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08.21.2003: Etiquette Schmetiquette
common-sense manners
for real-world living
1 2 3

housewarming for a friend ...
A friend of mine from work has asked me to help host a housewarming party for her. I have two questions concerning etiquette especially after reading the answer you've already given on the web site.

  1. Her house is pretty stocked, so she wants gift cards or cash to help with the remodeling. How do we state this on the invitation?
  2. Is a house warming party supposed to be held at the new home or at someone else's home?

Thanks, I'm pretty clueless on etiquette, but feel it is important.

A: I'll answer your second question first because it's the easier of the two: the housewarming party, in my humble opinion, should always be held at the new home, in order to give the new owner a chance to show off her fab digs, and to allow guests to poke around the place in person. Frankly, I'm of the opinion that a housewarming should always be about welcoming friends and new neighbors into your new home, rather than an opportunity to reap gifts from everyone you know; hence, a "housewarming" party at a location other than the new home seems pretty pointless. Basically, it sends the message that the party's being thrown for the sole purpose of getting the guests to shower the guest of honor with material goods, and will most likely be interpreted by guests as un peu tacky.

Which brings me to question numero uno. When my brother was in college he had a roommate who, when it came time for the rest of the roomies to pay their share of the phone bill at the end of each month ( the line was in his name), insisted that he didn't accept checks and would take payments in the form of greenbacks only. This, naturally, was terribly vexing to the rest of the roomies - not because it was all that inconvenient, mind you, but because it just seemed weird. See, the thing is, when a friend is giving you something (even when it's reimbursement), it just seems oddly business-like and impersonal to insist that it occur in one specific form or another. So you see where I'm heading with regards to the gift situation, right? Sadly, there's really no polite, non-weird way to state "cash only folks!" on an invitation.

Fortunately, there's an alternative! One thing my friends and I have done when we're throwing showers (in my circle, housewarmings really aren't generally viewed as gift-giving occasions) is to put together a group gift. Rather than sending out an invitation that instructs guests to, say, arrive bearing money, let all the guests know that you're organizing a group gift certificate to wherever, and that if anyone is interested in chipping in for the gift, they should let you know how much they'd like to contribute. I like the group gift certificate because it's a pretty low-pressure way for guests to get in on the gift thing, even if they can only afford to throw in a smidgen of money. The guest of honor gets a dandy gift certificate to spend in whatever manner she pleases, and any guests who can't afford much don't have to feel bad about giving a measly $5 when everyone else is presenting the new homeowner with $30.

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