Raising the Tone: Etiquette for Picking Up the Tab and Editing Friends -The Toast

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Please send your etiquette-based questions to advice@the-toast.net, subject line: “Ms. Proprietypants.” The archives can be found here.


I am a maid-of-honor who cannot afford to throw her best friend (the bride) a shower/bachelorette party. My friend is super chill and not really into all the trappings of a traditional wedding (I am the only bridesmaid), but she did express a desire for a karaoke bachelorette party (in town, no destination disasters.) I would love to host this for her.

However, I am very broke, and even more so after paying the associated costs of wedding finery, accommodations, car rental, etc. I assumed that an event like this would be pay-your-own way, but another friend of the bride’s got in touch with me to feel out plans for the party, and her note included the phrase, “whatever you think is best and works for your budget.” Now I am scared! Am I expected to cover the costs of karaoke for 10-15 people? Private room karaoke can really add up, and people have a habit of skipping out on the bill even during non-festive occasions.

The bride is also on a tight budget and it does not feel right to ask her for help. What should I do? Am I reading too much into a random and certainly well-intentioned email?

Oh, lovey! To be broke is not that fun, and it causes even more woe when it triggers social stress!!! Your bachelorette party, as conceptualized, sounds pretty great, as those things go! What will you sing?! I will be singing this; thanks for asking.

The larger answer to your question is that no, of course you don’t have to pay for the whole thing! Can you imagine what that would look like in the extreme? Poor, put-upon bridesmaids funding Neon-Lit Destination Disasters?! Who knows if that’s even what that email lady meant, but just put her out of your mind immediately and feel no shame in making this a collaborative financial effort. You will do the planning; everyone [except the bride] will do the paying*.

So yes, in principle you are absolved, but in practice what should you do? That is another question entirely, because you are chillingly correct that private room karaoke is a recipe for you getting stuck with a huge tab, no matter what Miss Proprietypants writes on the internet about manners and dollars. Here follows your bespoke game plan.

First, if you can, definitely make a rez at a place that has a bar located outside of the private rooms so that people have to get up, order, and pay for their own drinks. (Obviously what you don’t want is someone coming to the rooms to take orders and handing a massive bill to you, the last person left standing.) You may have to do a little research, but it will pay off in the end–LITERALLY!!! (Bah-dum ching! She’s here every month, folks.) Once you’ve found a suitable venue, book the room for a set number of hours. Find out how much this will cost (Call this number R.) Divide R by the number of invited guests (call this number N.) Call the result X. (This is math, like we were talking about last month! It is so important in our busy modern world today.)

Second, send an email to the guests. Leave the bride off this list. Explain that you’ve booked a private room at a karaoke bar from 9 pm – 1 am or whatever, and that the total cost of the room is $R. Explain that this will come to roughly $X per person, depending on how many people can make it. Give guests a few options for paying–they can send you money through Google Wallet or whatever (I don’t really get it, but seems like a Convenient New Thing?) ahead of time, or they can give you cash at the event. Clarify that $X does not include the cost of alcohol. Important: ask people to RSVP! Badger them politely until they do. Once you have your final numbers, send a follow-up email with the final cost.

Third: send an email to the bride, telling her when and where the party is. If you want, this can be a cute “formal” invitation sent to everyone (by which I mean you paste a relevant photo of the Muppets into the email, or whatever suits your personal style), or you can figure that you’ve spammed the guests as it is and just tell the bride when to show up.

Fourthly, have fun! Don’t drink too much, because it will make you feel unwell and possibly sad the next day! (Miss Proprietypants has been around the block once or twice, thankyouverymuch.)

Fifth: some asshat will skip out on paying you. Feel free to either resent her quietly for life and shit-talk her at every reasonable and unreasonable opportunity, or ask her discretely for the $$$ as she is leaving. Your choice. But be prepared for this inevitability.

If all this sounds kind of unfun, that’s because it’s a bachelorette party. I won’t go on yet another spiel about this, because I am loathe to be an even wetter blanket. I am full of hope that perhaps some of you will have a great time.

