Bowling Over Guests

by admin on April 5, 2012

I have a bit of a dilemma. I received an invitation from a coworker in my work mailbox. The envelope was handwritten with my name, “Please no gifts!” and “The party will be right after the Banquet for Team X” (One of our teams had won an award for a project, so the higher-ups are throwing a banquet the whole department is attending on Saturday.)

You’re Invited!
Baby Boy’s Birthday Party
Local Bowling Alley
Date Time
$9.95 per person
Includes: pizza, drink & shoes

I generally don’t hold with charging for a party – but it is at a bowling alley. Is that a reasonable amount (I have not been bowling in ages)? The last time I threw a bowling alley party (ages ago) I paid for the shoes, lanes, and 3 games up front, and bought pizza and soda as people got hungry. Perhaps bowling is now too expensive? It’s unclear where the money is going – are they buying all the refreshments, and we just pay for a lane and shoes? Do they collect all the money themselves? What if the bill was less than anticipated? I don’t see us eating much pizza after a full banquet meal.

And making this RIGHT after the work banquet makes it harder for someone to decline without raising an issue, since it’s a Saturday and we will all be there anyway. I can’t tell if they are being convenient or are actually being rude. My instinct is not to go, since I find a door charge for a party rude, but my husband thinks this is reasonable.

I hope you or the commentators can clear this up a little for me. Thanks!  0402-12

I reread this a few times and it appears the work related banquet is NOT at the bowling alley but merely scheduled earlier in the same day as the bowling party.

My opinion on these types of parties is that they really are not parties but rather opportunities to go do some activity at each “guest’s” expense.   Invitees aren’t really guests as they are being required to pay for the party and their own food.  There is nothing indicative of a gracious host/hostess when guests are required to fund the entire party as a requirement of accepting the invitation and attending.   If the recipient of such an invitation really isn’t in the mood to go bowling, decline the invitation.   If one chooses to decline the invitation, do so without explaining to the host/hostess what the reason is.

Scheduling a bowling party on the same day as a work banquet really sets up the hostess for failure since that is a lot to ask people to spend a day off attending a banquet and then a bowling party and she may have expectations of a larger number of people accepting than is reality.   I just hope she’s not too disappointed with the turn out.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

J's Mama April 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

I personally believe that inviting anyone to any birthday party and then expecting them to pay a fee is ridiculous. If you can’t afford to pay for your guests, then have a party where you can, or invite less people.

We are having my son’s birthday party at a local museum. Our guests will not have to pay for anything, and their entrance into the museum will be paid for. I’m suprised by the number of people who’ve already asked me how much it will cost them.

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Mellowed One April 5, 2012 at 6:45 am

A baby shower is, in essence, an event hosted/attended by individuals close to the mother-to-be who are going to give baby-related gifts. Obviously this is not the intent of the hostess of the bowling party, who specified ‘no gifts’. The party sounds like a matter of convenience, not rudeness. Hostess (and possibly others) wanted to do a bowling party with all the office invited, and since they’d already be grouped together it would make attendance easier for the employees.

Also, it’s obviously one of those ‘everybody chips in a few bucks to make it happen’ thing, with the hostess organizing all the details. It sounds like she booked a party at the bowling alley, which would include all the things she mentioned, excluding lane fees (which can vary depending on how much people want to bowl).

I wouldn’t stress out over it, I’d just give the hostess as early a notice as possible that I would not be attending, so she doesn’t have to pay for my anticipated attendance.

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Lychii April 5, 2012 at 7:06 am

This is not a big deal, and $10 isn’t such a huge sum as to require speculation on where it will REALLY be going. If you don’t want to attend, you don’t need an excuse, just say you won’t attend.

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--Lia April 5, 2012 at 7:30 am

The sad part of this sort of non-hospitality “invitation” is that it’s so unnecessary. It’s perfectly possible to say to a co-worker “a bunch of us are getting together at Joe’s bowling alley Saturday evening, want to meet us there?” By not calling it a birthday party, it’s clear that everyone will be paying their own way, and the get-together has the potential to be fun. If asked about the occasion, the inviter could explain that they’re celebrating a birthday. As it is, no matter how you slice it, it is charging for a party. It’s not too different from saying that instead of gifts, they want cash.

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Mom2PBJ April 5, 2012 at 7:49 am

Wouldn’t the guests be dressed up for an awards banquet? That would not be very comfortable to bowl in afterwards, especially the ladies who will have on dresses and hosiery. I also doubt anyone would bring a change of clothes, so if I went home to change I probably would not feel like going back out to bowl so soon.

