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  1. #1
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    hosting etiquette?

    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. #2
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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. 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.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodstock View Post
    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".
    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.

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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.

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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.
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  6. #6
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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!

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    Safeway, Giants, etc., have sushi party platter to order

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    Quote Originally Posted by orbitz View Post
    Safeway, Giants, etc., have sushi party platter to order
    As do a lot of sushi restaurants, and it's the same sushi they serve in-house.
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  9. #9

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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?

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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  16. #16
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    If he's hinting at venues, how much of a surprise party is this?

    I'm with the "the host pays for a party" crowd. Do what you can afford and feel comfortable spending.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    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.


    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?
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticchic View Post
    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.
    I totally agree with this!
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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. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    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.
    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.

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