen, and if the treated guests wish, they can support a charity the birthday person has chosen. I usually choose the Canadian Diabetes Association when I use this approach.

                                            2. re: Sherri

                                              I agree with you. Including the bit about being stunned by that broad statement about showing off.

                                              1. re: huiray

                                                I'm 31, have lived in a few different places, had a few different circles of friends and upon thinking about it, never have I gone to a dinner with my peer group and not had it been 'pay your own way'. With most of my close friends (as opposed to co-workers or other acquaintances) we often will fight over/take turns picking up the check, but that is usually if it is only a few of us. If it is a larger group, it has always just been assumed that if someone says, 'drinks and dinner at 7 on thursday at restaurant z for jenna's going away party or birthday or whatever' it means that people will pay for what they order, even if it is jenna, or her significant other/friend/sister, etc that is inviting you.

                                                I also can understand where fabulous is coming from regarding the concern of showoffness in some circles/situations. I hesitate to invoke the politics of the 99% or just the current state of the economy in general, but I certainly know people who simply dislike or distrust those with (excess?) money. I know that I have at times picked up a bar tab if I proposed going out for a happy hour drink or something similar and later had people say to me, you shouldn't do that, it can make people really uncomfortable and makes it look like you think you are better than others.

                                                Again, not saying it is this way with everyone, I have plenty of friends that are gracious and we usually taking turns doing so. However, I do understand that some people have a completely different mindset and can be offended in such situations. It's probably no coincidence that I'm not friends with a lot of people like that (or at least don't dine or drink out with them), but there are certainly situations with work or friends of friends where not everyone is like minded and it can't be helped.

                                                1. re: pollymerase

                                                  <the politics of the (99% or just the current state of the economy in general, but I certainly know people who simply dislike or distrust those with (excess?) money>

                                                  Until it's being used, in one way or another, to help the 99% right? LOL...
                                                  Picking up a tab for a group of people, in my circle at least, is considered generous....heartfelt and extremely nice. I thank people for it and consider it a lovely gesture. But I'll remember your thoughts next time I want to treat....I'll now wonder if I'm being considered a show off.
                                                  I'm sorry for your perspective. It makes things seem sooo much more complicated than it actually is.

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    As I said, It's not my perspective. I find it incredibly generous when people do so and I try to return the favor when possible. I was simply agreeing with the poster who stated that they have encountered situations where it was viewed as acting as if you were better than the others.

                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                      i never got the feeling any time i treated that any of the guests thought i was a show off.
                                                      something new to worry about

                                                2. re: Sherri

                                                  As someone who's also 30, I completely agree with inexorably. The issue about someone paying for a group party isn't that people can't be gracious it's the feeling of "I have no way of reciprocating in any monetary way". I currently have one friend who is in a position to treat the rest of us to meals/parties - and even though all of us are very grateful for the treat it ends up feeling weird. He can financially afford it, likes to treat us, and knows it helps us out, but we end up feeling a bit like we're out with "daddy".

                                                  Going back to the original poster, I think that while I would be certain with my friends that we'd be paying for ourselves - if you're opening up the invite to people that you don't traditionally socialize with it's important to express the invite clearly. But it's also up to the guest to follow-up if they don't feel it's clear. I get invited to a number of parties/events through work - and some of the invites clearly say plus one/plus guest. Other's don't. Because these are very formal work events, I always call and ask if I'm allowed to bring a guest or not. A slightly odd follow-up phone call makes for a far more pleasant evening than showing up and just assuming.

                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    Ok, ok.... I've read enough varied responses that I'm willing to change my mind. I resolve that, if someone offers to pay for the table, I will accept it as a gracious offer and nothing more. I see the other side now.
                                                    But please don't be shocked when you get a facebook invite from someone in my generation to celebrate their birthday and you have to pay your own share :)!

                                                      1. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                                        Just being cheeky, but am I the only one who finds the showmanship complaint from a poster named "inexorably fabulous " a bit ironic? Ps I agree your response was gracious :)

                                                  2. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                                    I agree I think this is generational, or somehow related to societal differences. I couldn't believe the responses I was reading to this thread.

                                                    I would never expect to have the host pay when the party is at a sit down restaurant. In fact the far more common setup is to have everyone pay *except* for the person whose birthday is being celebrated -- regardless of who is organizing the party.

                                                    I think the logic is that it's too expensive for a host to have to pay for everything, and if they did they'd have to make too many compromises in terms of where to go and how many people they could invite. So it would be better to go to a nicer place with more people, and let each person contribute to the occasion.

                                                    1. re: calumin

                                                      i don't think it's generational because i'm in complete agreement with you and i'll bet i'm substantially older than you are.

                                                      maybe, as you said, "societal differences"

                                                      if the host is my friend, and he wants to celebrate his birthday at a particular restaurant, by all means i'm happy to pay and to help cover the cost of the honoree's meal.

                                                    2. re: inexorablyfabulous

                                                      I'm your age and I feel the same. I feel like it'd be rude to assume anything other than I'd be expected to pay for myself.

                                                      1. Many years ago this happened to me (all attendees) at my friend's party at a restaurant, after she'd just been married a few hours before.
                                                        I had no cash, it made it extremely awkward for everyone involved. After all these years (35) it's still laughed about, joked about and she's forever labeled....
                                                        Absolutely tacky unless it's decided beforehand and everyone's warned.

                                                        1. These replies have been so interesting. I do think it is partly a generational thing, since my neighbors are in their 50s. They felt that invited guests should not have to pay for someone else's birthday party. BTW, the invite was by mail but I don't know how it was worded. After reading all these replies, I'd like to take a look at it!

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Kat

                                                            Yes it would be interesting to see that! A mailed invite really changes the tone of things. I would also be confused by this, even though I am very much used to everyone paying their way at these group outings, and I don't know anyone who entertains/hosts in restaurants (other than my dad picking up the tab at family outings). I'm pushing 40 FWIW but I guess we mostly still socialize the same way we did 10 years ago. Incomes have gone up but so have expenses (mortgages, kids, etc). If people want to play host they do it at home.

                                                            1. re: julesrules

                                                              CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP WHISTLE!!!!! for julesrules' last sentence.
                                                              That's how my family does it for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, showers, etc....have it in someone's home, or apartment, or occasionally, the beach (for big cookouts).

                                                            2. re: Kat

                                                              I was going to comment to the original thread by saying that when I receive a formal invite in the mail, I expect not to have to pay - except by gift if I choose. And that's always been the way it's turned out.

                                                              If a friend just calls or emails to say, "Hey, I'm having a birthday dinner/other gathering next week, can you come?" I assume it's each-pay-your-own, unless I have previous experience with the invitee to expect otherwise.

                                                            3. Guests do not pay. If you end up paying, you're hosting. Who on earth thinks it's ok to be invited to host??

                                                              33 Replies
                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                About 20 years ago a cousin of my ex invited us to a party at her home that she had catered by a friend with whom she was establishing a catering business. I was struck at the party by the inordinately large variety and quantity of food & wondered why she had spent so much money on the food. But my ex & I were thunderstruck when, at the end of the day, she went around to each couple and asked for $30 per couple (equal to how much in today's dollars?) to pay for the food, which left her & her friend with a profit, we learned.
                                                                To make the situation even more offensive to us, at that point in our lives, $30 was a lot for us to spend on a day's entertainment and amounted to all the cash we had between us on our persons, yet we had to travel two hours to get home and so were left with no reserve in case we needed money for any sort of emergency en route.
                                                                Yes, context is everything, and I frequently invite or am invited to lunches with coworkers and somehow we always know that we'll be splitting the bill, except in unusual cases. However, in the above case, we did receive a written invitation, and since it was held at a personal home -- the kind of event that in our families people usually prepared the food for themselves -- we were unpleasantly surprised.

