Do I Have To Buy My Cousin A Registry Gift For Their RENTAL?

plutos-housewarming-movie-poster-1947-1010686166Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

My cousin and his girlfriend are moving in together and are having a house warming party (for a rented apartment, mind you). This was fine with me right up until the point where they sent out their gift registry along with a hefty list of preferred colors separated by room (i.e. Red kitchen accesories, purple bathroom thingies, etcetera). I am really put off by the whole thing, specially considering that at my very simple, registry-free wedding my cousin didn’t get me anything himself, but rode along with my aunt and uncle’s gift. Am I being overly touchy about it, or am I right to have “EFF THAT” as my first thought? I mean, I’m gonna have to get them another present when they get married (along with bachlorette and wedding shower ones)?
Thank you very much! 
Off The Registry
Official Etiquette
As we’ve mentioned before, Miss Manners does not consider a housewarming an appropriate time for anything but token gifts, and that goes double for non-permanent quarters, such as a rental.
Our Take

Victoria: Okay, so yeah, this is a no, this is not okay, for me.
Jaya: I’m gonna agree with you there. I think I’d be okay if they had bought their first house together, but for a RENTAL this is too much.
Victoria: Yeah, and I would say if they bought a house and then got married a year later, I would probably still get a present, but it would be MUCH smaller.
Jaya: Definitely. And I think this is another example of people expecting every life moment deserves a gift.
I am all for celebrating more life moments than weddings.
Victoria: Yesss. Not every moment needs a huge gift.
Jaya: I think there are a lot of important milestones that don’t get as much attention, and too much emphasis is put on pairing up or having kids. However, the goal should probably be fewer presents all around.
Victoria: I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love gifts, but like, token gifts are a thing because no one wants to shell out $50 every time someone wants to feel good about their accomplishments. Bring a bottle of wine, a plant, some jam. And like, I’ve said to people who are going to be buying a place soon- wait to make major household purchases until you do actually buy a house, so that your stuff will fit THAT house, not the apartment you had 3 apartments ago.
Jaya: Exactly. You can’t be buying Kitchenaid mixers any time someone rents a new apartment. I will also say, however, that it doesn’t matter that this cousin did not get LW their own gift for their wedding. Or that LW’s wedding was simple and registry-free and the cousins has a color coded list.
Victoria: I mean, I guess everyone has their own internal calculations and if you need to take that kind of thing into account, no one will know (unless you write it into a letter to an etiquette site!)
Jaya: Haha yes! LW is absolutely allowed to have “eff that” as a first thought because, well, you’re allowed to think however you want as long as you don’t call up your cousin and tell them off.
Victoria: Haha yeah. And like, no one knows your financial situation. Maybe you are about to have a baby and your budget isn’t quite as elastic as it might have been. And maybe this cousin is younger and at the time of the LW’s wedding, it was appropriate that he latch onto his parents’ gift.
Jaya: Exactly. No gift giving/non-gift giving should ever come out of that sense of obligation or “well he didn’t get me anything 2 years ago so I’m not getting him anything now.” If you’re going to be going to a housewarming party and find the registry off putting, bring a box of cookies or wine or a bouquet, same as you would for any party.
Victoria: Exactly. And maybe if people don’t bring anything off the registry, people will be like, oh, no one is into this, and then they will tell their friends and no one will do it anymore.
Jaya: One can only hope!
Victoria: The thing with a registry for weddings is that it’s ultimately an organizational tool because the event itself is so much bigger than most life events that people need to have gift ideas without 200 people calling the happy couple. Are 200 people really coming to your housewarming?(And obviously, sometimes people have registries for small weddings, which is fine, but thats because weddings=registry in our culture even when they are unnecessary)
Jaya: You’re so smart about this. But to play devil’s advocate (ugh), maybe this couple isn’t planning on getting married and can’t afford to buy a house anytime soon. Maybe this is their big moment, and they’re trying to treat it as such. I understand that, and as long as they understand that nobody is obliged to buy anything off a registry, there’s little harm in what they’re doing. That’s probably not the case but I like to believe the best.
Victoria: There’s generally no harm in HAVING one, and I think if you want, you can make one and then only give it to people who ask for it. And honestly, do a little white lying and be like, oh well, this is our wish list of things we want to buy for the house eventually. It will go down a lot better. And I definitely keep ideas of things O want for my birthday and christmas throughout the year on, say, pinterest, so that when my mom inevitably asks, I have some ideas. So it’s basically the same thing, and I think thats okay. But issuing an invitation and having “housewarming registry” stuff all over it is a bit…greedy, because it makes it look like you are only having a party to get gifts.

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Are Housewarming Registries Tacky?

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What are your thoughts regarding housewarming gift registries, are they tacky or no? I think yes but a friend thinks no.

Sincerely,

Confusing New Territory

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners discusses the history of housewarming parties, which were traditionally thrown when someone had deemed his or her move permanent. However, she says, “suddenly, housewarming parties are being given for every move, and not just temporarily rented quarters, but dormitory rooms and vacation sublets.” And while many would bring token gifts to congratulate the new homeowners, “hoping to furnish one’s quarters on other people’s budgets is not a proper reason for giving a party.”