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Angel April 5, 2012 at 8:04 am

I would decline such an invitation. And I agree with the poster who says that such an invitation is really not necessary–and why call it a birthday party if : 1. you are charging people to attend and 2. you specify no gifts?? I mean, seriously?? Organizing it by word of mouth would probably get about the same number of attendees. And on a practical note, I probably wouldn’t want to attend 2 events in one day unless they were for family members–or one was for a family member.

And if a family member invited me to their own or their child’s birthday party and expected me to pay my own way, I’d be royally pissed. I would probably be annoyed at a friend for doing the same thing, but not to quite the same degree. Don’t get me wrong, I think charging for any kind of party is rude, but especially for a birthday, or a wedding or something, where gifts are traditional and usually expected.

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starstruck April 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

it kinda sounds like this is more of an event for the parents if you ask me. i mean how old is baby boy? old enough to bowl ? any way , i think asking guest to pay is tacky . lets be honest, most adults have other things they would rather do than attend a childs birthday party, but we do it for family and friends. but asking them to pay on top of it? if iam gonna spend 10 bucks a head for my family of four ( 40 bucks) iam gonna do something i want to do. just saying.

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Chocobo April 5, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’d be more inclined to think it was just a get together if it wasn’t a birthday party for someone’s son. I’m a little puzzled as to why someone would invite their coworkers to their child’s birthday party, and charge them for it on top of that. Do the coworkers know this child? It is my understanding that children’s birthday parties should be with family or their own peers, so it is a little lost on me why this party is being held for their son on the tail end of a business party in the first place.

I wouldn’t worry about it too much, just say you have other plans after the banquet without elaboration, and decline. Definitely go with your instinct here.

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Enna April 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

@ Lychii, $10 is not a large sum but it is still rude to ask people to pay to attend a party. It’s a bit diferent if it’s a group of poeple meeting up. Often people buy gifts for baby showers and birthday parties so it sort of evens it out: although asking people to buy presants that they can’t afford is unfair.

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Clair Seulement April 5, 2012 at 8:51 am

Lia hits it on the head. This isn’t innocuous, it’s tacky as all get-out. If you want me to come hang out with you and pay my way, you need to ask informally and not issue invitations to a “party,” which gives the impression that it’s a hosted event. (I’m not going to go there with who has a *baby’s* birthday party at a bowling alley (?), and solicits adult guests from a work banquet for same). Also, unless this is an officially booked party with the alley that has a flat per-person cost, the “price” is absolutely worth speculating about, since the fee is arbitrary until it is known who’s attending.

Decline with no reason other than you won’t be attending, thanks.

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wowwow April 5, 2012 at 9:01 am

This is confusing to me…why is a coworker sending out invitations to her work colleagues to a birthday party for her…son? (am I getting that right?) And if so, why would OP feel any obligation at all to go?

I see no RSVP (maybe there is one) but if there isn’t one, don’t feel obligated to respond.

This is my problem with RSVP’s–they are so unfair. :-) It’s very hard to say to someone “no, I can not be there for your children’s birthday party”, which is why so many go ahead and go, regret being there, regret being taken advantage of, and regret having to spend money on a gift for someone they may not even really know.

I do not do parties anymore where I have to pay. It’s not right. If you are throwing a party, you do so with your own money. I have been to two birthday parties at expensive restaurants in the past year alone and I seemed to be the ONLY person there surprised to find my bill at my plate at the end of the party.

Years ago, my daughters were asked to go on a Six Flags birthday party, where the invite said the cost to get in was $30.00 some dollars. My girls were ecstatic. I consented to letting them go and paying for it only because I HATE places like Six Flags and I figured this was a good way to get someone else to take them :-) But one of their friends couldn’t afford to go (and I couldn’t afford to pay another ticket for her either) so I very quietly informed the hostess of this other girl’s dilemma and that she really wanted to go. The hostess, a leader in our church and one who’s husband was a stockbroker and lived in a mansion, told me that was “too bad” if she couldn’t pay, but she wasn’t paying. I have never understood the reasoning behind making others pay for parties…especially is they include children (which the OP’s story makes me conclude this is a child’s party). Not right. Absolutely not right and if we all continue to go along with this, it only gets worse.

In fact, I am so shocked now to get invited to a party where I don’t have to pay. How sad is that?