                                                                  1. re: thymeoz

                                                                    Astounding, simply astounding!!!

                                                                    1. re: thymeoz

                                                                      Uff, this story totally reminds of my personal adjustment to how weddings are dealt with in Israel. Guests are essentially expected to give gifts in cash that equate to the cost of their meal in addition to a gift for the couple. If you are invited "plus one" - then you're expected to give double the amount on behalf of you and your date. I truly know married couples where only one member will attend weddings due to the expense of being a wedding guest.

                                                                      No one comes around to the table, but it's heavily expected and people who do not meet the expected cash gift can be black balled from a social group's wedding invite list. Different customs.....

                                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                                        Here on Long Island, that is also the custom. I once got a very nasty thank you letter from the bride, after her mother informed me beforehand of the per person price. I just gave what I wanted, and that was the beginning of the end.

                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                          !!!!! that gets another "holy cow!" Unbelievable! i just can't fathom it. very interesting thread...

                                                                          1. re: coll


                                                                            Didn't realize some brides were taking thank you notes to a new level...

                                                                            Mind you, I often figure out how much to give at a wedding by looking at where the wedding is being held, then topping up to make sure my dinner would be paid for.

                                                                            I once received a nasty look from a groom's mother during the receiving line at a wedding, because I had decided to skip the bridal shower for a bride I'd not met yet, which had been held 3 hours away, when I was unable to drive due to a knee injury. My leg was in a knee brace even as I walked through the receiving line! Even though I had ponied up for the wedding, the groom's mother had been expecting all female guests to pony up for the wedding and the shower. What I found even more interesting, was that this particular big wedding skipped bonbonnieres, and mentioned the bride and groom chose to give to a charity instead of handing out a soap dish, candle holder or a crystal carafe (typical big fat Greek wedding bonbonnieres in the Toronto area). While this is a nice thought, I'm guessing the charitable tax receipt might have been what the bride & groom were after!

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              And, I take it you were devestated?

                                                                              1. re: Vidute

                                                                                No, I laughed when she broke up with her husband three months later. Glad I didn't waste any more money!

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  Bet the "couple" friends went with the husband. What a piece of work!

                                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                                Uff.....that's ridiculous. At least here all people do is talk nastily about you behind your back....

                                                                                That being said, a tangent - people giving a wedding gift that is "a charitable donation was given on your behalf in honor of your wedding"? Cheap/bad taste?

                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                  Yes! Its not really a gift, is it? It's going to a charity the giver supports (can't imagine anyone giving to a charity I supported but they detested) and they get the tax deduction. So...what's the "gift" for me?

                                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                    I think that there are exceptions to this. Favors for weddings, unless on the more expensive side, can be terribly tacky and useless. I would rather see the money go towards a charitable gift to a charity/cause that has some meaning to the wedding couple. The bride at a recent wedding, for instance, has battled Krohn's disease for years, and had almost given up finding someone who would want to put up with all that Krohn's can entail. Their donation went to a charity funding Krohn's research. My nephew's mother died of breast cancer when he was in his teens. I thought it was a lovely tribute to her that a donation was made in her name to fund research, and that all of the men in wedding party wore running shoes with pink trim.

                                                                                    1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                      That's fine if you want to make a donation to a charity and include it on the program or let guests know somehow. But it's still not a gift to me and its silly to pretend it is. Also, the concept of favors at a wedding is odd. The favor is- free food, fun party, good time. You don't need a random trinket.

                                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                        Here I thought I'd become a barbarian 'cause I don't get receiving favors, whether at a wedding or a kids' birthday party. Nice to read I'm not the only one...

                                                                                2. re: coll

                                                                                  That just makes me really happy I live/grew up in a region and culture where cash wedding gifts are unheard of. Of course, the traditional wedding reception here is cake, punch, and goodbye. The bride (more commonly the couple now) register for gifts, guests give the gift they can afford, and everyone celebrates the happy day.

                                                                                  1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                    ditto. I've never given cash for a wedding, although I did give an I-tunes gift card to the last one I attended. it was one of the list of gift cards the couple requested on their wedding website. I was taught it was tacky to include gift information on the invitation, but i guess times are changing. It WAS easier than having to quietly ask around to find out where the bride was registered as is(was?) considered proper.

                                                                                    1. re: danna

                                                                                      In the Far East/SE Asia cash gifts at weddings are normal and sort-of expected, at least within the more traditional Chinese community. Typically at the wedding banquet in the evening. Guests are greeted and welcomed ("Thank you for coming") by the "designated greeters" (usually family members or trusted friends) at the door to the banquet room and the arriving guests reply in kind and discreetly hand over a "red packet" or envelope containing either cash or a cheque. It's the "cutom", in a way, and treated as a way for the guests to, yes, defray the costs of the wedding celebrations. So - if you are invited to the wedding of a Chinese couple in SE/E Asia, you should quietly ask others beforehand if the "monetary gift" custom is expected to be in sway for the occasion involved. Very modern folks may not carry on this custom.

                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                        thanks! that sounds exactly like what I've seen in movies about Italian/american weddings in the NE.

                                                                                        All I can say is I'm glad I got married young before I developed my current taste in food and wine. Otherwise, i'd still be paying off the receiption , I'm sure.

                                                                                        1. re: danna

                                                                                          Then there are superstitions about the amount...four of something, e.g. $400 or $40 etc is to be avoided because the number 4 is a homonym for "death" or "dying" in Chinese. Even the Japanese share this superstition when they give money at weddings: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8225...

                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                            For Jewish weddings the good luck number is 18 and multiples of 18.

                                                                                        2. re: huiray

                                                                                          Same for the Mr.'s culture in India, for which he failed to inform me when we attended a wedding. Luckily, his brother had some extra red envelopes (and 1 rupee notes, since the cash has to be an odd number).

                                                                                    2. re: coll

                                                                                      As is here in Toronto, in similar circles, I gather. But my hippy-dippy, black sheep wedding broke a bunch of the rules (at one point I wanted to say no gifts and my mother-in-law almost keeled over on the spot) and no one knew what to give. I really didn't care - the monetary gifts of any amount were appreciated as were the items both on and off the registry of varying dollar amounts. My mother-in-law has never recovered from the trauma of the whole ordeal. She still asks me how much so-and-so gave us for our wedding so she makes sure she matches or surpasses it for their kids. My wedding was 15 years ago..can you believe I can't remember every single dollar amount?!

                                                                                      1. re: 16crab

                                                                                        for decades, my aunt kept track of every gift she and her kids received to be sure she gave exactly the same amount. i always wanted to ask if she factored for inflation:)

                                                                                        1. re: wonderwoman

                                                                                          I have a relative like that. If only she'd spend energy on more important things.. *shaking head*

                                                                                    3. re: cresyd

                                                                                      Wouldn't being blackballed then be considered a "blessing in disguise" :)

                                                                                      1. re: manku

                                                                                        In some cases.... :)

                                                                                        While this thread has clearly indicated that cash gifts are part of many different wedding cultures - in Israel there are also certain communities/people where it's also the norm to basically have invite lists of 500+ where the assumption is more that people are gift fishing. It's also quite a casual wedding invite culture where being verbally invited by the bride/groom the week/day before the wedding is not uncommon.

