Gift Giving at Birthday Parties

I moved to a small town 6 months ago and had a really nice birthday party the other day, with all the friends I've made here (obligatory disclaimer: yes, it followed Covid guidelines). It was a themed cocktail party; a few guests brought alcohol, some played cards, it was a blast. I certainly wasn't expecting any gifts and the 2 or 3 that I did get were thoughtful and really appreciated. One curious observation I made after the event was that of the three groups of friends I invited, most of one group brought gifts/cards/alcohol/ice/cake and no-one from the other two groups brought anything. It certainly wasn't a means thing, as some of the poorer guests brought gifts and many of the wealthier one brought nothing (one of them even invited us to their place last week and we had to pay for food!). I'm not the sort of person who cares what a gift is worth (one of the cheapest gifts I received was the most thoughtful, and someone just gave me a card with a really lovely message). I do believe, however, that its the thought that counts. Is gift giving at birthday parties still a thing or a dying trend?

Is it still customary in 2021 to bring a gift/card/alcohol to a birthday party?

Poll Options

  • 58
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  • Depends on the size of the party and how well you know them. If it were a dinner and they were cooking, yeah bring a bottle of red.

    If it's a bbq, bring your own food and grog etc.

    If it's a close friend then you'd know if they want/need something. A new friend/acquaintance I wouldn't bother. Just make sure you're cost neutral for them.

  • one of them even invited us to their place last week and we had to pay for food!

    How did that work?

    Can you give us a bit more description of the characteristics of each group.

    • We ordered pizza that day and split the cost (which is totally fine).

      The groups were friends at work (doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc.) and two groups of friends from my local game store. It was a Magic: The Gathering themed cocktail party.

      • +3 votes

        "It was a Magic: The Gathering " say no more……. :)

      • Magic: The Gathering themed cocktail party

        I must admit, if you'd invited me to this party, I'd have brought you a good bottle of red (generic) or a top hat/magic cane kit.

  • How did you make friends so quickly in a small town? I've found it very hard and I've moved to my small town over 5 years ago.

    • M0RGAN brings presents

    • It took a LONG time, moved here by myself and my job is socially isolated. Didn't have any friends to talk to for months. Being an introvert and gamer, I finally decided to break the loneliness by starting a more social form of my hobbies (Magic and Pokemon at the local game store) and one of the other doctors at the hospital reached out (I work in a small lab detached from the main building) and welcomed me to her D&D group.

      • Awesome! Thanks :-) I've thought of starting a book club before but haven't done anything about it.

  • +3 votes

    Yes gift-giving is very much on. But, I’ve noticed that the more affluent people are, they tend to become more self-centred.
    The most giving are the poorer or folks you’d think don’t have much.

    • Some of the guests I invited have binders full of trading cards worth tens of thousands of dollars, and one could barely afford to put together a budget deck, yet they gave my a single booster pack. I opened it and let them keep the rare, as I already had enough of them. A simple gift, but appreciated just as much as any other.

  • If I was inviting people over for my birthday I wouldn’t expect gifts and I would be putting on enough food and drink that others didn’t have to bring it.

    That being said, if I went to someone’s house I would bring snacks (platter foods or other nibbles) and drinks.

    I have a friend who whenever they have people over (non-birthday events included), they message everyone asking what they’re bringing, such as a plate of meat or making side dishes/salads for a bbq, which I find very presumptuous. If I’m being expected to contribute to that extent, you’re not really hosting and I’d much rather go out to a venue and not have to prepare a dish to bring just because you don’t want to go out. (It’s not about the money either, as I’d happily give them money to cover what I would eat, but the act of hosting is all that extra hassle.)

    But I believe I have digressed beyond gift giving here.

    • Fair points, I guess I just grew up thinking gift giving was the norm. I'm just grateful for the few gifts that I did receive. Its interesting how the willingness to give gifts and help prepare/clean up is very much a reflection of a person's character. Not that I dislike any of my other friends for not doing so, of course. Plus, I have so much leftover alcohol, I don't know what to do with it! Maybe throw another party, haha.

      • I’m definitely more than willing to help prepare and clean up when it’s not every single event they suggest/go to.

        It’s just this one household that only ever invites people over and rarely comes out in public or to other peoples houses, and when they do, they don’t bring food or they’re late and don’t reciprocate what their expectations are of others.

        Essentially, I would bring more food and drink and help out more if it wasn’t a demand of theirs when they invite me. It’s like that Seinfeld episode where everyone gets a task =p

  • I always bring alcohol when I visit a mates house even if there is no party. Its just common courtesy.

  • To a birthday party at someones house, yes. I think it's a bit different if the birthday event is like going out or something like that because then you're expected to pay your own way as well.

    A birthday party that someone is hosting where they are providing food and/or drinks I would suggest taking a present to. It's not that hard to buy a card and chuck a $20 or $50 in (depending on your own wealth) even.

    • That's how I've always seen it. I'd feel bad going to a house birthday party without bringing a gift, but it feels like that's common practice now…