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  • Reader poll: Do you give a birthday gift when you don’t attend the party?

    The boys have gotten to that age when it seems like there’s a birthday party nearly every weekend. In fact, this past weekend, we had to decline one invitation because we’d already committed to another party. Which got me thinking: Do you give a gift when you don’t attend the party?

    I’ve embedded a poll at the end of this post because I’m really curious what the general consensus is. (If you’re reading this in a feed aggregator or email, you’ll probably have to click through to the post to participate in the poll and view the results.) I’ll tell you what I’ve done until now, but I may change my practice when I see the poll results.

    Whether or not we attend the party, I always give a gift. The value of the gift depends largely on how close we are to the child and his or her family. But I’ve noticed that people who don’t attend often don’t bother with a gift, and I’m not offended. Which makes me think that perhaps I needn’t bother with a gift myself.

    So what do you think? If you are so inclined, after you vote in the poll, please leave a comment explaining your reasons. I can’t wait to hear what others think about this issue!


    1. Clean ClutterFree Simple says:

      If we're close to the family, but can't attend the party due to a prior committment, we sometimes still give a gift. It depends. I don't stress about it though.

    2. How timely–I'm dealing with this decision today because we missed a party on Saturday due to being out of town. I guess I feel obligated to get a gift because that child attended my twins' birthday (and brought TWO presents), but I wonder if it's enough to acknowledge the birthday with cards from the girls. Or does that just say, "Yes, we missed the party AND you're not getting a gift." Hmmm….

    3. I guess I am a tit for tat kind of person. If am going to decline, but the host is a close friend or if the host came to my child's birthday party (whether or not they brought a gift), or didn't attend and sent a gift, I'll send a gift. If the person is an aquaintance and hasn't attended one of my child's parties, I will politely decline and not send a gift. Or, if we didn't attend last time, sent a gift and heard nothing back, I will not send a gift again.
      Can't wait to see what others say!

    4. If it is a close friend, and we can't make the party because of other plans, I do often give a gift. If it's a relative I always do. If it is someone my kids are not that close to (not just someone from scouts or a class) and we cannot make the party then we usually do not send a gift. I agree with the other commenters – usually if the kids are good friends and they have given my child a gift, then we give one even if we miss the party.

    5. Heather says:

      I don't have much experience with this yet, since my oldest is just 18 mo, but I disagree with the idea that an invitation to anything requires a gift. When I invite people to things, it's because I want them to participate or want to enjoy their company, not because I want a gift. I figure that others feel the same way (though I'm coming to realize that I may be wrong). We've had many many wedding invitations over the past three years, and at our stage of life we just can't afford to attend every wedding or even to send a gift if we're not. Of course, most of our friends are in a similar situation and completely understand – they just want all their friends to join in the party if they can. It will be interesting once we enter the birthday party realm to see if we need to change our views.

    6. The Allen Family says:

      As has been commented by many others, I'll only give a gift if my child can't attend if it's someone we're close to. Otherwise, I don't.

    7. Christy says:

      If we can't attend a party we will give a gift if it is a close friend or family member.

    8. KristinBrianne says:

      It depends on how close you are to the person, child or adult. If they gave your kid or you a gift on your birthday, I'd reciprocate because it's just right to me. If it's not a very close friend or family member, and you don't attend the party, I wouldn't feel obligated to give a gift. A nice card would be a sweet gesture, just to let the person know you're thinking of them, but that might not set well with a child.

    9. Anonymous says:

      I'll be controversial πŸ˜‰

      We don't give gifts when the kids can't attend (close friend or not) and, the kids buy the gifts out of their money πŸ™‚

      Gifts are not an obligation or a duty. They are a gift. If the kids don't have the funds to buy a gift, they make a gift or give one of their favorite toys or make a special treat or do something special for that person.

      This whole idea that we need to give gifts to acknowledge special events can be very financially draining and we've just decided not to "buy" into it.

      3 of our children have birthday's all the same week and they share mostly all the same friends. We've worked it out that our birthday parties are family OR they have a special sleep over another time during the year. There is no way I want anyone else to feel as though their child has to come up with 3 gifts just to attend a birthday party!

    10. Sandy Cruser says:

      I have several children and the idea of spending large amounts of money for gifts is boggling. I set a budget on how much they can spend. I also limit the outside activities (birthday parties included). If they are unable to attend ,we gracefully decline the invite. If it is someone close to the family we still purchase a gift.
      My daughter now posts no gifts please on her children's birthday invites. They parties are for the fun.

    11. Kristy @ Master Your Card says:

      For me it depends on the person. If it's a close friend or relative, I may send a gift or at the very least a gift card with their birthday card. However, I don't make the gift extravagant.

      I don't have kids, so this may change when I do, but I don't think it's necessary to give a gift if you missed the party per se. Now, I personally believe in giving gifts when I receive them, so if I got a gift from someone for my birthday, whether or not I could attend their party, I would still give them a gift because it's the polite thing to do. But, if these people have never given you a gift, then I don't think it's necessary to give a gift if you're missing the party.

    12. Jennifer says:

      Unless they are close family or I have a tradition of exchanging gifts, I would not give a gift to someone whose party I could not make. I don't believe that it is expected. I've never heard of that except for weddings, and hey, we DO NOT need to increase further the hoorah that attends a young child's birthday these days.

    13. The Martin Family says:

      First of all, I think it's different when you are talking about children vs. adults. If I got invited to an adult's birthday party or wedding or something like that, I would likely send a gift even if I didn't attend.

      But kids are different. My child was invited to the party of every child in her preschool class…which I think is nuts. Not only is she not really friends with them all, but no way am I going to feel obligated to get each one a gift if we choose not to attend. For us, we have enough gifting obligations without adding the burden of every other child we know to the list.

      I will say this, if we attend, we always take a gift, even if it is a small one.

    14. If we are unable to attend a child's party, I send a gift only if the child is a close friend or relative.

      Got a good laugh though from a friend who said she declined a mutual acquaintance's child's party. The acquaintance (we all go to the same church) said that it would be fine to leave the gift in the church nursery and would pick it up there. She just assumed that the friend would provide a gift anyway. Um, no.

    15. Anonymous says:

      Only if it's a close family friend. Just an invitation that everyone in the class received then no.

    16. Chief Family Officer says:

      Thanks, everyone! This has been fascinating, especially to see that I'm so much in the minority. I guess I'm now in the "sometimes" category, and now feel free to not give a gift depending on the circumstances. Thanks again!