1. Country Girl

    Another less expensive, (although slightly less formal) option might be to make it an appetizer party. You could order a few large platters of some nice appetizers instead of an individual meal for each guest. If you are counting on alcohol being a part of the party, you could also call the restaurant and find out if they have any drink specials that may work for a larger party and pre-order a few to provide to guests. (i.e. pitchers of margaritas, specials on bottles of wine) I think if you mention this in the invitation “Please join us for appetizers and margaritas” (for example) then you should be fine just buying those and if guests want to order extra drinks or meals they can take it upon themselves to pick up the tab for those.

    • LC

      I like this approach. Then, the onus is on the guest to front the $ for anything outside of the prearranged menu.

  2. Peg

    I’ve been in office groups where a well meaning organizer worded the invitation this way and someone still missed the message that this was to be what I USED to hear called ‘a Dutch Treat’. Remembering that old phrase made me wonder if it’s still an appropriate term or has now been dropped as offensive?

    Either way, in a larger office especially with inexperienced co-workers, more detail might help. Can you tell I’ve had to pick up more than just MY tab on occassion?

  3. Elizabeth

    I agree with Peg’s sentiment – there’s no reason to be coy about one’s role either as host or organizer. It’s important to be clear about which role one is taking on and the role of the invitees as guests or participants.

    I also disagree with the advice. I think one’s responsibility to host or organize a party does depend, to some extent, on one’s means and one’s age. It is very common for twenty- to thirty-somethings to all go out to a bar or restaurant to celebrate someone’s birthday. The advice here seemed to be that if you were family than you had to host, but if you were a friend or co-worker it was alright to simply be an organizer. My sister recently organized a surprise birthday dinner for her boyfriend. He has a lot of friends, and their respective houses are too small to host that many people at home. So, she organized a dinner at a restaurant and then they went to a bar afterward. I don’t think any of the guests thought it odd or rude that my sister (a student and part-time hair stylist) did not host 20+ people. No matter where it was held, this would have been out of her price range. If she had kept it to something she could have afforded herself, then a lot of his friends would have been miffed at not being invited.

    Now, I do think after a certain point, though, it becomes a little unseemly to organize rather than host – especially if you’re doing for yourself. Partially, I think this is because birthdays become less of an ‘event’ past thirty. (This is just my feeling, and I have no problem for people that are really ‘into’ birthdays feeling or acting differently.) It also becomes less common after a certain point for someone else to throw you a party for anything else beyond a major milestone (40, 50, 60, etc), and I don’t think you can throw yourself a party as ‘organizer’.

  4. polite punk

    I agree with both Country Girl and Elizabeth.

    If you do want to treat everyone, but can’t afford it, appetizers and drinks are a great way. But if you also want to go out to dinner with a larger group, I certainly don’t expect the organizer to pay for my meal and I wouldn’t be put off if the invitation said something implying that I would be paying for myself.

    Alternatively, an other option is to find a place outside of both the home and a restaurant to throw the party. Art galleries, community centers, etc. are all great places to host a party. You can control the costs by either preparing the food yourself or having it catered.

  5. Robert

    I actually have a question to ask. It’s a bit complicated. My housemate and I recently relocated to another apartment a few blocks away (it’s a more convenient location). My housemate has at least twice as much stuff as I do. Our first apartment came furnished, so there really isn’t any communal furniture. A few of our mutual friends helped us move, and my housemate thanked the movers by throwing a dinner party during a time when he knew I could not attend. Now, he wants to be reimbursed for half the cost of a group dinner I didn’t get to eat. Should I just man up and accept the cost as payment to friends who helped us move?

    • Graceandhonor

      “Joe, I want to pay my fair share for my items that were moved and I wish you had held the dinner when I could have attended to thank everybody, so here’s a hundred bucks instead of the $150.” But, he’s probably not going to be happy or see your viewpoint. Probably easier to pony up what he wants, but if you do, resolve silently how you’ll handle this type of situation when it comes up again, because that sluice is now open, and come up again, something surely will.

