You don’t have to be an avid “Real Housewives of Atlanta” watcher to have heard about Sheree’s now-infamous birthday dinner. Sheree’s boyfriend Martell Holt invited everyone to dinner but he did not pay for it, as Sheree’s cast-mates expected. Instead, he asked for them to pitch in on the cost of the meal, via Cash App. Sheree thought it was ridiculous for people to assume that Martell would pay for them, especially when most of her guests showed up without gifts. The whole thing sparked quite a bit of conversation about proper birthday dinner etiquette. To be fair, the rules are a bit different for those who don’t let their lives play out in front of tv cameras and may feel like they have something to prove. 21Ninety is here to help you out with some rules to help avoid potential awkwardness during a shared meal. 

Talk to the Host 

Rules of etiquette dictate that the host takes care of the cost of a birthday dinner for both the guest of honor and their friends. But most people don’t have that kind of cash to treat large parties. While it can be uncomfortable to talk about money, it’s helpful to get these conversations out of the way early. When the invitation is first extended, ask the host about the particulars for the evening. Inquire if the host will be treating everyone for the evening. If you don’t want to say it outright, maybe you can ask about the price range for that particular venue. The host may then clarify that they’ll be taking care of the bill. If they give you the range, you can decide whether you’re financially in a place where you can afford to attend or not. 

Plan to Pay for Your Meal 

Leaving the house with a lack of funds is never a good idea. When you go out to eat, plan to pay for your dinner, at the very least. If the birthday person is the one who extended the invitation, the guests often split the cost of that person’s meal as well. If you don’t want to do that, it’s probably best to politely decline the invitation. 

As the Host, Use Clear Wording in Your Invitation

With invitations, the expectations aren’t always clear. Proper word choice can solve all of this. For instance, when you send the initial text or evite to the birthday person’s friends, make it clear that you want the guests to pay for the birthday girl or boy. You can write something as simple as “Let’s treat our friend to dinner on Saturday at 7pm.” That way, attendees know that they will be paying for the guest of honor and themselves. 

As the Host, Collect Money Beforehand, if Possible. 

The best hosts are the ones who lay out all of the details. That includes expectations about money. For large parties, restaurants will often make prefixed menus, with set prices. With these details ironed out early, guests can budget for the event, hopefully pay for it beforehand and get up from the table with no drama. 

Figure It Out Later if You Have to

Whether you’ve taken all the above mentioned precautions or not, the absolute last thing you want to do is spend time arguing about the bill at the restaurant. It’s just not the appropriate time or the place. Worst of all, it can leave the guest of honor feeling deeply uncomfortable and even under-appreciated. Pay the bill in the best way possible in the moment and then figure out who needs to send money to whom later.