Sweet 16 Party & Gifts

Updated on June 03, 2011
S.T. asks from Huntington, NY
11 answers

OK so my DD will be 15 over the summer and she's just started to get invited to sweet 16 parties. She has two this month.

First a rant - what are parents thinking? She's 16 - this is not a wedding, she didn't undertake some overwhelming amount of work and effort to accomplish a tremendous honor. She's managed to fly under the radar long enough to escape having her parents wring her neck - and she's had another birthday. Country club? Disc jockey? Really? What's her wedding going to be like? and what about parents like us who thinking going into debt for a birthday party is completely ridiculous since we're saving for college in two years - how do we escape the crazy train without our DD hating us?

OK - enough of that. I need gift ideas! Here in the NY area they go crazy for this kind of thing. Catered events - 75 - 100 guests, expensive dresses, disc jockeys, dancing. If you haven't been to a NY area wedding you might not understand but these sweet 16 parties are more elaborate than most weddings in other parts of the country. The weddings are completely insane - but that's a different topic.

Cash seems to be the gift to give - so $50? $75? She has two of them this month - and there will just be more in the year to come. Personally I prefer to give a gift - it's something that can remind them of this time in thier life years from now. Any ideas?

Finally - we have a year to talk my daughter out of this concept. Trying to convince her that a vacation such as a cruise & she can bring along a friend will be so much more fun (plus we get a vacation too) - but she's not biting. Any ideas?

Thanks mamas Mostly I jsut wanted to vent - but will take any ideas you have. ;o)

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So What Happened?

jsut to follow up - we really can't afford to do whatever - we take "minivan vacations" as we call them - drive to the mountains or go visit family, stop at an amusement park along the way. My DH is a NYPD sergeant (public SERVANT as he likes to emphasize) ;o) and I work part-time. We are solidly middle class, we pay our bills on time and do not carry credit card balances - we have modest savings and are trying to sock away money for college. The last time we got on a plane for vacation was Disney 5+ yrs ago. There are families who don't have the big parties and we won't be - but we have talked about going on a cruise for years so maybe we'll do that. For my 16th b-day party (in 1975...!) we had a BBQ in the backyard, 4 or 5 of my friends and my grandmother. I got a kodak instamatic 110 camera. That was it!

More Answers


answers from Norfolk on

There are no debutantes or quinceañeras in our family.
If you don't want to do this - you don't have to.
There's no way CPS will come knocking on your door because you didn't throw a massive party for your daughters 16th birthday.
I don't even understand why you are trying to negotiate with her over what she will accept.
You are her parent - not her Fairy Godmother.
If Cinderella wants massive parties and fancy ball gowns (and senior prom is plenty expensive as it is), she'd better be getting a job so she can afford them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

$50 cash, visa gift card or Itunes, Amazon.. Gift cards..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I understand your rant and I have seen the tv show with the sweet 16's which are over the top.

Maybe, just maybe, these parties are not over the top. I don't know. We've had several parties at our country club with DJ and small buffet and they were not that elaborate. The word "country club" is what makes people assume it is so elaborate.

As for gifts, If you don't want to do $$ which is understandable. What about a nice (SMALL) piece of Waterford crystal or something like that? They have a lot of small items that are very nice and you can pick them up $50 and under or of course way more expensive.

My daughter turned 16 in December and she surprised us by opting not to have the country club party. I guess it was because she has had a few already and is done with that idea.

All she wanted to do was go out to eat with her boyfriend, we had cake and then the next day she was in line at the DMV, got the license and her car.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I didn't even have a sweet 16 party... I have had maybe 5 birthday parties my whole life, all the others were just family outings or sitting around the table blowing candles out on a cake with the family.

Really, it sounds like you can afford to go all out if you want. Do what you can reasonably afford and what your daughter deserves. I personally think over indulgence and extravagance can lead to spoiled rottenness, but that's just me.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How outrageous! I'm with you on this. Thank goodness I don't have a daughter (LOL!). I don't know what is an acceptable cash amount or what kind of gift would be meaningful to today's 16 YO girls, but I have a suggestion about the party (or rather, party prevention!). And luckily you have time on your side right now...

You could decide now what would be an acceptable amount to spend on her birthday (ie; if you had the party of YOUR choice, or if she invited a friend on vacation with you), and then she starts saving now to pay for the rest. Then spend the next month having her research with you what the party SHE wants costs, and let her see for herself, with her own money on the line, how much it would be and whether it's even affordable with your combined resources. Set a deadline months in advance of the party date by which she'd have to save a certain amount. Remember, reservations for big events require substantial deposits!