                                                                                        Mentally, I just view a wedding invite now in the same was as the birthday mentioned in the original post. I'm paying for my meal, part of my friend's meal, and giving a wedding gift. Then the cost stings a bit less - but I'm definitely not bringing a date......

                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                          re: weddings. My ex-husband's best friend got remarried, and invited family, former co-workers, and the social group from the usual bar and parties. The couple were still going on a couple of years later about one of the guys from the bar crowd that only brought a card, and no gift. I was horrified that they were keeping a gift/social check list.

                                                                                      1. re: thymeoz

                                                                                        holy cow. that's an event that I would still be talking about, too! I'm sitting here trying to imagine some sort of mental scenario for the "hostess" to have been going through in her head to make that OK...thinking...thinking... nope...can't think of one.

                                                                                        I DID get invited to a party once where $10 was expected, but they put that in the invitation, so i guess that makes it fair. not exactly amy vanderbilt, but there wouldn't have been any hard feelings that way.

                                                                                        1. re: thymeoz

                                                                                          We used to do this in college. We'd want to throw a party, and also make some bucks, but didn't have the money for a full-fledged party. So, we'd put up flyers on campus, "Trashcan punch Party, snacks, music". Only difference is, we'd put the dollar amount on the flyer. We were 18 (ok, dating myself), poor college students, but we better than to not put the "donation" amount on the sign.

                                                                                          In your case, I don't think I would have paid. I don't like being coerced.

                                                                                          1. re: thymeoz

                                                                                            i've never been to a party in someone's personal home where guests were expected to pay with cash.
                                                                                            potlucks? yes, hundreds of them
                                                                                            expected to pay money? none

                                                                                            1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                              As I mention upthread - I have - but in most cases its due to the fact that there's a mix of observant/very observant/not observant kosher practices. Instead of doing a potluck, the most observant have assumed making everything and then have asked (up front, to clarify the amount) for money.

                                                                                              But I think in all of these situations, the notion that everything is the same every time for every group of people is where people run into trouble. Who pays what under what hosting circumstances and when can greatly vary from various social groups for various reasons. Sometimes its financially motivated, sometimes not - but that's where I think it's both the duty of the host to be upfront and the guest to ask if they're unclear.

                                                                                        2. Among my (pretty wide/varied) circle of friends, the norm is for everyone to chip in and pay for the birthday person. It doesn't matter if that person's spouse/roommate/best friend sends out the email about the dinner, it's still understood that we'll be paying for our own meal and a portion of the person we would like to celebrate.

                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                            What about when the birthday person issues the invitation himself/herself?

                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                              I literally cannot think of a time I've encountered that, personally.

                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                This is the part that is weird for me, in these threads. If I were to throw myself a birthday party, I'd do it at home and I'd host. I think it's only appropriate for a restaurant night out if someone else puts it together and tells the other guests how the bill will be handled. It's just a bit awkward to me to be throwing yourself a birthday party in any form anyway - I think that's the role of a spouse/partner/parent/child/close friend. If no one else wants to rally up folks to celebrate your birthday, then maybe surround yourself with some new people?

                                                                                                1. re: 16crab

                                                                                                  I tend to agree with you, 16crab! However, there are some well-to-do individuals who love to treat their friends and take pleasure in treating them even when it's their own birthdays. And, that's a lovely gesture. However, for many people it's more comfortable if someone else hosts a celebration in their honor .

                                                                                                  1. re: JeanneNelson

                                                                                                    For sure, if you love it and can afford to host, knock yourself out. But if you want everybody to cover their own dinner, and especially if you want them to cover your birthday meal, you get someone else to send that email - even if you are pulling the strings! :)

                                                                                              2. re: huiray

                                                                                                Huiray, what threw me a bit in regards to the OP's quandry was that the birthday boy himself collected the money from each attendee at his soiree.

                                                                                                1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                  Yes, I can see that. It *does* depend on how the invitation was worded; but generally, unless it was spelled out clearly, being invited by a birthday boy/girl to a bash meant that you were a guest and the inviter (the birthday person) was hosting and paying. See my post above too: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8693...

                                                                                                  1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                    Yeah, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't like, freak out but in the moment I'm sure I'd think that was kinda tacky.

                                                                                                    In fact, the one time I did throw my SO a dinner I held it at a place I could afford and declined people's offers of money at the end of the night.

                                                                                              3. I'm middle aged, and I think this is shockingly tacky. Either you are an invited guest, or you are a group of friends going out to dinner, each paying for him/herself. There's no in-between, and I think the difference should be made very clear from the beginning. "We're all going out to celebrate Sam's birthday. Care to join us?" equals you pay for yourself and pitch in for Sam. If you're too strapped to participate, you decline and send Sam a card.

                                                                                                But being invited as a guest should always mean that the host pays, even if it's the birthday boy himself.

                                                                                                If everyone followed these really simple rules, there would be no nonsense about having to "read" the confusing cues for the so-called norms of one's social group.

                                                                                                There, off my soap-box. Off to get my perimenopausal bitch pills now...

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                  Right, but it seems that some people interpret "We're all going out to celebrate Sam's birthday. Care to join us?" as being an invited guest and that one should not be expected to pay.

                                                                                                  That's why I just always approach a dinner at a restaurant with the assumption I can and will be paying for myself. If someone else is picking up the tab, I am graciously happy. If I pay my own way, I am prepared for it and it doesn't ruin my evening and I don't go home feeling like someone somehow screwed me over by not paying for food/drink I somehow thought I was entitled.

                                                                                                  Maybe it is because I grew up in rural America where everyone always chipped in with a helping hand, a pie, some cookies, a pitcher of punch, a six pack of beer, a bottle (or 2!) of wine, paid for what they ordered/consumed at a restaurant/bar, etc, but the concept of expecting someone else to pay for me because they want to spend some time eating, drinking, and socializing really confuses me.

                                                                                                  (Isolda, that's not specifically addressed to you, it's just where my ramblings seemed to stumble out of my head.)

                                                                                                  1. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                    I gotcha. But in this case, the OP received a written invitation. To my old-fashioned mind, that really does sound like "be our guest." In the scenario you describe, I'd definitely assume we were going Dutch and that we'd all over to pay for Sam.

                                                                                                    You'd think would be easier in the age of technology, since there are so many ways to invite people and to make it oh-so-clear what's expected.

                                                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                      Yes, I do agree that if I received a written invitation in the mail and it did not explicitly state that there would be a per plate fee or that I would in someway be expected to pay my part, that I would think it meant they were paying for the meal.

                                                                                                  2. re: Isolda

                                                                                                    get me some too, okay? : ) : ) need 'em much!

                                                                                                  3. Beforel I read thymeoz comments (which left me flabbergasted), I was going to make the observation that if the birthday boy had invited the guest to his home for a party and at the end asked each guest for her/his share of expenses, most comments would be negative. How crass would that be?

                                                                                                    So change the venue to a restaurant and it becomes more ambiguous. Why? I can understand if a boy/girl/friend or spouse tells me that a group is going out to celebrate the birthday/promotion/retirement and I’m invited to come along, I would expect to split expenses. But my feelings are mixed when the birthday person is doing the inviting. What, no one else would throw a party for you so you’re going to make me pay for your party? I’m ok with that if you tell me up front. Don’t make me read between the lines.

