The Not So Unexpected Ingratitude

by admin on February 26, 2015

So last year my friend invited me to her 30th birthday party  to be held the weekend before she turned 30. I wouldn’t say we are close friends so I rather agonized over what to get her as a gift. I settled on a nice silver picture frame.

When I went to the party I handed her the wrapped gift and card – the card was not attached to the gift in anyway. She opened the card, said thank you and gave me a hug. She then said she wasn’t opening any of her presents until her actual birthday. I did rather wonder at the time how on earth she was going to know which gift was from which person since she had opened all the cards that came with the gifts, and they didn’t say to and from on them.

Well, it is now February of the following year. I have no idea if she did open the present on her birthday, if she liked or disliked it or anything because I never heard another word about it. No thank you or anything. Am I wrong to think the verbal thank you she gave me when she opened the card isn’t sufficient? Especially since she hadn’t even opened the present yet and therefore had no idea what I had gotten her? 0219-15

I am of the opinion that people who host their own birthday parties are giving everyone a significant clue as to the status of their understanding of good etiquette.   Why is it surprising that someone does not express gratitude for a gift when they had already crossed the etiquette line by acting as host of a celebratory party in which they are also the guest of honor?   Particularly a party for a life event that definitely has gift giving as a major component?

Hosting your own birthday party is a hot button topic on this blog despite the fact that the etiquette regarding it has been clear and unanimous for a very long time.   One does not engage in hospitality that is specifically planned to honor your own self as the guest of honor.   But modern Western culture is predominated by a belief that the individual is owed recognition, accolades, respect, honor and gifts for reaching certain life milestones and if friends and family won’t do it, then they feel justified in taking matters into their own hands to make sure they are sufficiently and deservedly honored.  Humility is a dying character trait.

So the stage was already set for your friend to not acknowledge the gifts she received by virtue of the fact that she planned her own birthday party.   Entitled people feel no obligation to express gratitude for things they feel are owed to them.   Should you be offended by this lack of courtesy by your friend?   No.  The warning signs were there from the beginning and you, possibly inadvertently, enabled it by bringing a gift.   Move on.

{ 140 comments… read them below or add one }

Athena February 26, 2015 at 3:31 am

I thought hosting your own party and expecting your guests to contribute both financially and then with a gift was a faux pas? I’m holding a wine tasting party for my birthday, and I’m paying for everything. Am I consigned to eHell?

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MamaToreen February 26, 2015 at 7:53 am

I don’t think so. You’re throwing a party for your friends and you are not expecting them to pay for it. It happens to be your birthday

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Calli Arcale February 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

I think there’s a difference between hosting a party to honor yourself and using your birthday as an excuse to treat all your friends to something awesome. 😉

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admin February 27, 2015 at 6:17 pm

So, the other 51 weeks of the year are not available as an excuse to treat your friends to something awesome?

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Enna February 28, 2015 at 3:49 am

But in this case the host is using her birthday to have a good day/evenig out with her friends at no cost to her firends.

Calli Arcale March 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Of course not, admin. But this particular excuse for a party only comes around once a year. The rest of the year you use other excuses — Fourth of July, Halloween, Doctor Who series premiere, Pi Day, May the Fourth, it hasn’t snowed and you don’t have to shovel out the grill in order to use it….. Really, any excuse is good. 😉

Ergala March 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

In my family if I don’t plan something for my birthday nobody will. Therefore I don’t plan anything for my birthday 😛 However I think that planning an outing and paying for it as something fun to do on your birthday is perfectly fine. It would be like going to an amusement park and paying for a few friends to get in because you want to celebrate your day together and not alone.

Daphne February 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm

You should still enjoy throwing your wine tasting party, just don’t call it a birthday party, and better yet don’t have it on or near your birthday. I’ve always understood it’s a faux pas to host your own birthday party, regardless of how much it does or doesn’t cost you.

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Weaver February 26, 2015 at 3:43 am

“She opened the card, said thank you and gave me a hug.” That sounds pretty reasonable to me, especially as you say you’re not particularly close. I think your friend is crass for.hosting her own birthday party, but I think you’re way too hung up on wanting a specific thank you. Yes, if it were me, I would’ve contacted you once I’d opened the presents to thank you properly, but it’s quite likely she considered her thank you hug at the time enough. Her faux pas is pretty minor, so just let it go.

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Anonymous February 26, 2015 at 7:57 am

Yeah, same. I’d have put the gift and the card in a gift bag or something, to make sure they didn’t get separated during the party, let alone a week between the friend’s party and her actual birthday.

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TightlyKnit February 26, 2015 at 11:23 am

I completely agree! I think Admin may have been a little harsh on this one. In the gift receiver’s mind her opening the card and thanking you was her way of saying thank you. I would have preferred that over her tearing into the present without consideration of the card.

The warning sign for not receiving a note was when you separated the gift from the card. How is she to write a proper note if she can’t tell who it’s from?

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm

And, pray tell, what is a “proper note”? Would the b-day girl have to say whose/what(ses?) pictures she’d be putting in the frame? Remember the kerfufle when a MIL was offended to the bottom of her pure heart when her DIL said she’d be hanging personal delicates on the padded frou-frou hangers?
It looks like one just cannot win in this game… ;-(

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TightlyKnit March 4, 2015 at 4:52 pm

I completely agree! I just meant if she doesn’t know who brought the frame, she can’t write a thank you note to the giver.

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Annastasia von Beaverhausen February 26, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Yes, I agree – perfectly reasonable.

Thanks for gifts needs to be expressed, but it can be expressed in person (as happened in this case), or via letter (or lets be honest, e-mail or phone call) if that is not possible.

Honestly, it seems like people have lost sight of the fact that thank you letter is, and has always been, a stand-in for a warm, in person thank you for times when that is not possible.

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kingsrings February 26, 2015 at 3:44 am

And now awaiting all the comments on here disagreeing with admin, crying foul over her opinion, and naming all the reasons why it’s okay to throw your own birthday party. I predict that the biggest counter-argument will be that it is acceptable practice in other countries to do that, so it’s okay.
I do agree with admin, although a lot of my friends throw their own birthday parties. It always seems so egotistical and self-congratulatory. And I dislike it even more when they make it a potluck! Then it’s like they’re forcing you to do their work. One friend of mine even instructed the guests on exactly what to bring to her birthday party! To sum it up is this quote by Dave Barry, “There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven”

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Airelenaren February 26, 2015 at 8:26 am

Here’s the thing, though:

To an American (or is it just US-American?) mind, it works along the lines of “what, you’re so important that everyone has to celebrate you?”

To as European (and other?) mind, it’s more like “what, you’re so important that other people have to do all the work to celebrate you?”

So basically, both sides look sorta entitled from the other perspective. 😉
I can see both points of view and, honestly, wish that everyone could just accept that some things are not universal.

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Ulla March 2, 2015 at 3:46 am

Yeah, I kind of agree with this. It’s bit like the difference when you save somebodys life. Is the saved person forever in debt to you or are you now responsible for the saved life.

I also kind of feel, that European view of birthday is might also be more like a “new year’s party” than party to celebrate You. Kind of… A year has passed, it has been either good or bad, but it has passed, and now it’s time to celebrate with those who have been important part of that year: friends and family… And thank them, and hope that they will be with you for the next year too.

