The Proper Wording on an Invitation Asking Guests to Pay for Their Own Meals

by Emma Rensch

Navigating the territory between throwing an enjoyable party and avoiding getting stuck with an enormous bill can be treacherous. You may want to invite friends and family to a nice restaurant to celebrate a birthday, retirement or another special event, but you might not have the extra cash to buy everyone dinner. Fortunately it is possible to ask guests to join you while politely indicating that the event does not include a free meal. With the right finesse you can host a great event without breaking the bank.


An RSVP allows you to subtly indicate to guests that they are expected to pay for their own meal. Mail out invitations listing the details of the event. In the RSVP section, simply state the cost per person. Your card could read something like this: "Please RSVP by May 20. $20 per person. Please call or e-mail 444-444-4444."

Word of Mouth

Avoid offending guests with an outright request that they pay for their meal by spreading this information by word of mouth. Inform your closest friends whom you know will not be offended and ask that they pass along this tidbit to other invited guests. If attendees are not being formally asked to chip in, they are likely to feel more generous and should be less inclined to resent being invited to an event that is going to cost them money.

Personal Phone Calls

If you are hosting a small event, or if you have several people to help you with the planning, consider inviting each guest in person or with a phone call. You can send out invitations as a reminder but a personal call will help you explain the financial restrictions of the event in a polite and personal manner. People are more likely to respond sympathetically to a personal request to assist with costs than they will to a written request that has the potential to seem blunt. Communicating face-to-face or on the phone is unlikely to result in an unpleasant misinterpretation.

A Favor to the Guest of Honor

If you are throwing an event for someone else, ask guests to pay for their own meal as a favor to the guest of honor. Guests are likely to be sympathetic in helping the birthday person or retiree to avoid paying for their own celebration and hopefully no one will expect the person planning the party to foot the bill. A request that each person pays for their own meal as a favor to the guest of honor is likely to build a sense of camaraderie amongst the attendees and prevent resentment or awkward interactions.


  • "Dinner Party Ideas"; Diana Stanley; 2010

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