HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Who should pay for the dinner in this scenario

Wife's birthday came and went recently and a friend sent the following email..

'Hey, When do you guys get back in town? Wanted to know when and how we can celebrate your birthday. My sister is working Tuesday (24hour, delivering babies) but will be around early afternoon on Wednesday if we want to do fro yo or something fun at your house'

Now we wound up going out to a casual dinner that my wife chose. I wound up getting stuck with her meal. Do you think that was correct or should it have been the friend who should have picked up the birthday girls meal?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sometimes, there is a price for learning a lesson.

    3 Replies
      1. re: latindancer

        Ultimately, that can only be determined by the OP.

    1. I don’t have a definite answer, but I think it would weird if said friend paid for just your wife and not yours too!

      Perhaps wife’s friend didn’t have the means of paying for your wife’s meal (or yours) since she did initially suggest something a lot more low key (fro yo or casual gathering at your house) which are both likely less expensive than dinner

      On the bright side, it is nice she remembered your wifes birthday!

      4 Replies
          1. re: UTgal

            Yep, I had to go look it up. Thought it was a typo in the original post until everyone else kept repeating it.

        1. re: pumpkinspice

          She was inviting herself over to your house?

        2. "Stuck"? Really? I would never feel stuck for paying for my wife's birthday dinner. Even if it was the 2nd or 3rd time we went out for her birthday. Plus, the e-vite was for a snack, not dinner. Sounded more like she wanted to just get together with your wife casually. Oh well, what do I know? I'm divorced twice, LOL.

          1. Sounds to me like there was no dinner invitation to start with. The friend just wanted to hang out, and it morphed into dinner. No obligation was created.

            1. Is your wife's birthday Tuesday or Wednesday? If it's not Wednesday, perhaps the friend didn't mean for you to come and it was more of a night with the girls?

              Did you "get stuck" paying for the friend or did you offer?

              1. That did not sound like an invitation to be taken out to dinner to me - it was just a suggestion to get together - I would expect to pay my way based on that message.

                1. This is a no win situation for your friend, who asked for something fun at your house for him/herself and sister, and ended up going out and having to buy dinner.
                  And NOW, you are stewing negative feelings about paying for your wife's dinner.

                  Keep the friends, forget the bill.

                  Do something fun at your house with them. soon.

                  1. if i was the friend, i would offer to pay her meal since it's her birthday, regardless of whether I expected something different. why? well, because it's her birthday. but, that's just me.

                    1. Had you gone for fro-yo, it would have seemed like your friend intended to pick up the fro-yo tab, but there's a pretty big difference between $5 worth of fro-yo and dinner, even casual dinner. When the plans morphed away from a cheap get-together, I don't think your friend was on the hook to pay for them.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Jacquilynne

                        Also - had they suggested to pay for just your wife's meal (which maybe wouldn't have been so much more than the fro yo) - but not yours, that may have been considerably more. And putting out the idea "we'll pay for our friend's meal but not her husband's" might have seemed far more awkward than just splitting the bill in half.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          maybe im not too socially adept, but why would paying for the meal of the person who is having a birthday and not her husband awkward?

                          1. re: majordanby

                            I think this will vary from social group to social group and how bills are dealt with - but I could see a case of taking out a married couple and then only offering to pay for half of the couple would seem odd. Additionally as both sisters were "celebrating" the wife, who would necessarily pay for the wife might just have not been a discussion had before hand and felt to be awkward to have in front of the couple.

                            Recently I went out to dinner with my brother and his girlfriend - my brother told me at the beginning "oh this is on me". I interpreted it initially as the meal, but he actually just meant drinks. The process of watching him later divvy up the bill was just so protracted and if it wasn't my brother (who clearly wanted to do a nice thing for me) I just would have offered for even splits and call it a day.

                            I don't see this as a universal "awkward" moment - but I could see a case where it could feel that way.

                      2. It's too damn bad people can't just pick up the phone and call.
                        Emailing sometimes gets in the way where every single word is having to be deciphered.
                        Let it go…
                        Good friends are valuable and money just isn't that important.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: latindancer

                          Sadly, there are some people who love that you think that, and will prevail upon you to pay whenever possible.