But, of course, no matter if it’s Christmas or birthday, different people assign different meanings for it. Nobody can speak for all.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm

The potluck touch is totally unacceptable. (For weddings too. Yes, some folks do that.) But if the spirit is “Come celebrate with me. I’ll feed you like there’s no tomorrow.” I see no reason to get upset.
Wouldn’t you say that a housewarming party, especially if it’s a trade-up or a purchase, is also self-congratulatory? Yup, it definitely is…as in “look where we’ve arrived at now”…

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just4kicks February 26, 2015 at 5:14 am

I had that happen to me many years ago.
My (now ex) friend had a party for her birthday, and I had taped my card to my present.
In throwing all the gifts on the present table, my card got separated from my gift to her.
After she opened all the gifts, she said to all in attendance, “Thank you all so much for coming! And thank you all for the lovely gifts….even those who ONLY gave me an EMPTY CARD!” with a pointed, dirty look directly at me.
Of course the merriment stopped dead in its tracks as everyone there looked at her, and then at me.
I was so embarrassed and angry. I marched over to the gift table and found my card and the gift it was attached to. I walked back over and handed them both to her, turning the envelope over to show three or four pieces of scotch tape saying, “the card fell off the present….Happy Birthday.”
I then went and got my coat and purse and walked out without another word, and went home.
I heard from another friend who was there the only thing she said after I left was “Well!!! How was I supposed to know?!? What is HER PROBLEM?!?!”
Someone else piped up with, “You embarrassed her in front of a room full of people…I’m guessing THAT is her “problem”.
The party broke up rather quickly after that I heard, and I really didn’t speak to her much after that.

yes, it was rude of me to do that (grab my gift and card and show her)…
And no, I never got a thank you note or any sort of apology for “calling me out” the way she did.

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MamaToreen February 26, 2015 at 7:55 am

Much? I wouldn’t have spoken to her AT ALL after that selfish outburst. No one should be allowed that after age 3

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just4kicks February 26, 2015 at 1:22 pm

@MamaToreen: I never initiated any calls/outings with her after that, but we sort of ran in the same circle, so I ran into her at a few gatherings after that.
I guess I was foolishly waiting for an apology, which never came….neither did a thank you note.

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MamaToreen February 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Ok, That makes sense.

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JO February 26, 2015 at 8:20 am

I don’t think you were rude at all, and I’m glad other folks were willing to stand up for you too. This woman sounds like a spoiled brat, and you are well rid of her.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 3:56 am

@Jo: thanks, I felt I kind of threw a tantrum of my own, by showing her I DID bring a gift and then stomped out. As in “HERE is your gift….So there!”
Some people at the party I knew well, others I had only met that evening.
Oddly enough, the person who said “you embarrassed her in front of a room full of people!” is someone I had only met that evening.
The birthday girl was known for her “it’s all about me!” antics….but that took the cake!
Her b’day is September 11th, and I remember her vividly complaining that “all anyone can talk about on MY BIRTHDAY is the terror attacks!”
Well, almost 3,000 people lost their lives that horrible day….And yes, that fact trumps the glorious day of your birth.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Lady… Under those circumstances, you are truly entitled to a fit of your own. Yours was within E-hell acceptable vocabulary specifications. Of course, some truly demanding E-hellers would have you be all sweetness and smiles. I suspect that those folks have not been THAT thoroughly tested.

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just4kicks March 3, 2015 at 4:21 am

@hakayama: Thanks! Believe me, I WANTED to call her a few choice names right then and there….instead my steering wheel got the brunt of my anger on the way home.
I have since sincerely apologized to the wheel. 😉

clairedelune February 26, 2015 at 8:20 am

Woooow. I’m glad to hear at least that another guest spoke up on your behalf. That is some crazy bad behavior.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 3:58 am

@Clairedelune: I was really happy and surprised about that as well.
She was in a “special snowflake” category all her own.

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vjcole February 26, 2015 at 10:20 am

You’re a better person than I am – I would have grabbed the gift and walked out the door with it. What she did was WAY over the line!

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just4kicks February 26, 2015 at 1:24 pm

@vjcole: I guess I didn’t think fast enough, anyone I’ve told this story to over the years said the same as you.
I wish I would’ve taken them both back.

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Karen L February 26, 2015 at 9:15 pm

I prefer your response, just4kicks. She made it clear she preferred the gift over the friendship and you were the bigger person by allowing her to have what made her happiest. If I were another guest at the party, that’s what I would have been thinking.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 4:00 am

@KarenL: I heard from friends at the party, that people were really disgusted by her display, and quite a few folks followed my lead and left the party shortly after I did.
Of course, she was peeved by that as well!

Cat February 26, 2015 at 2:09 pm

I admire your courage. She needed to be called out so she would learn not to make a fool of herself in public by jumping to judgment without having the facts. She issued the challenge and you took up the gauntlet, smacked her with it, and left the field of battle.

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just4kicks February 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm

@Cat: Wow! Thank you! I seem way more exciting the way you put it. 🙂

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Cat February 26, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Retired history teacher- we get caught up in the Middle Ages and in the rules of battle.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 4:02 am

Cat: One of my son’s loves history, and especially enjoyed the lessons on the Middle Ages.
It’s a very interesting part of history.
As a retired teacher, you must have many “special snowflake” stories of your own!

Vrinda February 27, 2015 at 1:45 am

No, it was not rude of you to pick up your gift and thrust it into her hands. You were defending yourself against a false accusation. There is nothing wrong with that.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 4:05 am

@Vrinda: Very kind of you to say so, thank you.
My feet had a mind of their own that night, heading to the gift table.
I didn’t know if people were shocked because of her outburst, or because they thought I hadn’t brought her a present.

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Angel March 1, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Good for you for calling her out! She totally deserved it.

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Fung July 5, 2015 at 7:00 am

I would have done the same thing. You kept your honor and dignity and was everyway a lady.
If you would have taken back the present and left, that wouldn’t have made the same strong impact or lesson to be learned.

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NostalgicGal February 26, 2015 at 6:33 am

You will have to move on, OP. Unless everyone attached a small to-from tag or card to their gifts, the woman had no way of knowing who gave what. Whether it was an accident that she learned about later (not knowing who gave what gift) or sort of intentional; it is a move on situation.

I did host my own birthday party a few years ago, I had it catered, there were doorprizes and everyone left with a gift. No gifts TO me, but FROM me. The idea was to get together to eat good food and have a good time-most of the guests were from a club I belonged to, but I invited a few other ladyfriends to come eat. The story was in trying to get everyone to RSVP by the deadline for the caterer and in the end I could not do that, so I guessed and ordered extra meals and had some call the day of to RSVP yes and one that got ill and had to un-RSVP, I ended up with just enough. Ms Jeanne our admin labeled it a ‘hobbit birthday’ …

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AS February 26, 2015 at 6:57 am

I used to like the unwritten custom we had amongst our big group of friends I grad school, where we never exchanged gifts or birthdays. It took away a lot of stress, awkwardness, and embarrassment.

I always put a card inside a packed gift, with my name on it. I had learned the hard way to do that, when I was 12, and attended a friend’s little brother’s birthday (he was turning 8). Given that their extended family stayed in the same city, I was one of the few friends, as most of the guests were their cousins and aunts and uncles. I had taken a nicely wrapped gift, with my name written with a pen. At some point, I noticed something dark on the gift card, and saw that someone had written two of their cousin’s names with a sharpie, making my name as the giver invisible! (The handwriting looked like an adult’s writing). I was brave enough to let friend know, but I doubt she told her brother when he was opening the gifts. I was quite hurt, and have written my name inside the gifts ever since.

