Open Thread

by epi on December 14, 2012

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This open thread is your space to use as you like. We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Cristina December 17, 2012 at 12:30 am

I am turning 40th next month and would like to celebrate my birthday with friends. I am planning an afternoon high tea celebration and i am paying for my guests. Should i send my own invitation or should i ask a friend to play as “host” on my behalf? Is it tacky to say “in lieu of a gift, Cristina would like to have money donated for XX charity”?

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Winifred Rosenburg December 17, 2012 at 1:50 am

You are right that one should avoid throwing themselves a birthday party, but asking a friend to host or even “host” isn’t really polite either. I suggest you invite your friends to tea without mentioning on the invitation that it is connected to your birthday. Once they arrive you can mention it’s your birthday, or not.

It’s not polite to make gift requests, even charitable ones. However, if someone asks what you would like for your birthday, you can say “I don’t really need more things. If you like, you can make a donation to charity for me instead. I’m a fan of XX charity.”

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Jerry December 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

There is nothing wrong with throwing yourself a birthday party.

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Chocobo December 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm

You are right, it is not polite to throw a party where you are the guest of honor and the host, as this looks like you are honoring yourself (or worse, digging for gifts). Not flattering. I would recommend that you simply send out the invitations for the high tea and do not label the party a “birthday party.” After all, the point is for you to have a nice time with your friends at a high tea for your birthday. Is it really important that the party have a label? You do not want gifts, only their company. I say throw the party, enjoy yourself, and if they bring a gift because they’ve figured out it’s your birthday, that’s all the better.

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Jerry December 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm

So it sounds like your view of the world is that you cannot have a birthday party unless someone else throws it for you?

How sad.

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Elizabeth December 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I disagree that one may not throw themselves a party. There are questions posted here all the time by people who want to know how they can get other people to throw them a party (or help pay for it), and the advice invariably is that adults should treat their friends on their birthday, not expect to be treated. And now here is a person who intends to do just that. What’s wrong with it? I can imagine the following email invitation or phone call: “My 40th birthday is coming up, and I would love nothing better than to celebrate it with you. Please join me for a traditional high tea on December 28 … ” Just mentioning that it is your birthday does not require others to give you gifts. You don’t have to bend yourself backward to make sure that no one does anything nice for you. If they bring a gift – great, write a thank you note. If they ask, you’re free to direct them to a charity. They may also simply choose to show up with a card. Win-win-win.

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Winifred Rosenburg December 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm

This is a thin line situation. A “birthday party” by definition is in honor of whoever’s birthday it is, and as Chocobo said you can’t be the host and the guest of honor. However you can coordinate an event on your birthday that is not a birthday party in the strictest sense. For example, you can say ” my birthday is next week, and I want to do something fun. Want to come with me to high tea? My treat!” Casual is better in trying to get rid of the birthday party feeling so written invitations that mention her birthday will make everyone think “birthday party.”

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Jerry December 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Why would you want to “get rid of the birthday party feeling”? People like to have reasons to celebrate! And there’s being a guest of honor (someone who’s fun-loving and makes everyone feel good, even though she issues a formal invitation) and being a Guest Of Honor (diva who is merely attempting to call attention to herself).

Look at it this way: if a couple who pays for their own wedding is both the host and the guest(s) of honor, why can’t a birthday girl be both the host and the guest of honor?

Jody December 17, 2012 at 10:26 am

I see no problem at all with your hosting a party and sending your own invitation. I would not say anything about gifts up front; if people call and ask what you’d like (or ask friends what you’d like) you can say that you really don’t need any gifts but if they want to do something they could make a donation to a charity. The risk with mentioning a specific charity is that it might not be one that your friends agree with.

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Alicia December 17, 2012 at 10:37 am

Go ahead and host. Do not mention gifts. Gifts are not a given for adult birthdays. Most of my friends I would be happy to go to an event for their birthday and bring a card but would not bring a gift. The message about giving to charity would mean to me that you expect a gift for your birthday which is not cool as you are an adult. Do not mention gifts if you get any send a thank you note if not be fine with that.

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Vanna Keiler December 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Hi Cristina. I agree with Jody and Jerry that it is perfectly acceptable to throw yourself a party if you are paying for it, and if it is a close circle of friends who know you just want to bring your friends together with you to have a great meal. I would make the invite as informal as possible (e-invite perhaps, or how about just a phone call or text?) and let them know it’s your birthday and you want to celebrate with your close friends, emphasizing you are taking THEM out (rather than vice versa). I think it’s a wonderful idea and I’m sure your friends will too.

If it’s a lot more people and/or some friends have not known you for a long time, I would probably forgo the birthday aspect and just throw a party and be the host. If someone mentions it’s your birthday that is fine, but make it your own little secret that you gave yourself this little birthday gift: being surrounded by friends who love you. :)

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Carmen December 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm

If the invitation says “no gifts”. Is it correct to still take a hostess gift?

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Alicia December 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

No. If someone says no gifts they want no gifts. Send a thank you note after the event but do not bring a gift.

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Richard December 18, 2012 at 1:17 am

May God bless everyone in Newtown CT.
Please advise me as to what to say to my future son-in-law’s parents in a Christmas card.
They plan to be married next summer. Thank you.

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Alicia December 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

Well what would you say to them in person? Merry Christmas , so excited about our kids getting engaged this year, looking forward to the wedding next year, ect. Just think what you would say in person and write it down.

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Cristina December 19, 2012 at 12:10 am

Thank you for all advices. It helped me to make my final decision.

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Miss Mayella December 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

May I ask what you decided?

Also, on the theme of directing gifts on an invitation – is it acceptable to state “no gifts” on an adult birthday party invitation? I agree that it’s acceptable to host a party for one’s own birthday, and that one should not suggest that she’s soliciting gifts, but is it acceptable to decline gifts on an invitation to one’s own birthday party?

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Winifred Rosenburg December 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm

No it is not acceptable to mention gifts, even to say you don’t want any, on an invitation. The reason is it’s considered not proper to indicate that you even thought about receiving gifts. Additionally, if you read these kinds of etiquette sites, you’ll see from time to time people asking if “no gifts” on an invitation means they must give cash. The risk that your guests might think that is reason enough not to do it.

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