                                                                                                    Have to tell an amusing little tale. My wife threw me a surprise birthday party. She invited a bunch of guests and had special menu set up by the restaurant. She planned to pay for the event at the end with a credit card. We each have a personal card for personal expenses (duh) and a joint card for house expenses which I end up paying most of the time. They didn’t take her amex so she puts it on the joint account. I’m not supposed to know what the event cost but guess who gets the monthly statement?

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                      I guess it doesn't bother me so much that the birthday person is the one notifying people of a gathering for their birthday. People can have circles of friends that are fairly distinct and not everyone (your friend/sister/partner) is comfortable looking up your co-worker or that friend from your softball team or your significant other's best friend and their spouse/gf/bf. Sometimes it is just easier for the celebrant to notify people they want to be there. Not to mention it can save a lot of hurt feelings/misunderstandings/animosity.

                                                                                                      1. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                        That's why I said my feelings were mixed and I would want the inviter to be clear about what was going on. Since as you say, multiple circles of friends are being crossed, its more important to be clear as school friends/work friends/ family will each have their own frames of reference. That way you avoid the hurt feelings/misunderstandings/animosity and threads like this.

                                                                                                        By the way, my wife was actually very good in crossing those circles. For example, she knew to contact a work colleague that she knew and had him come up with the the people to invite from work for the party she planned. But not everyone has someone like that.

                                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                          Your wife sounds like a wonderful friend! I try hard to be conscious and mindful of my friend's friends so that I can get everyone there that needs to be there.

                                                                                                    2. If I invite the whole family to celebrate a birthday ( husband's or mine) or any happy occasion, I will most certainly pay for the whole affair, without even a question. I wouldn't even think of asking for money, I would consider that totally tacky.

                                                                                                      1. This is why I choose to not have a "group" or "circle" of acquaintances. I am unable to deal with all this uncertainty and silly drama.

                                                                                                        1. I had never heard of this kind of birthday celebration, until my son's girlfriend had a 30th party for him at a restaurant.

                                                                                                          He has a group of friends who celebrate all of their friend's birthdays like this. But, they don't bring/buy a present for the birthday person. So in their group, it kind of evens out I guess.

                                                                                                          And I believe that it's well know that each pay for their own meal.

                                                                                                          I've been out to dinner with a few of them (not anyone's birthday) and what I found a little odd is that they all hand their credit cards to the waitress at the end of the meal to "pay" seperately. I had to chuckle, because in my day (I'm in my early 60's), we split the bill, but collected the cash for the waitress ourselves. Nowaday each of them had a smart phone and could calculate what their total was, so they didn't dump it on the waitress, lol!


                                                                                                          1. I have a friend who used to invite me to his birthday meal celebration every year - not once have I accepted.

                                                                                                            He usually chooses somewhere expensive and he and his other friends normally consume a lot of expensive wine. Personally wine for me has a diminishing return, plus I only normally drink a couple of glasses with a meal.

                                                                                                            Obviously when the bill comes, it is split equally among the guests - unfortunately I cannot afford to subsidise their drinking excesses.

                                                                                                            I admit that I am not comfortable with birthday parties anyway. I haven't had one since I was 18 and can't really see the attraction - but then I am a bit weird.

                                                                                                            1. There is a lot of discussion here about what is implied in the initial invitation but perhaps it should be switched and the onus put on the invited guests when accepting. A question posed to the inviter would clarify everything.
                                                                                                              'yes we'd love to come how much are you anticipating this to be per person?'

                                                                                                              1. This whole thread really baffles me. I can see where a family birthday party could be picked up by a family member, but I can't think of a reason why someone would be expected to pick up the tab for a party of friends with perhaps the exception of a very special guest (unique relationship).

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                  ...because it really depends on the wording and the intent of the inviter. Did I mention the wording? As many have said, if one is invited as a guest, then it is the host (the inviter) who pays. Gifts from the guests are fine.

                                                                                                                2. It is just so unbelievably beyond crass to expect your guest to pay their freight. What the Hell? If you are all broke as churchmice, then throw a house party, serve spaghetti and Gallo wine and listen to music or watch a movie. Class is not about money, it is about behavoir. The slobs who expect you to pay for the party that they invited you to, are just as slobby if they are grad students or if they are millionaires.

                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: RosePearl

                                                                                                                    "Class is not about money, it is about behavior."


                                                                                                                    1. re: RosePearl

                                                                                                                      I've never heard of someone inviting guests to their own birthday party (except perhaps children, asking friends where the parent is actually setting up the party or family members). It's always been by someone else organizing the celebration. The host must be really desperate for "friends" if he/she must arrange for their own birthday party celebration.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Clams047

                                                                                                                        Or that's just how their social circle functions... I have as many friends as I need, and we all plan our own birthday dinners. After nearly a decade with the same core group of women, we really don't need the pretense of figuring out who is going to plan which party to make sure we have everyone covered and no one with too much planning burden.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                                                          Agreed mpjmph. This reminds me of a couple of women I work with who will absolutely not acknowledge their own birthday until we all have gathered at their appointed celebration. That celebration must be planned by someone else and the birthday celebrant must not even be asked where they would like to eat or what they would like for their birthday cake. Shortly after I started working there, I made the very grave error of wishing one of these women happy birthday upon first seeing them in the morning. It was quite awkward when they played dumb, acted as if they had no idea what I was talking about, and I was then scolded for doing so. Drama almost certainly results because some random friend of the lady who works 4 buildings over and no one knows wasn't invited. I don't understand why people don't just get over themselves, drop the pretenses, and just say, 'We're going to blah blah for lunch on Thursday for my birthday'. Great! I'll see you then! (With my wallet!)

                                                                                                                          1. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                                            to me, that's a really strange approach.

                                                                                                                      2. re: RosePearl

                                                                                                                        Isn't passing such a harsh judgement about how others choose to celebrate while calling them slobs also a bit crass?
                                                                                                                        Like many others have mentioned it's quite common in many social circles to celebrate this way and most who are part of those social circles don't seem to have a problem with it. Not everyone wants to have their birthday party at home and this is a way for everyone to gather together, have some drinks and food among good company and a fun night out. Why is that so wrong? I agree with what many others have posted that the wording is important so as to avoid ambiguity. As to the story told by the OP, I can see them being caught off guard as the arrangement wasn't made clear and a written invitation is more formal which could imply that the meal is being covered.

                                                                                                                        1. re: virtualguthrie

                                                                                                                          Introducing the term "slob" here is perhaps crass, but the rest of the remark made by RosePearl is not. The subject of the thread is whether invited guests should be expected to pay their way when the arrangement has not been made clear to all. RP's remark gets right to the point, in my opinion, even though calling such people "slobs" was inappropriate.

                                                                                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                            If someone wishes to criticize another's behavior they must do so in a very proper manner. The poster also used crass and class, indicating that that person believed herself to have class and others were crass.

                                                                                                                            In general her tone was demeaning toward people she knows nothing about and is not likely to encounter, probably the best for all involved. It was not the kind of comment someone with true class would make.

                                                                                                                            As you said, class is about behavior. Rose needs to go re-read Emily Post.

                                                                                                                      3. I'm going to print out this thread for the next time my wife tells me that we should have some friends.

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: kengk

                                                                                                                          "Some" is OK - you just don't want these.

                                                                                                                          1. Is it so very wrong of me to be slightly gloating that my "friend" who always organises his own birthday dinner (and expects his guests to pay) is finding that a lot of his friends are busy that day.

                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilipS

                                                                                                                              Yes it is, if you consider yourself his friend.