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Ulla February 26, 2015 at 8:06 am

Wha — who would even think something like that??? I’m totally flabbergasted. I mean, if you would have forgotten to put your name on the card, I could see a possibility for a misunderstanding when somebody else forgot from their’s too. “Oh monkeys, I forgot to put name on our card, honey, would you quickly go to the gift table and do that. It was the gift with blue paper.” But overwriting somebody else’s name. I cannot comprehend.

This is something that would not even cross my mind to be a problem. Oh the people…

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Ant February 26, 2015 at 9:08 am

I saw something like this happen! It’s really unbelievable but there are such things as present switchers and one of the most memorable parties I’ve been to was because of a switcher. It’s a really vivid memory and my old friend still goes by “D” as a result. It was when I was about 9 I went to a party with D and my mum was supervising us both. A few of us were playing under a table near the present table. We noticed our friend, “A’s”, uncle lingering by the presents when dropping off gift. Friend D noticed that he seemed to be drawing on the gift D had given. However, friend D was far from a shy boy so he ran out from under the table yelling at the man to “stop drawing on my present.”
The uncle straightened up, slipped the pen in his pocket and turned to find a small boy looking furious at him. The man tried to deflect saying like it’s not your present now it’s been given to the birthday boy. But my friend was adamant and went to grab the box but the Uncle wouldn’t let him.
Well, D started screaming up a fit so the whole room came over to investigate. We found Uncle’s name on the box and my friends label on a smaller gift. My mum took hold of D as the adults started arguing it out (my mum insisting that the gift with Uncle’s name on was D’s). After a bit of arguing D challenged the Uncle to “name the present”. Uncle tried everything to deflect saying it would ruin the surprise etc but eventually was made to guess and I think he said it was a water pistol. D triumphantly announced “wrong, it’s diggers!” (his nick name to this day). Even without A opening the present everyone knew the uncle was doomed from the way his face dropped.
Last thing I remember is A’s grandma literally dragging the Uncle out by the ear and shouting up a storm outside. The small present turned out to be some cheap crayons and pens.

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Kimstu February 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Holy Toledo. I read a P.G. Wodehouse story once where Bertie mentions having done a “gift switch” like that at a younger relative’s birthday party because he was embarrassed to have brought such an inexpensive present, but I always thought that situation was totally made up for comedy purposes! It is absolutely jaw-dropping to find out that there are actual people walking around in the real world who would literally attempt to take credit for somebody else’s gift.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

@Kimstu: so where do you think writers get most of their inspiration, if not often ugly reality, eh? 😉

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Ant March 2, 2015 at 6:41 am

I probably should have said originally. The uncle was ~5 years later arrested and convicted for some kind of finance/ embezzlement type for thing. So to me it is the act of the criminally minded

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AS February 26, 2015 at 10:12 am

…exchanged gifts FOR birthdays, not OF. It is so hard to edit when writing from an iPhone. The first time I tried to edit, it went into another page, and deleted my whole coment!
My apologies!

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Calli Arcale February 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Holy cow! Someone had the unmitigated gall to claim your birthday present as being from someone else — and to do that on behalf of a child? I mean . . . WOW! I can understand maybe a four-year-old doing that, if they’re still a little confused on boundaries and personal property but have learned to spell their own name, but anyone beyond that . . . wow!

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lfa February 26, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Umm, that’s terrible. Who hijacks a gift like that? Good for you for standing up for yourself.

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Filiagape February 26, 2015 at 2:20 pm

I can’t believe someone would do this! Though people do continue to amaze me in their thoughtlessness, greediness, lack of empathy, and self centeredness. You’d think by 50, I’d have gotten used to it, but no.

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Elle February 26, 2015 at 9:22 pm

My friend “Kelly” had a friend and coworker, “Adam”, who’s wife was expecting a baby. When the baby was born, Kelly knitted a beautiful baby blanket, and carefully wrapped it up in a cute gift bag.
Adam had just finished chatting with their boss and was getting ready to leave for the day when Kelly presented the gift.
Surprised and appreciative, Adam looked up, saw their boss still standing there, and said “Thank you! How thoughtful!” Their boss, instead of correcting the misunderstanding (Adam thought it was a gift from the dept., instigated by the boss) grinned, patted him on the back and said “You’re welcome! Glad to do it. Congratulations on the new baby!”
Kelly was too shocked and hurt in the moment to say anything, but she told me later the truth would soon come out…. She had put the signed card – from only HER – inside the bag UNDER the blanket!

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just4kicks February 27, 2015 at 2:52 am

@AS: How rude! Sheesh.
That’s worse than someone saying “I didn’t have time to buy a gift, give me your card, and I’ll sign my name to it!” which happened to me once.
I said you are more than welcome to sign your name, once you’ve given half the money I paid for the gift.

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Michelle February 27, 2015 at 11:25 pm

I had a coworker who always wanted to “go in together” on presents for baby & wedding showers for other coworkers. He would say let me know how much and come by to sign the card but he never had change or he would “get it to me later. After the third time, I started saying “no thanks” and making sure the gift & card stayed locked up in my desk until the shower started.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 5:48 am

@Michelle: Good for you!
My goodness, who raises these cretins???
Not that my kids are shining examples of grace and manners, but they certainly know better than that!

ClockworkBanana February 26, 2015 at 7:08 am

I agree with everything opined by Admin.

What also irritated me was the fact that the party hostess/birthday girl stated that she was waiting until her actual birthday to open any gifts. Was she turning thirty or thirteen?

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Tanya February 26, 2015 at 9:18 am

Actually, I think that was the one semi-polite thing she did. Opening gifts at the party itself has always struck me as juvenile– who wants to sit and watch the birthday girl open presents for half an hour? These days, even most kids’ parties I’ve attended with my daughter leave the gift-opening until after the party, and thank-you notes are sent later.

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kaybee March 1, 2015 at 9:30 pm

A friend of mine did that once, probably 15 years ago. She usually arranges an outing to a nice restaurant (which is actually a lot of fun and we all have a great time), and this year she had arranged for everyone to go back to her place after for dessert. She opened all the gifts then, in front of all the guests. I was sick and couldn’t make the party, but three of my friends were there and later told me how uncomfortable it was and how juvenile it was. She never did it after that, whenever I went, so I’m guessing either she realized it was making the guests uncomfortable or someone said something to her. But the three friends who went have never gone to one of her birthday celebrations again and usually go out with her one on one instead. I distinctly remember one of them telling me that “it was like we were at a 9 year old’s party!!”

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Cat February 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm

It’s sort of sad, thinking of her sitting there by herself opening birthday gifts.

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Cleo February 27, 2015 at 2:37 am

I’ve always heard that it’s rude to open presents at a party/in front of people?

