General Question

greenjen's avatar

How should I phrase "please contribute to swingset instead of buying other toys"?

Asked by greenjen (26points) July 23rd, 2011

My son is turning one. I want to use an idea my sister-in-law used…she asked people on my nephew’s invitation to consider contributing to one large gift, in the form of a gift card, instead of purchasing a bunch of misc. toys. I can’t remember how she phrased it. When I try to write something, it doesn’t seem polite. I have a small house and really can’t have several more noisy toys. I also love the idea of a swingset, which I can’t really afford, b/c he loves being outside. How can I phrase this politely? Thank you!

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22 Answers

Kayak8's avatar

You are invited to little Egbert’s first birthday celebration! Your presence is what is desired more than presents!* The celebration will be on Saturday, May 32 at our house at 2 pm.

*If you insist on a gift, as Egbert loves playing outside, please consider a gift card to Swingset Palace. Your card will go toward the purchase of a swing set.

Jeruba's avatar

There’s no getting around the fact that it’s awkward to ask for monetary contributions, so it’s hard to say how to do it well. But I would not ask for a gift card. That goes too far in telling your guests how they may observe this happy occasion. It means that the giver is still expected to make a trip to the store—and a specified store, not just one that’s convenient for them—without enjoying the feeling that they’re giving you a real present; it’s just money in disguise. Why not go ahead, then, and let it be convenient—allow them to hand you cash? We hope they’ll enclose it in a cute card with a signature, at least.

It’s commonly understood that the first birthday is for the parents, to celebrate getting through the year; the little one has no idea what’s going on. The second one is when the child is old enough to enjoy all the attention and the entertaining formalities (and want to do it all over again the next day). So I think people will understand that it’s all right to defer wrapped toys for a year.

But if they do bring them, you’ll have to find that delicate balance in accepting them graciously without letting them overshadow the invisible gift made by those who supported your wishes.

How about:

“We’re celebrating Egbert’s first birthday! Please come and help us mark the occasion, Saturday the 32nd at 2:00 p.m.

“Please don’t feel that you must bring a gift. Our space is small, and Egbert’s too little to get a thrill out of opening presents. We are hoping to get him a swing set to enjoy outdoors. If you’d like to help us with this purchase, we’ll always remember that you were a part of it.”

Don’t say “insist” (sorry, @Kayak8). Insistence is a kind of aggression, and it’s also disingenuous to characterize the custom of gift-giving as insistence. People know that a gift is expected, and that expectation is not coming from their inclination to insist.

JLeslie's avatar

Ask your SIL how she worded it.

I am assuming you are having a birthday party and you are inviting all of these people who will be gifting your son? Is that right?

I would include a small card with a place you have registered and also the suggestion of contributing to a new swingset. The reason is twofold. One, the little gifts he does receive will be items he really likes, and two, if on a registry you should be able to return items for the cash if you prefer to. Some people just feel awful not having a gift to present, and so at least you will get something you would like to have for him. At the age of one it can still be practical like clothing. Some people will love being able to just give a check or gift card, especially if they are not attending the party. I would say you cannot open the gifts at the time of the party if you are requesting money.

Kayak8's avatar

@Jeruba I concur! I think your modifications are spot on!

marinelife's avatar

Just know that you are asking for money, and there is no polite way to do it.

Jeruba’s is about as good as it gets.

JLeslie's avatar

I have a question, would you rather have no gift than a small gift? Some of the wording above suggests gifts aren’t necessary. Not that gifts are ever necessary in my book, but usually when I say we just want you to come to the party, no gifts expected, we really mean no gifts are expected, we don’t want our friends and relatives to go to the trouble.

Asking for a gift card can be annoying as @Jeruba touched on, because I am assuming it is a specialty store not something like Target, so you are asking people make a trek to a specific store. My family happily gives money, but many people don’t. Anyway, you might simply tell the store and swingset, so people know what you will buy, but not specify girftcard.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

“You are invited to Trevor Cutie-Pie’s First Birthday Party! It will be held at 200 Elmhurst Drive, Anytown USA from 4–6 p.m. Hope to see you there!

