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Birthday Party Etiquette

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

My son will be one year old in March. I would like to have a celebration in honor of his birthday; however, I don't want to be perceived as wanting gifts.

Most of our friends and family have more $$ than we do. When my son was born, our friends and family were really super generous. A friend threw me a shower and we got an embarrassing amount of great stuff. Other friends gave us wonderful hand-me-downs. We're set for toys and clothes.

I'm thinking of writing "no gifts, please" on the invitations. Is that weird? Awkward?

What have others done to celebrate a first birthday?
post #2 of 28
Cub will be a year in a few days, and we're not having a party for that very reason. We've invited people to dinner instead. There may still be a couple of gifts, but a dinner invitation just doesn't have the same connotations as a "YOU'RE INVITED!" card with balloons all over, kwim? At this age, the party is really for the adults anyway, the baby couldn't care less. He'll get to play with his grands like he does every week, and he'll be gloriously happy.

When he gets older, I plan to have special birthday feasts with family on those occasions. I really dislike the kid's parties with the Buzz Lightyear *everything* and the frenzy of materialism when all the gifts are opened and the child is too wired to know who ot look at when s/he says "thank you". I know that a lot of people get a lot of joy out of them, but I've been to a few that really leave a bad taste in my mouth. I'm going to try to do something with a deeper feel to it, if I can. A little more ritual, a little less Buzz. When Cub is old enough to ask, he can invite friends to the dinner. If he asks for a more conventional party, I'll certainly help him do it his way.

Or at least, that's the plan. And we all know what happens to those!


post #3 of 28
Maybe you could suggest that donations be made in your son's name to a favorite charity. You could also ask your family for a birthday trip to the zoo or museum in lieu of gifts.

Remember that for most people, giving a gift makes the giver feel good! And everyone loves to see little kids opening gifts, granted one year olds could care less. I say this just because even if you specify no gifts, someone will still bring them.
post #4 of 28
Wow, this is one of my pet peeves. For DD's first birthday, we only invited immediate family (who would have given gifts anyway), godparents, and a few close friends. Everyone enjoyed it and we weren't overloaded with gifts. We didn't do anything special - no games, clown, etc. Just good food and clean old-fashioned fun! Cheap goodie bags for the kids consisted of dollar store items, nothing fancy.

At the peds office, I was talking to a woman who invited more than 50 people for her DD's first birthday. I thought it was not only unnecessary, but gluttonous! When the kids get older, I think we should still limit their birthday parties. It seems that each year they get more elaborate and costly. What does this teach the kids? Not the sort of values I want to pass on... What makes it difficult is explaining to your child why you don't want to spend a fortune celebrating their birthday. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about the futility of "keeping up with the Joneses."
post #5 of 28
What about instead of gifts asking every one to write something special they remember about his birth or first year? You can keep it for him to read when he gets older.

ps: my dd will be one on March 9th, it went by so fast, didn't it!?
post #6 of 28
We sent out an invite to a few people that said-

Hugh is turning one! Stop by between 2 and 4 for some cake. NGNT (No gifts necessary, thanks!)

People were really great about it, and liked the drop in idea. It kept it low key for us.
post #7 of 28
If you think people are bound to get gifts anyway, why not ask people to buy a copy of their best loved book as a child? These are gifts that "keep on giving" and IMO one can never have enough books! Or if you really don't want them to spend $$$, give each person a tape and ask them to record themselves reading a story or singing a song, and you can later combine it all onto one tape? Just some ideas, hope you like 'em!
post #8 of 28
Birthday parties are so difficult. Last year for ds's 9th b-day, we simply invited his two best friends over for dinner--pizza and cake. I felt uncomfortable saying "no presents" so we just invited the friends casually on the day of the "party" without mentioning that it was for his birthday. It worked out very well.

While we're on the subject: what ever happened to old fashioned home made birthday parties? It seems like they're often held at a club or a pool or some awful place like ChuckECheese or Planet Fun. I hate that! Actually, the party at a city public pool was good, but I definately prefer parties that take place in the child's house.
post #9 of 28
for the first year we did have a huge party - we felt like one year was a BIG deal especially since they were preemies... all our siblings came in from all over the country and it was mostly family but there were at least 50 people there... we just had a BBQ in the backyard. For subsequent birthdays the plan is to just have couple of friends (of the boys) at our home and maybe a dinner for family
post #10 of 28
Both of children slpt through thier first birthday parties.

