Etiquette, Featured, Wording
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Invitation Wording for when Guests Pay for their Meal

invitation wording for no host retirement, party, anniversary, birthday and other events, evites, email invitations

How do you word an invitation to an event where guests pay for their dinner? I received this question from a Sendo reader…

Amanda Asks…

“I am planning a small (20 or less) retirement
party for my mom at a restaurant but guests
will be responsible for paying for their own
dinner – how do I indicate this on an invitation?”

Anyone have any suggestions? Comment to this post to help her out! It would be great to hear what you guys would expect to see on an invitation and how you would respond to some of the other suggestions mentioned

When Invited Guests Pay for their Meal

The proper term for this is No Host. Some social circles would immediately recognize and understand this term, whereas others would be confused. And if it’s a retirement party, some invitees may not be so quick to jump on Google to figure it out.

Considering the informality of the event, keep invitations to something simple. You don’t want to spend $100 on invites that tell people they need to buy their own dinner. Sendo invites are perfect for this scenario (and many others!). In this example, I’ve used the Sendo Confetti invitation design template.

invitation wording for when guests pay for their meal, no host retirement, party, anniversary, birthday and other events, evites, email invitations

The bottom of this invite states, “No Host – Visit www.(restaurant-name).com for menu and pricing.

I’ve made it clear that guests will need to pay for their own food and beverages without looking tacky or getting too deep into details.

Be sure to check out the full line of Sendo Online Party Invitations!


  1. Modern Living Hawaii says

    First, I would like to note that most restaurants will be happy to create a custom menu for this many people – that means that you can set a price for a few different options of appetizers and entrees and everyone will know upfront what they will be paying. The invite can be worded as such; “You are invited to attend a special dinner to celebrate (name of mom)’s retirement! We would ask that each guest take care of their individual meal and we will provide a special dinner menu for the night and dessert.” It is always nice to offer people something when asking for something in return :). Hope that helps!

    • Charlene says

      Thanks so much for this info. I’ve been wondering for a while now how to word this for the invitation. We’re going to a 5-star restaurant and there’s no way we could pay for everyone’s meal this time. We’ve created a menu which is much much cheaper than just ordering from the menu and paying your own ticket. I’m also giving the link to the restaurant so they can see this for themselves. Thanks again for this very helpful post.

    • BJ Martin says

      I believe this situation should be looked at in two ways: in-town guests and out-of-town guests. If a person lives locally, it shouldn’t be a big deal to attend an celebration party and pay for your meal, as it’s not really any different from going out to a restaurant on any other night and eating a meal with friends. However (and this is a big however), a lot of people are responding as though people who get invites for out-of-town events should have no problem paying for their own restaurant/event expenses in addition to travel costs. I totally disagree. When you are an out-of-town guest and have to pay for rental cars, hotels, pet boarding, airline tickets, and more, just to attend a party for someone, you should not be expected to pay for your own meal/drinks. I believe that is inconsiderate on the part of the host. They expect you to cough up all this money to get to there, and then even more money to celebrate with them. If you are organizing an event that you can’t afford to cover, then keep it low-key and only ‘formally’ invite local guests. Then, personally contact the out-of-town guests and mention that you are having this celebration and that people are paying for themselves. Let them know you don’t expect them to attend since there’s travel and restaurant costs involved. Trust me, the people who really want to go and don’t mind paying to get there and paying once they arrive will let you know. But, the people who don’t want to incur all those costs will likely just say, “oh, I’ll send a card” or something along those lines. This way, you come off as a considerate host either way without putting expectations on others.

      • Rose Smith says

        Thank you that is how I feel. My cousin who lives in England is having a 100 Birthday party for her mom, my aunt. I live in Florida, I have to get a hotel, taxi etc and then pay $60 for my meal at the event. I responded no to the invite. Now your post makes me feel better.Thank. Rose

  2. addy says

    Hmmm. I think I’d write something like “Please join us in an intimate (or private or small or simple) celebration for ________ as she retires from ______ and begins the next chapter of her life!” Is that too cheesy?

  3. Meghann says

    One way to slyly do this is after the address section of the invitation wording write “for menu and pricing information, please visit” and then include the restaurant’s website. End the invitation with either your RSVP or “Hope you can join us.”