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Cat February 28, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I had a friend whose mother never allowed her to have a birthday party, even as a very young child, because she said that is was wrong to call attention to yourself. Even as a mature woman, she was embarrassed if anyone said happy birthday to her or so much as gave her a cupcake with a candle in it for her birthday. I only knew because it was in my computer system.
Opening presents would be rude if one could not control oneself not to make nasty comments like, “Well, there’s one for the yard sale” or had to roll eyes and make faces at gifts one disliked. I have always enjoyed watching people open gifts at birthday parties and showers. It might be rude at a wedding reception as I have never seen it done then.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 6:01 pm

It was a subtle way of indicating that presents received a very secondary billing at that gathering.

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Margaret February 26, 2015 at 9:54 am

I find it odd that she separated card from gift. Surely part of the pleasure of the gift is knowing that so and so thought of you? I guess unless she is a hoarder and can’t deal with having any sentimental attachment to objects, in which case I guess it would be good if she looked at all of gifts as just stuff and not special in any way.

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vjcole February 26, 2015 at 11:36 am

That would be true for some people – but in this case, I doubt the woman cared who the gift was from, as long as she got a gift. If she took pleasure in “knowing that so and so thought of you”, she would have sent thank you notes.

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The Elf February 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm

I find it odd, too. Every gift deserves a thank-you, and don’t know how she would have known what goes with what. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but odd.

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Danielle February 26, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Am I being a little too cynical if I suggest that perhaps she was opening the cards right away because she was looking for cash in the envelopes?

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JWH February 26, 2015 at 10:23 am

In my 20s, I got seriously irritated with the birthday dinner trend. “Hi, I’m taking everybody out to a restaurant for my birthday. I’m going to have filet mignon and the most expensive wines on the wine list. Now everybody pony up for a share of my dinner!!” Bloody hell. If you want to celebrate your birthday by inviting the whole gang out to dinner, I’m OK with that. I’ll bring you a small gift, and I’m even OK with buying you a drink. But don’t expect me to pick up your meal tab (or even a portion thereof) unless you’re a close family member.

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 5:53 am

@JWH: Oooh, I can’t stand that!
Reminds me of the old “Friends” episode where the gang bought Ross expensive concert tickets for his birthday, and then took Monica to a swanky dinner to celebrate a promotion.
Joey, Racheal and Phoebe were broke and only had small salads and other inexpensive items, and water.
When it came time to divide the bill, Ross says “ok…everyone owes (expensive) amount each, and which the three of them say “No way!”.
And Ross says….”Oh…you’re right! So sorry! It’s Monica’s big night…SHE shouldn’t have to chip in!”

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just4kicks February 28, 2015 at 5:54 am

….”TO which the three of them…..” Oops.

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Syn February 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm

If I remember correctly though, Phoebe, Rachel and Joey kept their mouths shut about the gift/restaurant being too expensive to them until it came time to pay. Then they suddenly threw a fit about it. The nice part was that in the end the more financially stable friends came to understand what the issue was.

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JWH March 3, 2015 at 1:04 pm

I dunno … so what is the etiquette for this, anyway?

Let’s say five friends and I go to dinner. The check comes, and somebody says, “OK, it’s time to split the check” and says everybody has to chip in sixty bucks to pay for food and booze. If I’ve only budgeted twenty dollars for this dinner (and I ordered inexpensive items from the menu), what am I supposed to do? Do I object that I had only the small salad and the glass of water and I’m not going to pay more? What if somebody accuses me of ruining the evening for everyone? I’d be tempted to hold fast to my guns, point out (again) I only had the salad and water, and opine that I’m not willing to subsidize somebody else’s taste in wine.

SIDE NOTE: I recently invited family members out to dinner at a fairly nice restaurant. Usually when we go out, my father (as patriarch) picks up the bill before anybody else can. This time, the bill came, and I picked it up. I think my eyes went to the size of dinner plates when I saw the bill. But since I’d invited, and I’d picked up the check, I was on the hook. Fortunately, my good friend Mr. Amex had come with me …

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Cat February 28, 2015 at 2:51 pm

I know someone who would be dining alone if he/she invited me to dinner with that stipulation.

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Cami February 26, 2015 at 11:43 am

I learned something new today, that if you throw your own party, you are apparently a wolf living in a cave who can never be expected to demonstrate any class or politesse. Sometimes I think these so-called etiquette rules are nothing more than a excuse to feel righteous in one’s dogma of choice.

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admin February 27, 2015 at 6:21 pm

No, if you read Miss Manners, who btw, is quite dead set against what she refers to as “selfie birthday parties”, you would realize that etiquette mavens are trying to get the population to be mature adults, grow a humble backbone and become more altruistic in hospitality.

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Cat February 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm

It does not make one a wolf in a cave. It does seem a bit over the top to say, “You must celebrate the wonder of ME!”
I always thought that my mother deserved the party. She remembered my birth and I did not. It had not a fun time for her. At the very least, I owed her a gift and a fancy dessert.

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Irish Chick February 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Hi folks I am the OP. Just want to say yep am probably more hung up on it than I should be, probably due to the fact I spent money on someone when I could have done a million more important things with it. I will think carefully in future about parting with my money for someone else.

I just want to say though – re the etiquette of not hosting your own party – I live in Ireland and I honestly don’t know of anyone who HASN’T hosted their own shindig, unless it was a surprise affair thrown for them. 21sts/30ths etc all thrown by the birthday boy/girl. So I honestly didn’t know it was a faux pas – unlike hens/showers etc which I know is not thrown by the recipient/family members etc (thanks to this wonderful site!). I know that if I was to throw a party it would be just to spend time with the people I think the most of on a day that means a lot to me. I wouldn’t expect a single thing off them bar their presence and time. And IF I did get a gift I would certainly be prompt with a nice thank you note/card to the gift giver.

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JD February 26, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I agree with admin! You should have gotten a thank you note (or call, or email at the very least) once she found out what she got from you, but your chances of that were slim at the outset. Separating the gifts from the cards seems to me to indicate she had no intention of thanking anyone later, so it didn’t matter if she knew who brought what. Call me suspicious, but I think this “waiting until her real birthday” was perhaps a tactic to avoid thanking anyone. I can hear her excuses if someone asks about it…. “I didn’t know who to thank! I forgot what the wrapping was on your gift so I couldn’t remember if it was yours. The cards were separated….”
And AS, what kind of fiend would do that? Good heavens! Talk about sneaky!
I also tuck little cards inside my gifts. I am heading off the fake excuse that the big card got separated or lost, and it’s a help to those who genuinely lost the big card and are frantically trying to find who to thank. In fact, I had inexpensive calling cards with name and address printed on them just for that purpose. I’ve had some people comment that it was a great idea and they were going to do that, too.

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TheSpiderLady February 26, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Leaving aside the birthday aspect of it, I was under the impression that if one gave a verbal thank you (either in person or over the phone) there was no need for a second, written thank you. Is that not the case?

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lakey February 26, 2015 at 4:14 pm

I just feel that the verbal thank you would be more meaningful when the recipient knows what it is. Since the gift wasn’t opened at the time it was given, the giver has no way of knowing if the recipient liked that particular gift.

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kaybee March 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm

That reminds me of an odd thank you note I got this past Christmas – I had gotten a gift for a friend’s daughter and mailed it to her (along with a card for my friend). This friend is *very* prompt with thank you notes, and I appreciate that, but she sent one almost immediately that said (paraphrasing) “thank you for the gift, it will be opened on Christmas and I am sure that *daughter* will love it!”

