Adding a chair for a fancy birthday shindig


Dear Miss Manners:

For the past 10 years, I have enjoyed hosting a dinner for very close friends to celebrate my birthday with me. The cost for the evening is generally about $5,000, but I am financially secure. No gifts are allowed.

I have to book the table 10 months in advance, and since it’s a high-end evening, the restaurant provides a private room with a nice view and dedicated servers.

The guest list has not changed for six years. The 10 people around the table have known each other for at least two decades. We talk, laugh, drink and tell outrageous stories. No one drives; I hire a 12-seat van to pick everyone up and drive everyone home.

Dirk, one of “the 10,” recently attached himself to a nice boyfriend, Karl. They have been to dinner at my house several times, and we’ve gone to restaurants together.

The problem is that the private room at the restaurant cannot accommodate more than 10 people — the restaurant is not willing to squeeze in another chair. If I include Karl, I have to evict someone else. I’m not willing to do that. Dirk is adamant that he will only attend if Karl can be with him. He said, “Move into the main dining room and add a place for Karl; you can afford it. Or find another restaurant that can accommodate 11 in a private room.”

I don’t want to move to the main dining room, as the entire atmosphere for the evening will disappear if we are surrounded by 100 people. And I don’t want to move the celebration to another restaurant; I’ve worked with the current place for a decade, and I don’t want to change. If it were only a matter of adding a place at our table, I would do so quickly and quietly, but that’s not feasible.

I see four options: A. Cancel the evening. B. Evict someone to accommodate Karl. C. Cancel the reservation and cater the dinner at home, which will result in much work and additional cost for me. Or D. Say “I’m sorry, we don’t have space for another” and let Dirk decide if he wants to damage the relationship.

Am I missing something? Am I being too rigid?

Gentle Reader:

It seems to Miss Manners that the restaurant is. She finds it hard to believe that after 10 years of loyalty, it would be unwilling to add a single chair to keep you as a client.

If it insists, do consider other places.

While Dirk has overstepped his bounds as a guest (that “you can afford it” is outrageous), it does not seem worth damaging the friendship. This event, after all, is presumably about the relationships you have with your friends — and not the venue.

However, if you go to all of this trouble — and to prevent future guest infractions — Miss Manners recommends you tell Dirk that the adjustment was made to include him and his beau because they are an established couple. She permits you to pleasantly add, “So he’d better be a keeper.”

Visit Miss Manners at missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

Andrews McMeel Syndication

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