                        2. "I don't have much money, but it's my friend's birthday and I want take her out to celebrate. Do you think I will look cheap if I just invite her out for some fro yo?"

                          "HELP! My friend decided that she doesn't want to do fro yo and would rather go out for dinner. Even though she chose a casual place, I don't have the money to pay for a dinner. What do I do?"

                          "Follow up. We decided to go out to dinner with my friend and her husband. We ended up splitting the meal."

                          Dude, your wife seems inconsiderate for rejecting her friend's plan. And you seem cheap for complaining about paying for your wife's meal. Or did you also expect for them to pay for yours?

                          1. Sounds like the friend was trying to suggest something fun and cheap and it turned into something she couldn't afford. I'd cut her a break. Also, you didn't "get stuck" paying for your wife's meal. That's just silly. She's your wife. Yeah, sometimes you'll buy her food. Sometimes she'll buy you food. No big deal.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Hobbert

                              Whew, I thought I was the only one who thought it very strange that a husband was complaining of 'getting stuck' paying for his wife's birthday dinner. I can't think of any possible circumstance where I would feel stuck buying my husband's dinner. I'm not one for forum psychology, but there's a bit of a marriage red flag going up for me there.

                            2. The phrase "celebrate your birthday" does not imply to me "take you out for your birthday" or "treat you". Furthermore, if the friend was comfortable suggesting something at your house, it implies to me a close enough friend that the relationship is far more informal.

                              1. How are you 'stuck' with her meal? She is your wife right!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: cstr

                                  I took it to mean he "got stuck" paying for (or, offered to pay for) his wife's friend.

                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                    Looking at it that way it sounds like the frequent "who pays for dinner, the inviter or invitee?" question. The friend offered fro yo, the wife countered with dinner. Since the wife is the inviter shouldn't she be the one to pay? And maybe the real issue is lack of communication between the OP and his/her wife?

                                    1. re: viperlush

                                      Not to mention, if these are friends that are close enough where they can invite themselves over to your house - I think holding up this email as any kind of formal invitation is going to be a bit of a reach.

                                2. Getting stuck with your wife's meal? Yowza. I hope my husband would not feel that way.

                                  It sounds like they wanted to do something lower key (how did it go from frozen yogurt to dinner?) and it escalated into dinner.

                                  Be a gentleman...be gracious in regard to this.

                                  1. It wasn't exactly a formal invitation, which is why there was a misunderstanding. In such cases, you should ask for clarification in advance before proceeding, if it matters. If they didn't actually offer to take you to dinner, then I'd say separate checks are in order.

                                    My response to the initial unvitation would be to say "we'll be out of town for (a long time)." Then I would add the sender to my spam filter.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: GH1618

                                      If I was OP's wife, I'd be more than just a little sad reading this ;-(

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        If I was the friend who wrote the email and saw this thread I'd be a little more than sad. I hope the friend isn't a CH devotee and sees that the OP revealed, to everyone, the email written to him...

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          I just happen to think birthdays are personal or family affairs. We don't want people dropping in on our birthday. Not many people even need to know my birthday. When I was working, I used to insist that H.R. Protect the privacy of my birthday, because so many people these days are prone to doing stupid stuff in the workplace to recognize someone's birthday. Entirely inappropriate, in my opinion. Call me a stick-in-the-mud if you like.

                                          1. re: GH1618

                                            I'm right there in the mud with 'ya.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              I agree with you on that. Never been big on celebrating birthday with friends or much family. And I'm pretty sure that most friends don't know my birthday. But I'm assuming that your friends already know about your views on birthday celebrations. And that they wouldn't send you an email like this. But since the OP's wife doesn't appear to be like us, your response in this situation seems harsh. It doesn't seem like the method of invitation or the actual invitation that bothered the OP.

                                              But then again it takes very little for me to get annoyed by friends and to ignore them for months/years. And I have made my pseudo MIL cry on my birthday, and probably other days, because of my dislike of celebrations.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                Okay....presumably a friend would know this tidbit about you.

