Monday, 26 September 2011

Good Manners on Monday # 7 Gift giving and Party Etiquette

generous now or open later?
The second half of the year always seems to be filled with birthdays and celebrations. We have five children's parties to attend over the next month of varying styles, themes and sizes. Yesterday we attended an eight year old's pool party at our local aquatic center. It was a pretty straight forward party and easy for the parents. The dads swam in the pool, supervising the children and the mums sat or stood around drinking coffee for an hour before party food and cake was served to dripping wet children. Then it was back to the pool for a series of games and prizes.

What impressed me about this party was the casual nature of it. You turn up, give gift and swim and eat and go home two hours later. There was no pressure or expectations on the parents. The pool provided the entertainment on a rainy Sunday. And the children were all well behaved and used their manners appropriately. There was no need to prompt for please and thank you's.

However, there is an opportunity to explore Gift Giving and Party Etiquette here. Each family has there own take on presents. I have always been one to open the presents when all the children are gathered together, or when the friend gives the gift. This way the birthday child has the opportunity to express thanks and gratitude to their friend, who may be waiting anxiously to see if the gift is liked.

At this particular party, and others we have been to, the gifts are given to the parents who stack them up on a table or in a basket and....that's it. You assume the child opens them later when all the other children have gone. And you may or may not receive a thank you verbally later or a thank you card or letter. 

For me, I want to see the paper being unwrapped and the surprise of not knowing what is in that package. 

Another trend I have noticed on the birthday party scene is the "please don't bring a gift" line on the birthday invite. I love this idea. I think it eliminates over consumerism and excessive gift giving. Think about a party where 15 children are invited. That's 15 gifts. Plus all the ones that the child receives from their family. And think about the storage for all of those new toys. We tend to give people books for birthdays. 

What's your take on gift giving and party etiquette? Do you encourage opening straight away or do you save the gifts up till later?

Be happy, 


Naturally Carol said...

I love the idea of not giving gifts brings a sense of equality for the guests too. I have lost count of the times I have seen the 'birthday girl/boy' be 'best friends' only with the party goer that has brought the most expensive gift..or parents vying for the title holder of most expensive gift!

ally said...

I struggle with this a lot.
We don't open presents at the party any more because its too overwhelming and rushed and the gifts are not appreciated. We open them in small batches afterwards and write notes.
I think about the no-gifts thing a lot but I know my children have great joy in buying something for their friends and that giving pleasure is surely something to nuture.
However we had the whole class last year and it was just too much - we ended up choosing some to give away to children at the women's shelter.
Its a tricky business!

Felicity said...

This is an ongoing dilemma especially as the children get older.

The last party we held was for Captain V's 8yo and many parents asked what their child could bring...I said "Books please!" and although there were some extras thrown in, the bookcase did indeed get expanded and there are some tomes that are being read still.

House of Prowse said...

I see the advantage and courtesy of opening the present straight away but when there are a lot of people and excitement - at the age of three - they are ripped open and then dropped. That is what happened at Xmas.

This birthday we received presents via the post and I stagger them over a few days even weeks it if is getting too much.

I wrote "no presents" on the invite this year but people still bought a gift! What to do then?