Color of Money: Stop charging me to attend your celebrations -- #guestsdontpay

Michelle Singletary on

And, for the record, I'm acting out of principal, not paucity.

I'm standing up for all guests who are tired of this trend. Call it my #guestsdontpay protest.

Etiquette experts, such as syndicated columnist Miss Manners, are frequently asked by readers how to word an invitation to inform guests that they are expected to cover their own food, drink and sometimes a portion of the venue expense.

"Guests are not charged to attend parties," Miss Manners has written.

Here's a question that was posted on, a home lifestyle website.

"I would like to host a party for my wife's 30th birthday in one of her favorite restaurants," a reader wrote. "Since I can't afford to pay the dinner bill for all of my guests, I thought I'd just ask everyone to share the cost of the food and drinks at the end of the party. How can I word the invitation so that guests know that they'll have to pay for their own food and drink, but that there will be birthday cake served for dessert?"

I have one word for this person: potluck. Or trim the guest list so the restaurant bill is reasonable. If it's about the people and not the place, you don't have to do things big if your budget is small.

You might be inclined to ask: What if someone RSVP'd to the event and then doesn't show? Can I send him or her a bill?

Absolutely not. You aren't entitled to a refund from a no-show. You shouldn't send an invoice. Any party planner will tell you that dropouts are inevitable. It's the price of hosting.

This party-charging thing is indicative of an American culture where people want to do things they can't afford. What happened to being just a guest, not a paying guest?

The expectation is: "It's my day and I should be able to have the party I want, so pay up." But, to me, it smacks of a sense of entitlement. It's hosting beyond your means.

If you've got something to celebrate, I'll gladly share in your happiness. But before you invite me to your party, remember that #guestsdontpay.


Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


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