You want to organize a party for a friend’s birthday, but don’t have a huge budget to feed the whole group of non-negotiable friends for the occasion. Instead of having a huge meal and and open bar at the birthday friend’s favorite Italian seafood restaurant and charging the whole bill to your credit card, then have to take the next twelve months paying the card off. If you have the budget for that, by all means, treat the guests. They’ll remember the evening out on you. If your budget doesn’t allow, instead, you might consider some other options.
Option one: Host the occasion at someone’s home and cater in from the restaurant of choice. This way, your budget is controlled and limited. Have other friends pitch in and bring the drink choices or have all the guests bring a bottle of wine. Make it a comfortable evening in, decorate and make it formal to add something special for your guest of honor.
Option two: Do the party at the restaurant and organize with the manager that only certain drinks and menu choices are available. Offer other options to the guests if they pay for them, for instance you cover the first two drinks and coordinate with the manager to set house wines and beers, but if someone wants a martini, they pay for it. This will help the budget on your end and offer a nice evening out to everyone involved.
Either way, wording is everything. Be clear about the details in the invitation so there’s no confusion about who pays for what. You don’t want the guests to pay for their meal and split the tab of the birthday friend. They are guests to your party, however, you don’t have to foot the bill for the person who can put away six beers either. You set the tone and the expectations for what you cover, but be realistic about your budget as well. And above all, enjoy your evening with friends!