                                                (If not, kind of strange, imo, to "punish" someone by not adhering to this particular eccentricity)

                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                  Ok, I was exaggerating. I did have a friend once ask me to meet somewhere for a drink a few years ago, and it turned out he had invited a few others for a (modest) surprise birthday observation. I actually liked that. I didn't know he knew my birthday, but his wife was a collector of such trivia.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Kudos to you for being a good sport!

                                          2. My condolences to the wife who got "stuck" with a spouse who considers buying his wife dinner on her birthday at a place of her choosing something onerous or foisted upon him.
                                            A suggestion in an email that some frozen yogurt shared with friends on a birthday does not an invitation to dinner make.

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: KateBChi

                                              The thought or term I used was wrong and based on what I had expected from the friends. Additionally, we had our own plans to celebrate as a couple later in the week at a place that she wanted to go for a nice dinner.

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                Not sure what your own plans for a nice dinner later that week has to do with this dinner. I guess you are upset you are paying for TWO birthday dinners for your wife?

                                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                  So then why did you agree with your wife's suggestion of dinner with the friend?

                                                  "Honey remember we have dinner plans for later this week to celebrate your birthday. Why don't we just do as Jane Doe suggested and just go out for fro yo or just have drinks here? "

                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                    Because I'm too laidback and didn't want to disrupt whatever had been talked about. Look I realize now that the way I came across in my thoughts and way I presented the situation was jerky. I don't have a problem paying for two dinners. I was just mentioning the fact because someone else had brought up the idea.

                                                    To be more specific, the email originally stated something small like fro yo or just a gathering at our house. The conversation was between my wife and the other person. When I arrived home on Weds, the friends showed up 20 mins after they said they would and said where would you like to go to dinner (to my wife). As I wasn't informed that it was now going to be dinner, I had thought that they were going to be treating my wife. Yes I know what happens when you assume, but we all do it from time to time.

                                                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                      It sounds like you don't like these people (not a criticism, an observation) and that may be the source of your frustration.

                                                      It also sounds like you don't know exactly how it went down between your wife and her friend (again, observation).

                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                        I don't disllike them. There are times I am aggravated by them being inconsiderate to other peoples time but that is a separate issue. Yes I was left out of some of the conversation and so didn't know it had changed to a dinner until they showed up as until then I thought it was just fro yo.

                                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                          "Yes I was left out of some of the conversation and so didn't know it had changed to a dinner until they showed up as until then I thought it was just fro yo."
                                                          In that case, wouldn't the issue be more with your wife than with this friend? Shouldn't she (your wife) have let you know it was dinner instead of just a quick get-together over fro yo?

                                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        I guess I'm the lone 'hound that thinks it's strange they would come over to celebrate your wife's b'day, agree to dinner (and, now, suggest dinner!), and then not cover the b'day girl. I'm still curious what your wife thought of their actions and if this is typical behavior for said friend.

                                                        1. re: The Oracle

                                                          I am not getting that is was the friend who suggested dinner. It as easily could have been the wife. Either way, I'm not getting the perceived obligation that the friend should have paid the wife's way.

                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                            Unless it was an explicit, "we're treating you to dinner for your birthday!".

                                                        2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                          I get that you didn't plan on dinner and it seems it was foisted upon you.
                                                          I still would have not assumed that the friend would pay for your wife.
                                                          You were 2 couples?
                                                          If so, my experience is that each couple pays for themselves.

                                                          Something got lost in translation and you capitulated and it seems are a bit steamed about it- nothing wrong with that.
                                                          We all replay things in our head and wish we would have said X when we said Y, or nothing at all.

                                                          Hopefully, water under the bridge and dinner with your wife will be enjoyable!

                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                            2 couples and the friends are 2 sisters. Yes I got the message and I will be more careful about my choice of words. I think my wife thought it was a little strange that they didn't pay, but I don't know who decided it would be dinner.. only that when I got home my wife said it is now going to be dinner.

                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                              It's certainly reasonable to think that if someone contacts you to celebrate your wife's birthday, that they would offer to pay. If they don't have a lot of disposable income, the expense could be more than they hoped to pay, especially if they originally suggested frozen yogurt.

