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.

You Do Not Have A Year To Send Thank You Notes

no-letters-webThe other day, while on our various rounds to wedding websites because we like to see how things are done, we stumbled upon YET ANOTHER person saying something along the lines of “well whatever, even Miss Manners says you have up to a year after the wedding to send thank you notes.” We’ve addressed this before. Miss Manners has called it “slander.” (FYI she says: “It is a popular young brides’ tale (as opposed to an old wives’ tale) that one can take up to a year writing thank-you letters for wedding presents.This is not true, and never has been. Thank-you notes are due right after presents are received.”) And yet the myth persists. Today, we try to figure out just who the hell is perpetuating it.

Victoria: First off, Miss Manners is the STRICTEST etiquette expert. She doesn’t even like registries and will call it a “shopping list.” She pretty much thinks you should psychically figure out what people are getting you and send the note ahead of time so it arrives the same time the gift does, lol.

Jaya: Yeah, and that’s insane. But now I’m worried. If enough people think that you have a year, is that gonna become the rule? Hahah “worried.” Obviously there are bigger issues, but still.

Victoria: I mean, we can only do so much.

Jaya: I personally do not care about settling on a specific time frame. I’ve gotten letters late and it’s been perfectly fine (more on that in another post). I’m just frustrated that people seem to get tied up in the rules and forget about looking at this from a common sense perspective. Waiting a year to send thank you notes just does not make sense. Would you feel very thanked and appreciated if you got a note a year later?

Victoria: Exactly. Besides, then you just have them hanging over your head for a year.

Jaya: I’m guessing if you’re the type of person to think a year is ok, you wouldn’t feel like it’s “hanging over your head.” I  mean maybe they are, but I always felt like if you really wanted to thank someone, you’d do it quickly whether “etiquette” says so or not.

Victoria: Yeah! Like why would you bother sending thank you notes a year after the wedding? At that point no one even remembers, and the people who do are already mad at you about it.

Jaya: Hahahahaha. Ok, so where the hell did this idea that you have a year came from?

Victoria: I think it came from the idea that you do, technically, have a year to send a gift, and people got confused about what you had a year to do. And if someone sends you a gift 8 months later, you are going to be sending out that thank you note 8 months after the wedding. But not for gifts that got there around the wedding! Although, I feel that waiting a year to give a gift is kind of dumb too.

Jaya: Yeah, that seems impractical.

Victoria: On the other hand, maybe it’s wise to wait—especially if you are going to a celeb wedding—they might be divorced by the time you get around to it.

Jaya: MISS MANNERS MADE THAT SAME QUIP ABOUT CELEBRITIES AND QUICK MARRIAGES!

Victoria: I have been reading her column regularly.

Jaya: Maybe it’s that people planning weddings are looking for any excuse not to have to do something.

Victoria: Haha yeah, but that’s a total bridezilla move, to write off something for the courtesy and happiness of your guests/loved ones in order to make something easier for yourself.

Jaya: I have noticed another trend of waiting to send thank you notes so you can include photos. Most of the ones I’ve gotten 4-5 months out have prints of the bride/groom and any of me that the photographer managed to snap. Which is nice, but there is also no reason why you can’t do both.

Victoria: I honestly think most people would prefer a plain old thank you note on time to stewing for 6 months waiting for a photo- which 75% of the guests will throw away. And with a picture of the bride and groom, unless you are super close- what are you going to do with it???

Jaya: Yeah! I am not gonna have my 2nd cousin’s wedding photo framed in my apartment.