                                                                                                                              1. re: gourmanda

                                                                                                                                Quotation marks make it clear that PhilipS is not serious about friendship. I wouldn't judge his answer unless I were sure that the "friend" isn't a chronically abusive user of other people.

                                                                                                                                1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                                  " chronically abusive user of other people." Love that rccola - describes this "friend" down to a tee. He as a master of this art, even down to quickly drinking his beer so he can get his offer in to buy a round while everyone is still nursing a full glass, knowing that not many will take him up on the offer, but it still looks like he has done his bit.

                                                                                                                                  Oddly enough, this chap is loaded.......

                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilipS

                                                                                                                                    I used to know this guy! He would sporadically ( not --too-- often, ya know) order a fancy shot and a nice beer when it was someone else's round of Buds for the dice players.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilipS

                                                                                                                                      I believe the term is shyster. Or as my people call it a cad.

                                                                                                                              2. there is this time, a friend of mine called me (which I dont think we're close or how) and said "hei, it's my birthday today, so all of you invited to my party, it's going to be at the sky private lounge at ministry of sound. and you'll buy me a bottle of martel ok, the minimum the usage of the room is to open 10bottle, you buy 1, ricky buy1, dave buy1.... so I see you tonight ok, remember it's my party"

                                                                                                                                I didnt attend his party of course. I still talked about it till today

                                                                                                                                PS. Im a woman...

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. .
                                                                                                                                  it doesn't bother me at all if it was made clear before i accepted the invitation that this was how it was going to work.

                                                                                                                                  generally speaking i like restaurants, and i regularly enjoy going out to eat anyway, so, going out with a group of friends for any occasion (or no occasion) is always fun for me as long as the restaurant serves decent food and isn't located in timbuktu.

                                                                                                                                  1. I think the hosts failed to realize they needed to explain this better. Between the written invitation, the upscale nightclub venue, and what I am guessing the likelihood that your friends do not socialize with them often enough to have established an implicit understanding or convention, it should have occurred to those hosts to make it clear in the beginning that everyone pays individually.

                                                                                                                                    Having said that, though, I think it can be difficult to realize this. For example if all the other guests have this mutual understanding that everyone pays individually (maybe from going out more often), it's easy as the host to overlook the outliers among guests.

                                                                                                                                    For example I can picture this happening to myself. My close circle of friends usually just pay individually, and someone would sometimes surprise the group by paying. Anyway, outside of this circle though are other friends who come out less often. I can totally see myself not thinking that I need to explain that everyone pays individually to them, in the times when they do come out, because you get used to how the group operates.

                                                                                                                                    1. Not at all. Very common actually to have a birthday celebration at a restaurant. It's just important that everyone know up front that it's a shared expense meal. In fact, most of the birthday celebrations that I have been to recently have the cost split by all the participants including the birthday guest.

                                                                                                                                      1. She should've made it obvious that everyone was paying their own way. But that is sort of bad form, if she invited everyone to a restaurant she should probably have paid for it. The best thing to do, is to always go to one of these events with the knowledge that you might be expected to pay for it. Also, as a guest to one of these events it's rude to order the most expensive item on the menu. It sends a bad message, order something cheaper, or moderately priced. Unless you intend on paying for it yourself. It's wrong to order the most expensive steak dinner and then expect your host to pay.

                                                                                                                                        1. Why on earth would they expect or assume the person who's birthday it is would be picking up the tab for everyone?! Not only should they fully expected to be paying for their own meals, they should have also offered to chip in for the birthday person's check as well as brought a gift in case everyone else brought gifts. It's not like they're getting ripped off or something, they're treating themselves to a nice meal with their own money.

                                                                                                                                          Even if one of their other friends organized the party, I wouldn't expect one friend to pick up the tab for all the other friends - that's still ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                          Some people are just insufferable tightwads. I have a feeling this neighbor is also the type of person who always manages to pop up when someone else is buying a round, but is nowhere to be found when it's their turn to buy the next round...

                                                                                                                                          12 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                                            They were expecting that the person who INVITED them was HOSTING the event, and they were there as GUESTS.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                              I think the gist of this thread is that the expectation of this is just not reasonable in many, many, many social circles. I would be stunned if I was invited to a birthday dinner and didn't have to pay my own way, and I would always go assuming that I would be pitching in for the birthday person.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                One should NEVER ASSUME such a thing when it's a BIRTHDAY party. Of course it is odd for the birthday person to be organizing their own party anyhow.

                                                                                                                                                Now, are we done shouting?

                                                                                                                                                I think we can all agree on one thing, the person making the invitation should always clarify the payment expectations at the time of the invitation.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                                                They would expect it because it is established protocol that a person who invites someone to dinner is the host. If another arrangement is planned, the invitation should make this clear. The problem is that hardly anybody knows manners anymore or even appreciates their importance.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                                                  This is not the only established protocol. It is the tradition in some circles. Not in other circles. Neither of those circles automatically trumps the other on manners.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                    Have to agree with GH1618. It is an established protocol in most circles that if someone issues an invitation, without conditions, that the host provides for the guest.

                                                                                                                                                    If you are a part of a circle that has previously established other arrangements that's fine. However, if you are inviting people who are new to the group, they need to be informed of the group standards, when the invitation is issued.

                                                                                                                                                    After all, manners are really just about making other people feel comfortable.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                                      True that manners are about making other people comfortable. However, I don't accept your statement that in most circles, your traditions are established. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I would need data to accept that. I've been a part of many different circles, of folks of various economic classes (though not super wealthy), a range of educational levels (though mostly post college educated), political leanings, and a range of ages (I regularly spend time with and have dinners with people between the ages of 25 and 75), and I have lived in two geographic regions in this country. Your way is not the established way in any circle I've been part of.

                                                                                                                                                      If your way works for you, that is of course fine. But my experiences suggest it is not the dominant way.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                        Its funny how old threads can come back to life.

                                                                                                                                                        I suspect you are in the lower end of the range of ages you have set. I'm more towards the middle. I think this is an age thing. When traditions are changing, those who come in with the change can't imagine it was different before. But In my experience which spans more geographic regions than your two, it is not uncommon for older more established people to assume that if they are invited to an event like a party, they are not paying unless told so. They may bring gifts, but there is no expectation of payment. I posted above last year about a surprise birthday party my wife gave for me. It was held at a restaurant. Guests brought gifts. My wife, the hostess, paid the bill. We have been invited to many birthday parties at restaurants and if we have not been told upfront its dutch, the hosts/hostesses have paid for the event. So its not unusual.

                                                                                                                                                        I'm curious. If you had a dinner party at home and invited guests, do you expect the guests to contribute to the cost of the meal and wine? If not, why? What's the difference between sharing the cost of a meal in a restaurant or at a home? If yes, that would be really odd to me. Though I believe there have been post about exactly that happening.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                                                          I am in my late 40s, so also in the middle of the age range I mentioned. In terms of my three main circles, I am by far the youngest in one, same age as the vast majority in another, and about 5 years older than the average in the third.

                                                                                                                                                          When I invite guests into my home, I do not expect payment. Nor have I ever been asked for payment when invited to someone else's home. Sometimes these are potluck events, sometimes they are not. Last week I had 18 people to my house for dinner and prepared it myself. Next week I will have 10 over for a potluck.

                                                                                                                                                          Why is it different? For two reasons, I suppose. One, it is easier to control costs and certainly easier to keep cost low at home than in a restaurant. But more important, because they are different. That's all. They are just different gatherings.