  4. Carolyn says

    You should indicate “No Host Dinner” on the invitation. Since you really are hosting the celebration, you may wish to consider providing the cake or dessert with beverage (coffee and tea)at the end of the meal. This will make the pay-your-own-way meal more socially proper, especially if guests will be bringing gifts as well.

  5. Lynn says

    My brother just got married and because it was immediate family only, we want to have a wedding celebration to congratulate them with a lunch. We are having it at at restaurant in a reserved room and will be providing cake but we aren’t paying for their meals. I really don’t want to say on the invitation that they have to pay for their own meal so I thought about putting cake would be provided. Any suggestions?

  6. Youcancallmecheapo says

    I think this is the tackiest thing I’ve ever heard. Why bother to have a party if you can’t afford to pay for your guests dinner? We were just invited to an anniversary party 300 miles from home. I was invited by a formal invitation. ‘Open house’ is 2-4. Dinner is at 5 and you are expected to pay $30 a person and a cash bar. So that is $60, plus a hotel, plus a gift, plus gas to get there. No thanks.

    • BF1011 says

      I don’t think it’s tacky at all to asks guests to pay for their own meal at a restaurant, you’re not throwing the party for them! Some people can’t afford to pay for an entire dinner party’s bill, (and guests shouldn’t expect such a gesture), provide cake AND be the one organizing the entire get together. Invitations are just a nicer way to get people together rather than sending an evite. I don’t think many people invited to a dinner at a restaurant would expect someone else to pay for their meal especially when they are all there to celebrate someone or something besides themselves. Most people will gladly oblige but it is polite to inform them of the details and at least provide dessert as a thank you for attending.

      • Kelly says

        But a wedding is entirely different. This is incredibly tacky, because most people send or bring gifts to celebrate. On top of this, they’re expected to pay for their meal?! Wedding etiquette has always been very clearcut with this. You have to provide a “reception” of sorts and this includes food and drink appropriate for time of day.

      • Amanda says

        I totally agree with you. I have the same situation coming up in a month. Found out that my family said they were going to have a shower for my brother’s fiance but found out that they weren’t doing it so I took matters into my own hand because they told her that they were having one for her. I don’t have that type of money to pay for everyone but I know that she deserves a shower. It is all about her. I figure that if guests have a problem with it then they can just stay at home.

        • Monitor B says

          Exactry how I feel. If this is someone you care about, money would not prevent you from attending their shower, party, wedding…whatever. People sat oh just do something in your budget. But they will be the same people who will say…this was the worst event ever. You can’t please everyone. Fact is everyone does not bring gifts.

      • Angie J says

        I think whether or not it’s tacky depends entirely on the purpose of the event. Weddings, receptions, events like that the host should pay for … otherwise, do not have it. Or just do desserts and champagne at someone’s home to keep the costs down. Retirement parties, casual b’day parties for Adult friends (not kids) – you can def. ask pp to pay their own way. I would however, never expect someone to travel out of town, stay in a hotel and then tell them to pay their own way. Overall, if you can’t afford to do something, don’t do it or keep it small and intimate.

      • Sharon says

        I work at a large high school district and we ALWAYS have retirement gatherings where the host/hostess sets it all up, and figures out the cost per person. We send out the invite saying “The cost is $xx and it covers a gift.”

    • Heather says

      I agree with you! Super cheap and tacky. They want people to travel, buy their own meal AND give a gift. Ridiculous!!

    • Kristen says

      Then don’t go and don’t be so non sympathetic about people who can’t afford to pay for everyone’s meal. You just complained about how expensive the meal was but then you expect them to pay for everything for you. Did you think that perhaps it isn’t about you? The only way we can even have a reception after our wedding is to ask people to pay for their individual meals otherwise even with just 40 people between dinner and drinks we could rack up a huge bill. It was important to us to spend time with family after and it really isn’t too much to ask. I understand it is an expense to travel from out of town for something but really I guess it boils down to if you care enough about the people to make that investment. We picked a place that had a private room and was very reasonable on pricing so I don’t feel bad at all and I don’t think I am tacky….they are family and close friends so whatever!

