Birthday Party Etiquette and Gift

Updated on October 01, 2011
H.W. asks from Canyon Country, CA
10 answers

Morning Mamas, I have a few questions about my son’s upcoming birthday party. He is turning 6 and while he’s had a pretty big birthday bash every year this is the first year that both of these questions have come up and I’m just not sure how to handle them. So wow, now that I actually get ready to type this first question out I realize it’s a huge mess lol. So I’ll try to keep it short and sweet but explain as much as possible. My son’s 6th birthday party is next weekend and normally, his father and I (we are no longer together, we split up when our son was 3 months old but have remained friends and do as much as we can together for our son) go in together for our sons present and the card will read from Mommy and Daddy. I have been in a relationship with somebody for almost 3 years now and we have moved in with each other earlier this year (my son lives with us 5 nights a week, the other 2 with his Dad). My boyfriend has not attended one of my son’s big birthday parties in the past but will be at this one. (Because of other family drama, I have two parties for my son, one for my side of the family, his Dad’s family and some of my son’s friend that he has grown up with and a smaller party for my step Dad and close family friends who no longer speak to my mother) Usually my boyfriend has been at the smaller party but this year he will be at the big party. So for the first question: I bought my son two DS games for his birthday present (I do all the birthday planning and shopping, my ex just gives me his half of the expenses), now should I wrap one game and have it come from me and Daddy and then wrap the other one from me and my boyfriend (who my son adores) or do I give both games from me and Daddy and get something else with my boyfriend or should my boyfriend get his own gift (we have given my son gifts from the two of us before)? I’m thinking if I only include one game in the total of the birthday expenses my ex would only be paying for one and then the other I can do from me and my boyfriend- what are your thoughts? As for the second question, this year, we have invited about 16 of his friends from school and his soccer team (for a total of 24 kids at this party) and as you know goodie bags and such get’s rather expensive. Some of the parents are dropping off their child for the party and some are staying and some of the one’s staying will also be bringing their other children. I don’t have an exact head count for the siblings that will be coming but I know that I do not have enough goodie bags for all of them. Should I go out and buy more stuff to make extra goodie bags or should the kids that are actually friends with my son only get the goodie bags? I’m not sure the proper protocol on this situation as this is the first year we are running into this problem but we are getting close to hitting our budget for this party and I’m not sure I can handle the extra expense of buying more stuff to make extra goodie bags (we are having a lego theme and I have been buying the stuff for the goodie bags for months now so that the final cost was not so hard to swallow at all once and having to buy more legos right now is a bit tight on the budget). Thanks for your help ladies!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your responses. The party turned out pretty awesome and everyone had a great time. The present issue was not an issue at all just me over thinking it. We ended up giving one game from Mommy and Daddy and one game from mommy and boyfriend, and everybody was fine with that =). As for the goodie bags, I re-planned the games for the party and was able to take back some of the lego stuff I had already bought so that I could buy more goodie bag stuff and still have fun games to play. Of the 24 kids invited, 17 officially RSVPd (some with siblings) so I made a total of 32 of everything. Unfortunately, only 10 of those 17 actually showed up and no siblings came- so now I have a ton of left over goodie bags. I’m going to try to return some of it and get my money back, or sell it on ebay. It all worked out okay though, my son had a great birthday party and all the kids that did show up seemed to have a blast. My kitchen table looks like a Lego factory now since the birthday boy had to play with all of his new toys when we got home from the party =) Thank you again for the suggestions and the advice! I greatly appreciate it! Now on to start planning next year’s party =D

Featured Answers



answers from Oklahoma City on

Don't do goodie bags, I just don't get the whole concept...why give the kids a present for coming to someone else's birthday party? I only have one friend even do them and everyone looked at them like they were odd.

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answers from Washington DC on

Unfortunately it's too late to back out on having siblings come. I would give them the same goodie bags. The alternative, I guess, is a "sibling" goodie bag -- the sibs are only there because the parents are staying, right? But you may have meltdowns upon departure. The other question about gifts: Just give one game from you and dad, and one from your boyfriend. You're overthinking it.

One other thought for next year: Two parties, one with 24 kids PLUS adults and sibs? That's a lot of party, a lot of gifts and fuss for everyone involved. As your son gets older I'd scale things way back. Kids are often very happy to have, rather than a party, an outing with a few good friends -- going out to play laser tag with three of his closest buddies would probably cost you less than a party for 24 kids plus adults and sibs and goodie bags and food. Also, he will come to assume he always has multiple parties, multiple gifts, etc. and that will get excessive over time. I understand there is a family reason you have two parties, but why not a single party and then dinner with the one smaller side of the family? Are they the type to get all insulted? I would hope they'd see that all the parties and fuss are not always the best thing for a kid, and that birthdays don't always have to equal a party; why not ask your step-dad to DO something special with your son next year instead of doing a whole party for that side? Your step-dad may be thrilled to take your son to a movie and the Lego store, just the two of them, for instance. It's a thought. Generally I'd ramp down the parties next time, and if you do have parties, be sure to put that only the invited kid is the guest -- "parents can drop off" and "please, no siblings"!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If your ex gives you half the money for the 2 games, I see that you have two options. Wrap up both games and give them as 'from Mommy and Daddy'. Or wrap each separately, one is 'from Daddy' and one is from 'from Mommy'. I'd let your ex have some input. As for the boyfriend, I'd ask him to shop on his own and have that gift just from him.

