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Resist the Housewarming Party Gimmes

I’m concerned that I might be guilty of being a gimme pig. Here’s the situation:

My fiance and I just moved into our first apartment together and we want to have a housewarming party. Unfortunately, being in a big city our place is really small. So, I was thinking that we could have three parties: our friends, his coworkers and my coworkers (10-15 people is pretty much our max capacity). But I’m worried if we do this we’ll look like greedy gimme pigs. I don’t really expect any of our friends to bring gifts, we’re all in that moving-out stage of life where we have no money and we’re not doing a gift thing but I’m not sure about our work friends. I just want to show everyone our place and entertain. Can I pull it off? 0215-12

Avoid appearing to look like a Gimme Pig by not mentioning gifts whatsoever. If anyone asks, wave off their offer with a sincere, “Oh,please don’t bother!   We just want to share some time with everyone now that we finally have the space to entertain.”     It would be a disappointing decline in cultural manners if housewarming parties became synonymous with guests feeling compelled to bring gifts.


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  • Suzanne February 29, 2012, 4:45 am

    Why call it a house warming part? Why not just invite people over to your house for dinner? Or cocktails, or whatever?

    Then there’s no confusion and no gimmee pig thing going on.

    But, I’d also strongly caution against inviting the coworkers. If you’re not friends outside of work, people don’t like that kind of thing.

  • MellowedOne February 29, 2012, 6:29 am

    If you just want to throw a party to entertain in your new home, then don’t call it a housewarming party. This may not be the case everywhere, but I was always under the impression that housewarming parties were thrown for individuals who purchased their first home, and items that they as new homeowners could use were given. I have many friends who live in apartments, and some move every time the lease is up. None of them ever threw a ‘housewarming party’…thankfully!

  • lkb February 29, 2012, 6:43 am

    Perhaps the OP can dodge the bullet by not calling it a housewarming at all. Just say “we’re just having people over”. And by all means, don’t issue formal paper invitations.

  • Bint February 29, 2012, 6:48 am

    I agree with Admin that you just don’t mention presents at all, and wave them off if asked, but two things are just a bit odd to me here (and it could be a cultural difference, given your use of ‘coworkers’):

    1. Nobody I know would ever bring anything more than a plant or a bottle of wine to a house warming. Ever. It wouldn’t even be an issue to consider for a second, and never has been, from anyone we’ve ever met of any age.

    2. You would seriously hold two extra parties just for your work colleagues at your house so you can ‘show everyone’ where you live? It’s fantastic you’re so hospitable but to be honest, that sounds well OTT.

    I’d have one party for your friends only.

  • OP February 29, 2012, 8:29 am

    @Bint –

    1) The only reason I’m concerned is because a friend of mine asked me “where are you registering for gifts?” because SHE was under the impression that one registers for huge presents for housewarming. I don’t expect major gifts and they are usually not given in my circles.

    2) I’ve worked at my job for a long time and I’m very close with my coworkers (so is FH). I guess I ought to have used the phrase “work friends” since everyone seems really thrown by that usage. I work with a lot of people (~150) and am close to about 15 of them, who would likely bring their SOs, hence the space problem.

  • Chocobo February 29, 2012, 9:18 am

    I agree that a “housewarming” party is generally a one-time event and having three of them might seems a little strange. The purpose of housewarming is to “break in” the new home and start your social entertaining life there. Therefore I do not think it would be appropriate to invite coworkers to an event called a housewarming, since they are a pseudo-social circle and may or may not be interested in where you live or what you do in your non-work hours. I would recommend that you save the housewarming for friends and family.

    Generally it is advisable to keep your social and work lives separate, but if you are really that close to your coworkers and your husband to his, invite them over for a dinner party, which carries no gift obligation whatsoever. It will serve the same purpose of breaking in the new place without casting any suspicion on your character. If you aren’t close to your coworkers, I wouldn’t recommend inviting them at all.

  • Kat February 29, 2012, 9:24 am

    Suzanne – not sure I agree. I have a couple of work friends and we’ve all attended each other’s weddings, but other than that we don’t really see each other out of the office. It meant a lot to me to be invited to share their celebrations.

  • Zhoen February 29, 2012, 9:34 am

    We had an “open house” for our first home, on Groundhog Day. I made a point of calling it a Groundhog Day event. Whenever someone called it our “housewarming” I said, no – because that would mean gifts, and we don’t need anything … unless you would like to bring a plumber along. Of the dozen who showed up, three did bring gifts – wine, a plant, and a gift card to a hardware store. We were of course gracious and grateful, assured them it was in no way expected. And I sent thank you cards the very next day.

    It’s almost impossible to keep some people from bringing a gift.

