Have you ever been invited to dinner party with a group of friends and regretted accepting the invitation? I’m not saying I didn’t like the restaurant picked, the other dinner party guest invited, menu prices or even the food. But I can’t stand it when everyone in your dinner party doesn’t know the unwritten rules of proper group dinner etiquette.
So I decided for those who can’t read the invisible ink used for the “unwritten rules,” to write them down now so there is no more confusion.
Let’s set the dinner scene.
You are invited out for a birthday dinner for a good friend and she invites roughly 8 other friends so there are 10 of you total. You want to have a good time, catch up with old friends, celebrate the birthday girl and enjoy good food. So to continue to foster a positive relationship for years to come, here are are a few things you can you do to not lose friends over dinner for the party host and party guest:
- Send out a link to view the menu prior. Help your guest decide prior to dinner if they can afford to come. Sometimes everyone can’t afford the bougie restaurant, so let your guest have the option to decline prior instead of potentially creating an awkward situation.
- Alternative: If a guest is low on funds, invite them to meet up and join the group afterwards for drinks so they can still be a part of the celebration.
- Check for hidden party fees. If it is a special occasion and a cake is present, make sure you cover the cake cutting fees. The worst feeling is being invited out and coming home unhappy because you had to spend unnecessary money. Try to make sure you do your homework and ask questions of the establishment.
- Alternative: Ask if you can bring cupcakes instead of a cake. Some businesses or more flexible on cost when a group brings cupcakes for a party versus big cakes.
- Don’t assume everyone wants bottle service. This is not meant for only clubs, but this includes buying bottles of wine or the bubbly to share at dinner as well. Everyone may not drink at all or want something different to drink. Get a head count of those sharing the bottle and split that cost separately from the bigger bill.
- Inform guess that the birthday girl eats free. For most of my friends, we always agree to pay for the birthday girl’s dinner. But it doesn’t hurt to be courteous and make sure everyone understands that rule. Also if there is not a cake or cupcakes and instead a surprise birthday dessert and the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday is ordered, it would be nice to treat them for the dessert as well.
- Pick one or two to divide the bill. When the dreaded bill for 3 shared appetizers, 10 main courses, birthday dessert (10 spoons included) and a few round of drinks gets placed on the table, don’t panic. Pick one or two of the more responsible, sober-ish guest to survey the damage, help divide up the bill based on rules above and facilitate the paying of the bill. No need to put on a show with everyone debating and pulling out calculators. THAT IS NOT OKAY lol.
- Review the dinner menu prior. If you can’t afford dinner, stay your butt at home. It’s nothing personal, but I don’t want to have to pay anymore than I have to cover cause you did not budget out your funds properly. You can always celebrate your friends birthday at a later time in another more cost-effective way. Just saying.
- If you drink more, pay more. Normally from the thousands of dinner parties I’ve attended I can stay the average number of drinks I see the group go through at dinner per person is about two rounds before you potentially switch to good ole H20. But if you want to keep the party going and drink some more, make sure you acknowledge those extra drinks when the bills come and cover it. Food is okay, but it’s NEVER okay to make the group pay for your extra alcohol.
- Appetizers are for everyone. Normally for a dinner party the group orders a few appetizers to share and nibble on because it takes forever to cook enough main courses for your whole crew. When this kind gesture is made by the group, just eat the snacks and be prepared to equally divide the bill for them. Nuff said.
- Groups of 5 more have gratuity included. This is one the only rules that is actually already written down on your bill. Gratuity is defined as a gift of money above and beyond the payment due for the meal that is included in the group bill. That too is normally split as even as possible among the group.
- Split the bill to cover the birthday girl. Finally, you are celebrating YOUR friend’s birthday. A day so special, it only comes around once a year. So I hope you can find it in your heart to bless your friend by covering their tab (drinks, food and birthday dessert, if needed) for one night. And if you can’t afford it, try and tell the party host ASAP so they can plan accordingly.
The rules have now been written.
Based on implementing these simple but fair rules at your next group dinner, you will help to keep the party focused on enjoying good company, good food and steer away from the embarrassing situations I know you’ve faced or caused in the past at previous meet-ups. Don’t be that friend that no one wants to invite because you don’t know the rules. Especially now as you have been informed.
Go forth and prepare to have a great time out with your friends knowing that moving forward if things go left, it wasn’t because of you. Bon appetit!