hosting etiquette?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by woodstock, Nov 8, 2011.

  1. woodstock

    woodstock New Member

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    I'm planning on throwing a surprise 40th birthday party for my boyfriend in a few months and the logistics are getting a bit tricky. So far the guest list is about 35 people, and we decided that the only kids present will be family-member children (as most of the invitees have young kids, it would have doubled the guest list and made it much more costly). I figure no one can really complain about having to get a sitter when there are only 4 children present and they are nephews/nieces/etc.

    Here's the trick...money. 35 people is a lot to feed. My boyfriend has dropped a strong hint about a sushi place being a "wonderful place to have a birthday party", as it has a private room upstairs that can accomodate 50 people. I can see the cost of this party going into the $1500 and up range, possibly even $2000 with room rental/decorations/drinks. I was finalizing the guest list with one of his friends and he and his wife both said I should ask attendees to contribute to the cost of food, say $20 each person. Part of me finds it tacky to plan a party but ask the guests to pay a portion of their food. But alternately they told me "you shouldn't have to pay for adults to eat, especially when we all have jobs". True. But I feel as if I'm sort of "hosting" and almost feel obligated to foot the whole bill. But my bank balance likes the idea of the guests chipping in half the cost of food and maybe pay their drinks after one toast. That way my food bill is cut in half and I won't get killed on a bar bill if I just pay for a few bottles of wine and it goes cash bar after that.

    What's the general consensus? And if I do ask for guests to contribute, how should I go about it (and actually collect the money-send in? leave a box on the table at the party?). I'm basically sending out an evite for the party, since I have everyone's email.
  2. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I think it really depends on what the invitees are used to. I just went to a wedding where a number of us (I think 15 people) went to dim sum the morning after. The host groom insisted on putting all three tables together on one check and probably intended on paying for all of it himself, but then once we got the bill, everyone chipped in $15/person anyway. It started with just one person whipping out their wallet and then everyone was guilt-tripped to follow suit. :rofl: Older folk of our Chinese culture are renowned for near-fisticuffs when it comes to paying the bill (yes, they fight over who gets to pay the bill), but we're of a younger generation where going dutch is more the norm.

    If your bf's friend and his wife say it's okay to ask that guests contribute, I think that's a fairly good sign that guests paying their way would be more accepted among your bf's group of friends and family. The tricky part could be communicating this, but it could be just as spontaneous and simple as how it happened with us this weekend. Just have that friend and his wife whip out their wallets when the bill comes to you. :lol:
  3. Debbie S

    Debbie S Well-Known Member

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    It is tacky to ask guests to pay. Perhaps the friend and wife would like to contribute to the cost, since they seem fine with paying. But it's pretty rude, IMO, to invite people to a party and then ask them to help pay for it.

    Have you actually called the sushi place to find out how much it will cost? It seems that you should have actual numbers before you start panicking.

    Do you need to have an open bar? And one that serves all night? Talk with the restaurant and see what options they have. My dad and I threw my mom a surprise 60th, and I did most of the planning, and I remember we had a cocktail hour to start, during which we arrived and sang happy b-day, and then when people sat down for dinner, the bar was closed and tables were served wine, which my dad selected in advance (a red and a white, each person got a choice for their glass). And I think the bar only served standard drinks (i.e. nothing frozen and/or requiring a blender) and I think the cost was based per person and not drinks, but I'm not sure about that.

    You could make it a cash bar if you wanted, but I would at least pick up the tab for the non-alcoholic drinks.
  4. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps an alternative would be asking very close friends and family members to contribute to the cost of the party? It does seem a bit tacky to ask people to pay to go to a party.
  5. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Debbie. Another option is to have the party at home or at a friend's house. 35 people is really not that many and you could have a buffet and supply wine and beer. I know our local grocer will cook a large baron or beef or a ham for a fairly reasonable price. Add in some rolls, salads, and a birthday cake and you are good to go. People will often ask if they can bring something. If the do, ask them to bring an appie. Rental dishes for 35 are cheap and you can send them back dirty. If your budget allows, pay a neighborhood teenager to help with the serving and clean up. Having it at home will also be easier for the kids. You can always put them in front of a DVD if they get tired or restless.
  6. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    I second what Debbie said--call the restaurant and see what they offer as far as party options. I've been to parties at restaurants where we were given a drinks menu of certain cocktails that the host had included and we could order one. We COULD order off the regular bar menu if we wanted to pay separately but most people didn't.