      • Vicky Hall says

        Exactly!! I agree with Kristen! Don’t go if you can’t afford it or just being greedy. You are supposed to be celebrating the person, not yourself. STAY HOME THEN..

    • Landi says

      Just don’t go… as obviously it doesn’t mean that much to you to celebrate their special occasion with them. It’s not tacky at all. Just because they can’t afford to pay something like $45 pp doesn’t mean they are not allowed to have a special celebration.

      • Denice says

        Agree! I’ve always thought that if they care enough or love you enough they will understand and would be fine with paying for their own meal and join the celebrating! Providing the meal also limits your list, this way no one is left out.

    • The reason to have a party is to celebrate the person or event, not to show off that you have enough money to feed a crowd. If you care enough about the person or event to celebrate them, you will do so in a way that is feasible to you.

    • Amber says

      Perhaps the reason for the party is to celebrate an occasion and enjoy each other’s company? I’m offended that you think this idea is tacky. I’m a stay at home mom with a home too small for entertaining. You are suggesting I don’t invite beloved family to celebrate my daughters baptism because I can’t afford to make it worth their while? Shame on you.

    • dancesonhertoes says

      I just found this article because I’m looking for wording for an event as well. It’s for a girl’s brunch before my wedding. I can’t possibly wait until 6pm to eat, and I’d like to find a way to spend more time with family and friends who came from out of town. We are already providing a lavish meal plus open bar for the wedding. I can’t afford to also buy brunch, nor am I going to cook and host in my house hours before my wedding. People can choose not to come if they don’t want to pay for their meal without offending me. Before you judge people for wanting guests to pay for themselves for something, you should know all circumstances.

    • Angie says

      It is not tacky, not everyone has the luxury of paying for everyone at a restaurant dinner and it if it is going to be an intimate party with close friends and family that should not be a problem to people who really care and want to celebrate the person. If it were a large wedding celebration or a larger party for that matter then I would understand it being a little out of the ordinary asking people to pay for their own stuff even after traveling like you did. From my experience from the most part people are happy even if you just show up even without a gift.

    • Jenn says

      Wow – I think this is the Tackiest response I’ve EVER seen! The purpose is NOT to entertain the guest’s at your own wedding – instead they should be there to share and spend time with the bride and groom! So paying for a meal or drink shouldn’t matter!! Those who only attend because there is food and drink provided obviously don’t truly care about the couple and therefore don’t need to be a part of the special day!

      • Lea Hayes says

        It would not matter to me if someone I cared about. Ironically, I’m planning something similar and a dear friend mentioned having attended a party and that she and 2 other guests were shocked when presented with their bill. My response was that unless it’s a catered or company event, I would not have expected someone else to pay for my meal/drink. Her response was that since she was INVITED, she expected it. So with that said, my event is next Saturday and it will be a No-Host celebration. I do NOT expect gifts and I do expect the guests will be fine with picking up their own tab. I certainly would be okay with it.

    • Jill says

      Wow, did you bother considering the circumstances surrounding the structure of the party? Honestly, your winning personality will most likely not be missed.

    • Lea Hayes says

      If I could afford it and they meant a lot to me I would make it happen. I believe in making good memories. I’d certainly do it for family or close friend.

    • Valerie Taylor says

      My daughter is graduating high school. I just went through a tough divorce with her dad and funds are limited… Should my daughter not have anything because I can’t afford to pay everyone’s meal??

    • Shirley Peterson says

      Why Not? If you love your brother and his birthday wish is for this then why not? If you can’t afford it then just don’t go.

    • Proper Etiquitte says

      100% agree. It’s very selfish to invite people to a party and make them pay…. especially if it’s at an expensive restaurant. When you throw a party, it’s not about you, it’s about hosting your guests and having them celebrate with you. If you feel uncomfortable about writing the invitation, how do you think they’ll feel reading it? Why should they spend their money to make your party for you? If you still want to do it, then be honest and not hide behind words like “no host”… that is definitely not clear on who is paying, and if you are inviting your friends, then why are you being “sly” about it? You’re not much of a friend.

  7. Chao Ng says

    So I got an invitation to a bỉthday party and the host indicates we should bring cash to be able to pay for our dinner. However, in our tradition, we always buy presents for the bday person (always $100+) because we are adults and it is just nice to buy them good presents. However, we each are paying $60/person at an average restaurant that does not cost $60 per person at all. Would it be ok if we dont bring present at all? I mean they are hosting a 10 people per table total 5 tables. They make $600 for just one table and it is all cheap foods. Not even sea food or wine or liquor. Yet we are putting in $60 in an envelope so that the person could pay for the dinner.

    • Verna says

      There very well may be a number of other behind the scene overhead expenses that is being covered. They may have tallied all the expenses for the party and simply placed an amount per person to cover all. As another respondent indicated, you have the choice to participate or not to participate.

      • Verna says

        For example, one of those behind the scene expenses could very well be Rental cost of the Private room, if that is the case.

  8. What??? says

    When did it become appropriate for someone to host an anniversary, retirement, or birthday party for their spouse, parent, or kid at a restaurant and expect guest to pay for their own meal and bring a gift? Yes, it’s costly to host a party at a restaurant, but if you cannot afford it, then do something else within your budget. Why are guest expected to pay to attend your party? This scenario has happened to me three times within the past 45 days. My husband and teenagers were invited to these gatherings at a restaurant the host selected, so I have no say in this aspect of the dining activity, and then I have to shell out over $100.00 for my family to attend your party… And of course I have to bring a lovely gift as well. So, in a six week time period, I’ve had to shell out over $300.00 to celebrate one friends kids bdy and his wifes bdy and another friends party. Top it off, the cake they bought to both birthday parties was a small single layer grocery store cake. How cheap can you get? Next time i have a party, I’m going to do my usual; shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and preparing for the party in our home. I will figure my cost, divide by the number of guest and charge everyone for the dinner. I mean, that’s acceptable, right????? Oh, and should I add a per hour fee for my services? I’m thinking about $30.00 per hour. What do you think?

    • I don’t think you had to shell out anything. If you didn’t feel like paying your family’s way was appropriate, you could have opted to send a gift or not attend at all. I think one reason people ask guests to pay is sometimes to limit the number of attendees.

    • Landi says

      Just don’t go then. Simple! I’m sure if they knew about this comment all those “friends” of yours will regret inviting you anyway. Just be grateful you have loved ones to celebrate with… and that you got to eat and have fun with close friends! You should hope that one day people would care enough and be willing to pay for their own meal to celebrate your special occasion with you!

      • My husband and I actually opt out maybe 50% of the time. Some of our younger, single friends will put together celebrations at restaurants that we can’t afford or have so many guests we don’t get to have enjoyable conversations with the celebrant or good friends.
        So we just decline the invitation.
        When I was in college and in my early twenties, I did host some “let’s all take so-and-so out for his birthday” celebrations. But since my late 20s or so, I’ve put a lot of effort into hosting the kinds of celebrations where people don’t have to pay their own way (treating with Groupons, picnic in the park, hosting at my home, hosting at someone else’s home, potlucks, going on a hike, choosing an inexpensive restaurant, finding a cool venue and serving appetizers and drinks only, teaming up with a couple of other hosts and sharing the cost).

      • Lea Hayes says

        Absolutely ! It’s about sharing & caring & celebrating together. Like someone else said, you can opt out. Your choice!

    • You have a choice in this situation says

      Perhaps some people don’t have homes to have parties in? Perhaps due to medical issues, employment issues, birth/death of family has caused people to be in a less than perfect situation financially. If you are one of the lucky people to receive an invite that asks you to pay for something, consider that they thought of you, and wanted you there. If you don’t care so much about them, then don’t go. Send a card with some cash or a giftcard. You are in control of your own choices in this situation.

    • Cherrin says

      You were raised the same way I was. Guess now days with everyone working the whole idea of inviting people out to dinner means let’s just meet up and eat together. An “invitation” no longer has the same thing it did 20+ years ago.

      Just received a invitation to an engagement party. Half of my family won’t be able to attend due to financial restrictions but the bride doesn’t care. And most likely will be unable to attend the destination wedding. I am surprised the bride and groom hasn’t created a go fund me page to pay for their honeymoon to Hawaii.

