I'm trying to help a friend who wants to have a surprise
40th birthday party for his wife. He wants to invite about 15 couples to dinner at a nice restaurant, but he's not planning to pay for any of it. He wants people to arrive a half hour before he brings his wife for the big surprise. That means people will be entertaining themselves for 30 minutes, buying their own drinks, or appetizers, and then they'll also be paying for their own meals. I know he cannot afford to pay for everyone, but he wants a nice party for his wife. Is there a way to tactfully invite that many people to dinner and let them know that it's Dutch? Is it best just to call them?
Although "no host dinner" invitations are becoming more common, it is not really proper to invite people to a birthday party held in a nice restaurant, then expect guests to pay for their own meals. Are they expected to bring a birthday gift as well?
The exception to this would be if the restaurant birthday party involved family and relatives who are all taking part in helping celebrate an honored family member.
If your friend cannot afford to pay for the restaurant dinner party, then he should have the surprise birthday party at his house, and have it be a potluck dinner.
However, if your friend insists on having the surprise birthday party at the nice restaurant, then he must let the couples know in the written or verbal invitation, that it is a "no host dinner" and "no host bar."
Also, since your friend is the host, then he should at the minimum provide a cake or other dessert plus nonalcoholic beverages (soft drinks, coffee, tea) to go with the dessert.