Do the Parents Pay? Those who invite are responsible

by epi on July 16, 2012

Q: I have been dating a man 10 years my senior for the past two months. Both he and I feel its time to introduce him to my parents. I thought that it would be nice to do this over dinner at a restaurant of my parents choosing. My mother said that she didn’t care where it was because he and I would be paying. My question is who should pay for the meal? My boyfriend is well established in his career and I am a recent college graduate still looking for work. Should we pay as I suggested that we meet this way or should my parents pay as I am their daughter and only child. My father said not to worry about it and to ignore what my mother had said. I felt that if they paid then we would reciprocate the next time, and vice versa. But, who is supposed to pay this first time out, and if my date and I are to pay how should I let him know this with out causing a ruckus (this was my idea that I brought up to my mother instead of having him just come over the house).

A: Whoever does the inviting pays for the meal, both this time and in the future. You don’t have to alternate who pays, and although your family might come to an agreement later on that you split meals, for example, the rule for now is that the couple who invited the other for dinner is the one that pays. You can still offer to take them to a restaurant they choose, but that doesn’t mean they are hosting the meal.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

mildred July 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Q. when a family member or a friend comes from out of town to visit, who should contect who first? the one that lives in town or the one that comes from out of town?


Just Laura July 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

How would the person in-town know about the visit, unless the person out-of-town told them about it? Personally, I’d wait for Out-of-Town person to initiate contact, as they know their schedule best. For instance, if Out-of-Town is in town on business, s/he may not have time to visit others.


Lilli July 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I hate to break it to you – but since you invited your parents and your new boyfriend to dinner you should expect to pay for them – all of them – boyfriend included. I know – they are older than you and make more money, but that doesn’t mean you can make them pay for events you arrange. If you can’t afford a dinner at a restaurant perhaps you can invite them over for a homecooked meal. As an added bonus, by taking the initiative to host a gathering within your budget you’ll show all of them your independence and maturity.


Heather July 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I agree with Lilli. Just because your parents CAN pay for dinner, doesn’t mean that they should. Your boyfriend’s age and status level at his work do not reflect one way or the other on your amazing abilities and social graces.

You are a savvy college graduate making a name for yourself in the world. Parents or no parents. Boyfriend or no boyfriend. You are strong, smart and savvy! Live it!

This is a great opportunity to relish in being an adult and showing your parents that you are in an adult relationship. Show your level of responsibility and maturity. You don’t need a fancy dinner to do that. . . have you parents and boyfriend over for dinner or just dessert. If your living space isn’t comfortable, you still have options. Meet for happy hour at a neighborhood bistro. Good out for coffee and dessert at a cafe. Pack a picnic and enjoy an outdoor summer concert.


shawna October 31, 2012 at 8:24 am

I was invited to my nieces birthday party by my sister. My 15 year old niece choose the restaurant. We ordered appetizers, dinner and drinks. My sister brought a cake from a bakery. When the bill arrived the tab was passed around.

This was not an inexpensive place and more of an adult restaurant.

The original message was “We are celebrating XXXX’s birthday on XX at XX. Let me know if you can make it. No discussion about contributing host or no host. I am not sure I would have gone if I knew I had to pay for my dinner. As I am struggling to get back on track financially. My sister knows I am trying to get on track. From now on do I need to ask if this is a host or non-host event? And when I do I know she is going to ask why I asked this question. The whole thing is awkward. I would never host a celebration and expect anyone to pay with out fully discussing this in advance. I feel setup and that the money was stolen from my pocket.



Winifred Rosenburg October 31, 2012 at 11:37 am

The wording your sister used is ambiguous so yes she should have been more clear. I probably would have assumed that I would be paying for my own meal, but I could see why others might not take it that way. In the future a good way to check is to act as though you are assuming you are paying and say something like “could you please give me an idea of how much entrees cost there?” If they actually are hosting you, they’ll say “don’t worry about it! You’re our guest!”


Norma Umphress December 11, 2013 at 2:17 am

I am reading your blog and a thought came to my mind. I am traveling to another state and taking my daughter and her fiance to meet the family. I haven’t seen my sibblings in 7 years. We agreed to meet in a central location for dinner and I was told to pick the place, but I am now not sure if I should be the one to pay for the 12 of us or if it is fair to expect us all to pitch in. Any thoughts?


Winifred Rosenburg December 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

It depends how the invitation (for lack of a better word) was worded, but it sounds like you were acting as coordinator, not host, in which case you would not have to pay for everyone.


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