    • gigi says

      You are right on mark!!!! I too, always taught if you throw a party, you pay. If you can’t afford an expensive restaurant, then have a simple at home celebration with pot luck. Asking people to pay for their own meals at a restaurant they have been invited to is tacky. The only way I see differently is if a large group of people want to celebrate something knowing there is no specific host like earlier in the posts otherwise, it’s on the planner.

      • Lauren says

        How is pot luck any less tacky than asking people to pay for a meal. I’m throwing a no-host party for my mum’s 60th, my husband and I don’t have the funds to pay for people or the space at my house to host. People who don’t want to pay simply won’t be coming. I am providing a cake and favours for guest to take home.
        People are so uppity these days and have the whole ‘back in my day we did things better’ attitude, this doesn’t do anyone any favours and totally lacks empathy and screams privilege, aka, I can, so why can’t you!!

  9. I am helping with a wedding and while the bride and groom are not asking for or expecting gifts some people are getting them. They are having their reception at a restaurant and they are asking their guest to pay for their own meals, but the bride is unsure as to how to let the guest know that there is going to be a restricted menu (the restaurant asked)
    What is a suggestion i could give her??

    • Hi Tori! Are you asking how the bride should ask for people to pay for their own meals or are you asking how the bride should let people know there is a restricted menu?

  10. I am in this situation right now…hosting a baby shower for a friend who lives 45 minutes away and her friends live there as well…it only made sense to do the shower at a local restaurant convenient to them..but I can not afford to pay for 20 dinner plus mine and the guest of honor. I didn’t consider this an issue when doing the invitations and am now trying to figure out how to let people know dinner will be their responsibility, without sounding tacky..

  11. Delores Barkers says

    It doesn’t matter if I have to pay it’s just the fun of being with my friends. If u can’t afford it at that time just decline and stay home maybe u can go the next time .

  12. DiAnna Dukes says

    I want to surprise my husband with a 60th birthday party. He hasn’t seen some of his family in several years. I have already reserved (and paid for) the private room. I have made arrangements for dessert. The restaurant provided 4 dinner options (all inclusive). I have placed a line on the invitation giving potential attendees a “no meal” option. That gives them the opportunity to celebrate an important event and still have no out-of-pocket expenses.

  13. Victoria says

    Our aunt is turning 80. She doesn’t have children of her own. I want to throw her a party, but I would like my other cousins to chip in or at least pay for their own meals.
    I will supply the cake and coffee, how do I ask on the invites??

  14. Karolina says

    I used to think I was being impolite if my wedding was a No-host dinner. And I did everything I could to cut off silly costs and maybe we could afford a small brunch for family and close friends. But even that, would cost us about $2.000 for 30 people where we live, which is too much right now. We are having a lot of expenses with our new place, furniture, a new car for me (I drive my boss’s car, but I’m moving states so I got leave my job), and the resident process, since I’m a foreigner, which costs around $ 3.000 in 2017. So I feel terribly bad having a No-Host wedding dinner knowing my guests will have to spend some money, but as some people said, if you don’t feel comfortable, just don’t go. You don’t know the struggle in someone’s life. And I think it’s sad, and a frustration I would carry forever leaving this moment as a blank space, because we have other $priorities$ at this moment, and because I was afraid about what other people would think. So I left my prejudice behind and I’m having a No-host dinner for my wedding. Providing coffee and cake. These type of parties are usually intimate, so if you were invited, feel honored, not upset and thinking people are being cheap. I’m sure if this person could, he/she would throw a beautiful party for everyone and pay for everything. If you don’t agree, just don’t go. Be more sympathetic towards others.

    ps:. We are not having a wedding registry. We will let people comfortable to do, and contribute the way they can… and IF they can. Their presence and understanding is already a gift <3

    • Mrs2b says

      That makes me feel better, we are getting married and are planning on asking our guests in lieu of a gift to pay $30 for their meal. We are paying for wine during the meal, wedding cake as dessert and later in the evening coffee , tea will be served with little snacks

  15. Hello – after a vow renewal we are hosting 25 people at a restaurant. We are providing alcoholic and non alcoholic options and enough tappas. It’s from 5-7 and so at a time when some people might be hungrier or want a beer or wine…. Any suggestions on how you would you graciously communicate that if the guests want to order something off the menu (other than what we are offering) – they have to pay for it?