I think the reason people go over board on thier babies first b-day party is because it also celebrating you making it through the first year. It is a big deal. We have never invited anyone but family to first b-day parties and we wouldn't have been able to stop them from bringing gifts anyway. MIL always gives us a zoo pas for dd b-day. Does your family ask what you would like? Have a good list ready because people like to gove gifts. Donations to a charity or organization, passes to zoo or musem or gymboree type thing, good books, contributions to an education fund (a savings account works best because then it can be used for homeschool, privet school, dance/art/language lessons, college or self education) or have people chip in for large ticket items like the next carseat, furniture, etc . . . If you send invitations it might be nice to try something like no need to bring a gift. Godd luck and happy birthday to your sweet baby.
post #11 of 28
Well, if you really want to talk about etiquette, it's technically considered rude to say "no gifts, please" on an invitation, because in saying that you're assuming that people would bring gifts, and it's never polite to assume someone will give you a present. I believe this would also apply to requests to make donations, etc. "in lieu of gifts". I've heard Miss Manners expound on this on numerous occasions, and basically it isn't polite to talk about gifts at all. If someone gives you a gift, you thank them and move on with your life. If you don't want the gift, you should feel free to return it to the store, give it away, throw it away, etc. (after writing the giver a nice thank you note). I have become ruthless about gifts. If someone gives us something that we truly love or need, we keep it, otherwise it gets returned, sold on ebay, donated, trashed, or put in the top of the closet to give as a gift to someone else (heehee!--just be careful not to give it back to the same person)

The problem with gifts at parties is that it ends up taking too much time to open all the darned things, and the kids get bored. I read a suggestion somewhere that instead of making a production out of opening them, you should open each one as it comes through the door, then display them on a side table if you wish. That way, the giver gets to see the gift being opened, but everyone doesn't have to sit through an hour-long gift-opening marathon. This would work especially well if it's a drop-by open house type party. I've also heard of people not opening the gifts at all during the party, but I don't think that would fly in our circle of friends/family.

We ended up having 11 adults and 4 kids at ds's 1st bday, and I still think it was too much, even though we tried to keep the guest list as small as possible. This year, I think we'll have a couple of informal lunches --one for friends, one for family--and keep it under 10 people each time. Good luck to all of us planning birthday parties!
post #12 of 28
For a first birthday, the celebration is undoubtedly mostly for the parents and friends and relatives. I was lucky enough to be able to take ds the 800 miles "back home" so he could have his celebration with his only cousins. They're older than him, but I thought that's the way it should be - just family, low key. All of our playgroup friends had parties that year and we went to some and just gave gifts for others. I was a little disturbed that the trend seemed to be if you hosted a party you got a gift. We weren't in need of gifts, but I was a little offended that these were our "friends" and they didn't think of us because we didn't host a party they could attend.
Anyway, that was a little off track from your question. I wouldn't deny your friends and family the chance to shop for a little one. . . it's fun. If any of them, for whatever reason, should think YOU are soliciting gifts, they'll probably spend minimally anyway, so don't worry about them. If you get things that you don't need, exchange them for something you want. Even if you're set for life on hand-me-downs, something new every now and then is always good. If anyone contacts you beforehand and asks for gift suggestions, I don't see anything wrong with telling them he doesn't need anything so whatever they would like for him to have would be fine, or having a list of some things you think he might like. I do agree with the idea that including a "no gifts. . " statement is presumptive and in bad taste.
We just had ds's 2nd year party today and he enjoyed the kids, even though it might be a good idea to stick to the rule of thumb one guest per year of age of child. I probably invited too many, but being the cold and flu season, I expected some cancellations and I couldn't choose who to exclude! We ended up with 4 kids, their mommies, and a baby sister and they all seemed to have fun (except for the biting incident which I'm going to post about on another board). DS loved unwrapping his gifts and was a very gracious host. I think that it's a good experience at this age for the kids to choose gifts to give their friends and for the recipient child to learn how to be a grateful receiver. Not to mention all the decision making ds got to do in choosing party decorations, cake, favors, etc. During the planning process, I was disheartened that ds would start whining when we discussed the prospect of sharing his cool toys with his friends at the party. He would communicate that only HE could play with them. But, in the end, he came through admirably for his age. He actually had fun watching the other kids play with his toys. . . except when they took his train track apart. Overall he had a blast and enjoyed all the "trappings" - cake, snacks, games, and gift opening.