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MoniCAN April 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

Don’t go. RSVP No. You’ll be dressed up and tired from the awards dinner, which will probably last longer than anticipated (in my experience these things always do).

Also, I agree that charging for attendance at a party is rude, especially since it seems like a lot of the money will be going to pizza and drinks, which as you said you will not want much if any of after a banquet.
The host of the party pays for the guests. The only exceptions I can think of to this rule are things like Bachelorette/Hen Parties were pretty much all the guests are co-hosting and things like hotel rooms may be involved.

I am curious—who is this birthday Baby Boy? And why is his birthday party at a bowling ally? Is the “baby” old enough to bowl? Do all these coworkers know this baby? Does the baby even know them? Does OP have a child Baby Boy’s age? Is everyone on the team/in the department invited? It strikes me as odd to have a birthday party for a child to which you’re inviting coworkers right after a big business dinner. Unless Baby Boy was born at work and delivered by the boss in some insane workplace emergency/bonding moment so said workplace is attached to Baby Boy.

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KMC April 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

Honestly, the timing and the wording of the invitation feels a bit…not rude, but a little presumptuous I guess? It’s almost like she’s saying “You’ll already be out for the banquet, so you can come to the birthday party.” I suppose she should be given the benefit of the doubt on that, but I’d find it hard not to be a little annoyed. I understand what the OP means about making it harder to decline that way, since you can almost anticipate the hostess saying “But why not? You’ll be done with the banquet.” as if you surely don’t have anything else to do that day. But one thing Ehell has helped me with is being able to decline invitations without explaining myself. It’s so freeing to be able to say “Sorry, we just can’t make it.” I’ve found that MOST people don’t question it.

I also find charging for a party rude, but sadly am seeing it more and more. To the point that when you throw a party and pay for everything, including any activities, you get a lot of people asking you why and how much do I owe you.

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Margaret April 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

Putting the fee aside, would you normally be expected to attend a birthday party for a co-worker’s child? Especially if it’s a baby?

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Saucygirl April 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

I’m confused by who the party is for. When you say “baby boy” do you literally mean it is for the very young child of the coworker? If so, a bowling party in the evening seems like a weird way to celebrate, and I too would wonder at the true intent of the party and the money being charged. If the child is older, I still wonder as to why the parents coworkers are being invited. Shouldn’t the friends of the birthday kid be the people invited? Or are they also, and the coworkers are helping cover their costs?

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Hemi April 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

The way I read the post is that someone is having a child’s birthday party (Baby Boy’s Birthday Party) immediately following the awards banquet, at the same location as the banquet (we will all be there anyway). So I have a couple questions:

1. Is this a birthday party for any employee’s child or a team member? If it is for an employee’s child, why is the entire team of adult co-workers invited to a child’s birthday party? Unless they are close friends or their child is a friend of the birthday boy, it seems an odd invitation.
2. Is the awards banquet at the bowling alley in special event rooms? Or is the bowling alley close to the site of the awards banquet. As Mom2PBJ,pointed out- people will be dressed up for an awards banquet and will not want to bring a change of clothes or go home to change and then come back for a party.

This seems like what I call an “ambush invitation”- a party/event held immediately following another event so people don’t want to decline for fear of seeming room and usually end up being “guilted” into attending. This invitation has the added whammy of you having pay to attend.

Take admin’s advice- if you don’t want to attend, decline. No reason needs to be given. If asked why you did not/do not want attend, then point out that it is rude to question why a person chose to decline an invitation.

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Hemi April 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

Typo in my original response- it should read ” for fear of seeming rude” not room.

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Katie April 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

I’d just say thanks for the invite, but you have to leave straight after to go to a family event with your husband/other family member. If you get in there straight away with a refusal (which could be done by e-mail if you feel a little awkward) then you won’t be ‘put on the spot’ later down the line.

It sounds to me, btw, like this charge is for the bowling itself rather than the ‘hosts’ taking the money themselves.

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Cat Too April 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

I am so confused. Is the “Baby Boy” the co-worker’s son? Because if so, why are they inviting co-workers to their kid’s party?

Just as a general note that if you aren’t close enough with a co-worker to be able to mail an invitation for a personal event to their home, or hand deliver it when you see them, you shouldn’t be inviting them to the personal event…

If this is for somebody in the company and “Baby Boy” is a euphemism – go if you want/feel that an appearance is a good idea professionally. The expense part is because this is an organizer not a true host. If you think the organizer is doing something that is more than most people are willing to or should have to put in for office birthdays, decline and bring the b’day person a cupcake, offer to treat them to lunch – whatever you feel like doing that is not a “forced” expense due to the celebration the organizer has chosen.