    You really can't politely invite guests with the EXPECTATION they chip in, but you don't have to provide champagne and caviar, either. They'd be rude to complain about what they're being served at a party!
    numbers123 and (deleted member) like this.
  7. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    Safeway, Giants, etc., have sushi party platter to order :shuffle:
  8. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    As do a lot of sushi restaurants, and it's the same sushi they serve in-house.
  9. Jayar

    Jayar Well-Known Member

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    $1500 of Sushi? Yikes! Contact the place and see if they can serve a certain amount of food based on your budget. No restaurant would turn away, say a $700 tab. The other part is-- I hosted a party once and paid $X for the food for the guests. Most of the guests gave me money after to cover their share. I refused, but they insisted. Perhaps yours will do the same thing?
  10. Jojo

    Jojo Active Member

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    My husband planned my 40th birthday party in a private room in a restaurant. The invitation said that we were hosting a cocktail hour with appies before dinner, and we provided wine for the dinner. Guests purchased their own meals.

    I'm pretty sensitive about doing things right, and no one raised an eyebrow to the arrangements. My husband was upfront with the guests, and those who came wanted to be there, and didn't mind paying for their meal.

    This practice isn't uncommon in my area. I've been to a number of birthday celebrations done this way.
  11. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    I think it is all in the wording of the invitation. My group of friends always get together for birthdays. The birthday person picks the restaurant and as many of us that can make it that night go. Everyone pays for themselves. We usually don't bring a gift because we realize we are spending a good amount on the food and often we go out after for drinks. It is kind of understood that this is how it works. Instead of making this a huge event that sounds more like a rehearsal dinner, why not make it a more casual "we are all meeting here for dinner to celebrate, please don't say anything as it is a secret..." I would never come and assume my meal was being paid for but if you make it sound like a room is being rented and there will be an open bar (even for a short time) then it does begin to sound like dinner is provided.
  12. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    Similar to Jojo's situation, most of my friends "host" birthday parties where they pay for the room/activity and the cake, and perhaps a couple of appetizers for the group, but the guests pay for their own food and drinks. I don't find this tacky at all, as long as it's clear from the invite.
  13. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    I would assume that if a birthday party is at a restaurant then I would be paying my own way. However it was a party at someone's house or they have hired a hall, then I might assume that food and drinks are provided So you could put on the invitation an expectation that it might cost whatever per head. I think people would much rather know upfront than turn up and then be told they have to pay their way.
  14. mysticchic

    mysticchic Well-Known Member

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    I know around here and Chicago there are bars that on off nights will put out food if they have a cash bar. For my 50th we had my party on a Sunday afternoon and they put out pasta, salad and pizza. Everyone bought their own drinks.
    Don't get pressured into something you can't afford. Sure it would be nice to get his wish, but save the money for something else.
  15. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    I guess I'm an old fuddy duddy on this. Are these people your guests or are you asking them to co-host the party?

    If the latter, you need to be really, really clear. "A group is getting together to honor Joe's 40th. The event is at place X. Cost is Y per person. Please RSVP to me no later than date."

    A normal invitation would read "Please join us at X to honor Joe's 40th" and the person receiving such an invitation would expect to be a guest, not a co-host.
    mmscfdcsu and (deleted member) like this.
  16. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    If he's hinting at venues, how much of a surprise party is this? :lol:

    I'm with the "the host pays for a party" crowd. Do what you can afford and feel comfortable spending.
  17. marbri

    marbri Hey, Kool-Aid!

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    :respec:

    Exactly. Make it crystal clear what the deal is and what is expected.

    Btw..my two cents on the kid thing. No kids mean no kids. If I'm invited and I am told not to bring the children I'm expecting a different type of gathering, a more adult evening. I'm going to be disappointed to show up and see four children sitting there because it changes the type of party I planned on going to. Any reason they can't also find a babysitter?
  18. nubka

    nubka Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with this! :respec:
  19. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

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    I do believe that the only socially acceptable way to get the guests to contribute to the cost of the food is to make it a potluck at someone's home or somewhere like a picnic area. Otherwise, as the hosts, you are expected to pay for the event.
  20. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    Agreed. And seriously, talk to the restaurant. You don't have to get only the most expensive things and an open bar and blow $2k on a birthday part.
  21. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    I agree with this
  22. backspin

    backspin Active Member

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    Others have had really great advice for you. My only thought was--people tend to either love sushi or hate it. What are the odds 35 people are all going to love it? A different venue or party at home where you have a sushi platter plus some other food to choose from might be nice for those who inevitably will be in the "hate it" camp.
  23. Jojo

    Jojo Active Member

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    I totally agree with the kids thing. When I had my party, it was an adults only thing. My son spent the evening with two friends and a babysitter, with pizza and the like. They played X-Box and had a grand old time. Much better than sitting around in a restaurant, having to behave himself.