* If you were hosting it in your home I think it would be a little cheeeeeezy to ask people to pony up for cheez-its and downmarket rosé, and if you were hiring a singing telegram to materialize in a banana suit and croon something pervy, then it would be okay to ask people to split it but even nicer to pay for it yourself. (In the case of the hypothetical banana suit, splitting the cost amongst bridesmaids would be ideal, but obviously that’s neither here nor there in this scenario. I’m “just saying,” as people are always saying.)


I am both an editor of and friend to a notoriously tardy writer. She’s incredibly talented (and a real perfectionist), but she’s inexcusably late with her copy. When I’ve tried to put on my “serious hat” and discuss this with her, she breaks down in tears. She promises to turn things in early, and then misses her deadlines. Sometimes she turns in pages and pages of intensely labored-over notes, and because we’re so close to the wire, I’m forced to craft them into a narrative. She admits to being a terrible procrastinator and perfectionist, and I find myself frustrated when I catch her engaging in hours-long conversations with people in the office, and yet, I too am charmed by her and find myself caught in such conversations. I have no doubt that she feels guilty and that part of her tardiness has to do with personal anxieties and frustration toward our company, but still it’s unprofessional and puts a strain on everyone else’s time (read: I have spent entire weekends piecing together scraps.) In short: How can I effectively manage a friend?

Repeat after me: I will never write a story from her notes again. I will never write a story from her notes again. I will never write a story from her notes again. Please go find a mirror. Adopt a stern but warm countenance. Tell yourself, once more, with feeling, that you will never write a story from her notes again. Say it like you mean it. MEAN IT!!!

You are being paid to set boundaries at work, even if your social life bleeds into your professional life. There is no clause in your contract that says “don’t manage someone if you are budz with them.” And I know, this is easier said than done. I have some strategies, but you are just going to have to accept that this is literally your job and that you are going to have to do this. Once you see that there is no way around it, it may feel easier to do it with grace.

First off, do not engage in these epic conversations when she is on deadline. Tell her why you are not engaging. Practice this with a friend, therapist, lover, whatever. And just because you are being firm doesn’t mean you have to be a dick–be breezy! “You need to be writing your piece!” [Playfully!] “I refuse to talk to you until you’ve handed in that article” [Mirthfully but intentionally]. You can and should consider employing the same tactic when you see her talking to others. This may take extra practice, and extra breeziness, but that’s okay, because it’s your job. Grace-wise, it may help to explicitly take on a different self when you are being her editor rather than her friend.

You may wish to say, “I’m speaking as your editor now, rather than as your friend…” or something similar that calls attention to your role as the big, bad editor. That might make this more comfortable for both of you. And you also must must must explain to her that you, her editor, won’t be writing any stories from her notes again. If you like you can sit down and conduct a really profesh meeting, scheduled ahead of time, where you allow her to talk about her anxiety and then strategize with her about solutions for getting things in on time. But don’t empathize too much or be too chatty in this meeting–you are her editor here, not her friend or her shrink or her mom or some other kindly, concerned, brow-furrowed person. Communicate to her that she is more than capable of finishing her work, and that she needs to do so.

It does sound like maintaining the friendship may be important to you–everyone likes friends, duh–so to do that, make plans with her to hang out outside of work when she’s not nearing a deadline. This will reassure both of you that you are not just turning into a big mean jerk.


Some last ditch strategies: invent earlier deadlines. Sit with her while she does the work, even if it’s on a weekend. This is no fun, but at least you are not doing the writing yourself and you can certainly get other stuff done while she is typing away and chomping her nails and generally being her talented, neurotic self. Finally, if all else fails, exploit the friendship and tell her it isn’t fair to you when she takes advantage of your friendship by talking for hours and leaving you to write her damn piece all damn weekend. This is not ideal, but if nothing seems to be getting through to you, you may want to try it. Call attention to the fact that you are having to make this unprofessional statement because all prior efforts at getting through to her have failed.

Finally, remember that this, like most other professional problems, is a problem you can actually solve. I sense from the tone of your query that you don’t think you can solve it, that it feels like the relationship is set in stone, and the whole thing is a dismal, dreary done deal. In all likelihood, this is not actually the case. It is your job to fix it, and I am fairly certain that it is well within your capabilities.

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