QUESTION: What is the party etiquette on paying for a bridal party when there are five couples and one single person? Do you divide the cost by couples (six people) or by people (11)?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Ask the group how they would like to divide it up and let everyone decide together. That way, everyone has decided how to divide the bill. My vote would be to divide it between each person. This is fair for the single person.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: I don’t know of a set etiquette rule on this one, but the best way to work this out is in advance, along with estimated costs. It’s tough to decide after the fact when costs vary depending on which method you choose. In your scenario, the couples will pay about 8.7 percent more than the single person if you calculate per person (11, in this case). If you calculate costs per unit (each couple counts as one unit, as does the single person), then the single person will pay about 9.1 percent more than she or he would have if calculated the other way, but that person bears the entire cost alone.
Since I’m single, I’d vote in favor of charging per person, like venues do most of the time when planning a reception (they charge per plate of food, not per couple). But that’s my preference because that way works out in my favor. One could also argue that a single person should not have to pay a couple’s rate. However, I understand why couples would think it’s fair to pay per unit and would want to divide the bill that way.
Financial stress affects everyone at different times, whether married or single, so your group could even factor in individual circumstances in making that decision. It is better if you can get this sorted out ahead of time so there are no surprises or hard feelings when the bill comes. Financial disputes should not mar the happy occasion of mutual friends getting married.