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Sarah Jane April 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

I agree with Lia. If you want to have an office get-together where each participant sponsors his own way, then by golly, present it that way. I think it’s perfectly fine to bring along a birthday cake for the little boy to share with everyone as long as the bowling establishment allows it.

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ellesee April 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

Times are changing. The only time that I have been invite without a door fee was when I was really young to a birthday party. As I grew older, it has become expected to pitch in or pay for yourself in social/casual events (whether it be for home bbqs or local restaurant). I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this idea. And nobody I know complains about this system. If they don’t have the money, then they just don’t go/play. Obviously there are certain events where guests don’t pay to enter (ie wedding).

I live in LA and rental fee ranges $14-20, and that’s without food. So yeah, $10 is a pretty good deal to me.

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Debra April 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Bowling for a “Baby Boy” birthday? How old is said baby and is he seriously going to enjoy a bowling party?

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kudeebee April 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm

If it is a party, then no you should not be paying anything to attend. If it is just a get-toghether of friends to spend time together and have fun bowling, then it is okay for everyone to pay their own way.

Since this is billed as a party, rsvp “no”. You are not obligated to attend. You have already gone to a banquet that day on your day off. If asked, reply “it just isn’t possible” or “we have other plans”. You do not have to elaborate on what those plans are, even if it is to go home and watch tv in your pjs!

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Soundgardenklok April 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I personally don’t see it as a big deal, but I can understand how other people might feel differently. For a co worker’s birthday once, we went broomballing at the ice rink where she previously worked. Everyone pitched in for ice time, which was discounted as the owners were her former bosses. No gifts, just people who wanted to go play for a few hours and eat. It was fun.

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Soundgardenklok April 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Sorry, I had just thought of something else as soon as I first commented. What about when a birthday event is held at a restaurant? Don’t guests pay for their own dinners? I think it’s the same as inviting people to some activity where they have to pay their own way, just a change of venue. Plus, you get food AND the fun activity for maybe even less than you’d pay at a restaurant.

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Geddy April 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Maybe it’s a generational thing (I’m in my early thirties), but I have to say I’m pretty surprised at the amount of people who are so against paying their own way! In the social groups I travel in, it is always assumed that everyone pays their own way. This includes my group of co-workers, who tend to have fairly regular social events.

Of course, if someone hosts a dinner or something at their own home, nobody expects to chip in for groceries, but if the meal is being ordered in everyone always splits the cost. If it’s an external event, like the OP’s bowling example, it goes without saying that everyone pays their own way, regardless of who organized the event or whether or not it’s celebrating a particular occasion. I’d be speaking for most people I know in saying that we wouldn’t have nearly as many social events if the person organizing/hosting had to go to great expense in paying for everyone else’s way.

Some of the opinions in these comments truly baffle me. Wowow even mentions having been to two birthday parties at EXPENSIVE restaurants, and having been surprised to have to pay her own way!! So the friend celebrating their birthday is expected to, what, save up hundreds of dollars to pay for all her friend’s expensive meals and drinks? Just bizarre. In fact, with my group of co-workers, everyone not only pays their own way at a birthday lunch, we all chip in an extra few dollars (less than five) to cover the birthday person’s meal too!

All that said, in terms of the OP, I do agree that there are some strange aspects to the invitation (co-workers invited to a child’s birthday party?), and that it’s a poor choice to have the event the same night as a work buffet.

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Kat April 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I don’t get how this party is for a baby. Babies can’t bowl. Am I missing something?

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MoniCAN April 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I think Cat Too said it best in regards to charging for a party. When you require money or goods for admission, you become an ‘Organizer’ and NOT a Host.

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The OP April 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I want to thank everyone for responding! I’ll try to address people’s points of confusion:

The child is turning one. So, probably not old enough to bowl. I work in a small department, about a dozen people. The spouse of one of my other co-workers threw a baby shower for them, and the child has appeared at work once or twice since he was born. I think he was only awake once, so that is how well I “know” him. The parent is closer to other coworkers, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were invited. It may be a case of “If I invite Donald and Prudy, I’ll have to invite everyone else too”.

I will also note that another coworker had a child about 6 months before this coworker, and those parents didn’t have a work birthday party for their child. This is not “normal” to the company’s culture, as far as I can tell.

