Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: With birthday parties getting more lavish as parents shell out huge sums for swanky celebrations, moms are left wondering what is the correct thing to do when it comes to throwing a party or attending one.
We asked Elise Mac Adam--an etiquette expert who's at work on a new book on parenting etiquette--for suggestions on how to throw (or attend) a birthday party with style. Here's the lowdown.
• The Cost. Just because the birthday boy's parents are hemorrhaging cash to cover the cost of Junior's party, doesn't mean you have to when it comes to the present. "You are never expected to give a present that equals your price of admission to any party. You should give the present that you are comfortable giving, that you can afford, that you think would please the child and his or her family," Mac Adam says.
• Regifting. If your birthday girl pitched a fit when she opened the tea set from Aunt Betty, feel free to rewrap it and slap a new card on it for someone else--providing you follow the tried and true rules of regifting: the gift looks unused and is still in its original wrapping, the original giver will be none the wiser and the gift is appropriate for the new recipient.
• Giving Guidelines. It's generally poor form to give guidelines about what presents someone should buy for your kid. Nothing like saying "Nothing made out of plastic" to really sap the fun out of shopping. If you have strong feelings about certain types of toys, you can always ship the unwanted gifts off to the Salvation Army... after you send the thank-you note.
• When Not to Gift. If your child was invited to a party but didn't go, you're not required to send a gift along. But play this one by ear. If it's a close friend or relative, you might want to send a present anyway. For a big, schoolyard affair where your child's absence won't be noticed, you can do without the present.
• Making a List. There are 34 kids in the birthday boy's class, but he only wants to invite six. What do you do? Well, most schools have policies on this. So, ask first. As a general rule, either: Invite none, invite a small number or invite them all. Do not invite 30 of the 34. Remember, kids talk about the party in the schoolyard and the excluded ones will know.
• Aunts and Grannies. With eight kids and their moms heading to your house for a party, adding grandma and Uncle Billy to the list might be more than you can handle. You don't have to invite them. Remember, "Some people will be sensitive, so be prepared with explanations," Mac Adam says. Also prepare to make another cake for the family-only birthday to mend hurt feelings.
• Sibling Rules. If your child's been invited to a party, ask before you bring her sibling along. With infants, it likely won't be a problem (and there usually isn't an alternative.) But some venues have age restrictions or charge a per-kid fee. So always ask. If you're throwing the party, you are not required to invite a guest's sibling, unless it's an infant.
• Surprise Arrivals. When a parent unexpectedly brings a sibling along to your kid's party, treat the situation as you would at any party when an unexpected guest arrives: Be gracious. If you don't have enough party favors for the extra child, tell the parents and leave it at that. It is just a party after all.
• Party Favors. Do you really have to give party favors? The short answer is "yes." They've come to be expected. If you're not feeling the urge to make a dozen gift bags, send the kids home with giant lollypops or some other low-maintenance treat.
• Thank You. Send thank-you notes for presents, especially since parents (wisely) tend not to open presents at the party these days. Older kids should write the notes themselves. With little kids, parents can write the notes. "As for parents writing things in the voice of their kids, that depends on what the writer's tolerance for impressions and cuteness is," Mac Adam says.