Why not just wait until the gift is opened on Christmas? I mean, even if you want to make sure all the thank yous are written in advance so as not to have a ton to do after Christmas, just address the card and write in there “thank you for (leave blank space to fill in), I love it, etc”

Is it just me?

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Margo February 27, 2015 at 4:49 am

I think that is true if you give the thank you when you open the gift, and know what it is you are saying thank you *for* .

If the girl had opened the gift, thanked OP and given her a hug there would be no issue, likelwise if she had phoned her once she had opened the gift. (Some people have a personal preference for a thank you note but other than formal occasions such as a wedding, when a note is appropriate, I think the requirement is that you thank the giver, the format is less important)

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Daphne February 26, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Well OP all I can say is now you know why this girl has to host her own birthday parties: Because of her crass behavior, she does not inspire generosity among her friends! 😉

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EllenS February 26, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I think the etiquette of self-birthday parties would be different if we threw Hobbit parties, where the custom was for the host to give gifts to all the guests.

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Goldie February 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm

I just came here to post that, in my home country, the tradition was the exact opposite. As an adult, you were EXPECTED to throw a birthday party for yourself and invite people, especially if it was a big milestone like 30, 40, 50 and so on. People would be hurt and confused if a friend of theirs skipped out of throwing a birthday party – you kind of owed them a celebration. Not quite of the hobbit kind, but the birthday person had to provide a really nice, festive spread and entertainment (or rent a party room at a restaurant). It’s wild how much different cultures can vary. Personally, I prefer it the American way – never cared for my birthday and am not crazy about hosting large parties. I just take the approach every year that, if I ignore my birthday long enough, it’ll go away… and indeed it does!

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Ant February 27, 2015 at 8:01 am

Overall whether or not you can host such an event comes down to one thing: are you able to let hosting your friends take priority over being the guest of honour? In other words are you trying celebrate a milestone with your friends, or are you instructing your friends to celebrate your milestone?

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Goldie March 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

You’re throwing a party for your friends. The milestone is an excuse.
I guess maybe because we grew up with a shortage of everything, people weren’t throwing parties for their friends just because, for no reason. It would’ve been weird.
As for hosting vs. being the guest of honor, at all the parties I’ve been to, it’s been definitely the former. Now that I think of it, in college, one friend took it overboard when she threw her 21st birthday party. She decorated the room with large “21” cutouts and otherwise got the message across to the guests that this was HER party, the purpose of which was to celebrate HER. People didn’t react well. Again, everyone was weirded out and confused about why her birthday party had to be so much about her, as opposed to just being a party.

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lafred February 27, 2015 at 9:57 am

I usds to give my mother flowers on my birthday – after all, she did all the work!

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Jessiebes February 26, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Hello everybody. I am an avid reader but a new poster on this lovely website.

My culture is probably a bit different. Honestly I didn’t know that hosting your own birthday party was not the right etiquette thing to do. As soon as I was old enough, me and my friends always invited our friends over to our parents home to celebrate our birthdays. Entertainment, food and drinks were provided by my parents. My best birthday was a treasure hunt in the forest behind my home.

Twenty years later and birthdays are very casual. The one who has a birtday hosts a dinner party, or we meet at the pub for a drink. Presents and cards are not required but your presence and well wishes very much appreciated. Thank you cards are never expected,

But I do not come from a family or group who sends thank you cards. I only learned of those much later in life, when I started reading up about etiquette. And I do send them when I know it is the right thing to do. I always get a “you didn’t have to do that but thank you” message back when I do.

Anyway. That is just me.

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Cat February 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm

The only thing I want for my birthday is a cake. I love birthday cakes. At my age, I have all the stuff I want and a great deal more than I need. Parties don’t mean much to me, but I do need a few people to help me eat the cake. It’s not a birthday party; it is a cake-eating party.

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Lera99 February 26, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Cat, I adore this!
“Please come to my cake eating party on MM/DD/YYYY! Cake is delicious, let’s celebrate it!”

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Wild Irish Rose February 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Throwing your own birthday party = you don’t have friends or family who will do that for you?
Throwing your birthday party before the date of your birthday = lots of people do this and I’m okay with it (except for the throwing-your-own-birthday-party thing).
Throwing your birthday party before the date of your birthday and then refusing to open the gifts your guests brought until the actual date of your birthday = you’re too full of yourself and stop throwing parties. Please.

This is just insulting.

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Dee February 26, 2015 at 2:28 pm

OP doesn’t give any clues as to the nature of the relationship otherwise; I would think that if the birthday girl was prone to other breaches of etiquette or friendship the OP would have provided those examples. As it is, I would be inclined to cut the birthday girl slack, as she probably messed up badly in separating the cards from the gifts and now can’t figure which belongs to which, and just grimaced and pretended the verbal “thanks” was enough. If this is really a friend why can’t OP ask her what sort of things she got for her gifts, thus opening up the conversation? I am getting up there in years and I still like to relate what I’ve gotten as gifts on occasions (and vice versa) – it makes for fun conversation. In any case, is the relationship a good one? Then look past this issue and just be forewarned not to participate in another gift giving.

As far as adult birthday parties, I’ve been to many that were lovely with no gift giving at all. I have had friends excitedly invite guests to a party to celebrate a personal milestone and insist no one bring anything, food or otherwise. The conversation goes along the lines of “I’ve talked to all my family and I am asking that they do not buy me anything as I already have everything I need and far too many things as it is. I want only to celebrate with the people I love; please come and eat and enjoy”. Big hint dropped and no one offended. I think these things could be done subtly, with the invitation not mentioning the reason for the party, but if a host wants to feed and entertain his friends for his birthday I don’t see the faux pas. It’s the gift expectation that is wrong.

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Lori February 26, 2015 at 3:21 pm

I’m stunned to learn that it’s the height of awfulness to host your own birthday party. I’d feel like I was expecting a lot from people to host a birthday party for me and that it’d be the height of presumption to think anybody else should do it. The usual practice among my social circle is that the birthday person says (if they wish to) “Hey, let’s go out for my birthday to [restaurant or bar or whatever].” Presents aren’t typical and everybody pays their own way. Is this terrible etiquette? Nobody’s ever given any indication that they think it’s rude.

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admin February 26, 2015 at 4:40 pm

You appear to have an expectation that you are owed a birthday party at all hence your question regarding the expectation of others to host it. I”m not surprised many people see nothing wrong with self-hosted birthday parties since it is indicative of a self absorbed, self -centered culture that exalts catering to one’s wants and need to be paramount. Why don’t you buck the trend and start hosting parties for your friends? What a novel idea.

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Lera99 February 27, 2015 at 1:06 pm

I really like the admin’s perspective on this.

If we are all special and therefore all our birthdays are worth celebration – then we should be generous. We should start hosting birthday parties for our friends.

Instead of focusing on “How am I going to celebrate MY special day?” we should focus on “How can I celebrate my BFF’s special day? What would make her/his birthday awesome?”

It doesn’t have to be something fancy and expensive:

– It’s Barbara’s Birthday! Come to the park to help us celebrate! We’ll have a picnic lunch followed by silly games: 3 legged race, egg relay, pin the tail on the donkey, and a pinata!

– It’s Fred’s Birthday! BBQ at my house! There will be cigars and a whiskey tasting!