                                                                                                                                                          One reason for a restaurant gathering is that, though more costly, it is easier. No one has to shop, cook, clean, clean again. It is an easier way for friends to gather and spend an evening together. I see no reason to expect the person who initiates one of those lovely, easy evenings to pay for all.

                                                                                                                                                          The last birthday restaurant party I attended was coordinated by a close friend of the birthday guest. That person, the coordinator, had not the space nor the circumstances to host at her home, had not the money to host the group at a restaurant. But she put together a beautiful birthday event, everyone had a lovely time, everyone came with plenty of cash, clearly coming with the expectation they would be paying their own way.

                                                                                                                                                          If I get an invite to a friend's home that does not state what if anything I should bring, I ask. If I get an invite to a restaurant gathering, I assume I am paying for myself. I would venture that 90% of the people I know would respond the same.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                            Hey, different strokes for different folks (as us oldies like to say).

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                              So we're contemporaries. My group of friends has different expectations. Vive la difference.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: GH1618

                                                                                                                                                      Wanted to reply with some general idea of how I feel about this and an anecdote about where I work and how I feel it's tacky to NOT pay for the birthday person, but this comment really irked me.
                                                                                                                                                      Yes, if I invite someone to my house, I will be hosting.
                                                                                                                                                      Yes, if I plan a private party (or a wedding) at a restaurant or other venue, I will be paying.
                                                                                                                                                      Yes, if I'm out for drinks with a few friends, had a good night at work (I'm a server) or just feeling generous, I'm sometimes paying.
                                                                                                                                                      But as someone who serves large parties (I'm talking more than 8, up to 24ish) on a regular basis, unless its corporate these are almost always split bills. Sure if its a 4or 6 top one person may pick up the bill. Or, as I stated, if its a private party for a special birthday (like a 50th) the host may cover it.
                                                                                                                                                      As always, this is my perspective, based on my current social setting. I would never say those who don't adhere to this don't have manners. Only those who plan a big birthday for a friend then don't cover their bill. (We don't do free birthday desserts so if you order one for your friend who's birthday it is ill be putting it on your bill, whether you cover the rest if their meal or not).

                                                                                                                                                  2. I'll grant that the English language is one of the most difficult to comprehend--either spoken or written. But have we become so ignorant that we cannot differentiate between "I would like you to be our guest when we celebrate Marta's birthday at La Tres Soufflet"; v. "We're taking Dickey out for Brats & Beers at the Widowmaker tomorrow to celebrate his b'day. Care to join us?"

                                                                                                                                                    If confusion ensues, why not just drop a dime on the $300 per month communication devices we all seem to be carrying?

                                                                                                                                                    1. For my birthday about three years ago, I arranged a dinner at a local restaurant that has an extraordinary reputation that extends well beyond the region. In fact, I had to make the reservation a year to the date in advance, and I had to guarantee between 8 and 12 guests. This place is a gourmet grocery/cafe by day, but in the evening there is one party seated for dinner and the place is closed to everyone else. To me, it was more about the dining event and less about my birthday celebration. In fact, when I invited people, I gave them the date but didn't mention it coincided with my birthday. Truth is, though, just about everyone knew it was my birthday.

                                                                                                                                                      When I extended the invitations, I let everyone know that it would be a prix fixe dinner and the cost of it. Also, since it's BYO, I offered to take care of the wine pairings and purchase enough for the entire group, and divide the cost equally.

                                                                                                                                                      Ya know, now that I'm writing this out, I'm thinking that it really wasn't that I threw a birthday party and asked everyone to pay their own way; it was more that I knew that this group of people would really enjoy and appreciate the dinner, and since the restaurant is local to where I live, I made the reservations, which just happened to coincide with my birthday.

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                                                                                        Well, you let them know up front, that's a different story.

                                                                                                                                                      2. As a guest..it always pays to be prepared. However, as a host I would never consider inviting people to a birthday celebration at a restaurant and expect them to pay. After all..if you host a party at your house..you don't automatically expect the guests to contribute towards the cost of the food.

                                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: BlueMagic

                                                                                                                                                          I've found out here that some people DO expect home parties to be financed by the guests. Luckily I've never attended one myself.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                            I attended a home party like that. It was my first and my last! The host came out with a clipboard to tally what everyone owed. Tacky!!!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                              Did you know beforehand? And if not, what did you do? Inquiring minds want to know!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                I had no idea beforehand. I just thought it was a potluck get-together. (I brought homemade caramel corn and banana pudding for dessert) Then, during coffee and dessert, our shameless host came out with his clipboard to charge us for the turkey burgers we ate! (among other extras like fried onions and such!) My boyfriend (now hubby) and I were speechless. We were in our early 20s at the time, so we were quick on our feet. When the host put down his clipboard and excused himself to go to the restroom, we took our chance, and booked it out of his apt as fast as our legs could go! We laugh about it to this day & we've never dined with this "host" again! I marvel at the woman he ended up marrying! She's probably a saint!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                  I LOVE that you turned it into a dine and dash!!
                                                                                                                                                                  I'd have said, "hold on a moment, let me figure out how much to deduct for my 2 dishes... oh, actually, you owe me!"

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                    Hahaha!Thanks! He definitely owed me more than I owed him! Lots more $$ went into that pudding! This was something out of a Seinfeld episode, for sure!! :)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                      Very cool, calm and collected. Love it.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                    That's hysterical. You should have given him your Diner's Club card.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                      you should have charged him for the desserts you brought. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                                                                                    Oh wow, that is so tacky. Sometimes you just have to wonder if people have mashed potatoes in their head!

                                                                                                                                                                1. In my opinion, it was in incredibly bad taste! You DO NOT intentionally put people in awkward situations. EVER! To invite people and then go around -- AFTER the fact -- asking them to pay for their meal is pretty crass and crappy behavior. Someone I would quickly count as an ex friend! You should never ever provide an opportunity for friends to be uncomfortable or embarrassed. Shame!

                                                                                                                                                                  Warning ahead of time at the very least provides paying guests with the opportunity to decline.

                                                                                                                                                                  Mischief: IF anyone brought a gift, I hope they asked the "host" to chip in on what they paid for it after being asked to pay for their dinner! (Sometimes it's such fun to be wicked!) '-)

                                                                                                                                                                  22 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                    The guests are not intentionally being put in an awkward situation, they are being crass by assuming their dinner will be paid for.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                                                                                                                        When you invite someone, you SHOULD understand that that means, "I'll be the host and I'll pick up the tab!" That is the very looooooooooooong standing tradition. If you do not plan on picking up the tab, then at the very least you owe it to whomever you are inviting to let them know AHEAD of time that you expect them to cover their own costs. NOT telling them ahead of time is putting them in jeopardy of not having enough funds with them, of being financially strapped and not wanting to spend THEIR money in THAT way. If you wish to be rude and inconsiderate to your friends, that's a personal decision you have a right to make. But it isn't the way to cement any friendship. Trust me!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                          That's your interpretation, not a universal truism.

                                                                                                                                                                          As evidenced in this thread, it's common in many social circles for people to pay for themselves at a dinner celebrating someone's birthday.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                            Not to worry, Caroline1...I'm with you. Then again, I understand the meaning of "guest", "host", and "invitation".

