Milestone Party Planning Etiquette

by Barbara Bean-Mellinger
Consider whether the guest of honor will really enjoy a milestone birthday party.

Consider whether the guest of honor will really enjoy a milestone birthday party.

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Hosting a birthday party is a wonderful gesture that's enjoyable to plan. When it comes to celebrating milestone birthdays, many considerations help to make or break the party. It's all too easy to go overboard, turning a celebration into a circus instead. By considering the personality of the guest of honor, and following some etiquette tips, your party will be perfect for everyone.

Party or Not

Before planning a milestone birthday party, decide whether the birthday girl wants a party. If she has repeatedly said she doesn't, respect her wishes and don't host a party for her. She may not like to be the center of attention, or she may not want to celebrate a milestone birthday that announces her age to one and all.

Asking for Gifts

It's never appropriate to suggest gifts on an invitation. Etiquette experts say it's tacky, no matter how it's worded. It's OK to write, "no gifts, please," if you don't want guests to bring gifts. Guests should respect that request and refrain from bringing a gift. They can always give the gift at another time. If a guest asks you for gift suggestions after receiving the invitation, it is appropriate to make suggestions at that point, or to tell the guest if the birthday girl has registered a "wish list" at a store or online site.

Gag Gifts

People love to give gag gifts for milestone birthdays of adults turning 30, 40, 50 or 60. According to etiquette experts, it is OK to say "gag gifts only" on the invitation. Before you do, ensure gag gifts make the guest of honor laugh, rather than make her uncomfortable. If she doesn't have a good sense of humor in general, don't give her a gag gift. If she doesn't like being the center of attention, gag gifts that make guests roar with laughter and tease her, might be enjoyed by the guests, but will not be fun for her. Consider that gag gifts about old age are funnier when you're turning 30, than they are at 60 when the birthday girl is closer to the age of really needing a cane.

Paying for the Party

The host of the party normally pays for the party. It is in poor taste to ask guests to pay for their meals or to "chip in" to foot the bill. It's better to throw a low-key party that you can afford than a lavish party that requires funds from others. Of course, if another friend offers to share expenses, that's a different story. If you take the friend up on her offer, list on the invitation that the party is being thrown by the two of you jointly.

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