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Gift Getting Made Easy? Including a Wish List on Birthday Invites


Happy birthday, baby! Another year has passed, and it’s time to mark the occasion with a party (or at least a cake). As the years add up, the parties may get more complex, adding school friends and others into the mix for invitation consideration. With extracurricular activities, the guest list can quickly get long, including those very much tangential to everyday life.

The last thing I need–and I’m guessing it’s true for you too–is more stuff, especially more toys. When a birthday comes on the heels of or just before a major gift-giving holiday, the urge to purge can be overwhelming, and the thought of an onslaught of additional toys feels like a burden rather than a gift.

But people–other children, grandparents, relatives–all want to celebrate the birthday child somehow, and our society dictates that we celebrate with gifts. (And cake; always cake.)

A donation in lieu of a present is a nice idea, but when a child has made the rounds of others’ parties and seen the craft sets, Hotwheels and other toy loot, it can be hard to say “no thanks” to that even with a generous heart and giving personality. Our culture includes the expectation of a gift as a birthday party guest. (We also live in a culture of gift goodies for the party goers, but that’s another blog post…)

Perhaps the answer to “I don’t want anymore plastic crap junking up my life” is to add a wishlist to the birthday invitation instead of the “in lieu of gifts” or “your presence is your present” line we as parents might prefer. When you use Evite, the option to include an Amazon wish list link is baked in.

My friend who included a wish list in her daughter’s party Evite had a very positive experience, and one added benefit was one gift that came directly to their house, saving some of the schlep of gifts from party venue to home. It also gave the gift-giving family some leeway, as they were unsure if they’d make the party but still wanted to celebrate.

I’m of two minds about the idea of wish lists on invitations, and as of now, I haven’t taken this step for either of my girls nor seen it happen too often with their friends.

On the pro side, a wish list makes things much easier on the person-who-shops-for-birthday-gifts, as knowing a little bit about what the birthday child likes makes choosing a gift much easier. And it’s less likely for gifts to pour in that are in conflict with a family’s values (some parents are very much not into Barbie dolls or toy guns, for example) that would find their way immediately to the donate pile.

But there is the risk that a wish list seems like a gift grab or dictating presents rather than letting a gracious gesture unfold, particularly if the young party guest knows exactly what they want to give. One way to combat that sense of greed, of course, could be ensuring items on the wish list top out at $15 or so, with plenty of items in the $5 to $10 range.

A wish list cuts into my shopping style a bit, as I’m the type of mom who has a gift closet. I shop the toy clearance sales to provide more value per gift while saving a little cash. This can backfire on me when I don’t keep the merchandise moving and everyone outgrows some of the gifts stashed in the back of the closet before they’re given. (Toys for Tots solves that problem nicely, of course.) If the social construct became everyone providing a wish list, I would just go with that rather than clearance shopping in advance (I can do plenty of that just for my girls, frankly).

What do you think? Is it a social faux pas to directly ask for the types of gifts you’d like for your little ones? Or is that doing other parents a favor, especially those who don’t know the birthday child well?

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04 Feb 2020


By Mari Walker

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