– It’s Tina’s Birthday! Join us at Awesome Tea House for a traditional English tea! There will be 4 different types of tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and biscuits

– It’s Bob’s Birthday! Join us at Minor League Baseball game toe celebrate! We’ll be on the press level which offers a meal bracelet granting unlimited hotdogs, Italian sausage, nachos, peanuts, chips & salsa, popcorn and sodas. Please RSVP by MM/DD/YYYY so we have time to order your tickets and meal bracelet.

– It’s Kevin’s Birthday! We’re going Geo-caching through City Park followed by a picnic at shelter # 7. All the food will be vegan and raw. We will have all of Kevin’s favorites!

– It’s Grace’s Birthday! We’re doing a chili night in celebration using her favorite recipe! There will be meat chili with venison and vegetarian chili made with tofu crumbles. Kelly is bringing her famous jalapeno cheddar corn bread.

– It’s Jenna’s Birthday! We’re doing a sunrise bike ride across the City Bridge followed by a pancake breakfast at my house!

Think about what your friend loves, then turn it into a party to celebrate their special day.

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Kimstu February 27, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Either this, or just go on doing what @Lori and her circle of friends are already doing, which sounds like not so much “hosting your own birthday party” but more “a group of friends using their birthdays as an excuse/motivation to go out together”.

If the participants all pay their own way for these celebrations (including the birthday boy/girl) and presents are customarily not given or expected, then I don’t see any etiquette violation there. But it should not be referred to as “hosting your own birthday party”, since nobody’s actually doing any hosting or throwing an actual party. It’s just a dutch-treat night out for a group of friends using a birthday as an excuse to socialize.

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shel February 27, 2015 at 5:30 pm

I guess I don’t consider getting together with friends around ones birthday a “birthday party” We usually do what you have described, saying hey.. want to go out for dinner on this day for my b-day? or sometimes will say to another friend- what do you want to do for your birthday?

But this is a small group of 3-4 close friends and maybe spouses if people can make it. There is no expectation of gifts and is basically just another excuse for everybody to get together. It isn’t a command- we are going to this uber expensive restaurant for my birthday and you have to be there!!! But a collaborative let’s plan a dinner outing that just happens to be when someone’s birthday is.

Maybe that’s wrong… but I don’t think of that as throwing my own birthday party…

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ImJustSaying February 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm

I guess i’ll go to eHell for thinking about throwing a party for my 30th and (hopefully grades willing) college graduation. I have been neglecting my friends in favor of homework and as the assignments will only get harder I figure a big shindig will be a good way to break free from my academic box.
If you would like to do something for your birthday and no one offers to do it how else will it get done?
I’m not demanding someone go through the work of planning a party for me. But what happens when I (in an effort to not assume a party will be thown for me) say nothing about celebrating and then nothing happens?
I want to hang out with my friends and celebrate two major life events. If I can’t throw it myself and I can’t place the thought in another person head to host for me what is the solution?
I just wait and do nothing? Hope someone decides to throw me a party? Or worse hint around like a sad sack for the months leading up to it “oh how i would love to have a party for my birthday and graduation. wouldn’t that be nice!?” Wink wink nudge nudge.
Or do I plan a party and say “I missed all of you while I was buried under books and exams! Come party with me as I celebrate big 3-0 and big BA degree!” No gifts no charge just a designated night of fun.
Please someone tell me what is the non-selfish way to throw a personal party without placing the burden of planning it on someone else?

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admin February 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm

The first question you should be asking yourself is, “Why do I need a birthday party after the age of 18?” You and others appear to have this unrealistic and selfish expectation that the world owes you a party and if your cretin friends won’t do it, you’ll take matters into your own hands to make certain you get the requisite party marking some age milestone. The second question that apparently no ever asks themselves is, “If I consider my birthday that important, why have I not considered the feelings of others in regards to their birthdays and taken the effort to host a party for them?”

Invariably every single person on Ehell who insists that they need a birthday party which they will host themselves has not even remotely considered hosting a birthday party for anyone else but themselves. Do I really need to spell out why that appears to be quite egocentric and even narcisitic?

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AthenaC February 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Of course no one “needs” a birthday party; no one is arguing such. Also, no one “needs” to socialize with friends or “needs” to host a dinner party or “needs” to meet coworkers for drinks. There are a host of things that no one “needs” to do and yet we do them anyway because they provide enjoyment to all involved.

What’s bothering people like ImJustSaying is the idea that one is forbidden from hosting a party (that presumably everyone would find enjoyable) on one’s own birthday. This prohibition lends far more weight to the idea that a birthday is “special” somehow than any party could.

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SLC February 26, 2015 at 7:41 pm

This Comment needs a “like” button, well said!

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just4kicks February 27, 2015 at 2:57 am

Our oldest son turned 18 last week.
We slipped his girlfriend money to take him to dinner, and on his actual birthday we got take out from the restaurant of his choosing and a cake.
His b’day presents we had gotten a few weeks ago, which was all new catchers gear ( for the upcoming baseball season) as well as a new bat and new spikes.

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admin February 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Miss Manners sets the age for the last childhood birthday parties for children at 18.

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Ann February 28, 2015 at 12:50 am

That doesn’t sound so much like a party but an intimate family gathering. I get my choice of dinner and some kind of dessert and I’m way past 18.

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Kheldarson February 27, 2015 at 8:33 am

Because I work retail as do many of my friends. If I plan for a friend, then I’m presuming on their work schedule, same as they would for me. But if I, or they for theirs, am in charge of my own planning, then it’s on me to ask for the time off and say to my friends, “Hey, if you want to hang out and have an excuse to eat cake, I’m taking time off on X to celebrate my birthday. We can plan some other stuff if people want.” And you do it in enough time that they can determine if they can take the time or not.

For my friend group and I, that’s polite because that’s less pressure on time and budget. Presents aren’t discussed and are rarely exchanged. It’s about getting together with friends on a good excuse reason and cake.

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ThatGirl February 27, 2015 at 9:44 am

I personally have offered to celebrate birthdays with my closest friends, we are all solvent adults who can afford to pay for our own beers or dinners, but I like having the excuse to celebrate a person – and I like spending time with friends on my own birthday. I don’t think I’m *owed* it, but I do my best to remember and celebrate my close friends and family’s birthdays.

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Daphne February 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm

If you want to host a party go ahead. Just don’t make it about your birthday or graduation. Throw a cocktail or dinner party, keg party with a band, hoe down with a hayride, whatever. If you enjoy celebrating life with your friends the possibilities are endless. The point is, at age 30 you really should not be expecting your friends to celebrate your birthday or graduation unless THEY suggest it.
Sorry. 😐

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Goldie February 27, 2015 at 10:29 am

You can just tell them you’re hosting a get-together since you haven’t seen them in a while, due to college work, and miss them. If they’re your friends, they already know it’s your birthday so hopefully they’ll say something like “happy birthday” to you during the party.

I remember when my friends and I were all turning 40, my fellow immigrant friends were all throwing 40th birthday parties for themselves, as is the home country tradition. I got caught in the trend and hosted one for myself too. It was so awkward and forced. Everyone took turns standing up and giving a toast about how awesome I am. It felt weird and embarrassing. This was the first big birthday party I had since my 16th, and I guess I’d forgotten what they were like. Never again. What I’m saying is, your 3-0 party might very well fall short of your expectations, because after a certain point, having your birthday celebrated by a group of people just feels weird. I feel a lot more festive about my kids’ birthdays than I do about mine, to be honest. In the first case, I gave birth to them and worked my tail off to raise them, so I admit I feel good whenever there comes an anniversary of a job well done. (I don’t throw a party of course, since they’re 19 and 22, but might enjoy a glass of wine with them or on my own.) In the second, I was just… born? and I didn’t even come out a boy like my mom wanted me to. What’s to celebrate?