    • Elizabeth

      You had friends help you move – it doesn’t matter that they also helped your roommate or how much more. Your roommate’s dinner party was his thank-you to your friends. You should also plan to thank them in some way as well, whether it’s providing a meal, giving them a thank you gift or something else. If I were you, I would decline to pay for the meal because that was his thank you and not yours – tell him that you have “thank you” expenses of your own.

  6. Tweets

    Hi! I have a question that sort of fits in this category. My husband is retiring and his work is throwing him a retirement party. There are no funds for this since this is a public work place and the usual custom is for everyone to pay a certain amount for the food and gift when they respond to the invitation. It will be more like an open house but there will be appetizers and a buffet dinner as well as entertainment in another part of the establishment. It also will be held inside and outside depending on where the guests prefer to go. The guest total could be over 200 by the time the RSVPs are returned from the different departments and the quests that are invited individually. Our concern are the close friends and family members that are invited who are not a part of his work. Should my husband and I pay for their share if they wish to attend? It feels funny to us, but others have told us that’s just the way it is and how would you determine who to pay for or not pay for.
    It’s a big retirement after a succesful career of many years and very bittersweet for him. His coworkers want it to be a wonderful occassion for him and so do I. We also want to do it right. Can anyone help us out?

  7. Sable120

    My feeling is as you tell close friends and family the reason for the party, where and also let them know that people attending the party are each paying a flat amount to such and such a person at such and such number. Leave it to them to make arrangements if they do attend. In our economy few can afford to pick up a tab for several guest, esp when your income has just become…. shall we say reduced?

  8. missy

    Well here’s another one I would love an answer to: I’m announcing/organizing/arranging a birthday party for a friend at a restaurant..Everyone’s clear that they are paying their own bill…but is it tacky to talk to a few close mutual friends a head of time and ask them to chip in and help cover the cost of our friend’s meal?

    • Country Girl

      Not at all, so long as you are offering the option and are graciously accepting if someone’s answer is no. Simply say something like “I know everyone is paying their own way at this party, but I thought it would be nice to gather a few people to share the cost of Susan’s meal. Would you like to join in? It’s perfectly ok if you say no.”

  9. tea

    Appreciate this question-answer exchange. Could any of you help me with the wording for an invitation that needs to say, essentially, “you’ll be buying your own drinks?” My beau is in recovery and I am hostessing a dinner out in his honor. Everyone’s meal is covered but I’m uncomfortable including alcohol in that … Any suggestions for being direct and avoiding awkwardness? Thanks in advance.

  10. Maggie

    My feeling is that you needn’t tell them this in advance, as part of the invite. I don’t think that extending an invitation for dinner automatically includes a promise of alcohol or that guests can order anything on a restaurant’s menu. Often for restaurant parties, there’s a more limited selection of menu items or beverages selected by the host.

    However, since alcohol will be available, I could understand your wish to clarify that you won’t be picking up the bar tabs once everyone has gathered. This reminded me of a wedding I once attended where the couple did not drink or serve alcohol to their guests, but they held the reception in a restaurant that had a bar. What they did was print menus describing the dinner selections and then they indicated at the bottom that there was a “cash bar available in the main dining room.” You could do something like that. Alternatively, you could speak to your waiter and ask him, to point guests who try to order drinks toward the bar.

  11. Adrianne

    I am organizing an retirement dinner for my husband in March. I’ve sent out e-mail blast and flyers out to different places. I am now following up with phone calls to a few friends and relatives but I’m stuck on how speak to them about the event because its a paid event. How do I ask them if they are coming.

  12. Jody

    Adrianne — by “paid event” do you mean that each person is paying for his share of the dinner? Did your e-mails and flyers include those details and the cost per person?
    Just Laura’s idea is very good, just call each person and say that you need a headcount. If the event facility has a deadline, you can also use that as a reason for calling the guests.

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