  • Library Diva February 29, 2012, 10:33 am

    The idea that you’re supposed to just ‘play’ nice at work, reserve your real emotions and overtures of friendship for people you know…some other way, just strikes me as unnecessarily cold and weird. You spend at least 40 hours a week with these people in most cases, you usually wind up getting to know each other somewhat, what’s wrong with spending some time together away from the office? How are you supposed to become friends outside of work if you never extend an overture of friendship, such as an invitation to one’s home?

    The only places I’ve ever worked where people genuinely ‘don’t like that kind of thing’ were the ones with serious divisions among the staff. Presumably, OP and her fiance are perfectly capable of reading the situations at their workplaces, and can tell whether people would welcome an invitation to their homes. And if they invite someone who’d prefer not to be bothered, well, that person can always decline. I can’t imagine why it would be advisable to build a brick wall between your work life and social life. Yes, you should probably avoid blurring the boss-subordinate relationship, and yes, it’s advisable not to use your co-workers for casual flings or hookups, but other than that, I don’t see a problem with casual, out-of-the-office socializing. I don’t even see a problem with real workplace friendships.

    To go back to OP’s question, though, I think that perhaps just calling it ‘an invitation to see the new place’ might defuse the expectation of people needing to bring gifts. I know etiquette generally frowns on writing “please, no gifts” on an invitation, but if you seem to be fielding a number of inquiries about where you’re registered, I wonder if something like a clarification email would be acceptable? Something like “A few people have asked me where we’re registered for the housewarming party, and I just wanted to clarify that we did not intend this as a gift-giving occasion of any kind. We’re excited to have the space to entertain, and we just wanted to have a pleasant evening at our new home. So don’t worry about a gift, your presence is more than enough gift for us!”

  • LonelyHound February 29, 2012, 10:57 am

    In our circle of friends we call it a house viewing party. All of us have sunch varied tastes and styles when it comes to houses and decor- even wine- that a traditional housewarming was out of the question. The host would make a bunch of food or invite people over for a sporting event (say the Super Bowl) and while people were there hanging out they would tour the house. This was a great idea for our friends as some are on their second house and people still want to come see it because they know it will be fun and there will be no pressure for gifts! 🙂

  • VltGrantham February 29, 2012, 11:24 am

    Why not just have an open house and invite whomever you want (barring co-workers) to just drop in between the hours of 2 – 7 pm or something?

    And of course, if asked about gifts, say something about thoughtful the person is but no gift is necessary.

  • Bint February 29, 2012, 11:47 am


    1. In that case, be prepared to take action as Admin suggests, because if most of your friends or colleagues think this, and find out you’ve had three house-warming parties under that name, you probably will come off, entirely against your will, as a gimme pig.

    2. I think Chocobo has the best idea.

  • Cat Whisperer February 29, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Just a comment about the wisdom of having three parties in an apartment you’ve just moved into, not related to gifts:

    It seems like every apartment I ever lived in had at least once grouchy, unsociable neighbor. I would advise OP, before she starts issuing invitations, to “take the temperature” of the place and make darn sure that her neighbors will not be ruffled by having three parties in close succession.

    I’m serious about this, because if you get on the wrong side of your neighbors, even if you’re a reasonable person, they can make your tenancy a miserable experience. If you’re going to have three separate parties all in a row, and there’s a neighbor or neighbors who are crabby about parties, you may have an enemy for the rest of your time there who will complain to the manager about everything you do and in general make things unpleasant.

    OP, before you think about parties, please think about things like where are your guests going to park, and will that inconvenience your neighbors? How noiseproof are the apartments, especially the ones immediately around your apartment (above you, below you, on either side of you, across from you)? How “neighborly” are your neighbors? Are there any of them who would go out of their way to complain about you for any reason? Are there any of them who you don’t know well enough to have an idea how they would react to you throwing three parties at your place?

    You mention inviting your co-workers. How well do you know your co-workers and their “party manners”? Especially if you’re going to serve drinks? What kind of impression will your co-workers make on your neighbors, especially if your co-workers are very different from your neighbors? Is there any potential for conflict there?

    I’m very serious about this. Living in an apartment is to some extent like living in a goldfish bowl and if you upset your neighbors, it’s might cause problems for you the whole rest of the time you live there. Before you send invitations out, talk to your manager, talk to your neighbors, think about what potential issues there might be with having a party with 10-15 people, and then multiply this times three. If this is your first apartment and you’re unfamiliar with the kinds of problems that apartment living can have, you need to think about those kinds of issues so you don’t wind up on the wrong side of your neighbors and the manager of your apartment.

