The following is an etiquette question sent to one of my favorite blogs, The Kitchn, from a reader:
A friend just invited me to his home for Thanksgiving dinner — and asked me to pay $50 upfront. I understand that hosting can be expensive and I wouldn’t mind being asked to bring a dish, but asking guests for cash seems incredibly rude. Am I crazy to be a bit miffed? Has anyone else experienced this? If so, how do you handle it? Should I tell my friend that this is not the norm?
Of course you’re not crazy to be miffed! What’s crazy is that people actually do this.
Have we forgotten what the word “guest” means? Hosting friends or family for Thanksgiving dinner isn’t any different from hosting guests at a wedding or for your birthday party. It’s your obligation to provide the food and drinks (and the clean bathroom) because you invited them. A party is not the same as being out drinking at the bar and everyone mutually agreeing to chip in a few bucks to order a pizza; a party means you are the host and thus you are treating your guests.
But Jessica, people who do this may be thinking of angrily writing in the comments, I’m broke! And my friends eat like cows and drink like fishes!
Okay then. Use the words “potluck” or “BYOB” on your invitation. Then your guests know they’re expected to contribute somehow and can find a way they afford. Some guests will be able to bring a $200 bottle of champagne while others will be able to just bring a $5 bag of peanut butter cups. Both are perfectly acceptable. But you can’t ask your friends to cough up cash when you host a party. It’s unbelievably tacky to put a price tag on your occasion. Guests are guests, not customers. I know the cost of food/drinks can be pricy for a large group of people, but that’s the responsibility you have assumed. Your ability to make really awesome sweet potatoes doesn’t make it OK to ask your friends to pay to eat them. If you can’t afford to host a party the exact way you want it to be hosted without asking people to chip in, then don’t host a party. Let someone else host, throw a less expensive party, or use those magical words “BYOB” or “potluck.”
Really, charging friends to attend your parties will exclude people. You don’t know what anyone’s financial situation is and it’s rude of you to assume you know. This is what happened to me back in college when a guy I went to high school with decided to “host” New Year’s Eve at his parents’ house. Along with the invite, he asked everyone to chip in $50 to cover the cost of food and booze. This wasn’t mutually agreed upon by a group of friends — this was just how he invited people. Guess who was a broke-ass college student with a piddling little work-study job didn’t have $50, let alone $20, to spend on a night out right (especially after Christmas)? A mutual friend felt bad I was broke and offered to treat me. But I was so repulsed by the “host”‘s bad manners — as well as the sneaking suspicion that he was planning to keep all the leftover booze he purchased with his guests’ money — that I went to a different party entirely. It may have been less “fancy,” but I could afford to attend and had a good time.
So please. Have some manners and don’t make your hosting duties about the Benjamins.
[Image of a burger and money via Shutterstock]