Birthday Budget: Multiple kids, multiple gifts?

Q: What is the etiquette on the number of gifts to bring to a child’s birthday party when multiple children of ours are invited?

A: There are two ways to handle this. The first is to have each of your children give his/her own gift; the other is to have one, larger gift from all your children together. Probably the best way to do this is to determine what you ordinarily would spend (or give) on a gift from one child to a friend and basically multiply that value times the number of your children invited to the party to set a price point for what you might want to spend on a joint gift.


  1. rli

    My mother in law said she was not coming down from NJ (3 hour drive) to our daughter’s birthday party. I come home with 2 carloads of girls to find her sitting in my living, unannounced. She looks at me, says nothing, greets my daughter, then leaves as we head to the party because I did not greet her. Who should have greeted who first?

    • Elizabeth

      Since it is your house, you have the obligation to greet your guests. When you walked in the door and noticed her, did you not say hello? I’m not sure why she declined the invitation but still showed up, and I have to imagine that she was feeling sheepish or uncomfortable about having done so. If you just stared at her or ignored her when you arrived, I can imagine that she would have felt uncomfortable. However, why she didn’t just say, “Hi! I changed my mind about the party! what can I do to help?” I have no idea. At this point, you can easily apologize by saying, “I’m so sorry I didn’t greet you upon arriving home, but I was just so surprised to see you.”

      • Alicia

        I think you both made mistakes. She should have told you she was coming you should both have said hi to one another and neither of you should have let it escalate to the level it has. Since you can only control your own behavior apologize. However if this was your MIL writing I would be telling her to apologize too.

        • Joanna

          Without knowing either of the two individuals, what I’m reading between the lines here is that there are some kind of ongoing issues between them. What happened is not likely about the party, but rather a response to something else. Only rli, of course, knows if this is correct, and if so, what it is. Can you perhaps approach your MIL directly and ask for a real talk to clear the air? That way, hopefully you can avoid such issues in the future.

      • rli

        I understand the obligation to greet guests, but she was not a guest. She was an unannounced visitor sitting on my couch when I walked in the house. To be clear, we did not send her an invitation because she never RSVP’s for major events (wedding, kids baptisms, promotion party for her son). She suggested that she might come up that weekend on her own accord. We followed up Friday to confirm her plans (as she has special dietary needs) and said she was not coming because she did not feel well. We were not yet at the party; we were home. I was prepping two car loads of children for the party at another location. I am sure that by greeting her first things might’ve taken a better turn. I just wonder if there is a protocol.

        I did not know that she left until we were near the party location. She had her younger son send my husband a text. When my husband called her a few days later, she said she left because I was rude for not speaking to her.

      • Elizabeth

        In my opinion, it is splitting hairs to distinguish between “guest” and “visitor.” You spoke with her the day before, she was invited (maybe not via the official paper invitation, but still). If there was anyone unexpected in my home, I would greet them. Why would you not? I would do so more so out of curiosity and surprise than etiquette – she said she wasn’t coming, and yet here she is. The obvious thing to do is (say hello first) and then ask.

        From your second post it is clear that there is MUCH more to the story than just this. She doesn’t RSVP to wedding invitations? It makes the greeting question seem like a non-issue in comparison. This is obviously a person who has basically exempted herself from all societal rules while (it sounds like) holding others to them. Did you not greet her because you just considered to be pulling one of her usual stunts?

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