    • Kimberly says

      Let the staff know to inform guests that any additional orders are the responsibility of the individual.

  16. Party Planner says

    Nice post on a tough subject. Refreshing opinions. Thank you for posting.

  17. Figuring out 50 says

    I am so glad to find you folks! I am turning 50 and my husband & adult children didn’t get it together to plan a party. What I would like to do is invite friends, family & coworkers (we work in a college cafeteria and are always cooking for others) to meet up at Punch Bowl Social. It is a a chain restaurant with assorted games, karaoke, bowling and several bars through out the facility. I want to know how to phrase the invite so that it’s clear I expect no gifts, they are paying for themselves and I just want to enjoy the time with them. Any ideas?

  18. 2Cents says

    Some of these replies are hilarious. I’m sure you have friends you make plans with to go out for dinner occasionally. I would suspect you wouldn’t be buying their dinners, you just would like to all get together and enjoy the gathering weather it be a celebration or just friendship. It can be the same thing with a retirement, birthday or two people who are in love getting married. Lets all go out for dinner, smile, laugh, reminisce and talk about the future together. The negativity in these conversations are unfortunate. The No-Host dinner with the restaurant website and price list supplied is a tactful way of dealing with the situation.

  19. Nancy Drew says

    Sorry, I disagree. You don’t invite people to a function and then expect them to pay. Have a potluck in the employee’s Lounge if you can’t afford it.SO TACKY

    • Mark Eagle says

      Totally agree, Nancy. Whatever happened to basic generosity, graciousness, and etiquette? We just got invited to a 50th surprise birthday party that is to be celebrated out of town. It will require 155 miles of travel and overnight lodging (as the event is at a restaurant at night). We were told by the arranging spouse it is “dutch treat”. We know darn well the income situation of the couple and that they never had kids or that expense, so they can definitely afford to pick up the tab for say 20 people averaging maybe 20-25 dollars a piece for one special evening. At first, I was offended. I have to ask, is my wife’s and my time and gas and company and spending over $100 for a night of lodging not worth paying $40 for? Sheesh! Tacky, I say.

    • Barb Youngs says

      I agree – why does everyone think they have to go to a restaurant and ask their guests to pay for their own meals. There are inexpensive things you can do to all get together and celebrate the occasion.
      If you can’t afford it, don’t have it!

  20. Yes, such pay your own way events can wreck your budget. Yet I don’t want to miss out on opportunities to socialize and celebrate with friends and family. What I’ve done is started a celebration savings account. Each month I put $25 into the account. Now when a celebration invitation comes my way I have the funds to participate.

  21. Brandy says

    My step-daughter got married at the justice of the peace. NO guests. did not send out invites or anything, just us, and her fiance, at the courthouse. Then they went on a short 3 day honeymoon.. Because of this, they planned a small intimate dinner for immediate family and close friends. on an “announcement card”. and the announcement card stated:
    “We Tied the Knot…______ & ______ exchanged vows on _____, 2017. We are now Mr. & Mrs. _____. Please join us for a celebratory dinner on _____, 2017 at 5:30pm. Restaurant Name, City & State. Please visit the restaurant’s website at http://www……com for menu and pricing information.”
    Because they did NOT have a traditional wedding, which means they did NOT register or ask for gifts at ALL. I dont think it is tacky at all for those that would receive this invite to be offended. plus the people that were invited were all local. so dinner instead of gifts… NOT bad at all. Just to meet and greet the couple basically.. I dont think it is tacky or wrong.

    • KAW says

      My brother and his wife did the same thing. They got married at the courthouse during the day on a Tuesday. Later that night family and friends gathered in a private room at a restaurant to celebrate the happy couple. Everyone paid for their own meal and there were no words exchanged of it being tacky, or why do we have to pay. We just did it and we had a blast!

      it is the celebration and being with the ones you love that is most important. And I agree with most everyone else – if you don’t like it. Don’t go.