The banquet is in the company headquarters, and the bowling alley is a few miles away. Three of us live out of the city, about 30 miles away. That’s why I wondered if my coworker was thinking of our convenience, since we’d only have to make one trip for two events.

We have also had informal get-togethers on our off time. Generally someone would say, “We’re going to Brew Pub this Friday – whoever wants to, can join us.” Never issued invitations, clearly an after-work dinner & drinks thing where everyone pays for themselves. Again, what happened here is not “normal” to the company culture.

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Cat April 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Call me old fashioned, but I think a child’s birthday should be celebrated by immediate relatives until the youngster is old enough to have friends over for cake and ice cream.

If I were old enough to know what was going on, I’d be bored watching a bunch of adults I didn’t know celebrate my birthday by going bowling and not giving me anything.

Reminds me of when I was twelve and Mother told me I was getting a sewing machine for my birthday, but my grandmother would choose it and it would be kept in her room. I would have permission to use it when she was not. Sounded to me that Granny was getting a new sewing machine for my birthday. I said no thanks.

This one is easy. “I am so sorry, but we have plans for then. Give little Whatsit our best wishes.”

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babs April 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm

At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but after re-reading it, like others, I’m really confused about the “party.” Inviting coworkers to a “baby boy” bowling birthday party that they pay for themselves? The OP didn’t mention if she is closer to the family than her other coworkers. Did she and a select few get an invitation? I got a shower invitation from a coworker, thinking that the whole office would be there, and I was surprised to be only support staff invited. Since the invitation was hand written and not copied or emailed out, I wonder if she was considered a friend that would enjoy sharing the birthday party for her little one. Still, asking people to pay for their kids birthday party gets a little dicey. I did a bowling party for my young son (old enough to bowl!), bought hot dogs and drinks for those in attendance, and got permission to bring in my own cake. That’s a bowling party! The other sounds like an adult get-together funded by the participants. If there is an RSVP, I would just say “Sounds like fun! Sorry I’m not going to be able to attend.” Period. Don’t give an excuse about what you’re doing, and don’t say you have another event to go to. I’ts your choice whatever decision you make and you don’t have to explain it. And PS, if it was a blanket invitation to the staff, I don’t think it was a smart idea planning the party after another event. The coworker obviously thought, “since everybody’s already out anyway…” But it doesn’t work that way. People make choices to do one thing or another, and are rarely willing to jam up their precious time with multiple events. I work for an organization that has many events going on throughout the year, and we always have to keep this in mind.

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spartiechic April 5, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I guess I’m as confused as most of the rest of commenters. I read it as the banquet is at the bowling alley (we will all be there anyway). Why would anyone go from a banquet to bowling back to back? I’m assuming that the folks will be dressed in at least work casual for this banquet. Are they expected to bring a change of clothes (as other suggested)? Also, why would a bunch of adults want to hang out at a party for kids unless they have children as well? If so, the children probably wouldn’t be sitting through a banquet for their parents. Why would you charge for a birthday party? That is so tacky! If you invite people to a party, you are the host and pay for the party yourself. Why would you ask people to pay for pizza when they just ate? It sounds like it was very poorly thought out by someone who is just trying to get as many people to a birthday party as possible to make baby boy feel good. RSVP no and don’t give it another thought.

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NotCinderell April 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I don’t understand the point of throwing an adult party for a baby’s birthday party. My children’s first birthday parties were lunch, a few other babies to play with (as in toys on a rug and babies hanging out together), cake, presents, and nap. Why would you have a bowling party that a child can’t participate in and would likely not enjoy?

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kingsrings April 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I’m also confused on the location of this party and the location of the banquet, and how old is this birthday child? A baby (says baby boy), or a child?
The etiquette faux pas of charging others for one’s birthday party is here to stay, it seems. Every invitation I receive for a party where there is a fee, I have to pay. And I’ve been asked on invitations to contribute food for self-thrown birthday parties as well! I was just asked (or it might have been just suggested on the invite) recently to bring a bottle of ‘well alcohol’ to a friend’s birthday party. What is well alcohol anyway? Spirits? On my budget right now, that’s not affordable : ( Looking for a way out of that one. I remember as a kid, in our social circle when our parents threw us parties at the skating rink and such, we were never asked to pay for it. I wonder if even that still occurs nowadays.

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Lisa April 6, 2012 at 7:13 am

I think it’s very, very rude to throw a party right after someone elses party.
Winning an award is probably a huge carreer highlight in these people’s carreers. They might have worked very hard to achieve that. Now a banquet is being held in their honor, and it might be a very special day for them.