    No kids will allow you, the host, the birthday boy and the parents of the kids to enjoy themselves much more, and relax.
  24. luna_skater

    luna_skater Well-Known Member

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    As an adult, never in a million years would I expect that the host would be paying for my meal if I was invited to a birthday *supper* at a restaurant--where you are ordering for yourself off a menu. If I was invited to a party at a venue that was not someone's house, I would simply expect to be paying for my own food and drinks, and would be pleasantly surprised if that was not the case. When I was a kid, it was usually the expectation that the host parents would foot the bill.

    That said--if I showed up at a party and food/appetizers were simply being served TO me throughout the evening, or were available on some kind of side table, I would probably assume that's on the host, and would be pretty peeved if I was hit with a bill on my way out.

    Loosely related example: a few years ago, an acquaintance of mine was having her birthday at a sushi restaurant, where you learned how to make your own sushi. The invitation was up front about the fact it cost $50/person. If we were very close friends, I would have sucked up the cost, but since we barely knew each other at the time, I didn't feel bad about declining since I couldn't afford it. However, for a close, dear friend, I'd show up regardless of the cost, or any possibly ambiguous wording on the invitation.
  25. taf2002

    taf2002 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with the no kids thing. I said no kids at my wedding & 3 people brought their kids anyway. My reception had small kids running thru the place & making noise. Besides, the people who did get a babysitter were not pleased.

    I was raised that you don't ask a guest to pay for anything. But you could provide something like beer &/or wine, & then if people want something else they could go to the bar on their own. Or you could have it in a hall or at someone' home a lot cheaper than a restaurant.
  26. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

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    I'd check with the restarant as well. With a large group you may not be able to get individual checks. Count me in with the sushi platter, buffet at a home with box wine and case beer. Nitendo den for the kids. Spend the $ on a vaca!
  27. julieann

    julieann Well-Known Member

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    ITA!
  28. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

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    I'd have no problem if friends wanted to get together to celebrate dinner and in that situation, I'd expect everyone to pay. But if I initiate an invitation as a host, I'd expect to pay. However, I strongly believe you shouldn't spend more than you can easily afford on this type of party.

    If you want a big group, then have a party at someone's house with catered food that you can afford. Or invite a smaller group to a dinner party.
  29. Cupid

    Cupid Well-Known Member

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    Are we sure all these guests even like sushi? I can see people trying it and not liking it and wasting it. A sushi or Japanese restaurant would probably be the most expensive type of restaurant to hold a party. Maybe try another venue, and just immediate or close friends to the restaurant.-
  30. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    Sushi is meant to be eaten fresh and as soon as possible after being prepared, and unless this restaurant has an army of chefs, it is going to be very difficult for them to churn out the volume needed for 35 people all at the same time. More likely they will be preparing items in advance and having them sit. In other words, a party for 35+ people would not only be expensive (and I think you need to plan for at least $50 per person, before tax and tip), but it's likely to not be as good it otherwise could be.

    What about having the party with your 35 friends at a different, more reasonably-priced location, and then having a separate celebration for just the two of you (or perhaps another couple or two) at the sushi place?
  31. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    "Sushi" involves cooked product, vegetarian product, and not just raw fish. (In fact the word sushi refers to the vinegared rice.) I promise you in almost any sushi place except those sitting on a dock, it's been dead at minimum 24 hours and in most cases it's been frozen, too. As long as the fish is on ice, it is not THAT big a quality-control issue (and, again, doesn't actually have to be mostly/all raw fish.) A lot of the most popular maki (rolls) don't involve any fresh fish at all.

    Now I could see hibachi or tempura for 35 being a colossal hassle. (And again, has the OP talked to the restaurant to see if $1500-2000 is actually what it would take? I'm guessing this is not the first event they've ever catered.)
  32. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I'm missing something, but I thought Woodstock was only asking about ettiquette re: chipping in for the meal. The venue and guest list seem set and agreed to by the bday honoree, so I'm not sure why people are going on about not having kids there or having the party at home as a potluck.

    Anyhow, I think etiquette is contextual. If it's accepted practice in your social group for people to pay for their meal, then that's fine. It seems you already have indication that may be the case based on the comments some of your friends have made. If you're not sure, you could ask some more of your friends for feedback just to get a better sense. I would make the payment expectation clear, though, in the evite that goes out just so no one comes sans payment method and then is stuck. Cash bar is also fine I would think.


    Good luck with it!
  33. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    Well, she did say she thought it was okay for the 4 children to be there when the guests will be asked to not bring children. That's a little strange.