  • Lola February 29, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Registering for housewarming? OP, your friend’s question cracks me up. Although we have been hearing about birthday and graduation registries and such, so maybe it’s just a logical progression.

  • Cat February 29, 2012, 1:10 pm

    Limit the guest list to close friends and family and, if anyone inquires about gifts, simply explain it’s a house warming and that no one should bring anything more than a plant or bottle of wine.

    If you want to have something for fellow workers make it a buffet meal, not a housewarming, and you won’t be gifted with anything more than flowers, a dessert or wine.

  • Karen February 29, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I agree with admin and the above posters: Don’t call it a housewarming party. I have never HEARD of anyone registering for a housewarming, and would not attend a party where I was EXPECTED to bring a housewarming gift.

    I would however, never dream of attending ANY party without at least a bottle of wine, and neither would most of your guests.

  • OP February 29, 2012, 2:04 pm

    @ Cat Whisperer: you’re absolutely right but I’ve covered it with the neighbors (this is our first place together, not our first places ever). It’s the downstairs part of a house and our upstairs neighbor (the owner) spends his weekends in another state with his family.

    I can see I’ve made an error in referring to “co-workers” when I really meant “work friends” I was only trying to distinguish that if there were three parties they wouldn’t be A, B and C list people but rather people from 3 different social circles who do not interact, so there won’t be hurt feelings if our friends are broken into groups to accommodate the size of our place. (that’s why an “open house” might be potentially crowded, VltGrantham)

    And yes, Lola, registering for housewarming gifts is insane. I told my friend to check out this site because she thought that was perfectly reasonable.

  • sallyann February 29, 2012, 3:18 pm

    Again this is a cultural ‘your mileage may vary’ thing. In my (UK) circle it is considered perfectly normal to throw a housewarming any time you have a new house (including people who rent). Its just the first party at your new home, a way of letting everyone know where you’ve moved to and letting them see your new place. Gifts are not expected and rarely given (this is the case for all parties in the uk, of course).

    I’ve even been to the odd ‘housecooling’ party (i.e. the last party thrown in a house before they move out, especially in cases where friends have been living together and are now going separate ways).

  • SV February 29, 2012, 3:46 pm

    Many years ago my soon to be husband and myself threw a large housewarming party. We loved our new place, a cottage styled home in the country, and wanted to show all our family and friends. I can say with complete sincerity that it did not even cross my mind that people might bring gifts, or even that bringing gifts to a housewarming party might be perceived as the socially correct thing to do. I was HORRIFIED when many, many people brought gifts. Not only was it not my intent, it was entirely unnecessary. I felt like an inadvertant gimme pig! I think I could have handled it by making some kind of a joke on the invites – ” Please no gifts- we simply want your presence to warm our house! ” I realize that mentioning gifts is in itself a faux pas, but it seems like the lesser of two evils 🙂

  • Snowy February 29, 2012, 4:07 pm

    Given their space limitations, I don’t think three parties is a gimme pig move at all. I’m sure if they had the space they’d rather deal with a single party with everyone there, rather than having to pay for, prepare for, and clean up after three separate parties. Sounds like even if they *were* after gifts, they’d “profit” more from the one big party than several small ones.

    Have your parties, call them “micro-housewarmings for our cozy space,” don’t mention gifts, and if anyone brings it up, decline gracefully. If they press, suggest they bring a simple food–fruit salad or something–or a mix CD of easy going songs, something everyone at the party can enjoy and relax with.

  • MonkeysMommy February 29, 2012, 4:30 pm

    So, you aren’t even really living in your own apartment or house, but rather someone’s basement apartment or something?? No, this isn’t really even an acceptable place to hold a party. Save it for your own home, when it’s more appropriate.

  • Gracie C. February 29, 2012, 5:05 pm

    Ok – I’ll lead with the fact that I have been invited to two housewarmings with registries. It’s out there folks.

    I too have a small apartment and wouldn’t be able to host a large gathering. I have fully embraced the Open House. It works wonderfully – but it is a lot of work to host for extended periods of time. So I second those recommending an Open House.

    As for housewarming gifts. Yes, they are not required, but many people like to bring a little something (the aforementioned plant, bottle of wine, etc). I’d like to offer an additional suggestion. My go-to gift for housewarmings is a fire extinguisher. It’s an item that people often overlook when setting up a new home. I’ve yet to have anyone ever use my housewarming gift, and I’m so grateful for that, but they have always been very well received.

    @Cat Whisperer – I know that it doesn’t apply here based on the OP’s update, but wonderful advice.