(in smaller print at the bottom)

In lieu of presents (which he doesn’t understand yet), please consider making a contribution to a backyard swing set, which we hope to purchase for Trevor as he loves playing outdoors. This will be a useful and fun gift that certainly will be remembered and used for many years to come. Thank you.” You might even want to write that you will put their name on the set (depending on how many people you are inviting!) but you can carefully paint the names of the contributors on the swing set in small letters and as Trevor grows up, you can show him the names and tell him who helped to give him this lovely gift.

I agree with @Jeruba. People can slip money into an envelope and give it to you that way. It will be less of a hassle. A lot of people would prefer giving something that way anyway as sometimes it is difficult to decide what to purchase. If you say “no gifts necessary” no one will bring anything. You do want something, you want money toward a swing set, so be clear on that.

greenjen's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t really have a preference between gift (other than swingset) and no gift. I understand that picking out gifts for children is a lot of fun for some people, too. So, I am not necessarily interested in telling people they need to contribute to a swingset. I want them to know that contributing to it is an option, one I would personally prefer. If someone wants to buy him some another (seriously, I can’t stress “another” enough. He already has a house full of toys) toy, I don’t want to tell them “absolutely not”.
There are a lot of great tips on here. I will use it! Many thanks to all!

Kardamom's avatar

As much as you might prefer to get money for a swingset, the idea of even suggesting that people contribute money to it is rather tacky. People enjoy the idea of picking out just the right gift for the child, even if their idea of the right gift is a gift certificate or another toy. But some people might want to make something like a knit sweater or an article of clothing or whatever. Also, some people’s finances are not good, especially now, so the idea of asking for money would put some people into a very embarrassing awkward situation if they felt like they weren’t contributing the right amount.

The bottom line is that gifts should be given from the heart, and not feel like a shakedown.

There would be a definite etiquette breach with this type of solicitation, which you can read about in Miss Manners’ Column

And here’s a similar question (the 2nd one down) that talks about the same issue

And this statement that I found on another etiquette website pretty much sums it up:
I’m under the understanding that mentioning gifts at all in an invitation is a faux pas. I see it’s often ignored, but still tacky in my book. I think the only polite way to broach the gift subject is if someone calls to RSVP and asks what the (in this case) father would like for his birthday. At that point the party-giver could express her wishes that any gifts be in the form of a charitable donation. But really, any time a party is thrown, there should be no expectation of gifts and to put a statement about them in the invitation is entirely presumptious, even for an event that is customarily a gift-giving event like a birthday.

JLeslie's avatar

I was thinking, won’t some people ask what you need for the baby? At least close family members? I’m thinking just tell them about the swingset. Then you don’t have to worry about anyone being offended. Tell a few key people like your mom,b ecause people might ask her what you or the baby might want, and she can easily tell them also.

Kardamom's avatar

@JLeslie I totally agree with what you just said. If someone asks, then it’s OK to let them know that you are interested in a swingset, but please don’t put the idea of contributing to the swingset in your invitation.

JLeslie's avatar

@Kardamom I think it just depends on the family/group being invited. My family would be fine being asked to contribute, but we are money oriented for occassions, happy to write a check in lieu of a present. I was shocked to learn in my 20’s that people bring gifts to a wedding. I thought they were always sent to the brides home before the wedding or a check was sent or given to the bride (or bride’s mother to hold for the bride) at the wedding.

breedmitch's avatar

Egbert’s only one. You have years to save for a swing set.

“Please come to Egbert’s birthday party. We’d like to send him to summer camp some day, so if you could contribute to that…”

I’m in the “you never get to dictate how gift giving is done” camp.
You want him to have a swing set. Great. You should provide it.
I’m with Ms. Manners, that gift giving is never mentioned. I’m inviting you. You’re a guest in my home. Gifts are never expected or discussed.
I understand you don’t want any more toy clutter, but its also rude to deny a guest the joy of picking out and giving a gift. After they leave, you are free do dispose of anything you don’t want in whatever manner you see fit. That’s you’re right as a gift receiver.

breedmitch's avatar

Aw. Too late to edit.

Jeruba's avatar

Honestly, I have to agree with those who say it’s improper to mention gifts at all. No matter how it’s worded on any invitation I receive, I feel the inappropriateness of it.

My response above was intended to try to help you accomplish what you said you wanted to accomplish, but I wish I had just said don’t do this. Not in writing, not on an invitation, not on something you’re sending out to people who all have different relationships to you and to the child and different degrees of intimacy with your family.

My son received a swing set from his grandparents when he was three. That was the perfect age for it.

breedmitch's avatar

And I’m sure no one is buying those metal tube, A-frame, scar-maker swing sets anymore. I’m assuming you will want to get one of those landscape timber, multi-level, yellow plastic slide, playthingys which strikes me as more of a home improvement than a gift.

“Please come to Egbert’s first birthday party. As most of you know, Egbert has always been a fan of granite countertops…”

@JLeslie: The check-as-wedding-gift concept baffles me, as well. I’ve been told you should give at least as much as your meal cost. WTF?!? This is a very Northeast concept. That just wouldn’t fly in the South. For weddings I go to the registry and buy a set of the kitchen towels they have chosen, and then I go shopping off the registry list for something really nice and expensive that I like. That’s how gift giving is done.

JLeslie's avatar

@breedmitch You do it your way, I do it mine. I think it probably has more to do with social class and ethnicity/national background than north and south, maybe I am wrong.

Why not buy the couple only what she has registered for, why are you going off the registry at all? Unless you are talking buying them a car or something incredily extravagant. They are a new couple they need what they need to start their home. Well, if they are young they do.

breedmitch's avatar

I do buy from the registry. Did you read what I wrote? Then I get something that they couldn’t have even imagined they wanted, like a Tiffany vase or an antique Silver tray.

I think you’re right. I think asking for cash to cover my meal at a wedding does speak to class and background.

JLeslie's avatar

@breedmitch I read it. Why not spend more on the registry, if you are willing to spend more? Why are you buying something you like? Why not everything they like? That is why they registered.

I really don’t get it. Talk about not getting it. Is it that you want the couple to be impressed with the wonderful thing you picked for them? Don’t want to be just one of the many towels and table settings? There has to be one special thing from you so you get some sort of special credit?

JLeslie's avatar

@breedmitch No one is asking anyone to spend as much as the meal. I do not have any expectations of how much a guest should give me for a gift at my wedding, or any other party. I, as the guest, tend to think in terms of the meal, but even if I didn’t the amount would be similar anyway. I give more to friends and relatives I am close to.

breedmitch's avatar

As a child, as Christmas time approached, I’d get the Sears catalog and start making my list. I’d chart page numbers and item letters with sizes and colors noted so that there could be no mistake on Christmas morn.
My doyenne grandmother, the good southern matriarch, took me into her lap and explained, so that even a young, expectant child could understand, that is not how gift giving is done. It’s not proper to ask for anything specific. Even if it’s something you really, really want. She explained that a gift by definition is wholly dependent on the giver. The receiver may accept, or not, but it would be in extremely bad taste to dictate what one wanted to receive.

So you might not have ever received from my grandmother the changing table bumper that matched your gingham crib set that you registered for. But instead you could pass down the antique silver cup and baby spoon set that she especially wanted your child to have.
Did she “get some sort of special credit?”. Well, that’s up to the recipient. She taught me that’s beyond our control.

JLeslie's avatar

@breedmitch I understand your point. This sort of special gift is very rare to receive from the average wedding guest. Usually when they buy outside of the registry it is something that goes in a closet. Antique or silver cup and spoon is a typical gift given to babies usually by a family member like a grandmother. I worked in infants in Bloomingdale’s and we sold them, they typically were engraved. My mom and aunt both had them given when they were born. So, your grandmother followed protocol the way I see it, it wasn’t that she was so creative with free reign. And, not so much she was looking for credit, but probably she wanted to be the one to give that gift. She wanted to be the one to give that special gift. Not that I take away from the lovely gift, I don’t. That is a special gift, with sentimental value. Not a frame I don’t like, or a vase I don’t need, or an album I would never pick. Don’t get me wrong, even the gifts I did receive that I didn’t like at my wedding have sentimental value because of who gave them to me, but I love the big box of plates and bowls my employees bought me to finish off the every day set.

I guess what I want is for the majority of the things to be what I want. A few special surprises are fine. For my bridal shower I got some items I never asked for, and they were great. For my wedding I received 95% of my registry and I was thrilled! I moved into my new house, with my new husband, and set up all my new things all around the house that I picked, my new kitchen, and was ready to entertain, it made me very very happy at the time.

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