    I don't think the venue has been set. She said he hinted at a sushi place.
  34. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    IMO, if they're your guests, you pay for their meals.

    Talk to the restaurant - afternoon or brunchtime parties are less expensive than a Saturday night affair. Buffets are cheaper than ordering off the menu. You might be surprised at the restaurant's cost for a private party.

    Have the restaurant provide water, soda and maybe beer or wine as part of your bill. Anything else, the guests can buy themselves from the bar. We usually pay for the tips as well, which takes the "tip jar" off the bar as well.

    As for the "no kids," it's really up to you. I can say in all honesty that, if you include the four "related" kids, a guest or two will feel slighted and several will respond "no" to the invitaton. If you can live with that, fine.

    My brother recently hosted a milestone party for his significant other. My nieces and I helped him get it organized and researched, made a lot of suggestions and really helped plan, at his request. Just before the invitations went out, he announced (via a Facebook message) that there would be "absolutely no stinkin' kids."

    My nieces and I live in other states, 2-9 hours away. Did he really think we'd hire a babysitter for the weekend or leave our kids alone in a hotel room? As a result, no one from our family attended the party; it just wasn't possible, logistically. He saved money by having fewer guests; maybe that was his intention.

    We were insulted that he didn't think about the situation from our perspective, especially with the fact that we were asked to help plan the shindig. So, that's important to think about: if the friend and his wife who are helping your plan have kids of their own, feel them out about the "no kids except these four" idea.

    My kids can't stand one of DH's cousins because she deliberately excludes them from all sorts of activities because they're not first cousins with her kids. She's insulted them on many occasions with her OCD tendency.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011
  35. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    True, the venue was only "strongly hinted" at, but the kiddie issue seemed decided:
    Personally it doesn't strike me as strange, but ymmv. Either way it seems decided by the guest of honor.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011
  36. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

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    Woodstock is concerned about the expense. Getting rid of the kids or doing a potluck are ways to bring down the cost without sticking the guests with a party bill. Why do children need to be at a sushi restaurant anyway; it runs up the bill ordering sushi for them that they won't eat because it's "yucky."

    If it's sit-down dinner with a set menu, then you should pay for all of it. Guests shouldn't be forced to chip in for food they haven't selected. Presumably they would bring gifts for your boyfriend. But if it's just people gathering to have a surprise dinner and they order their own meals, then they should just pay their portion of the bill; this way they can manage their own costs.
  37. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

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    His choice, I wouldn't want small children at a formal event either, but wow, totally unnecessary to call the kids "stinkin'". :blah:
  38. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    I wasn't talking about the fish, I was talking about the combination of the ingredients, whatever the topping may be (raw fish, cooked fish, egg, vegetables, whatever). The rice is supposed to still be warm, and it's very hard to hold that. And of course they've probably catered to large groups before - doesn't mean it was good or close the experience diners would have on a small scale in that restaurant.

    Because (a) it's a discussion, and discussions tend to branch out, (b) the venue does not in fact appear to "be set" - the OP only said that her BF had hinted that this particular restaurant would be a great place to have a party, (c) woodstock expressed concern about the costs of having a large event in this restaurant, so people are suggesting alternative ways to cut the costs other than asking guests to chip in since some, but not all, people view that as a breach of etiquette, and (d) kids and the presence of kids at events always sparks differing opinions.

    At any rate, I'm sure woodstock is capable of ignoring any posts that she deems either irrelevant or not of interest (including mine, LOL).
  39. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    I'm always amazed at how many kids like sushi. I personally think it's disgusting, but my kids don't.

    It wasn't a "formal" event - it was at a family restaurant that I suggested and used for parties at in the past. Parties that included his stinkin' kids. (That's literal - his ex-wife didn't believe in soap.) The place is very informal and excellent for accommodating kids.

    My brother has some mental issues from health crises, so he just wasn't thinking, but it was still insulting that he's so clueless as to not think about the distance and childcare issues. Come to think of it, DH's first cousin works there - we probably could have gotten my brother a break on the bill. Oh well, he'll never know.
  40. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Because apparently the guest of honor wants them there, and it's his party.
    Depends on the kids I guess. Personally I've never seen kids do that. A lot of kids like sushi, but those that don't tend not to order up stuff they don't like. Plus there are only 4 kids total attending, so I suspect their bill would be minimal. Fwiw, when I eat sushi with my boys, the three of us eat for about $10. Course other family members (who shall remain nameless) can eat that much all by themselves, but that's a lot of sushi to eat then (in my opinion anyway).