  • Mary February 29, 2012, 5:13 pm

    I have no problem with three parties as long as they don’t call them housewarmings. We moved into our newly built house in the last year. We plan on having several gatherings just because we can’t fit everyone into the new house (we downsized). We are having all of our extended family over for hubby’s 40th b-day and then will have other gatherings for other groups of friends. But we will not be calling it a housewarming.

  • Anonymous February 29, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Does the apartment building have a recreation room or an outdoor garden area? If so, the OP and her husband could have just one party, hold it in the common area, and take groups guests on tours of the apartment itself if they request it. I know it’s not ideal, but it’d minimize the impact on the neighbours, at least. Also, if they made the party open to the other people in the building as well, it’d be a good way to meet new people, and introduce their old friends to their new neighbours.

  • kudeebee February 29, 2012, 5:40 pm

    I wouldn’t call it a housewarming either.

    Why not just have a “get together” at your house on xx date from such to such time? Or a bbq or mexican fiesta or whatever theme you might want to do? Keep it simple and informal. Invites can be through evite, email, text, whatever–“Hi. We are having an appetizer party on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Hope you can make it. Please let us know if you will or won’t be there. Sue and Dave”

  • Lady Antipode February 29, 2012, 11:56 pm

    Why not have 3 open houses? Or word the invitation as ‘the first party at our new place’?

    Or, if you wish to be perfectly proper, advise the appropriate social group that you will be ‘at home’ between certain hours http://www.bartleby.com/95/10.html (see paragraph 47).

  • OP March 1, 2012, 12:48 am

    @ MonkeysMommy – it’s the first floor of a small house. It isn’t “someone’s house” it is a small brownstone-style house with downstairs and upstairs apartments. The owner of the house (our landlord) lives in the upstairs apartment, rents out the downstairs and spends his weekends out of state. I live in a big city where apartments of this nature are very common. It is our own apartment, not a room in someone’s basement.

    @ Gracie C. – that is the best housewarming gift idea I’ve ever heard!

    As per nearly unanimous advice: we’ve decided to have three small get-togethers, not labeled as housewarming parties just a simple hey-come-check-out-our-new-place-have-some-food-and-hang-out parties.

  • Enna March 1, 2012, 10:41 am

    OP – I think you just call it a party.

  • Enna March 1, 2012, 10:41 am

    P.S and do what Admin suggested.

  • Wink-n-Smile March 1, 2012, 10:44 am

    Just call them parties, and don’t mention “housewarming” at all. People may show up with a hostess gift of wine or some such, but nothing “housewarmey” for you to worry about.

  • Library Diva March 1, 2012, 2:51 pm

    Wow, MonkeysMommy, I had no idea that your home had to be a certain caliber before it was worthy of having people over. What an awful way of throwing cold water all over someone’s joy. Maybe you were fortunate enough to move from your nursery directly into a gorgeous, well-appointed home, but most people aren’t. It sounds like the period of transitional apartments with four girls sharing one bathroom is finally over for the OP, and she’s pleased to be in a home with the man she intends to spend the rest of her life with. Just because it’s not Downton Abbey doesn’t mean that she can’t invite her friends over. And anyone who is too stuck-up to attend can stay home until OP manages to find a dwelling that meets their high, high standards, assuming OP hasn’t cut them out for being a dreadful snob ages ago.

  • Chocobo March 2, 2012, 8:53 am

    Karen, why would you never show up without a gift? I’m not trying to discourage generosity, but the way to reciprocate someone’s hospitality isn’t to pay a fee at the door, it’s to invite them over to dinner and let them relax as guests at your home next time. I hope you don’t think ill of guests who come over to your place without bringing something.

    And I agree — MonkeysMommy, you do not have to have a certain caliber of home or things in order to entertain people. Etiquette does not recognize wealth, and neither do people with manners.

  • Merriweather March 3, 2012, 8:09 pm

    @monkeysmommy –

    I can’t imagine why a two story house cut into an upstairs and a downstairs apartment is any less a legitimate residence than an apartment in a purpose-built high-rise. Which one is common depends on where a person lives, and many areas have both. The fact that the landlord lives in one apartment does not mean it’s any less their “own home” than if they paid rent to the owner of that high-rise.

    Or is it because they do not own it? You might be surprised to find out that many people live their lives without ever being home owners. And not just those who can’t afford to own. Those who live in cities where renting an apartment is the norm, or those who move often for their career, like military, or simply people who would rather rent than own, and have a landlord to fix things and do maintenance, rather than have those headaches themselves. A couple of hundred years ago, only homeowners could vote – now only homeowners can have parties?

    A couple getting a new “home” is a cause for inviting family and friends to visit them in that home and celebrating the new phase in their lives, whether it’s a big fancy mansion they’re buying, or a single-wide trailer they’re renting, or anything in between!