Can I do my own birthday party?

j0336569_happy_birthdayQuestion: Could you address the topic of throwing a party on the occasion of one’s own birthday? Are there guidelines for doing so graciously, or is the entire concept just tacky?

Answer: Good to hear from you. A birthday celebration–how nice! You are a gal who knows that life is special and worth celebrating. No, it is

definitely NOT tacky to celebrate one’s own birthday, but there are tacky ways to do so. It would be tacky to include a “wish list or gift registry”

in honor of yourself in your invitation-and I know that is not your intention. You seem much too thoughtful for that type of error.

The main guideline when hosting a celebration in honor of one’s own birthday (because birthday parties are times, like showers, when gifts are

definitely given) is to avoid compelling guests to give you presents. Therefore, with your invitation include a gracious statement removing that

obligation. For example: “The pleasure of your company is the only gift desired” or “Your company is a wonderful gift. None other is requested.”

tells your friends that you value their attendance vs. throwing a party in your own honor just to get gifts.

Another good guideline says “be straightforward without presumption”. If you are thinking of a “no-host” luncheon or dinner in a restaurant, clearly

say so in the invitation. “Please join me for a “no-host” dinner as I celebrate my birthday and blow out 00 candles.”  (This lets people know you

are arranging for the cake and candles–it’s not the guests’ duty).

The type of party, location, and guest list is at your option. The guest’s duty is to RSVP right away.

All guests should bring cards, and those you can open while you are together. Further, on the guest side of this situation, if I were to receive an

invitation to your party with a “no-gift” clause, I would still be delighted to either send a carefully selected gift early or discreetly bring a

small gift with which to bless you after the party; and I suspect, your friends will feel the same way. (It would also be a good idea if I inquired

beforehand about your guest list -and then, on the side, I might talk with other invited friends about gifts). Unless everyone arrived with a gift

in hand, any gifts received should be set aside and opened later in order to spare embarrassment to those who followed your “no gift request” and

did not bring a present. Have a wonderful celebration. Your birthday matters and so does protocol, which makes life better for everyone. Happy


2 thoughts on “Can I do my own birthday party?

    • Author gravatar

      “Thanks so much for your helpful response to my birthday question. I think I read a Miss Manners column once in which she deplored any “no gifts”clauses. I’m so glad to have a second opinion on that point because I’d be mortified to send out an invitation without one.”

      • Author gravatar

        Dear Valerie~
        You’re welcome…thank you for your good question. Our approach–in other words, our manners in communication, such as you brought up in this question, make a difference in relationships. Words reflect our polite respect (or lack of it).
        Miss Manners, like most etiquette authors, prefers positive and considerate comments, not curt commands. Thus because “no gifts” has a curt and negative tone, its not a preferred phrase in invitations. I appreciate people like you who seek to put their best foot forward in all circumstances. “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” applies to endless life situations, from great to small. Some words are better than others. The metaphor of good news coming from the high mountains flows down into life’s ordinary details. Isn’t that wonderful!

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