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ImJustSaying March 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Oh I would never have a party where awkward toasts are required. I really want to go dancing and for safety reasons I never do that alone. For personality reasons I only do it once or twice a year. So why not get friends together and go out?

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Kimstu February 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm

@ImJustSaying: “Or do I plan a party and say ‘I missed all of you while I was buried under books and exams!'”

STOP RIGHT THERE. Yes!!! That, EXACTLY that and nothing else, is what you should do.

Have a party for your social circle to celebrate finally being able to spend time with them. Don’t justify it in terms of your own personal milestones or hint at any sort of celebration of yourself or your achievements.

If somebody asks “What’s the occasion?”, just say “I’m finally done with all this schoolwork and at last I can spend some time with my friends, I thought that deserved a party!” If anybody spontaneously figures out that that means you’re graduating from college (or if anybody spontaneously notices or asks about your birthday), and if they then spontaneously decide they’d like to give you a gift or other token of congratulations, that’s just icing on the cake, so to speak.

I guarantee you that if you use your happiness about your personal milestones as an incentive to do a nice thing like throwing a party for people you care about, without making it all about you and your milestones, everybody (including you) will enjoy it far more than a blatantly self-centered “Pay Attention To Me And My Life” Party.

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MamaToreen March 2, 2015 at 8:27 am

How about throwing a “I have time to be social again, please reconnect with me” party? Don’t mention the birthday or graduation, leave that part to them.

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Ergala March 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm

We had a Cards Against Humanity party for my husband’s 30th this year. Guess what people got him, BEER! It was hysterical because it wasn’t typical big name brands but stuff with really witty slogans and from micros. He didn’t ask for anything but everyone knows he likes weird quirky things and that he likes to have a drink after work some nights when it’s rough. It was great! I made food, we all laughed and after the kiddos went to bed we took out the cards. Friends brought new significant others we hadn’t met yet and a good time was had by all. My birthday was two weeks later, I don’t do anything for mine. Besides I was just turning 33, no big deal. Plus the superbowl landed on my birthday. I didn’t mind the peace and quiet. We went out for lunch with our two little boys to my favorite place and then came home and watched some movies.

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SLC February 26, 2015 at 6:50 pm

I totally agree with the Admin on this. I still am of the school of thought that you hand write thank you cards for gifts.

The admin is spot on about what the expect from people that throw their own party.
As for throwing your own birthday party…no idea why this is an acceptable practice, it is so crass! I never attend these “gift grabbing invites”. A “friend” of mine sends me an invite to her self-hosted birthday party every year and always throws in “your dinner will cost about $x, don’t forget to bring extra money for beer and to chip in for my portion”. I am always gobsmacked by this failed attempt at being a host. The kicker is this individual prides herself on being a “southern belle with etiquette to match”. Not. In. The. Least. I have given this person a couple of gifts (never again) and have yet to receive anything thank you card, although she has told me several times she ALWAYS sends thank you notes. Again, this is what you can expect from someone who hosts their own party!

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 6:10 pm

@SLC: what your friend does is super TACKY. What OP’s friend did…not so.
THINK of WEDDINGS.
Think of showers for the soon to be wed, for the soon to be born. Pox on those.

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Ergala March 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Hakayama I AGREE SO MUCH! Most of my friends who have gotten married recently have lived together with their SO for a few years. They are all settled. Yet they have a bridal shower and they of course register for all this stuff they already have. My husband and I moved in together the month before our wedding and we had nothing. I didn’t get a bridal shower. We managed to furnish our new two bedroom apartment with second hand furniture and what not. We didn’t die because we didn’t have embroidered towels or silver eatery. At our wedding we received some gifts, my favorite being the Kitchenaide Mixer! Now THAT was awesome because I didn’t have a mixer!

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Jared Bascomb February 26, 2015 at 8:23 pm

When I was younger and more sociable, I used to throw birthday parties for myself. The birthday was just an excuse to have a party. Buuut . . .
My birthday happens to be the same as Greta Garbo’s (obviously, not the same year!), so the party was Jared’s annual “Greta Garbo’s Birthday Party” with no gifts expected, let alone solicited.

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carroll February 26, 2015 at 9:21 pm

I don’t host a birthday party for myself, but for the last few years there have been movies I really wanted to see released around my birthday, so I got a group of friends to come to the movie with me “for my birthday”. I even pay for the tickets, and afterwards have people come back to my house for cake and drinks. Our group doesn’t exchange gifts except for Christmas. Is this acceptable, etiquette-wise?

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Kimstu February 28, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I say, heck yes it’s acceptable, and what’s more, it’s charming. Hobbit birthdays for the win!!!

To make it totally etiquette-failproof, you might leave out all references to your birthday and just invite your friends to your movie-going party with cake-and-drinks afterparty. But if your group of friends has already established the custom that presents aren’t given or expected for birthdays, then I think you’re fine being upfront about the birthday aspect.

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iwadasn February 26, 2015 at 11:31 pm

The self-thrown birthday party faux pas aside, I don’t think she did anything wrong by not sending a thank you card. Thanking someone in person or calling to thank them are equivalents of a thank you card; gratitude does not have to be written down to be acceptable.

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Mojo February 27, 2015 at 2:22 am

I must admit I’d never heard that it’s unacceptable to host your own party. Certainly my social skills teacher at school never mentioned it (and yes, I went to a convent school and was taught deportment, elocution, letter writing and social skills!).

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admin February 27, 2015 at 6:02 pm

The archive of this site is full of people who had no idea certain behaviors are tacky.

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Kimstu February 28, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I can totally imagine that a convent-school social skills teacher however-many-years-back would not even have considered it necessary to warn their pupils not to host parties in honor of themselves.

Like gatecrashing and bringing along uninvited dates to social events, inviting guests to a party to celebrate oneself is one of those things that etiquette rules of previous eras didn’t bother explicitly prohibiting because it was assumed to be unthinkable.

I grew up in the countercultural 60’s and 70’s, and even I knew that it was just not done for grown-ups to have birthday parties for themselves, even though no teacher or etiquette rule ever officially told me so.

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mom2four February 27, 2015 at 3:08 am

For once I would like American costums to spread around the globe. In my country it is expected that you host a birthday party for at least mile stone birthdays and it get’s very expensive and often not a lot of fun. I have had this argument with my MIL for decades as I don’t really want to celebrate my birthday and she wants me to host a party every year.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 6:23 pm

@mom2four: Please do not wish for the TRULY American customs to spread as some have already done so. I’m mainly thinking of Halloween, the way it was corrupted from its original observation. When a day of remembering those dearly departed turns into an evening of partying for the adults, and begging for treats for the children.
As for your MIL pushing you to follow her will, try making believe you have not heard anything. It’s something I’ve witnessed in the Old World during a session of “negotiating a price” of something. At some point, the seller just ignored the latest entreaty. There was no countering with “I’m taking bread away from my children” or such. Just silence and moving onto something else.
Best wishes.