*in comes baby-mother, determined to make the day all about HER child*

Seriously, I think your co-worker is very selfish to take the spotlight away for the people who worked hard to get that award. People might cut the banquet short just to be at that party. Besides, I think it’s pretty arrogant to think that people are interested in attending your drooling babies birthday. What’s next, attending your co-workers nephews bar mitzwa? This person is rude and has no boundries and would have no qualms telling her that. How would she feel if someone planned a party RIGHT after one of her special events? Bet she wouldn’t like it one bit.

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--Lia April 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

kingsrings– I can answer the question about “well alcohol.” In a bar, you will find bottles of name brand alcohol displayed on shelves behind the bartender. These are the “call brands” and ones you’ve likely heard of like Johnny Walker or Glenlivet, brands that are advertised. Some customers order their drink and specify what brand they want. They pay extra for this. Other customers, possibly the majority, don’t care what brand scotch they want when they order a scotch and water. For these, the bar tender keeps generic bottles of scotch, vodka, whiskey, brandy, etc. in a tray next to the sink called “the well.” It’s convenient there. These are not as expensive and are called “well brands” or “bar brands.”

In other words, first your so-called “hosts” invited you to a party where you were expected to bring something to get in. Then they thought they were softening the blow by telling you that you weren’t expected to bring something nice that you could think of as a gift. They told you that you were supposed to bring basic provisions in the form of a not-too-expensive bottle of alcohol to be used as a mixer.

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Cat Too April 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

OP – Based on your additional info, I would give this party a pass. If for no other reason than that it looks like your co-worker is setting up an Epic Fail.

The odds of the one year old not melting down under the conditions described are not good. Bright lights, busy, noisy, lots of people they don’t know around, for well over an hour? Most babies of that age do not handle that very well.

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Mellowed One April 6, 2012 at 9:07 am

“Maybe it’s a generational thing (I’m in my early thirties), but I have to say I’m pretty surprised at the amount of people who are so against paying their own way! ” Geddy, I’m 45 and feel the same way!

I think many here wouldn’t like to run with my crowd. My friends most always ask is there ‘anything they can bring’ if I’m cooking a meal (I have people over about once a week), having a party or hosting a baby/bridal shower. My friends know it helps take some of the burden of expense off my shoulders, which they gladly want to do.

Know that it works in reverse. If my friends are hosting a party/shower/whatever, they know I will offer to bring something, and beause I want to. They will usually accept, and nothing that is deemed ‘costly’ is required from those attending. Since the meal is always modest, this is possible.

None of it is “expected”, it just happens. When everyone has a willing, giving spirit, it modifies what the predominant custom is. And this generous spirit enables me and my friends to get together more often–if we had to fund entire events there would be very few of them :) In my circles it would actually be considered a tad bit inconsiderate if one accepted repeated invites and did not offer to help it some manner, however small. Again, it’s not the cost, it’s the spirit.

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Library Diva April 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I think the whole set-up is weird. I’ve never heard of a one-year-old’s birthday party being like this. The poor kid’s not going to have any fun at this event! He can’t bowl! I can’t imagine what OP’s hosts could have been thinking. They’re not trying to get gifts, because they said no gifts. But by making it about their son’s birthday, it’s no longer a casual evening of out-of-office fun.

I don’t have a problem with OP being asked to pay, though. I’m in the same age range as Geddy, and have never, as an adult, been to an external event like this where the person who organized it paid for everyone. I certainly wouldn’t expect to have my bowling covered if someone invited me out for a bowling party. In this day and age, who has hundreds of dollars to hold an expensive restaurant party, for example? But, everyone in the group may have $30 to cover their own meals. Despite setting up one of the strangest social events ever, OP’s co-worker at least did everyone the favor of making them aware up-front that the evening would cost $10, so no one had that uneasiness of whether or not they had to pay.

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Enna April 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm

@ Soundgardenklok it does depend on the situation and the relation the person has with the invitees. It’s one thing if people decide “let’s chip in for the guest of honour”.

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kingsrings April 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Lia – thanks so much for explaining that. Not being much of a drinker, I had no idea about any of that. At least he didn’t specify the expensive kind that you mentioned! Nothing on the invite specifies if food will be there, if it will be, I guess he figures if he’s bringing the food, we can supply the drinks. Still very tacky, but like I said before, it seems like most of my friends/aquaintances nowadays do it that way unfortunately, so I’m used to it.

