By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: There are 11 nieces and nephews who are planning a 90th birthday dinner party. There will be 50 to 70 guests. Some of the hosts may not attend. Others have to travel and have hotel expenses to add to the cost of the party. How should we divide the cost?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Parties are expensive. All hosts need to be aware of that from the beginning. If someone is flying in for the party, this shouldn’t affect the overall budget. If there is worry about travel costs, they can opt out of attending the party or even hosting the party.
How fun and cool! Happy 90th birthday!
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: How neat that cousins are all planning a family affair together! If you can work together to do that, then it sounds like you can also talk out the financial expectations ahead of time. Depending on everyone’s circumstances, I think the travel part is typically not considered part of the party budget, so the bill for the party itself is split 11 ways. However, as you work out the party-planning details, these are things to discuss among the planners, especially if incomes vary significantly between families. Let someone take the lead in the discussion and make sure the budget and bill-splitting are as much a part of planning as the decorations and food. Have a great time!
HELEN’S ANSWER: Usually when you offer to host a party you are aware that the costs will be divided equally. So if your name is on the invitation you are obligated to help with the expenses. If 11 people are hosts, then the total bill should be divided 11 ways.
If the nieces and nephews are children, then the parents could help with the final party costs.
The financial issues should always be talked about in the planning stage of the party so that no one is surprised when the bill comes. If travel and hotel expenses become a problem or if one of the hosts is not coming to the party, they should make that decision when the party is planned and opt out of the host group.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: I think you have several options, but not knowing the financial condition of the 11 makes it hard to give just one way of dividing the expenses. If you have differing levels of income or circumstances, you all will need to get creative. The most practical way to divide the expenses would be:
(1) Divide the cost of the party by 11 and everyone is responsible for their own personal expenses for attending the party.
(2) If you need to get creative: Divide the cost of the party, travel and hotel by 11.
(3) Allow those that can’t afford to contribute to remain a host by taking the responsibility for the execution of the plans. They could save you a significant amount by decorating, cooking, designing invitations, pay for mailing, etc.
(4) Allow the people that can’t attend to decide if they still want to contribute and/or be considered a host. These relatives could also help in ways to cut costs, save time or offer talents that can be used from afar.
The size of your group more than likely includes people with many circumstances, financial situations, levels of creativity and available time.
I think appointing one person to gather the thoughts or requests from the group and create something that is equitable for all concerned is best.
If all of the 11 have equal lifestyles, your best choice would be (1).
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com