Whatever you do, have fun. And designate a photographer! You'll be too busy.
post #13 of 28
I just sent out invitations to my DD's first birthday party. She received *SO* many Christmas gifts that I felt physically ill! Not wanting to add to the load of unneeded toys, I sent an invitation that said:

By way of gift, Ella requests only your presence and one or more of the following:
singing voice - clapping hands - warm wishes - joyous heart

I'm not sure if this was proper etiquette or not, but I really don't care. I know I cannot stop her Aunts/Uncles/Grandparents from sending gifts, so I thought I would limit what I could!

post #14 of 28
This is just me but..... I am totally bummed whenever we get invited to a kid's birthday party and the invite says "no gifts". I know all about having too many toys - we've got way too many too - but it just seems so SAD to come empty-handed.

post #15 of 28
I don't really understand what the trend is about downplaying first birthday parties. I've heard often that "it's for the adults, really". But my son, who will be one next week, LOVES having his little friends over, and most babies and children enjoy a good party. Children love seeing thier parents having fun. And when was the last time anyone thought,"Gee, I've been enjoying my friend's company too much lately?" And besides any of that, I cannot think of a greater thing to celebrate than the remarkable first year of life. These little humans started as teenie sputtering neonates and have grown into these amazing people in just one year. If, as an adult, I ever experience a year of life so incredible you had better believe there would be a party. We are so quick to acknowledge our children's wisdom and intuition about so many things, why not just assume that they can also grasp the excitement and reason for thier first birthday celebration?
And gifts. No, we don't want to promote blind comsumerism, but people love to give gifts, and gifts can be made or handed down. And I always get a bit annoyed at an invitation that specifies what the gifts should be or to what charity I should donate to. For my gift to a first bithday, I would take five minutes and fold some paper in half, staple it and write "Babies First Book" on the cover. I know everyone isn't great at coming up with thoughtful consumer alternatives, but someone will see that book and maybe do something similiar for the next party they attend. I think it is more effective to set the example you wish to see rather than trying to control and direct everything.
I've been keeping that in for weeks...
post #16 of 28
Originally Posted by Corriander View Post
Maybe you could suggest that donations be made in your son's name to a favorite charity. You could also ask your family for a birthday trip to the zoo or museum in lieu of gifts.

Remember that for most people, giving a gift makes the giver feel good! And everyone loves to see little kids opening gifts, granted one year olds could care less. I say this just because even if you specify no gifts, someone will still bring them.

I agree with Corriander's suggestion of nominating a charity and donating in your Childs name, but if you do receive gifts you could pass on the generosity others gave to you by passing them onto another family in need especially if your child already has more than enough clothes and toys already :
post #17 of 28
I might be old fashioned - but I think that you have to either accept that you will be making an etiquette blunder by asking for 'no gifts' or only invite the number of people you are happy to have gifts from.

We had a small 1st birthday. It was a celebration - for all of us. And we shared it with family. Next year we will include more kids.

I am happy to go to parties where people ask for no gifts. I don't mind that. I really hate when I'm invited to a HUGE party/shower/whatever. Then I feel like I was only invited for my gift.
post #18 of 28
I'm loving this thread... my DD will be 1 soon.

Yeah, we have invited people and said "we'd just like you to come by, please don't feel that you have to bring anything, just yourselves". For people that have really pressed, we've asked for books (because we're big readers here, and there is NO such thing as too many books for us). I think we're having about 10 people total, and some cupcakes.

Anyone else find themselves swimming in Christmas stuff, only to have a birthday not far after? We are serious and truly going to do a big purge before we move later this spring...
post #19 of 28
I agree with nanoah. Birthdays are a big deal in my family, whether it is the first or the 90th. We have always celebrated noisily and happily and no one ever got out of hand with gifts. Most family members and friends usually ask what the birthday person needs or wants, so there isn't a lot of wasted consumerism. Having lost a few dear family members way too young, we treasure each birthday and celebrate. If you have a large family and many close friends, how do you restrict it to a small intimate party? All our immediate family lives in town, so they all get invited.
post #20 of 28
Its ok to celebrate your baby's first birthday and people will want to give a gift. I wouldnt say anything.
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