Tips For Group Dinner Etiquette

How not to be a jerk at a birthday dinner

Ah, the birthday dinner: that magical time when all of your closest friends are cozily gathered around the table, exchanging heartfelt anecdotes, fueled by the perfect amount of food and wine. All the attendees get along wonderfully, and when the check comes, it's swiftly handled, since everyone has come prepared with enough cash to cover the occasion.

Yeah, right. Birthday dinners are treacherous to navigate, because let's be honest: It's easy to be annoying and to get annoyed. If you are not the type of person who enjoys this particular experience, live your truth and respectfully decline. If you decide to pony up, hope the guest of honor doesn't invite too many people (more than 10 is pushing it) and the restaurant is well chosen.

Here's our simple advice on how to successfully navigate a birthday dinner.

Bring more money than you think you'll need.

It's going to be expensive. It just is. Keep in mind you'll also be paying for the birthday boy or girl, regardless of how much he or she does or doesn't protest. Furthermore, bring cash. Just spend a minute imagining the uncomfortable silence that will fall upon your table of eight as the server haltingly explains that they take a maximum of three cards. Who wants to be one of the three? No one.

Split the bill.

This is probably not going to be "fair," but you agreed to come to this birthday dinner, and calculating how much each person owes quickly sucks all the fun out of the room. You can't tabulate fun, and besides: You already knew it was going to be expensive. If you have to leave early, make sure you put down more than enough. If not, know that the resentment people feel toward you will be strong.

That being said, don't order like a jerk.

Time to go with the flow. You are, after all, a gracious guest. Prix fixe makes it easier, but if you're ordering a la carte, let logic rule. If people are ordering only entrees, follow suit, even if the burrata appetizer sounds amazing. If you drink, try to keep pace with everyone else. If you don't drink and everyone else does, hopefully, you'll be considered when it comes time to split the bill, but don't count on it. That's all part of the birthday party package.

Put your phone down.

It's rude, and you know it.

Congratulations! You are now primed for fun. As long as you know the score, the birthday dinner can be a great time. Good luck.

Planning one of your own? Book it at one of our favorite spots in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago.