Birthday Party Etiquette

Remember how I said could almost breath easy knowing that the birthday party is almost here and everything is mostly sitting in bags ready to go? Yeah I spoke to soon.

There is now the debate of 1) passing out goody-bags and 2) opening the gifts at the end of the party.

When I was a child… 

We always opened the gifts at the end. And more often than not we were given a goody bag. Somewhere over the course of 20-ish years, the rules of etiquette for birthday parties has changed.

Do you actually have to bring a gift or can your presence be enough? Do we serve food or just cake? Do we allow the child to open gifts or wait til we get home? Do kids even like goody bags? 

brown shopping bags
Photo by Kaboompics .com on


As I’ve mentioned R is simple. The party would be cake and opening gifts and saying goodbye, sans goody-bags.

Why do I have to give them a gift for coming to her birthday party?

I just shrugged. It was just kind of the norm for me to have goody-bags at parties. But it did make me think– WHY DO WE hand out “rewards” for attending a birthday party? I mean, your kid is getting lunch AND cake for free– seems like a fair trade to me. Is it to keep kids from being jealous? Like one of those participation trophies that are now handed out like candy on Halloween? I know it’s not your birthday, but here’s a little gift for you anyway. 

Now from a kid perspective, I don’t honestly remember any goody-bags I got at parties. However from a parent perspective, I HATE those things. Because it is filled with these little junk toys that break so easily and candy, which lucky for us Emma has never really been a candy person (I don’t even know how that’s possible with us as parents), and really after the first 5 minutes Emma has lost interestPrime example: we attended a birthday party in APRIL, nearly two months ago, that goody-bag filled with candy, that she doesn’t eat, sits in the cabinet as an emergency stash. I’m certain, like the stuff in egg hunts, all those little erasers and tattoos, are already in the trash. Which speaking of– why do we give kids under 5 tattoos anyway? Emma pulled out one thinking it was a sticker and wondered why it wouldn’t come off the paper.

So, in case you’re wondering if I plan to hand out goody-bags next weekend. I am not. I did however briefly entertain the idea of doing a craft as the goody-bag when another mom suggested it. But then I remembered how easily stressed out and worked up I get trying to get things perfect, and decided it was in everyone’s best interest if I just said no. Maybe at later parties where there is a set theme and not just let the kids run outside because its summer and they’re 4. 

anniversary art birthday bow
Photo by Pixabay on

Gift opening

Again, when I was a child…

Gift opening was one of the highlights of the party. Of course you wanted to see what they got so you could add it to your own birthday wish list. Granted, there are times when kids can’t control their facial expressions while opening gifts, I’ve been there personally, but 9/10 times the kid is happy. Because usually it’s something they’ve asked for. But in today’s society there are about 101 reasons why you shouldn’t. 

The #1 reason is considering the other children’s feelings.

Now, I get it. Last year, Emma thought the gift she had given was actually for her at the birthday party and thus wanted to open it. Simple misunderstanding. She’s a tiny human person.

Or there’s the friend whose parents may not have as much money and therefore can’t afford a lavish gift as some of the others, and feels self-conscious. I get that, I see other parents shelling out $30+ for gifts for other kids, while I’m like $15 and under and that includes the card.

However, at the same time, there is no better opportunity than another child’s birthday to prove that the world does not revolve around you. Sure Emma has pouted she couldn’t open a birthday gift at someone else’s birthday, as most kids do, but she’s also pulled to the side and told “hey look I know it’s exciting opening gifts but it’s not your birthday.” And then she’s fine. Again, if you’re wondering, Emma will be opening her gifts at her parties.

Sorry not sorry if I am now that mom that will be talked about because I won’t be giving out goody-bags and allowing my child to open her birthday gifts at her party. Feelings be damned.




9 thoughts on “Birthday Party Etiquette”

  1. Kids need to learn that everyday isn’t about them & Emma deserves to feel special on her day! I think it’s fine you’re not making goody bags & she should def open her gifts!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was back and forth over the same thing last week. Just…why? Like you said, they got supper and dessert, PLUS we spent a couple hundred bucks on a private bounce house facility. Giving out treats after the fact just seems so stupid, but I did give out some bags with a sucker and slinky and told them to put their pinata candy in it.

    Liked by 1 person

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