A friend of mine was recently invited to a birthday party for a friend’s one-year-old baby. After the invites had been sent out, a mass email was sent to the guest list with the title “Suggested Birthday Presents.” The parents wrote that, while gifts were not mandatory, anyone who was at a loss for gift ideas could refer to the below “wish list” for suggestions. They then requested that if someone were to buy a present from the list, they should write their name by the item and forward the email to all of the guests to avoid duplicated presents.
My friend had already purchased a gift for the baby, but other guests were put off by this practice. It’s one thing to have a gift registry for a baby shower or a wedding, but a birthday party? They felt like the parents were telling them what to buy, and making it so that everyone knew how much each of them had spent. Plus, who wants to get all of those mass emails? As one guest put it, it would have been better if the parents had waited to be asked for gift ideas, or had perhaps suggested more general items, such as books or outdoor toys.
I’m sure the parents thought they were being helpful by providing links to these specific gift ideas, but it came across as controlling and slightly greedy. (After all, if they wanted all of these things for their child, why not buy them themselves?)
If you’re throwing a birthday party for your child, avoid the temptation to create a registry. If friends ask what little Johnny or Madison wants, feel free to give a few suggestions in a variety of price ranges, but don’t make them feel like you are telling them what to buy. Another idea is to throw a themed birthday party. For instance, another woman I know has a son who loves superheroes and action figures. For his last birthday party she had a superhero theme and, sure enough, everyone brought action figures as gifts, even though they weren’t told to.
More often than not, people are more than happy to offer up a gift for your celebration. But you shouldn’t make them feel as though they’ve only been invited to fulfil some present quota.