Our Take:

Jaya: Oooh I have so many thoughts on this. My initial reaction is “eww, tacky,” but that’s pretty much my reaction to any hint of asking for presents. Like, it took me a while to get over the fact that I even had a wedding registry.

Victoria: Well, wedding and baby registries came into existence because weddings and baby showers were already events where people bought presents. And a lot of people were buying you presents at the same time, so it made sense to make a list of what you need so that the chaos would be a bit organized.

Jaya: Yeah. You know people are going to get presents for you, so you just make sure you don’t get four waffle irons. But anyway, thinking about it, I think in the right situation it’s pretty great. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how weddings are the only instance in most peoples lives that they get this sort of celebration for, and where it’s OK to have a registry, but the fact is that a lot of people aren’t going to get married. What if you’re single and you buy yourself a house? Is that any less of a thing to celebrate than two people getting married? Or what if you’re a couple but just don’t feel like getting married, but still achieve some stuff in your life that you think is important?

Victoria: I think they are tacky, not so much because they are asking for presents, but they are asking for presents in an instance when no one was planning on getting you a present, so now they feel like they have to? Obviously, hey, maybe you won’t get married, but you do get a PhD or buy yourself a house and why shouldn’t you get gifts for those things to? BUT the thing is, where do you then stop with all the gifts? What if you throw a big housewarming when you buy a house at age 25 and then get married at 30? Do the people who gave you housewarming gifts not have to get you a wedding present?

Jaya: You wouldn’t plan on getting your friend a present if they just move into like, a home they bought that they’re going to be in forever? Like Miss Manners says, I’m not getting you a toaster for having a dorm room, but I feel like housewarming gifts are pretty common, and if I’m gonna spend $30-50 on something like that, I’d rather do it on a small kitchen appliance they need or some nice hand towels than a bottle of wine and flowers.

Victoria: I think that most people are only really willing to give a person one major gift per lifetime (aside from parents, siblings, grandparents, etc), if that makes sense. Yeah, there are baby registries, but aside from extremely close relatives, most people give you an outfit or a toy or something else fairly small, or go in together as a group to buy a carseat or whatever. (I might be wrong about this though!).

Jaya: But if you’re doing one gift per lifetime, this could be it! If you know that you’re not gonna get married and you don’t want kids, I think a housewarming is a perfectly acceptable time to give that gift. Though you’re right, if you’re signing up for some registry every five years of your life, that’s going to come off as greedy.

Victoria: I think for housewarming registries to be acceptable, there would have to be a MAJOR cultural shift in expectations, and we are just not there yet. The root of the “rudeness” or “tackiness” about housewarming registries is that you are asking for gifts from people who were not planning on getting you a gift in the first place, which comes off as looking ridiculous. And if you are sending the registry information with the invitation, then that is RUDE—it makes it look like you are only interested in what someone is going to give you rather than wanting them to come celebrate with you. At least with weddings, you can have a website where you can include registry info as just part of a ton of supplemental information so that it never becomes the focus. And with baby registries, someone else should be hosting the event and thus requests for gifts are coming from the generosity of someone else.

Jaya: Yeah, if you do one it’s a place where you need to tread really, really carefully. As a side note, I remember my sister-in-law did a really big wedding registry, and ended up having to keep most of the stuff at her parents’ place because they did not have room in their tiny New York apartment, and figured when they moved into a house they’d take it all back. And then lo and behold she gets pregnant, so they just took all the stuff they couldn’t fit back to the store and got baby stuff instead. So that’s a built-in baby registry right there! You might not even need one!

Victoria: Honestly, celebrating someone buying a house is kind of like…congratulations, you have enough money to make a down payment? And therefore a probably a lot better off than a lot of your guests so, I should spend my money buying you a present to celebrate that rather than saving up for my own down payment?

Jaya: I think looking at it like “congratulations, you had enough money to make a down payment” is just as ridiculous as any of the other reasons we do registries. For a wedding it’s “congratulations, you met someone you like enough to live with forever,” and I don’t see why a relationship is that much more of an accomplishment. And especially since wedding registries were the original housewarming registries! I think it’s much tackier for a married couple to set up a registry asking for nicer versions of stuff they already have since they’ve been living together (which, yes, I am doing and I’m tacky and whatever) than a single person to set one up for their first house.

Victoria: While I think that we should be celebrating other accomplishments other than weddings and babies, I also think the bigger issue is instead of adding more “gift giving opportunities” (as my mom likes to call them), we (as a society) should be steering the focus away from gifts more. It’s just getting ridiculous, and even thinking about housewarming, and graduation, and birthday, and first car, and first job, and retirement, and funeral registries on top of everything else is just EXHAUSTING.

Jaya: That’s a great point. As a society we tend to associate celebration with gift giving. You get presents on occasions when people are celebrating you, when that really doesn’t need to be the case. So now someone sees a wedding and thinks “they’re being celebrated more because they get a registry, why can’t I be celebrated for my accomplishments?” And everyone should be celebrated for their accomplishments! We can just step away from celebrating with gifts!

Victoria: Yesss, who needs gifts? I bought myself a KitchenAid stand mixer and a Le Creuset Dutch Oven so I am already set for life.