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                Hey, if you want to take on Judith Martin, be my guest!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                  After a group of people hang out together for a while how things work within the group becomes obvious and natural to the members of the group, which can be very different from whatever "objective authority" might consider the right way to do things.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I think at that point one should try to realize the need to explain how things work when inviting a new friend into an outing of the group. But if the invited new friend becomes outraged at the group's custom upon learning it and evokes Miss Manners, that seems extremely dogmatic and missing the point of "manners" to me. Manners are not some objective, universal thing that applies to all groups, in all locales, and for all ages. Perhaps not so surprisingly, often I get the feeling that people of conservative dispositions much older than myself wish it were so.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Dio Seijuro

                                                                                                                                                                                    Don't bet on it. But clarity and communication are always a noble goal. '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                  As long as a group is familiar with the usual customs, it should'nt be a problem. But as several have posted here, not everybody always KNOWS about those customs. And some people are abominably tacky.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                            These topics on hosting/dining etc and how people approach them always intrigue me.

                                                                                                                                                                            If I may pose a respectful question to you and the rest of Chow. Suppose a friend of yours phoned and left a message saying, 'As you may know, Saturday is Sally's birthday. She's been wanting to try the new bistro on Main St for some time now, so we've decided to have dinner and drinks at 7 on Saturday evening to celebrate her birthday. Hope to see you there!'. You arrive, have a lovely dinner and great conversation with 9 other fine individuals, and when the bill arrives a few people (not all, as evidence suggests that the population is divided on how to handle such situations) reach for their wallets and start putting cash in or discussing how to divvy up the bill. It's clear at this point that Mary, the organizer of the dinner, was not intending to pay for the entire tab. Mary is wonderful person, she waters your plants when you are out of town, is the head of the local food bank, involved in several other charities and service organizations, and is quite enjoyable to be around.

                                                                                                                                                                            My question for everyone is this, would you really stop being this woman's friend simply because she organized a dinner for a mutual friend but didn't pay for your meal?

                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not trying to single you Caroline, but it seems to be a common statement that is made in these types of topics and I am honestly and respectfully curious as to why.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, this. In my circle of friends, we like to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate birthdays. One person generally takes on the task of getting ball rolling to figure out when/where works best for everyone, then sends out the email with specifics. It's absurd to me to consider this person the "host".

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes. Different friends, different social circles, different expectations.
                                                                                                                                                                                My friends are all professional people, graduate degrees, older, lots of money...but that doesn't always mean that they pay for everyone invited.
                                                                                                                                                                                However, it should be clear on the INVITE, as to what is expected.
                                                                                                                                                                                No one in my social network feels obligated one way or the other. It is made clear with the phrase " no host bar" or " get together" or "hosted party" or whatever. The burden is on the
                                                                                                                                                                                " inviter" to make sure that the invitees, know what to expect.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                  If the invitee is that afraid they might have to pay their share they shouldnt show up.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                                                                                                                                    No, if they're "afraid" they should just call the inviter and ask.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                                                                  A host hosts a gathering. Friends getting together isn't hosting and of course the person who organizes isn't assumed to be the host.

                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't mind being singled out. '-) The primary point i'm trying to get across here is that it is unkind not to have such matters clarified BEFOREHAND! And I will also say that clarity is the responsibility of all concerned. If you have questions, ASK!

                                                                                                                                                                                  In the example you give, polymerase, I would have a lot of questions, and would follow up with a phone call to clarify things. I LOVE clear understanding!

                                                                                                                                                                                  I will also add that come the 9th of next month, I will be kicking the big eight-oh (yes, 80!) in the head, so age may be a factor here. In my frame of reference, to INVITE someone means you will be the HOST, and you will take care of all expenses. But among good friends it is also possible to say, "Hey, I really want to try that new Bolivian restaurant but my finances are a bit tight. Would you be interested in going Dutch?" And in case anyone is young enough never to have heard the term before, going "Dutch" is a very old term that simply means we each pay our own way.

                                                                                                                                                                                  It is just unthinkable, to me, to be "invited" to a restaurant to celebrate someone's birthday -- *especially* if the invitation comes from the birthday person -- and then be hit with my tab with no warning the invitation was to go "Dutch." And I would absolutely have brought a gift. Yeah. I would resent the hell out of being invited as a "guest," going to the bother to buy a thoughtful gift, then be blindsided with my check. That's just not playing fair!

                                                                                                                                                                                  I also recognize that times change, and what is standard for my generation may not be standard for yours, BUT.... CLARITY should ALWAYS be the standard for all!

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                    Input from another old fogey - We recognize that there are different customs among different local subcultures, but can we agree that the default assumption, when invited to a "party", is that the host/ess pays unless some cost sharing is spelled out. There are words to describe occasions with expense sharing; "going dutch", "potluck", "get together", mutual celebration" etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                                                                                                    No, the way you worded it, it was pretty clearly (to me) an everybody pays theirs and chips in for Sally's meal. I learned from a scroungy boyfriend years ago that you ALWAYS bring enough money for yourself, and if it's a meal honoring somebody, better bring along enough $$ for your part of their meal, too. If the organizer pays, offer to chip in for the tip.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                                                                      He was scroungy but offered to chip in for peoples meals and pay his own way? Sounds quite the opposite...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                                                                                                                                        I interpreted that as the boyfriend never paying for *her* (or maybe *his*) meal!

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: pollymerase

                                                                                                                                                                                      I once received an invite in this manner (I think I've related this before). Had a friend who was pregnant, got a voicemail from one of her friends (that I didn't know), "Hi, we're having a baby shower for K on Saturday, date, location of restaurant, hope you can come." Responded back and got her answering machine, left message I'd love to join them. Went, had a nice lunch, small group of us, didn't know the "hostess" or a few other of her friends. One brought a cake so clearly it had been discussed amongst some of them. Bill came, some whispering amongst that group I didn't know, then one leaned over to me and whispered "your share is xxx amount." Didn't want to cause a scene or embarrass my friend, paid up and was glad I had the cash. The 2 other women I did know were also put on the spot and we exchanged looks amongst ourselves but clearly we were not expecting to pay and just be "guests."

                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Everyone needs to watch the "Nina's Birthday" episode of Portlandia, which epitomizes the current ridiculousness adult birthday parties have achieved.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I hate to sound like an old fogey (I'm 41) but to me, birthday celebrations are for children. I have a few good friends I take to lunch or dinner for their birthday, and they do the same for me, but I would never consider inviting a bunch of people to a restaurant to celebrate my birthday - and then expect them to pay!

                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                                                                                                                      LOL - thanks for that. Just watched "Nina's Birthday" - we don't get Portlandia in the UK - but it looks like my type of humour.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree. Birthday parties with gifts are for folks 12 and under. If someone's children want to throw a bash for mom's 90th, that's great (we did that) and no presents were expected or brought, and we paid the expenses of what was essentially a huge reception.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Except for landmark birthdays, I think it's tasteless to make a birthday celebration out of a party for grownups.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: littlemissmuffin

                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree with you. Going back to the OP, the birthday boy throws himself a party and has the "invitees" (won't use the word guests since that sets people off) pay. I want to say to him, what none of your friends would take you out? Maybe this is why.

                                                                                                                                                                                          We had birthday parties for the kids until they hit about 12 or so. Don't have them anymore since the teen years hit. Last birthday party I had was given by my wife for one of those big "0" years. Otherwise, its usually a nice quiet dinner with the family and maybe a few friends where I've never done the "inviting." Sometimes its at home, sometimes in a restaurant. If its at a restaurant sometimes someone picks up the tab, other times its dutch, but someone else made the arrangements and I got to just show up and enjoy myself with a nice meal and conversation.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I have no interest in being the party boy. But that's just me.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. We did this for my grandmothers birthday. We invited around 50 people. We worded it so there was no mix up.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: deputygeorgie

                                                                                                                                                                                            Isn't clear communication wonderful?

