Wedding woes: guests paying for food

01:03, Apr 26 2012

Here's today's wedding woe from reader Linda, who asks:

"Hi Greer 

I am getting married probably early January. The question I have for yourself and other brides out there is - is it acceptable to ask your guests to pay for their food at the reception if you are having a reception in a restaurant? 

Thanks very much and thanks for the blog, which I have just discovered. I'm going to go through and read all of the titles and comments."


Hey Linda.


First up - exxxccceelllent question.

Whenever I come across a question about whether or not something is "acceptable", I put myself in a guest position rather than that of a bride.

So in this instance, if I was a guest to someone's wedding, and an invite arrived saying that a reception was at a restaurant and in lieu of gifts I had to pay for my meal, I'd be more than happy to do so. Beware though - some people see this very differently to me.

If you look at it from a monetary perspective, it's no different really. The price of a nice meal at a restaurant is pretty much even with the cost of gift anyway so claiming it's expensive for guests isn't really the best reason not to do it.

But there are a few logistical things to contemplate.

For example, when do guests pay for their meals? Do you really want to (potentially) panic and leave it up to each guest to pay for their own before the leave for the night? 

Or does the restaurant want pre-orders in the sense of a set menu for a certain price? You could always set up a bank account so when people RSVP they do so by placing the agreed amount per person into that account.

I think there are another couple of things to consider as well: 

- Ensure all guests are aware of this setup. Nothing worse than springing a cost on people who a) may have already spent a bit of money to attend the wedding and/or b) are in a large-ish family group (e.g. parents and kids) where a night out is actually a rather large expense.

- Timing. Make sure people have enough time to plan for it. A week's notice may mean some literally can't scrape enough to attend.

- Do not, whatever you do, expect gifts on top of them paying for the meal. Sure, some may do both, but don't expect any.

- How are you going to word this to guests? Make sure if you are going to put it on the invite, to make it sound, er... anything but tacky! You are well within your "rights" to inform guests that this is the way things are going (it is, after all, your wedding), but there are still nicer ways of putting things. Also you could consider calling each guest to explain the setup - rather than having it in words. 

- Expect people, especially the frugal among us, to say they'd like to come but not have dinner. How will you deal with these situations? 

- As a supplementary issue: what do you do with people who attend, drink and don't eat (as above). Is that responsible hosting? How will you deal with any issues that arise from this?

- Is subsidising an option? You could always consider subsidising the meals to make it seem like less of an expense on guests. I know of one wedding where guests were asked to pay $35 each to attend. 

- Consider having a catered reception within your budget? If the cost of food is stressing you out, why not re-look at your wedding budget and instead opt to have a relaxed BBQ or picnic reception that won't cost as much? Also what about a lunch time or afternoon tea wedding where only finger-food is provided? It's totally the rage at the moment.

- Ensure you tell guests what *is* provided. Are they to pay for booze as well? What happens after dinner - is there entertainment? Does everyone just leave after pudding? Some guests may be confused by the whole "pay your own way" thing so I think it's important to explain to them the running of events that day.

One thing's for certain, it would certainly prevent any guests from coming along just for some free booze and a feed (and yes, those guests do exist!).

Did you or will you be asking your guests to may for their meals? How do you feel as a guest if this was the case? Any helpful advice for Linda?

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