Q: My friend and I would like to throw our other friend a surprise 40th birthday at her favorite restaurant. Due to our budget we’d like to ask guests to pay for their meal and chip in on hers. How could we word this on the invitation?
A: How wonderful that you’d like to treat the birthday girl to dinner out! Unfortunately, since you wouldn’t charge guests to attend a party in your home, it wouldn’t be appropriate to charge them to attend a party in a restaurant and ask them to pay extra to cover the birthday girl’s meal. It’s best to make it clear when you extend the invitation that you both are acting more as “coordinators” than as hosts. It’s all in how you phrase it. For this type of get-together it’s best to call your friends and say something like, “Erin, would you and Tim like to meet us at Leunig’s on Saturday the 7th to celebrate Nancy’s 40th? We’re asking Tom, Michelle, Mike and Ginger to join us too. The plan is to split the tab and treat Nancy to her meal as well. Let me know if you can come and I’ll make the reservation!” By putting it this way, it’s clear that you are just organizing the party and not hosting, everyone will know what is expected and can choose to take part or not.
We often hear from people who want to host a party at a restaurant but can’t afford the expense. Here are some other options that won’t break the bank:
- Host the party at home where you can control the expenses. Potluck is always an option and a fun way to host on a tight budget.
- Stick with the restaurant plan and rework the guest list to a number you can afford.
- Ask the restaurant for a set menu from which your guests can choose that still fits your budget.
- Plan an hors d’oeuvres-only or desserts-and-coffee-only menu with the restaurant.