For centuries, our culture has presented gifts to the guest of honor during special occasions – births, ceremonies, birthdays, graduations and weddings. The gifts are said to be a representation of our honor for being in attendance, for knowing this wonderful person or as a congratulatory response for a job well done. But the reason question is – how do we gift? I believe Mother Teresa said it best,
It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.
Celebrations are our way to outwardly express the pride and joy we have for the important people in our life when they reach milestones. Gifting should not be taken lightly and with some basic guidelines of etiquette – gifting will be a fun experience instead of a cautionary tale.
Remember That Gifts Are Not Required
Giving children gifts on their birthdays is such a common gesture that it’s easy to take them for granted. Before you throw shade on a guest for choosing not to attend your child’s party bearing a mountain of gifts; however, it’s important to remember that gifts are never compulsory. Formal etiquette holds that the recipient of a wedding invitation is still obligated to send a gift if they’re not planning to attend the ceremony, but this same rule does not hold true for birthday parties. Making any mention of where to send or drop off gifts in a kids’ birthday invitation, especially for guests that are forced to decline your invitation, is in poor taste.
Don’t Dictate Acceptable Gifts
It’s never okay to dictate the types of gifts that you’ll find acceptable for a child’s birthday party, even if you have strong feelings about what is and is not allowed in his/her space. You may have a strong distaste of branded toys or hope that your guests will bring only books to a birthday party, but etiquette demands that you refrain from making any mention of those rules in the invitation information.
Asking for Money or Gift Cards
Definitely not – allow your guests to take the time to purchase a gift from their heart and not money from their pocket books. Asking for money is not classy and we always want to be classy.
Cash is Not King
Proper etiquette is to not gift in cash. Take the time to purchase a gift for the child or from a registry. So much time and energy is put into a party or event, show the same respect and gift accordingly.
Gift Cards Versus a Tangible Gift
In today’s time, gift cards are now available for an ever-increasing variety of items and services, in stores and online. Personally, I air on the side of caution and do not give gift cards. A tangible gift that someone can see and open in front of me is more sentimental. I want the receiver to know that time and thought were put into the gift.
Dinner Party = Hostess Gift Always
It is always a nice gesture to bring a small hostess or house gift whenever invited to someone’s home for dinner. Among the most common items are: a bottle of wine, box of fine chocolates, bouquet of flowers, a coffee table book or something from your own hometown, area or country.
Choose Your Words Carefully for a “No Gifts” Party
Discouraging materialism by requesting that your guests bring no gifts at all is admirable, but is also not considered good etiquette. Requesting that your guests forgo the gift-giving aspect of the celebration is an assumption that they were planning to bring gifts in the first place – is just as off-limits as dictating the sort of gifts you prefer. If you do choose to host a no-gifts party, it’s important that you’re very careful with the wording of the invitation. For instance, simply stating that you’d prefer that no gifts be purchased can be construed as rude, while playfully stating “it’s not necessary to bring anything except for yourselves!” gets the point across without a direct mention to gifts.
Waiting Until After the Party to Open Gifts is Acceptable
More and more parents are choosing to wait until after the festivities have ended to open gifts for a variety of reasons. Younger kids may not have the strongest grasp on the concept of gracious gift receiving, and as such can be inadvertently rude when they discover that a gift is not one they wanted, or is one that they already have. On the other hand, gifts that kids are excited about can be a distraction from the party itself, inspiring the kids in attendance to want to tear into the packaging for immediate play testing. Pieces become lost, arguments about sharing break out and chaos ensues. Furthermore, the gift-opening aspect of a child’s birthday party can be a time-consuming part of a relatively short party. Whatever your reasoning for choosing to open gifts later, it is acceptable as long as the proper gratitude is expressed. Remember that some guests attend parties in order to see the child open the gift. If you are asked if the child can open their gift at party time, graciously accept.
Teach Kids to Be Grateful For All Gifts Received
Regardless of whether or not your child will be opening gifts during the party or after the festivities end, it’s important that you take advantage of the teaching opportunity and encourage your child to express his/her gratitude for the things he’s/she’s given. Each guest should be thanked when a package is handed over, even if it won’t be opened until later. A great way to incorporate this practice into your party timeline would be to have your child at the door greeting each guest.
Don’t Skip the Thank You Notes
An extension of teaching kids to show gratitude is making sure that they’re actively involved in the thank-you note process. Even the most effusive verbal thanks are no match for a quick, handwritten note, which is in keeping with formal gift-giving etiquette regardless of the occasion. It’s obviously acceptable for a parent to handle the thank you notes when a child is too small to write them, but older kids should write their own notes to properly and politely express their gratitude.