Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Host Pays the Bill

I’m afraid that the duties of a host have entered murky waters as a result of time constraints and an unfounded need to control situations that are not one’s responsibility. Questions arise with increased regularity about such gatherings as bridal showers, wedding receptions, birthday dinner parties at restaurants, and the like. There is always the protagonist, someone who has decided that they know what’s best for everyone. This “planner” makes elaborate plans for an event they want to “help out” with but without any consultation, and are taken by surprise when people balk at ponying up sums of money to pay for said event.

Let’s be clear. If you are hosting an event, the responsibility for paying the bill lies solely with you. If that is not how the equation works, then you are not the actual host. Perhaps there are several co-hosts, in which case, the planning should be shared, as are all of the responsibilities and certainly the costs associated with the event.

Problems arise when people usurp partial responsibility, usually the fun bits. Nothing is more fun for some people than to spend other people’s money or dictate how they might do so. To make assumptions of this sort is totally unacceptable and justifiably rebuffed. Sadly, money matters can be the source of a lot of ill will and bad feelings. This is not news to anyone, and therefore should be avoided.

Here are a few clear guidelines, which will help avoid awkward moments.

1) Determine who will host the event.

2) Keep the scope of the party within the financial ability of the host or hosts.

3) A gracious host does not ask their guests to pay for anything.

4) If bills are to be shared, this must be made crystal clear on the invitation, i.e. ticket price.

5) I discourage cash bars at private events, but if there must be one, be sure to indicate this on the invitation

6) As host, settle your accounts away from your guests.

Most brides today want their weddings to be as memorable as possible, and in a good way. Destination weddings and large formal weddings come with a hefty price tag for bridesmaids, not to mention the bride’s parents. It is safe to assume that the expenses of a dress, a shower gift, a bachelorette party, time away from work, and any travel expenses fall into the category of unbudgeted expenses. Brides need to be mindful of these expenses when inviting friends and family to participate. Although it is an honor for most bridesmaids, it can be an uncomfortable position in which to place people. Be sensitive to this potential issue and think it through before acting on impulse.

A bad business practice is if there is a business meeting planned for late in the day and the boss suggests that it would be fun to go out for dinner afterwards. If however, he isn’t paying the tab, he is imposing on his employees and has no right to extend this sort of invitation without offering to pay for the dinners of those involved with the meeting. This is a bullying technique employed at the office far too frequently and can be a real source of contention.

With a little imagination and some sensitivity, one can scale events down to fit any budget. People should not be burdened with surprise expenses over which they have little wiggle room. Over the course of a year, such surprises cause angst and mistrust. Give due consideration to all others involved when making plans. Granted, often one person is put in charge of the logistics for an event. This does not in any way make them the host, nor should they make final decisions without consulting the group before confirming arrangements.

After all, an event will likely not pivot on the venue as much as the person or occasion being noted. Think of what is going to be accomplished at a social or business gathering and how exactly a successful, enjoyable event will result from good hosting or organizing. Take everyone involved with planning and participating into consideration and make decisions based on what is practical and financially viable for all concerned.