                                                              It seems like the best thing for everyone involved is to just forget about it. Otherwise, you end up jeopardizing a friendship over a dinner bill.

                                                  2. I would have gone expecting to pay but would have been pleasantly surprised if they treated us.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: UTgal

                                                      Sounds like the best way to approach things like this. I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed with or mad at friends.

                                                    2. <<I wound up getting stuck with her meal>>

                                                      truly a remarkable way to describe your wife's birthday dinner at a casual restaurant.
                                                      just wow

                                                      10 Replies
                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          So am I the only one who assumed "her meal" was the friend's meal?

                                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                                            I thought the OP, when saying 'the birthday gal's meal', was referring to his own wife's meal.
                                                            'Her meal' is his wife's meal.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              Ah, reading it again, I see what you mean.

                                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                Im pretty sure he meant the wife friend...

                                                            2. re: LeoLioness

                                                              It appears so, but it wasn't that clear in the OP. It actually makes more sense for the OP to be annoyed about paying for the friend's meal than his/her wife's. But either way it comes across like the OP is annoyed that he/she paid for the birthday girl.

                                                              1. re: viperlush

                                                                fwiw, i read it as he was annoyed he ended up having to pay for himself and wife (fine), but also the friend. and he felt the friend should have paid for herself and his wife. but maybe i'm just giving him too much benefit fo the doubt.

                                                                1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                  I'm pretty sure the OP meant his wife.

                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                    who knows. either way, kind of a weird one, but to each their own!

                                                                  2. re: FattyDumplin

                                                                    Funny, I just assumed(I know) that the friend was a male friend. I suppose I thought that because it never would have occurred to me that a man would have complained about another woman not paying for his wife's meal when he is present.

                                                            3. Friend offered "fro yo or something fun at your house"

                                                              Instead, you did something other than what your friend offered.

                                                              Something more expensive for them than what they offered, even just paying for themselves.

                                                              1. "Fro yo or something fun at your house" really can't be construed as anything other than a casual suggestion with very little commitment on the asker's part other than a desire to see you (not even offering up their own house). It is most definitely not a dinner invitation.

                                                                1. The friend didn't offer to take your wife out for dinner. She suggested a (free) hangout at your house or froyo, which is maybe $3-4 a person. I don't think she intended to do a casual dinner, otherwise she would have said "if we want to do dinner or froyo".

                                                                  BTW, were you supposed to tag along or was it just supposed to be just your wife and her friend? I don't see that she invited you along in that email...

                                                                  1. I think if it was ultimately decided to go to a casual dinner to celebrate, the friend should have picked up the tab for the b'day girl.

                                                                    There's a lot of unknown conversation, however, between this initial email and the plans that were made.

                                                                    Generally speaking, if I make a suggestion to celebrate someone's birthday and leave it open as to 'when and how', then I know that leaves some wiggle room for interpretation (which is also why I've gotten very specific as to my intent if budget is a concern (e.g. let's go to brunch, or let's go to dessert). Presumably, your wife knows her friend's budget constraints and assumably was sensitive in picking said casual dinner.

                                                                    OP - how has your wife and this friend celebrated in the past and was your wife surprised the friend did not pick up her tab?

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: The Oracle

                                                                      Fro yo or something, to me, would mean something along the lines of fro yo.
                                                                      Not, let's go out for a $4-$6 per serving little treat, or, heck, I'll buy the three of us dinner.

                                                                      But, as you said, we don't really know too much in the way of particulars and nuances.

                                                                    2. The restaurant should've comped the meal. I mean, why should anyone have to pay for the birthday gal's dinner?

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                        Or at least given her a free fro yo!

                                                                      2. I'd look forward to burgeoningfoodie coming back and filling in the blanks. It seems quite a few steps have been omitted between a casual email and a dinner. We could also use a clearer sense of the cause of outrage. Paying for the wife's dinner? Paying for dinner at all?

                                                                        But if the question is "Someone invited you to have a frozen yoghurt or hang out. You black out and 36 hours later, you find yourself sat at in a restaurant facing a tab. Who should pay?" I can't say. I suppose whoever slipped you the mickey.

