Does the Host Always Pay?

Does the Host Always Pay


By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

If people are planning a party where they’re celebrating themselves or family member(s), does the host always pay? Can you invite people to a party and ask them to contribute their share as a type of gift to you?

In today’s economy, not many of us can afford to entertain the way we’d like, so the question is one I’m asked frequently. With changes in budgets often comes changes in the way we celebrate.

Let’s take a look at this reader’s question and see what’s what!

Does the Host Always Pay?

The Question:

Dear Maralee,

Thank you for your blog. I read every edition. I’ve been surprised at how much of what you say I actually use. You’re a great help. Here’s my question: I’m planning a weekend away for my husband’s birthday next month. It’s at a resort about 60 miles from our home. On that Saturday night I’d like to invite the six couples in our home group to join us for a surprise dinner party. Would I be expected to pay for everyone’s meal? If so, I can only afford to invite two of the couples. How can I invite them without hurting the feelings of the other couples?

The Answer:

Your weekend away sounds like you’re planning a wonderful birthday celebration for your husband! By definition, a host is a “giver” and a guest is a “receiver.” As host(ess), it’s your duty and privilege to provide for each of your guests. This means you will need to pick up the tab for all six couples.

That sounds expensive, so perhaps you could alter your plans a little and still have a wonderful celebration for your husband!

Another consideration in your case is the distance to the resort. Since it’s 60 miles away, it might not be the best place to hold his surprise dinner. You’re staying all weekend, but you’re asking your guests to drive 120 miles round trip in just one evening. That’s a long way, and their comfort and convenience are important.

Your idea of inviting only two couples and picking up their tab is risky, and I just wouldn’t suggest it. Home groups are intimate. If word of the party got out, and it will, feelings could easily be hurt. Also, you don’t want to put the two couples you invite into the awkward position of keeping a secret; that’s never comfortable or advisable.

What About a Plan That Lets You Enjoy Two Celebrations and Solves Your Dilemmas Concerning the Guests?

Why not let everyone celebrate by hosting a surprise, yet hassle-free, dessert party for your husband’s birthday one evening at home? It could be during home group with just those six couples, or at a time when you invite other friends as well.

Offer birthday cake, some fruit (for those who don’t eat cake), coffee, and water, and you’re set! This way, guests are included without the long drive, and you’re not saddled with what would be a hefty tab for dinner.

Plus, during your weekend away at the resort, you and your husband can concentrate completely on each other!

Times When Guests Could Be Asked to Pay Their Way

There are times when guests can be asked to chip in and pay for their own share of a party. These parties are usually set up by friends or co-workers, not family members. A great example would be a retirement dinner (that isn’t hosted by the company) or a going-away party for a co-worker. In another scenario, neighbors might get together and host a dinner at a restaurant for a family who is moving.

General Tips

However, in general, when you’re throwing a party for a loved one, the host pays for party expenses for the same reason we don’t ask people to buy tickets to our wedding or our children’s birthday parties.

The word host (hostess) implies that you’re hosting your guests, which means you’re inviting them to enjoy your hospitality. Your hospitality should be as free as your smiles and goodwill. It’s another no-charge form of the outpouring of your kindness.

Keep in mind while planning a party that it doesn’t need to be large or expensive to be fantastic. It’s the spirit in which it’s hosted and the friends and family there that make a great gathering. Pick the time for your party at an off hour when a meal isn’t expected. Appetizers or desserts stretch your dollars a lot more than a full meal whether the party is at home or in a restaurant.

May your next party be full of great memory-making moments for you and your guests!


Does the Host Always Pay


Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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