Etiquette Questions, Answered: Social Situations
Is It Too Late to Ask Dinner Party Guests to Split the Bill?
Q. My husband and I are throwing a birthday party for our seven-year-old son at a restaurant, with about 20 guests in all. We thought it would be nice to take care of the whole bill. But we’ve recently learned that the price tag is going to be much bigger than we imagined. Is it too late to ask our guests to make a financial contribution toward the meal?
The main point of a party is not really the food—it’s the togetherness. But now that you’ve extended an invitation to an all-expenses-paid fete, it’s best not to retract or alter it.
Instead, try these ideas, which will help you be gracious without going bankrupt: Consider asking the restaurant if it can do a special prix fixe meal for your party, as opposed to giving guests the full run of the menu. Or, rather than allowing people to order, say, a double espresso, prearrange for coffee service for the table. Gently let folks know that if they would like to order something different, they are welcome to do so with the waiter, on their own dime.
Whatever happens—even if you end up absorbing the total cost of the party yourself—be sure to enjoy the experience. And write off the expense (mentally) as the cost of a useful lesson.
— Catherine Newman