Is It Okay To Charge Guests at a Potluck?

We have some thoughts.

Okay to charge guests at a potluck?

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Scenario: You get an invite for a Thanksgiving potluck with new friends. You're already thinking about making your grandmother's famous pumpkin pie, and maybe that vegan mushroom stuffing you saw on Instagram. But then you see it at the end of the email invite: your friend is requesting cash to attend the potluck. Is that really...okay? The Simply Recipes editors weigh in below.

Never Ever Ever Charge Your Potluck Guests

You should never charge someone to come to a potluck. Nope, never, absolutely not. After all, the whole point of a potluck is to have your friends, family, and acquaintances bring something edible to enjoy with one another. And those who can't cook or don't have the time? They can bring wine. Or flowers. Or something pre-made from the grocery store. Or literally anything but cash. The host typically provides the space to gather, a dish or two, and maybe an extra fork. So what could the host possibly need the cash for? Their electricity bill? The couple extra rolls of toilet paper they needed to stock up on? Unless you're hosting a potluck for charity, asking people for cash smells like a scam.

Ariel Knutson, Editorial Director

It’s Fine To Charge Your Potluck Guests

Yes, you can ask your guests to pay money to join in on the shared meal. Ordinarily, you should never expect guests you invite to your house to pay. But a potluck, unlike a hosted dinner party, is not a gathering where the host is expected to provide all the food, drinks, and cheer. At a potluck, everyone contributes however they can, even if that means opening their wallet and putting cash on the table instead of a casserole or a bottle of wine. A host’s contribution is providing a comfortable location to gather and whatever else they choose to pony up.

Here’s the caveat—also how not to lose friends and fall off the family will. Don’t surprise your guests with a Venmo payment request after the dinner is over or even a few days before. Now that’s tacky!

Your guests should be informed that a monetary contribution is requested when they receive their invitation. Be clear about what the funds will be used for. Renting extra tables and chairs? Calling in back-up singers for your post-dinner performance? Ordering an extra turkey? Something as simple as, “We are collecting funds. If you can, please contribute.” Then, let your guests decide if and how much to contribute. They may choose not to accept your invitation—the choice is theirs. Then, graciously invite them through your front door even if they didn’t pay up.

Myo Quinn, Senior Editor