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  1. John Elmore


    I have a question about Christmas gift-giving, in particular involving some college friends. I have two friends who I’ve known for 20 years. We were students together at college and kept in touch over the years, getting together a few times each year. Our next get-together will be on December 22nd.

    Of this group of three, I was the last to marry in December of last year, but both of my friends have been married for some time now and have children. My wife and I expect our first child in February. My friends live in the same town and have children of sufficiently proximate ages to allow them to spend time together and socialize. It would be fair to say that they are somewhat closer to each other than I am, simply due to geography.

    Historically, my friends and I have not exchanged gifts at Christmas (or pretty much any other time, save for our respective weddings). Indeed, I typically only exchange gifts with immediate family (and a couple of exceptions that don’t really matter). This said, I believe they exchange gifts, at least for each other’s kids, at Christmas. It occurred to me that they might get something with respect to our coming child, so I issued the following email to both of them.

    “Family life raises social issues that one does not encounter when single.

    As you know, we have not historically exchanged gifts for occasions apart from our respective weddings. I have always preferred things that way – it’s simpler.

    However, I believe you exchange gifts, at least for the kids, and I respect that. In any event, I want to be sure I don’t drop the ball with respect to the 22nd. In particular, and given your generosity last year, I was concerned that you might get something for our coming baby, and I’d feel lousy if we received a gift like that without reciprocating by getting something for your kids.

    I’d appreciate any guidance you might share as for what would be appropriate for the 22nd.”

    I received this reply.

    “Totally understand and thanks for asking. Let’s make the deal now that you do not need to buy anything for our kids this year. Perhaps when your little one is here next Christmas we can decide if we exchange gifts for all the kids.

    This doesn’t mean that we’re not getting something ahead of February, but that’s very different.”

    As I read my friend’s reply, I couldn’t help but feel that I had messed up with respect to my initial email. Moreover, I was hoping that we would all mutually agree not to exchange gifts, yet I am concerned that he will make a gift in anticipation of my son in February, all despite the fact that I had not purchased gifts when my friends’ children were born. Naturally, if that happens, I would feel as though I dropped the ball when I visit on the 22nd. Whether I erred or not, my friend appears willing to accommodate this deficiency, but it struck me that he thought this was a matter of getting me to come around to the way of thinking that my friends must have with respect to giving gifts to each other’s kids.

    So, I have a two-part question. First, in what way could I have handled this better? Second, given where things stand, what should I do from here?

    I’d be grateful for any help I can get on this one.


    • Elizabeth

      I think you handled your question/uncertainty just fine. If I understand you, your friend indicated that they might give you a new-baby gift when your child arrives in Feb. I doubt this gift would be given in December. Don’t worry if there isn’t exact reciprocity. They have kids so the are more used to the gift giving customs around kids. I am positive they do not hold it against you that you did not send a gift when their children were born. If your situations were reversed, the same thing could have happened. Just accept any gifts with sincere thanks and you’ll have done your duty. Things have a way of evening out, and even when they’re not its ok.

  2. VJ

    Hello, I just purchased the 18th edition Emily Post Etiquette and on the side from cover it mentions that the book will tell me if I’m required to buy a gift for destination weddings. I looked everywhere in the book including the index at the back and can’t seem to find it. Can you confirm what page it is in the book? Thank you very much, VJ

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