Geddy – if one is planning the event themselves, the sole host, then yes, it is an etiquette faux pas to make the guests pay for themselves. It’s your party, your plan, you don’t make others foot the bill by making them pay or bring a food/drink item. However, if an outing is planned by a group, then they make the decision all together to foot their own bill of course.

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Angela April 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Kingsrings, yes, when we have a party for our kids elsewhere (or if we invite a child’s friend to join us for dinner, movie, outing), we assume all the costs. My daughter is asked to events too under the same assumption. It all works out.
It was said earlier but in reference to Geddy: there is a difference between an organizer (in which telling everyone their cost is expected) and a host (in which you should assume the cost). IMHO when you refer to an event as a party, when you are the initiator and sole planner, and you assert yourself as the person in charge of it, you are assuming a host position.

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Katie April 7, 2012 at 8:27 am

I think that many people are reading far too much into this. I don’t understand how this invitation is in any way rude or presumptuous. The inviter probably just asked the whole office out of politeness and to avoid offending people. The ‘no gifts’ note makes it clear that she isn’t asking people in order to get presents from the event. I don’t know if this is a cultural thing, but here (in the UK) it would be pretty standard to expect other adults to pay their own way in this kind of activity.

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Cat Whisperer April 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Geddy, I think you’re right that the “if you invite, you pay” issue involves some generational issues.

I’m 55, and I was brought up with the iron-clad, cast-in-concrete, no-exceptions no-discussion rule that if you invite someone to do something, you are expected to pay for the people you invite.

My daughter, who is 19 and away at college now, regards this as fuddy-duddy absolutist thinking. Which I find distressing, because it’s the rule I’ve tried to teach her.

The major difference, as far as I can tell, is her generation’s definition of an invitation, a party, and how social obligations work.

Daughter’s reasoning: sometimes friends want to get together and it isn’t a formal, hosted party in the sense of issuance of invitations and acceptances/regrets RSVP’s. Getting together is something they do through a process of concensus through social media and text messaging and everything is fluid right up to the moment the people involved get together or don’t get together. And people pay their own way, with informal courtesy extended to each other if someone happens to be short a few dollars one time, with someone picking up the difference and the expectation that at some time, the person caught short will either “pay it forward” and help someone else, or repay the person who helped them out.

I think that this is an issue where everyone has to find their own comfort zone. If you’re issued an invitation and you aren’t sure if you’re expected to pay, then ask. If you aren’t comfortable with the answer, then decline the invitation.

If I’m issuing an invitation and I want to make sure the people I’m inviting understand I expect to pay, I make sure I include the words “as my guest” in the invitation. That removes all doubt.

I want to touch on something Wowwow mentioned about invitations to theme parks and paying your way. This is kind of a sore point for me: my husband can buy tickets to Disneyland at a sizeable discount because a co-worker’s father works at Disneyland and he gets discounted tickets. Daughter enjoyed going with friends to Disneyland and we had no problem buying discounted tickets from the co-worker for them.

One of my daughter’s friends asked us to buy discounted tickets for three members of her family in addition to herself. We bought the tickets, four of them, with the understanding that we would be repaid. Tickets for the friend, the friend’s younger sister, and the friend’s parents.

We never got repaid. Never were even offered repayment or an apology for not offering repayment.

This bothers both my husband and me. My daughter and her group of friends and their families enjoyed the Disney visit and had a good time, and we were glad about that; husband and I didn’t go, because I have arthritic knees and standing in line at Disneyland is sheer torture for me. We wanted our daughter to have a good time with her friends, and were grateful for the family that went with the kids to keep an eye on them. But we felt taken advantage of when it became apparent that we were not going to be repaid any part of the cost of the tickets we had been asked to buy for this family.

It isn’t the money, because we would have been happy to make the tickets a gift, and we never pursued asking repayment. It was more the feeling of having been manipulated into providing free tickets for which we never even received thanks. If anyone in this family had approached either my husband or myself and told us that they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay back the tickets, we would have expressed thanks for them accompanying the kids to Disneyland and told them to forget it.

This left enough of a bad feeling for us to tell our daughter to pass the word on down to her friends: if we were asked to buy Disney tickets again, we wanted cash up front to pay for them or we couldn’t do it. No more fronting money to buy tickets for others.