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I'm 28 and I would be shocked if I went out for a friend's Birthday and didn't have to pay. In fact, if they did try to pay, I'd probably be trying to talk them out of it being that it's THEIR Birthday and I think your own Birthday should be a day where those who love you treat you. I would be fine with this if someone close to them had organized the Birthday, was hosting, and decided to generously pay for everyone, but this never happens in my social circle. But the outings for my friend's Birthdays usually tend to be pretty informal to begin with.

                                                                                                                                                                                            In the case of the OP, the fact that their was no prix fixe menu would've been a huge tip off for me that I was definitely paying for myself. I feel like the implication I always have is that I'm paying for myself unless specifically indicated that I will not be. But, as evident by this thread, not all social circles work the same way as mine, so I guess I can see the confusion from both sides, with neither being right or wrong IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SaraAshley

                                                                                                                                                                                              This is exactly how it is in my friend group also. If I was to pay everyone would fight me instead about it. We are all young working adults and work our budget to go on these birthday outings.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Now if it was where I invited everyone over, I typically refuse to do a potluck and will make the entire meal myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: vttp926

                                                                                                                                                                                                Yeah, I've actually never heard it working any other way before reading this thread. For the big group Birthday going out, it's usually just at a bar and its usually after dinner. Everyone orders their own drinks from the bar or the table, and usually takes it upon themselves to order 1 or 2 for the Birthday person. I'll usually just say to the server "can I get a (whatever the person is drinking) on my tab." I guess I could say that the Birthday person also doesn't automatically assume everyone is paying for their drinks, but it always ends up that way, I would never leave a friend with a tab at the end of the night on their Birthday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been invited as a guest to also go out to family Birthday dinners, where's it just me as the friend and the friend's family. In this case, the friend's family always pays for their dinner, and a lot of times mine, but I'm always prepared to pay for my own if that doesn't happen.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: SaraAshley

                                                                                                                                                                                                I've got 20 years on you and that's still how it works among my group of friends. On my last birthday I invited a group of 10 for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I really wanted it to be my treat, especially since I knew several of them were on a tight budget and I didn't want them to worry about whether they could afford to come. So I struggled with how to word the invitation to make my intentions as clear as possible - I think it started with "Please be my guest for dinner at . . ." Even with that, when the bill arrived several of them protested that it was my birthday and it wasn't right for me to pick up the tab (and I really don't think it was a token lame protest). I persisted, telling them "you can take me out for a post-birthday drink or lunch sometime." Several of them took me up on that, which was nice bonus - not because they paid for me, but because I got to spend some quality one-on-one time with people I usually see in a group setting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cookie monster

                                                                                                                                                                                                  That was very nice of you to treat everyone. I might do the same if I were in a position to do so and realized that some of my friends were on a tight budget. After all, it really is about being with friends on their special day and not who pays. I'm also really glad to hear that several of them reciprocated your kindness and took you out on another occasion. It sounds like you're a good friend that deserved it!

                                                                                                                                                                                              3. I certainly don't think its bad form to invite a group out and make it clear that the attendees are on their own in regard to paying. "Hey everybody, let's all meet at restaurant X... It would be fun to get together, the food is great, and the prices won't break the bank."

                                                                                                                                                                                                That's a lot different than, "I'd like to invite you to dinner at restaurant X to celebrate Joe's birthday..." That is much more of a "it's on me" kind of thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                It's about communication, people!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Usually someone other than the birthday celebrant arranges for the celebration and is expected to make the terms of the official invitation clear. I've never heard of someone inviting friends to celebrate with him at an expensive restaurant and then expecting them to pay for themselves, and then collecting from everyone at the restaurant!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A typical scenario usually involves a friend who arranges for the celebration, making clear that all attendees will pay for themselves as well as chip in for the birthday honoree and his/her guest's dinner. In those instances usually the host pays the entire bill plus tip on her credit card and then notifies all the guests of their portion. It’s not elegant to collect from everyone at the table, especially at an upscale establishment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another typical scenario involves a friend of the birthday person inviting everyone to her home for a dinner party or more casual get together. Of course, in that case no one is expected to pay, but certainly it’s polite to offer to contribute food, drink or dessert.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  A third scenario has the birthday person hosting a party for herself either at her home or at a restaurant. Again, no one should be expected to pay -- they are all guests of the birthday host -- but they should offer to bring something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  There are etiquette guidelines for both the host and guest. The host is expected to be clear in communicating with his invited guests as to the nature of the celebration and terms of the invitation. The guests are required to reply promptly and clarify anything of which they are not 100% certain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  In the situation under discussion, it's perplexing to me the couple who were surprised that they were expected to pay did not know the person who extended the invitation well enough to either know what the custom of the group is or to clarify the details of the invitation. Good friends who celebrate together often should know the routine; but, it's still never wrong to ask. If one feels uncomfortable contacting the host, then he may contact one of the other guests to find out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JeanneNelson

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think your "typical" scenarios are quite atypical for many groups of people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you, debbiel. These are the scenarios with which I am most familiar and are typical among my friends and colleagues. I'm sure there are many others. I would be interested to know what you consider typical.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 scenarios all atypical?
                                                                                                                                                                                                        They ring familiar and true to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                                                                                          My point was that the replies to this thread suggest there is not really a universal typical. What is typical for some of you is atypical for many of us; what is typical for us is atypical for you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                            what is typical for you because I think those 3 groups were spot on

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am closest to the first scenario, except that there isn't usually a host charging the entire thing and then collecting. We usually pass around the bill and put in our shares. But what I object to in that scenario is not how the money is handled but the judgment about how it is handled ("t’s not elegant to collect from everyone at the table...").

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The third scenario is also off the closest scenario for my groups of friend, as well as others who have reported here. Many of us have a custom of and are just fine with the bday person organizing the restaurant meal but not picking up the tab for everyone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oh ok... what you mentioned in the 2nd paragraph is what I usually do too but figured scenario 1 was similar enough.. if there are 6 or more people going out for dinner its very annoying to make a waitress give everyone a separate bill in my opinion though... just pay back the person later that night

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  While I think to a large extent the separate bill thing is just a part of the serving job these days, I agree that it can be a pain. I'm fortunate to have groups of friends where that isn't needed. One itemized bill goes around, people calculate what they owe, put their cash in, and hand it to the next person. And I say fortunate because it always comes out with a good and proper tip first time around. :) No inelegance involved, in my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: JeanneNelson

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I appreciate all your responses. Just to clarify, the inelegance to which I refer relates to Kat's situation in which the dinner party was held in an "upscale restaurant/nightclub." In that type of situation, the bill is better dealt with by one person who has prearranged with the restaurant to let her know when the bill is ready. Then she can quietly leave the table and take care of it be reimbursed later by everyone. But, in a more casual environment settling the bill with everyone on the spot is certainly fine; it's simply a matter of judgment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. This is easy. If one invites people to something - restaurant, home - one becomes the host. The host is responsible for paying for any charges incurred. End of story. If you are a group that gets together on a regular basis, then of course, you may make other plans among the group. But a 'stand alone' invitation to an event is unquestionably the responsibility of the host.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Invitations usually indicate either way. If confused, ask for clarity. As for gift expectation, I think gifts are for children birthday parties. I rather a good visit with my friend's and share some laughs! That's better then gifts.