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Birthday Party Etiquette Q&A

Can I Throw a Joint Birthday Party…With No Joint Gifts?

By Amalah

This year for my son’s 7th birthday party I am doing a joint birthday party with one of his friends, he will have a gamer theme and her’s will be a mermaid theme.

(A little background) The reason why I am doing a joint birthday party is because the little girl is basically having a rough life right now, she currently lives with her grandparents because her parents didn’t want her, nor her siblings. She calls me mom and I basically don’t mind. Anyways, I felt it was right to throw her a birthday party as well.

They are both in 1st grade and are inviting all of their classmates, I wanted to put both invitations into one envelope so kids don’t get confused and parents as well. I don’t want to sound “gift grabby” but I wanted to know if maybe you had an idea as to how I can probably word something into the envelope stating that if a gift is brought, for it not to be a joint gift, because I wouldn’t want there to be any confusion or headaches later on with gifts. PLEASE HELP!

Desperate Mom!

Aww, what a wonderfully sweet gesture! I’m sure this party will already feel like a huge, awesome gift for this little girl, and something she’ll always remember.

As for making it clear that the birthday kids are NOT siblings, I would make sure the invitations include both their first AND last names. The single envelope is a good idea, by the way, since that’ll make it clear the parties are a joint arrangement at the same time and location and not two separate “competing” parties. So full names and invitations that make it clear that each child is getting their own theme of choice should be enough of a signal to parents that two separate gifts for two non-related birthday kids are appropriate. Don’t make any explicit mention of gifts of any kind on the invitations.

(The only exception to that last rule is if you’re specifying “No gifts, please!”)

If parents ask for gift advice/guidance when they RSVP, make sure you have a modest list of suggestions for each child. “Alex is really into anything Minecraft right now and also loves Legos and Pokemon. Alexandra’s grandparents say she’s all about Ariel, Captain Marvel and jewelry-making craft sets!”  (Even if her grandparents have zero involvement here and the suggestions are from you, casually tossing in a mention will help further guide guests away from buying one gift for both kids.)

THAT SAID. You can really only do so much. Some people won’t look all that closely at the invitations or ask for gift suggestions. They might ask their own child if Alex and Alexandra are siblings and get nothing but a baffled shrug of the shoulders. They might show up with two gifts or one or zero. And that’s fine!

When guests arrive, have them deposit whatever they’ve brought into a single common space (so there isn’t any kind of obvious visual disparity between the his/hers haul, and any guests who simply couldn’t afford two gifts won’t feel singled out either). Don’t have the kids open anything at the party, and wait until everyone has left to divide the gifts up. If you notice that there ARE joint gifts, quietly add them to her pile. (Consider them bonus gifts for her siblings, who might not have anyone in their lives making sure they get a birthday party.)

Again, THANK YOU for doing this! I hope both kids have a blast at their party!

More on Birthday Party Etiquette from Alpha Mom:

1. Joint Birthday Party Invite Etiquette
2. Birthday Party Group Present Etiquette
3. Birthday Party Present Opening Etiquette

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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this is excellent advice and i echo Amy, you’re the sweetest OP!


You could also slip two invitations into the same envelope. “Pam is celebrating with her best friend Jim” and “Jim is celebrating with his best friend Pam.” This would definitely clear up an family relation issues and it would be obvious that you alone are planning the party.