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Mellowed One April 9, 2012 at 6:52 am

I’m not sure why the comment I posted is still awaiting moderation while others have gone through (glitch perhaps?), but in the event it was due to my phrasing I’ll give it another, revised go :)

“Maybe it’s a generational thing (I’m in my early thirties), but I have to say I’m pretty surprised at the amount of people who are so against paying their own way! ”

Geddy, I’m 45 and feel the same way!

My friends most always ask is there ‘anything they can bring’ if I’m cooking a meal (I have people over about once a week), having a party or hosting a baby/bridal shower. My friends know it helps take some of the burden of expense off my shoulders, which they gladly want to do.

And it works in reverse. If my friends are hosting a party/shower/whatever, they know I will offer to bring something, and an it’s because I want to.

It should be noted that either way, nothing that is deemed ‘costly’ is planned at these occasions . Meals are always modest.

None of it is “expected”, it just happens. It enables me and my friends to get together more often–if we as individual hosts had to fund entire events there would be very few of them!

When everyone has a willing, giving spirit, the results are a predominant social custom that benefits all.

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roselin April 10, 2012 at 11:59 am

i wonder if i’ll be condemned for this?
my husband’s birthday is coming up, and he decided that he wanted to go see a baseball game. so i looked into tickets and told him there was actually a game between our favorite rival teams on his birthday. i was going to book tickets just for us, but by then he had already mentioned the game to some friends, who were interested in purchasing their own tickets to go with us (now, this is ok, as these people were not invited by us, simply joining in the fun, right?). we realized how fun this could be for all of our friends, so we made it into a casual event, and told everyone “we’re going to this game on this date at this time, anyone interested in also going to the game, the tickets we’re looking at are $XX, and we can order them as a group and all sit together.” We then extended to our friends an invitation to celebrate his birthday with pre-game tailgating (where we’ll provide hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, etc. and cupcakes), and even some friends who just aren’t interested in the baseball game can’t wait to come celebrate his birthday beforehand.

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Me April 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I belong to the generation where going out for drinks at your own expense is a standard way of celebrating a friend’s birthday, and this still seems off to me.

1) Pay-you-own-way celebrations are generally done with actual friends, on a fairly casual basis (quick email, not formal invitations.
2) They are most common at the broke student and early working phase when people don’t have much money, family nearby, or room to entertain, and
3) The activity is something you’d do with your friends anyways, you’re just doing it at a particular day because of the birthday. You don’t get an invitation from someone you would go out to do that activity with on a non birthday occasion.

By the time we’d progressed pass the early working phase, things had settled into a more hosted style – the birthday person would pay for the first round of drinks, or have people over to their home, or pay for the dinner. I don’t think I’ve even heard of someone inviting adults to a pay-your-way birthday party for their child.

There’s also the way it’s tacked on to another function. After a work banquet, it’s not unexpected if people want to go home, rather than to a separate party (also with food). Plus the oddity of inviting all your coworkers to your child’s birthday party.

I doubt the hosts had any thing malicious in mind, though. I can see the train of logic – “Coworkers know baby, I bet they’d love to come to his birthday party. Why don’t we have it after the banquet, so people don’t need to make two trips. We’ll make it no gifts, so people won’t mind paying for the bowling and pizza”. I’d chalk it up to a lack of imagination preventing them from figuring out how other people are really going to see things.

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AuntK April 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm

So, there are a few points. I agree that there may be some generational and even geographical differentiation in etiquette here. Primarily, an invitation should clearly indicate expectations of the party, this one at least has this in it’s favor. There’s nothing worse than showing up for an event and being surprised with having to pay for something. That said, no one I know blinks if a wedding reception invitation indicates a cash bar, especially in the current economy. However, verbiage and nuance do matter.

I recently turned forty, and had a karaoke party with friends in a private room at a local club. My friends who hosted the party covered the cost of the room and the karaoke fees for all the guests (normally $3 a song). They provided some appetizers in addition to traditional birthday cake and ice cream, but the invitation also indicated that there would be a full cash bar with grill available to guests desiring any additional food/drink. (several friends hired babysitters and came for a date night out without the kids). The invitations were sent in time to arrive a month in advance, and we chose an early enough time frame so that those with sitters could get home at a reasonable time. People could come without any expense, although several did choose to purchase their own drinks.

As an aside, to me, an invitation to a party where I spend only $10 (about the cost of a card & wrapping a gift these days!), seems sensitive to many who might be impacted by the economy. Were the invitation for an adult or teenager, it would not strike me as the least bit presumptuous. (but I do agree, for a 1 year old – it’s just wierd!)

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