I'd also suggest you tell the ex that it's gotten complicated and that you want him to shop for himself and his gift can be just from him. Same thing for boyfriend...

As for the goodie bags, kids that RSVP for the party get a bag (with their name on it), those that do not RSVP do not get a bag. Simple. I'd have a bowl of candy or something for the non-RSVP'ers to grab from on the way out.

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answers from New York on


If you and your ex are friends and he like your BF (assuming he's met him), I would sign all three names to the card. If your ex isn't OK with that, then I would have BF get a separate gift just from him.

As for the goodie bags... I would never assume that my child's sibling would receive a goody bag, but having recently thrown a party I assure you that the CHILDREN will assume they are getting something. Just a suggestion... give the invitees the primo gift bags and then do something much smaller for the siblings (chocolate lollipop range). That way, they come away with something, but you aren't breaking your budget.

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answers from New York on

Orintal trading company! I just got 72 glider planes for $8.00. If you have time to wait for shipping, you can get lots of fun stuff. Sometimes the unit is a gross (144 pieces) then you won't have to worry about having enough. I also got 100 temporary tattoos for a really cheap price. I must say you're a really great mom to have all those parties for your son. When my parents divorced it was up to my dad to celebrate my birthday with his side of the family. Now when I celebrate my kids birthdays I invite everyone to one party. If they don't like it they don't have to come. Thankfully enough time has gone by so everyone comes. My parents even get along laughing about their grand kids. In any event, thumbs up to you for doing all of that planning for your child :)

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answers from San Francisco on

Have bf give his own gift--you do the games from you and dad. Bag the idea for goodie bags-if you don't have enough, there will be hurt feelings no matter if the sibling was invited or not. I would try to get the best head count and assume that all the siblings will come and do it that way if you want goodie bags. Basically all kids get one or no one gets one. GL


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answers from Washington DC on

Hold the goodie bags til you see the kids. Then have a few spare bags and redistribute a few things if you can to accommodate all the kids. I would give all or give none. I would talk to the parents of the spare kids. Did they ask in advance or did it recently come up? If the invite was for 24 then it should have been for 24 only. No siblings.

Talk to your ex about how to handle the game. Would he prefer 1 and 1 or what? Or would your SO like to buy his own thing? I often like to buy my own thing because I like to shop for special things that mean something between me and the kids.



answers from Washington DC on

I would have boyfriend give his own gift. Like a game from Dad, a game from you, and then another game or DS accessory from boyfriend. Having your name on two gifts with different people may be confusing to others.

Goody bags: For me its all or none. Giving a treat to just some will cause hurt feelings.



answers from Portland on

First, the simple one, goodie bags. That is way too many kids to buy goodie bags for. The expense makes it a no brainer in my book. My grandchildren have had birthday parties every year until this year. They're 8 and 11 and their mom has not given goodie bags. One year they had water play and they were given the inexpensive water toys to take home. (a small plastic gun, a fabric water ball purchased in quantity) That is the only time that I remember them giving out goodies. Another year for my granddaughter's birthday we blew bubbles and each girl was given a large bubble wand and a trinket to wear from the Dollar Store. And none of the parties had more than 8-10 guests.

I suggest there would be hard feelings if the siblings are left out of receiving good bags. You could have goodie bags for son's friends and have some other small something for sibs. But if you're giving bags everyone needs to get something.

With that many guests and not knowing the exact number of kids it would make sense to not give goodie bags. Perhaps incorporate some inexpensive things from a party store or Dollar store to use during the party. You could still use the legos by bunching them together and having the kids build something using a specific number of legos. Then they could take their creations home.

Do whatever you want as far as gifts for your son. I would give him a separate gift from the boyfriend but whether or not you're included in that gift doesn't matter. If there is competition between the father and your boyfriend I'd make the gifts different but of approximately the same value. Sounds like you bought 2 games intending that they both be from Mommy and Daddy. I'd stick with that plan just because that number of games or value is what you traditionally do. You don't want the father to feel like he's taking second place now that you're living with your boyfriend.



answers from Philadelphia on

I have to disagree with the other responses. Since you and your BF are a couple I think the gift should come from both of you. I also think it is great that one or two gifts are coming from Mommy and Daddy.

I remember when my friend was recently married and her husband asked her what SHE was getting for his mom and dad for Christmas. She said whatever you got them is from us:).

Re: goodie bags... Could you make a goodie bags with a couple of pieces of candy for the siblings that attend?

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