Is Throwing Your Own Birthday Party Rude?

If people really thought throwing your own birthday was rude, they just wouldn’t come.

So here’s the thing. Technically, according to Miss Manners and other old school etiquette experts, throwing or organizing your own birthday celebration is rude. This is one of those rare areas where I fundamentally disagree (even though I see where they are coming from) and think it is one of those sections of etiquette that are changing due to different social norms.

The reason they consider it to be rude is that there is a traditional expectation that when you are invited to a birthday party, you will bring a birthday present and if you are throwing the party for yourself, then you are actually asking people to bring you gifts, which is not polite. In discussions of adult birthday parties, party poopers also like to bring up that it is all about honoring your ownself and being a bit “me me me,” rather than throwing a party in order to simply entertain guests. Miss Manners, herself, is firmly against adult birthday parties.  The general suggestion is that if a person is to have a birthday party, it must be thrown by a spouse, significant other, or other friend.

However, I find, at least among my social circle, that people are incredibly busy these days and while they might bow out of a “just because” party, most people try to prioritize birthday parties. There is also now the expectation that if you wish to celebrate your birthday, you will organize it in someway (spouses and significant others do often do this instead, but it would almost be weird if a friend said “oh let me throw you a birthday party this year”). Also, in my experience and region, birthday gifts for adults between friends are very rare (except maybe a gag gift?), and so there is no expectation that people will bring gifts. With our wide ranging social circles of friends and colleagues, you are also probably the only one who knows who you would want to invite to celebrate with you. So throwing your own thing is absolutely normal and polite.

There are some things that you can do, though, that will make your birthday party impolite:

  • Expecting birthday gifts, especially by making and distributing a registry. (Also don’t mention gifts anywhere in the invitation! Even to say no gifts).
  • With a dinner at a restaurant, you are going to mostly want to invite very close friends so it doesn’t seem like you are inviting people just so they will chip in for your dinner. If you want to invite a bunch of people, have a party at a bar or throw it at your house.
  • If it is your social circle’s custom to all split the birthday person’s dinner, then don’t argue too much when time comes to pay the check. Just say thank you graciously. That being said, always be prepared to pay your own way and don’t pick a restaurant out of the normal price range of restaurants your crowd frequents.
  • Be careful how you phrase invitations, “please join me for dinner at Bistro” sounds more like you are planning on paying for everyone than “I am celebrating my birthday at Bistro and I would love to see you if you can make it.”

I think what causes so much controversy over this issue is that it is something that really has evolved over the last decade or so. No one bats an eye at a Bride and Groom hosting their own wedding to celebrate their own marriage (which decades ago, was Not Done) and I see adult birthday parties as pretty much the same thing. The phrase “just because everyone does something doesn’t make it right” doesn’t actually apply to social customs. Social customs and etiquette are based on what everyone does, and if everyone starts doing something differently than the way it was done 100 years ago, then it becomes correct.

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11 thoughts on “Is Throwing Your Own Birthday Party Rude?

  1. Hi, is it considered rude today for someone to throw herself her own 50th birthday spa day at an expensive resort and expect everyone to pay. In addition, gifts would be expected. She didn’t even say happy 50th to me and blew off my 49th to go be an extra in a magic mike movie filming. I got thrown over by her hormones.

  2. It could be rude if I add on a invitations ” you’re paying your own dinner!”?? I don’t think its enough for people to understand the “”I’m celebrating my birthday…”” Any better ideas ? I’m trying to celebrate my better half bday but I don’t have the budget or perhaps spend $ for some freeloaders of family/friends members !

    • You can do these sorts of birthday dinners, where everyone splits the bill, if its the normal thing for your friends and family. If they usually pay for everyone, they won’t be happy that you aren’t doing the same. And it’s very awkward to word an invitation to say “you are paying for yourself.” It’s better to say something like, “I am going to celebrate my birthday at Restaurant and I’d love if you were able to join me.” But if the person isn’t used to paying their own way at a birthday, they aren’t going to be able to read that correctly. And you certainly can’t expect presents when everyone is paying for their own dinner.

      This is definitely one of those things where you have to go with the norm of your social circle. And, honestly, if you are referring to your family and friends as freeloaders….do you really WANT to be celebrating with them anyway?

  3. I’m thinking of throwing myself a 51st birthday bash – only because my 50th was a little disappointing, and also………because it’s a little unusual. I am planning on an open bar though!

    • Careful, an open bar could take you over budget. People tend to over celebrate at the bar when it’s free. Consider a cash bar. Guests are more considerate when they pay for their own drinks. IJS

  4. Hello, My wife and I work for the same company. Originally I was going to throw her a surprise party , invite our friends & coworkers. As I started to plan it, she sent out a social media invitations to co-workers and our friends, to join celebrate her 50th B-day at large bar near us. But I am not invited. I’m I wrong to upset or angry that she didn’t invite her own spouse or am I just being selfish?

    • I would assume that she considered you automatically invited and didn’t need to send you a special invitation? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a spouse specifically sending invitations to their spouse, or even someone sending it to their significant other. If she’s said, hey, I’m going to do my birthday at [bar], then I would see that as your invitation. The only thing I could see as not inviting you is if she hadn’t mentioned it to you at all. Just ask her!

      • Thank you Victoria, Unfortunately I don’t think that was her assumption. She advised me she was going out with friends that night.

        Thank you for reply.

  5. I know a couple who is doing this. It’s hard not to see it as their typical conceit. The two of them think the world revolves around them. Nobody is willing to call them out on it. They would all rather keep talking behind their backs. I’m the only one who is open about what I think. Anyway, I won’t be going. Being around the two of them gives me a headache. Ironically, a migraine is my go to excuse for why I don’t attend things they will be at!

  6. Hello I am throwing my own birthday party, and all I want is to have my friends there. I do not live close to them and am planning on paying for everything, is this rude. I know everyone will not be able to make it.

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