  22. angela says

    Where one hosts a party is NOT the issue. Wherever you decide to hold it- your dining room, a 5 star restaurant, a picnic table in the park, a rock in the desert, etc…does not chane the fact- you are hosting a party in “YOUR HOME”- even if home is rented or free space where you do not get to wear your jammies.

    You should treat your guests exactly as if they WERE partying in your home. Would you charge them for food or drink in your home? No. Then don’t do it in your “rented for 4 hours” home. Period.

    Tacky tacky tacky to invite anyone to anything you cannot afford and expect them to pay. If you cannot afford a full on $100 a plate dinner, then have a dinner you can afford. If you can’t afford to pay for your guests, why in the world are you asking them?

    Take the guest of honor out to the % star dinner with one or two others and cover the bill. Then invite the rest of the gang to cake/punch/nibbles at your home or a rented space. I went to a lovely wedding once where the bride and grooms immediate family did a pot lock dinner at the church for the 50 guests. Food was fabulous, no one cared that the decorations were simple and we all had a lovely time. Pretending you’r a Vanderbilt when you’re not is not a recipe for happiness- for you OR your guests.

  23. Martin Mostyn says

    When my stepson graduated from college I invited everyone to a restaurant and said on the invite that it would be Dutch Treat. It would have been nice if his real father or multi-millionare grandfather had paid his check, but dream on.
    P.S. Gramps had originally promised to pay for his college, but the stock market took a hit and he had to back out of that one. And his father had 2 step sons of his own, so he was no help.
    I don’t believe either one gave him a gift or a card. I should be grateful they at least travelled from Florida & Maryland to attend. Sorry for venting. Not!

  24. Laura says

    This is a good question. Depending on the event, be formal or casual, how the invite is presented needs to be clear. Choose your words wisely and respectfully state what you want your invitees to know. If you are hosting an event, then you are providing everything. If you are the Host home and the event is planned as a pot-luck then that would be a good way to plan an event where others contribute a little something. If you want to ask friends to join you for dinner because you are treating another friend for their birthday then the invite should state something like “if you are free Saturday night we’d love for you to join us. Hope you don’t mind going Dutch” If you are inviting friends to dinner and but its your treat, let them know that you are treating them when you invite them. The only thing any friend or guest would frown on, is not knowing up front what the expectation is. Getting a bill for a meal that they were not prepared for can be poor taste.

  25. Clay MacTarnaghan says

    The real issue is what we’ve come to think we deserve – and what we think others deserve. I would love to go to Hawaii, but I can’t afford it. There area a lot of things I would love to do, but never will, because I can’t afford it. That’s life. And there are things I would love to do for my kids, but can’t afford to. Am I doing it for them, or me? My guilt? My idea of celebration? Is it possible to show love and celebration without a 5 Star restaurant? If my children had a party for me and asked the guests to pay, I would be horrified. It certainly wouldn’t be any honor or blessing to me. It might make them feel good, but not me. Again, who is it really being done for? The best celebrations I ever had were ones where friends came, because they cared. There was nothing formal, fancy, or financially burdensome. It was fun and fellowship with friends. No gifts, either. They’re the ones I remember most, because they were meaningful. In fact, I’ve been to the parties that were so perfectly planned, they were awful for everyone, but the hosts. The activities were run on a tight schedule. The honored one didn’t get to spend time with the guests they so looked to enjoy the celebration with and vice versa. It’s the guests, not the costly stuff that makes it special. Less formality. More relationship. If you can’t afford to pay, don’t. Invite friends to come for an evening of celebration. Tell them to drop by, spend time, no gifts necessary, and celebrate with their friend. Cake and coffee will be served. Period. America, time to make life – and celebrations – simple. If we can’t show love and appreciation without spending ourselves into debt, we are a sick nation.

  26. Rather than a meal, why not spend the same budget on a champagne reception and nibbles, or some coffee and cake?

    Otherwise, don’t send out formal invites.. choose an inexpensive place to eat, and keep the tone informal: “We’re meeting up for a meal out to celebrate Jane retiring on time and date. I hope you can come – let me know so I can book you a place! If you want to club together for a gift, then let me know.