She'll hopefully wake up to the reality better that way. She may find that she is either not willing or able (teen jobs are hard to come by now, too) to work hard enough to make the necessary money--while maintaining her grades. If it's that important to her and she is committed enough to making this happen, then let her make that choice. But I would stand firm on a few things: You should not go into debt for this party, she cannot exceed an agreed upon budget with set amounts that you each contribute, and she needs to have saved a certain amount by a certain date to show she is able and committed to doing this.

Maybe she'll decide that a vacation with a friend is a better deal for her! :) Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I don't even know what to say......for my 16th Birthday, we had a small BBQ with mostly family and a couple of friends. I don't even remember what I got for gifts, but nothing big.......YIKES!!! I hate to think what it's going to be when my daughter turns 16 (7 years from now)......

I think the cruise is a good idea - hope you can get her on board!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from El Paso on

With the number of parties you'll be "looking forward" to in the next year or so, maybe you should think about setting a precedent with the first one and have a "signature gift" that is reasonably priced. A nice set of stud earrings, maybe?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I agree with you and the really sad part is that this is not teaching the poor girl anything about responsibility or value (I could go on). For a gift, I'd probably do $50 value. Maybe you can get her a gift certificate to the spa to get her nails done (assuming she does that too!).
As far as your daughter goes, I would just explain that these types of parties are really expensive, and that isn't how you and her dad choose to spend the money. Explain you will buy her a nice gift she can keep or take a special trip - but a party isn't happening.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Well, it seems like this is definitely a NY thing! We also live on Long Island, and when my daughter was in HS she went to about a dozen of these affairs, all good friends. Now my son (a soph in HS) is getting invited to them - he has been to 5 since January, with at least 2 more on the horizon. I agree they are completely over the top! Fortunately my daughter didn't want the whole ballgown/ballroom type of party (after going to so many that were all basically the same cookie cutter event) - we got tickets to a Broadway show (Legally Blonde had just come out - it was perfect for the occasion!) and took her and her 2 best friends. Afterwards, she met a larger group of friends for dinner at a local Italian restaurant, and then back to our house for a sleepover with 3 or 4 of them. Didn't cost us a fortune, and it was exactly what she wanted. As far as gifts for friends, I have gotten into the habit of getting a Visa gift card for everyone - $50 for a close friend, $25 for the rest. I know peer pressure is rough at this age - if all your daughter's friends are having extravaganzas, then she will be tempted to go that route as well, but I would continue to offer up alternatives to her and I bet that she will "see the light" eventually. She can still have a fun and special birthday without breaking your bank! She won't hate you, she will respect that you are giving her a choice (within reason) and looking at the bigger picture with college looming in her near future. If you give them everything at this age, what's to look forward to? I agree with you 100%. Stick to your guns, give her a budget to work with, or some other options, and go from there. You still have time to sway her....good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well, my daughter did have a Sweet 16 party at a country club with a DJ. BUT. . . . if there is a BUT! ;)
But, her best friend's birthday is 2 weeks after her's so they had a combined party and we split the cost. And in all honesty the DJ was the biggest expense, because the club we used was semi-desperate to book this room.
The food literally was chicken fingers and pizza and I think there were 30 kids there. Some of the girls were dressed up, but a lot of the guys just came in cargo shorts and polo shirts. *I think here in the Midwest the expectations are a little different. Or at least where we are.

We also never really gave our kids birthday parties. Birthdays were celebrated as small family events, so my husband told her that IF we did this, she is NOT getting anything else until she does get married.

But the one thing I was firm about, as were the other girl's parents, NO GIFTS!! I did try to get the girls organized to designate a charity, but couldn't get them on the same page. When you RSVP can you ask if there is a preferred charity you could make a donation to in the child's honor? I have done that and parents are surprised and pleased that I would ask.

So while we did give our daughter a party, (sounds like on a MUCH smaller scale than what you are talking about), in my opinion, asking for gifts would have been way out of line. Speaking for our family, our daughter doesn't not need anything.

And God Bless your husband!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Oh my... my girl is only 8... if this is how it is when they turn 16, that is really extravagant!
Did not know, that is how it is for Sweet 16 parties!

Everyone has a budget.

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