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hakayama March 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm

P.S.: you could also be sneaky and say that you made a (maybe religious) vow… and a party would break it. Offer no specifics. Yes, you made a vow NOT to throw a party. 😉

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hakayama March 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

@mom2four… Last word in second sentence should be “observance” not “observation”. 🙁

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hakayama March 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

P.P.S. for mom2four: Let me harp some more on Halloween. The little darlings were so polite, saying thank you and “Happy Halloween”.
I wonder if any etiquette mavens ever picked up on that discordant note. After all, All Hallows is dedicated to the memory of folks that passed. The wish for a happy day or evening, in my opinion, doesn’t quite fit a not quite joyous occasion. A bit like saying Happy Good Friday, Memorial Day, Yom Kippur, Lent, Ramadan…
Long live T Day! Down with the crassness of Halloween! 😉

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Goldie March 2, 2015 at 10:31 am

Happened to a friend of mine many years ago. Her mom called to inform that she’d already invited the entire, huge, extended family to my friend’s milestone birthday party at my friend’s house! Mom was going to help cook, but it was on the friend to clean house, host, buy the food (we’re talking a big sit-down dinner party, not pop and chips….) for a party that she didn’t want in the first place! Friend got out of this nightmare, thanks to her quick thinking – she immediately responded with “Aww thank you mom, but I’ve already made plans to go camping with my friends on that day.” Then as soon as she hung up, she made plans to go camping with some friends!

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Hanna February 27, 2015 at 10:01 am

I would say your friend’s thank you is sufficient and you need to move on.

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kingsrings February 28, 2015 at 4:02 am

So you can’t throw your own birthday party because it’s tacky, but your friends won’t throw a birthday party for you either because of the time, cost, etc. issues. I guess people will have to settle for celebrating alone or with your family. I’m just glad that I don’t want any birthday parties so I don’t have to worry about this headache of whether it’s acceptable or not to throw your own, or feeling like a burden to your friends.

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hakayama February 28, 2015 at 11:00 pm

P.S.: I find the difference between HONOR and CELEBRATE to be the key here.
BTW, I must confess that I’ve never gathered people to celebrate me. Heck, much as I liked it, I did not even buy for my 50th that unique gold pin I coveted. Come to think of it, I really cannot even remember what it looked like. 😉 Maybe a party would have been more memorable…

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Ergala March 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

I agree. Most adult birthday gatherings I’ve gone to are a lot of fun. Drinks, food and jokes about getting older. Heck I crack up at the over the hill gag gifts. One year a friend of mine turned 30 and she was given a package of adult “diapers”, she was laughing so hard she was crying. We all were. Gifts weren’t expected but we just couldn’t resist gag gifts 🙂

For our honeymoon we took a bunch of friends to Six Flags. Hubby and I found the drive to Mass to be boring and we wanted to have fun with our friends. So I bought some vouchers for a good price through my work and we went to the Halloween festival there. It was great! We didn’t have anyone except family at our ceremony and reception so this was a great time to celebrate with our friends. Nobody brought gifts or cards, it wasn’t expected or asked for. We just wanted to celebrate a special occasion with those we cared about. We all had a blast!

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Leigh February 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

What’s wrong with hosting a party on your birthday and hoping your friends notice it’s your birthday? Well, for starters, how about taking into account how your friends might feel if they show up to something that they think is just a regular party only to find out later that it was your birthday? What if they feel embarrassed that they didn’t know? For crying out loud, why not throw a party for your friends because you want to celebrate your friends instead of the day you were born? As the admin says, if you want to celebrate, throw your friends parties. As my dad would say, “That big, bright ball in the sky doesn’t shine just for you.” Or as Dave Barry said: “There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is: age 11.”

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RJ March 1, 2015 at 4:09 am

The etiquette of hosting one’s own party is far from unanimously agreed: it is a product of cultural differences. Where I’ve lived the birthday boy or girl is expected to host a party, if one occurs, or invite friends to meet for drinks in a pub or bar or a meal out somewhere. If there is to b a cake then. A friend will usually bake it: it’s only the cake that it would be odd to do yourself.

Same goes for an engagement party: the couple organise it for friends: a third party organiser is possible but unusual : you’d never expect a third party to host a wedding.

My culture varies from yours perhaps. Others are different still. Living on Crete for a time I discovered that Greek people celebrate their Saint’s name day not their birthday: Dimitri would celebrate on St James, Costas or Cristina on St Christopher’s day. But no invitations were issued! Friends were expected to know all the saints’ days and to know that on Christopher’s day Costas would of course be ready to host guests.

Costas would therefore prepare a feast and hope his friends turned up to the party! Great parties they were too!

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hakayama March 2, 2015 at 4:42 pm

@RJ: Why wouldn’t Dimitri celebrate on St. Demetrio’s day, or Costas on St. Constantine’s?

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Genavieve March 2, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Oh, I so wish I could email this link to a “friend” who habitually throws herself parties of exactly this nature. If it’s not her birthday, it’s a “housewarming party” for her son or herself, and if it’s not that, it was her “divorce party” (yes, really), “bachelorette party,” followed by a “bridal shower.” I wish I could say I wised up after the birthday party, but it was the divorce party (which was a potluck) that was the final nail for me. After skipping the the bachelorette and bridal showers, I have been mercifully left off the invitation lists.

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Isi March 19, 2015 at 3:01 pm

From my perspective as to the gift, I don’t really understand why it’s important that your recipient thank you after knowing what the gift was. The recipient is not going to say ‘I really don’t like this, this is awful’, they are going to say, ‘Thank you, this was really thoughtful and I appreciate it so much!’ regardless of what the gift is. Let’s face it, if you give a gift and the recipient says ‘I really don’t like this, this is awful,’ that is not exactly considered polite behavior either. So instead of her response being tempered by the quality or her appreciation of the gift, she thanked you for even thinking of giving her one at all, regardless of the nature of what was inside the box. I’m going to adopt this woman’s method of gratitude because I really admire it, this means everyone who gives her a present gets the same thoughtful appreciation of their effort.

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Cheryl March 25, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I am not sure about this, but I have found it to be more common. If she threw her own party and is 30, why the gifts, you are celebrating her, she isn’t 8 so just the gathering of friends should be enough so this is rude act number 1. Number 2 was just the opening of the cards, this was weird and just wrong, like you said, how would she know who gave her what? Which leads to the lazy and incompetent action of not giving thank you notes, she said thank you at the party for the card? Even if she opened the gift, at the very least she owed you a thank you note or even an email (which is still ill mannered). The younger generation believe that as long as you say thank you to their face and/or the significant other then your obligation of expressing gratitude has concluded, which is beyond wrong.

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Alex May 16, 2017 at 11:49 am

I think verbally saying “Thank You” is quite enough. You simply don’t give gifts for the purpose of making the gift receiver owe you. You give gifts for the purpose of making people happy and/or rewarding them for an important event or milestone.

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admin February 28, 2015 at 6:57 am

You and many others simply cannot, for whatever reason, grasp the idea that gathering people to honor yourselves and the milestones of your life is not behavior that etiquette considers mature and polite. The second idea that cannot be grasped is that there are 364 days and 51 other weeks in which to gather friends together to offer them hospitality yet quite a few commenters appear to have deceived themselves into believing they must have an excuse to entertain friends, in particular using the occasion of their own birthday.

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