Potluck Parties: Yes or no for a birthday celebration?

Q: My son is having his first birthday party in September and my husband and I are on limited funds s we were thinking of suggesting a potluck birthday where everyone can bring a little food that they like and then everyone can try a new food. Is this a rude or bad idea?

A: Yes, if you are also expecting them to bring a gift. When you invite friends and family to an event for a family member, you are the hosts. Instead, think about just inviting people for birthday cake and punch and coffee. This might be more affordable for you and still provide a great celebration for your son.


  1. Melonie M.

    In our family it’s only potluck if it’s to celebrate a common holiday like Christmas or 4th of July ect…. But when it comes to us throwing a birthday party for one of ourselves, we provide everything within our budget. Sometimes if you have to question something, you probably already have your answer.

  2. jordi

    Can you ask guests to bring food?….. no, no, no. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it. The same goes for all other “events” such as weddings, showers, house warming parties, etc. You don’t ask guest to pay in any way to attend your event other than bringing a gift where appropriate.

  3. Winnie

    You are on your own when it comes to birthday parties esp children’s birthday parties. Your guest are bring gifts for your son. I think it is in bad taste to bring food too for your son’s birthday . If you want it to be a potluck party, then you should tell your guest not to bring any gifts for your son .

  4. David

    I agree with the cake, punch and coffee suggestion. I also understand the budget limits you have. If you have access to one of the bigger dollar stores, you’d be surprised how many good quality treats you can find. You can make it even more festive with ice cream cones, candy, etc. At really good prices. I’d keep it focused on sweet treats, that are expected for a child’s party. I’m sure it will be a fun-filled success.

  5. Amy

    So, let’s say the hostess of the party didn’t follow the rules of etiquette and has asked you to bring a dish to their child’s birthday party. How do you respond gracefully when you have no intentions of bringing something other than the child’s birthday gift to the party?

    • Jody

      I’d say that if the host is handling the party a certain way, the guest needs to attend on the host’s terms (that is, bring a covered dish) despite any traditional etiquette violations or not attend at all. If your child wants to attend, for example this is a good friend, you as parent need to suck it up and just bring a dish as requested. If your child doesn’t really care if he attends the party, it might be a good thing to decline the invitation. If bringing a dish would be too burdensome (financial reasons, the guest is out of town until the last minute, etc.) I would tell the host that unfortunately you won’t be able to provide a dish but your child will attend. Don’t use that as an excuse for something you don’t *want* do to, only if you *can’t* do it.

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