                                                                        1. There was no invitation to treat her to dinner out. If you are uncertain, the best time to clarify is before accepting.

                                                                          And a still-wed spouse is not "stuck" with the spouse's meal. That just screams an attitude that needs self-management.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. Okay okay.. stuck was the wrong choice of words.. geez... First and foremost, I love my wife and don't have a problem paying for her. After reading people's responses, my expectations and interpretations were probably misappropriated. And as with a lot of things it boils down to miscommunication or a lack thereof.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                              Not About Food is not for the faint of heart.

                                                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                                "my expectations and interpretations were probably misappropriated"
                                                                                "Misappropriated" not "misunderstood"? No one took the OP's ideas, expectations or interpretations and converted them for their own malevolent purposes. The OP complained about getting "stuck" paying for dinner with his wife on her birthday at a place of her choosing. That this morphed from sharing a frozen yogurt at the OP's home to a casual dinner with two friends doesn't change the equation one iota. The OP is miffed that he didn't get his wife's meal comped by friends because they had the idea, however vague, that they wanted to see his wife on her birthday.
                                                                                You can dress a toad up but it's still a toad. Nobody misappropriated the toad and converted it to manure. It always was what it was.

                                                                                1. re: KateBChi

                                                                                  Again wrong choice of words... *goes in search of thesaurus and dictionary*..

                                                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                                    That's the spirit. Keep your sense of humor through all the posts. When you post, re-read it with jaundiced eye as to how someone might take a negative spin before you hit that reply button. If there is a way to read two meanings into something, the people here will find 6. Back straight, look forward, hold you chin up high and get ready for that upper cut.

                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                      And don't forget to check the spelling, because someone is sure to point out "you" mistakes ;-)

                                                                              2. Sounds like the plan escalated... if the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn't you be in the same place? (ie you wanted to go out for a light snack with someone and they decided that it had to be a full three-course meal... would you expect to pay for them?)

                                                                                1. I always assume that we are paying our own way.

                                                                                  1. OP- Sounds like you love your wife. The friends not so much.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                      I like the friends but they are a little inconsiderate (in no relation to this post).

                                                                                    2. Hope that Mrs Burgeoningfoodie had a great time in spite of her husband's parsimonious tendencies.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                                        Despite what you say.. I am not frugal or stingy. She had a fine time.

                                                                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                                                          You had a rough go of it here. Thanks for being so open and honest! It made for a good read.

                                                                                      2. To jest, somewhere Henny Youngman is looking at this thread and is thinking... I did this in one sentence... this guy is taking 5 pages..

                                                                                        1. I think it is really weird that the friend invited herself over to your house to celebrate your wife's birthday. I just wouldn't do that, even with close friends. "Hello! Happy Birthday! We'll be over at 7. Be sure those apps and drinks are ready!" Maybe it was your wife who decided on the casual dinner because she didn't want to have to deal with hosting on her birthday? I do agree that the two visiting friends should have treated your wife to her meal, since they are her friends.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Kat

                                                                                            Out of all of the issues here, I think this is the least egregious. I've invited myself over to a friend's place and vice versa many times. The "be sure those apps and drinks are ready" wasn't implicit in the OP's message nor is it any time I've done it.

                                                                                            1. re: Kat

                                                                                              Seriously? I often will call a GF when I am out and about and say "Hey I'm in the neighborhood, mind if I swing by, we can have a glass of wine and catch up?" My GF's do the same. I have never felt like they were demanding to have "drinks and apps ready" no have I ever assumed as such.

                                                                                              Also in my family B-days are not huge celebrations that are planned in advance and must be done on THAT day. I have been known to call my brother and say "Isn't SIL b-day coming up? Should we BBQ this weekend, Ill bring the XYZ?" If it doesn't work he might throw back 'We already have plans but are free on Sunday. We can come to you if that easier, otherwise see you 6!"

                                                                                            2. I see nothing in the text of the email that implies the friend would be picking up the tab for fro yo, let alone a dinner out.