  27. Patchypop says

    I am still looking for polite wording to invite guests to my birthday celebration at a restaurant. My problem is my invites were out to have my party at home. Fully catered and payed for by me as I do every year. Then my boyfriends aunt passed away and the funeral will be on the same day my birthday party was scheduled for. So to show respect I cancelled the party but still feel its my birthday and therefore decided on a restaurant celebration the next day but I cannot afford to pay for all guests. How do I word my invite now.

  28. Justice says

    Guests paying for their own meals is very common. Having said that, one must be clear guests need to pay. The above examples of stating ‘menu and pricing available at (restaurant website)’ is great. And I would strongly suggest the ‘host’ at least pay for some appetizers​ and of course a cake. A lot of people find that filling. And for the meal work with the restaurant to come up with an set menu and prices specific for your party. This makes it easier for the restaurant staff, so they are not making everything off the menu, and it’s economical for your guests. Most people have no issues with this kind of celebration. Again, be clear so guests can opt out if they are not into it. Anyone who truly wants to be there will be there – this is a good way to learn who truly loves you!!

  29. Judy Murray says

    Thanks for sharing all your perspectives on this. To those asking when did we start to have our guests pay for their meals, consider that the rules may have simply been rewritten by the age and culture in which we now live. Let’s be real.

    The only reason I was conflicted about the approach was because I didn’t want to look bad. It would be so much easier to save face and brood about how much I would love to host a celebration for my milestone birthday, calling off the whole thing in the name of etiquette and social acceptance. But the reality is that, due to circumstances it is no longer in my budget I cannot pay for the people with whom I would love to share the time. So I will word my invitation like this:

    Hi [friend’s name],
    It’s a wonderful year!
    Yep, it’s my turn to be 60.
    Would you like to meet me at XYZ Restaurant on [Date]? I will be bringing drink and dessert and the restaurant will be providing a dinner menu from which you can order, if you like (about $50).
    Please let me know if you’ll be able to make it by [Date].

    Please let me know what you think about that. Thanks.

    • Anissa Jenkins says

      This is a great way of wording your invitation and with this being my 50th I will be copying and tailoring it accordingly. Thanks for sharing.

  30. Sheila says

    I definitely think that this is a fine idea. I am thinking of doing it for my husbands 70th. However I do think you should put on the invitation that presents are not necessary.

  31. Pam bailey says

    I’m inviting friends to dinner for my husband’s birthday. I have a limit and do not mind dinner entree per person, drink, couple appetizers and cake. I just don’t want to get a bill at the end of the night for tons
    If extra drinks. How do I word my invitation? Can I say:
    – Dinner entree
    – 1 appetizer per couple
    – 1 drink
    – Dessert

  32. Linda B says

    Can someone help me word an invitation to let quest know they are being asked to contribute $10.00 per person toward the cost of their meal? The $10 is actually their gift to the honoree.

  33. Nee Nee says

    I will be celebrating my 50th bday on 12/21. I’ve been the unfortunate one to have had only one bday party (Sweet 16). Because of the bday falling during one of the biggest financailly stressful times of the year I’ve never had a bday celebration in my adult years. Being honest I feel this beinga very important milestone in my life my friend and family shouldn’t have negative thoughts to say regarding paying out-of-pocket. I’m not even asking for a gift. I’m actually going to ask them to donate can goods or other perishables for the Food Pantry of the community college where I work. I did plan to provide my own cake and will consider the suggestion in one of the comments to cover beverages. Well I’ll cover sweatened/unsweetened tea. I also appreciate the ideas in the wording of the invitation regarding “No Host”

  34. tina mitchell says

    Personally, I am an event planner and I think it is very tacky to invite someone to an event and expect them to pay. If you can not afford to host an event the correct way don’t have the event. Even if you say something on the invitation about there is a limit of 15 toward each person’s meal and then you choose two or three different entree’s they are able to choose from. Ask the restaurant to custom you a menu with just those things or you custon=m it yourself and lay one at each space for the guest.

  35. tina mitchell says

    Asking for a gift is very tacky. Pam, you can word the invite with 2 drink minimum or give out drink tickets and or make a deal with the place that you are holding the event. A lot of people think that things are in stone. “You have not cause you ask not.”

  36. Amy Diggins says

    How do you tactly pay the bill at the end of the Birthday dinner for a No-host party?

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