Q. This year my husband is turning 40. I’d love to surprise him with a nice, new bike, since his old one was stolen. I’m planning on throwing a party for him as well, and I’m inviting a bunch of our close friends. Is it rude to invite our guests to chip in for this gift? I’d love to be able to get something nicer than what I can afford on my own, but I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or obligated to donate.
A. Just make your intention clear on the invitation. “No gifts,” you can write. “Because [Birthday Boy’s] bicycle was stolen, I’m getting him a new one. If you’ve got the urge to give, feel free to contribute to the bike fund. But please don’t feel obligated. We just want to celebrate with you.” Add that you will leave out an envelope in a designated spot at the party; they can contribute as much or as little as they would like.
Some people will decline to contribute, some may bring other presents, and some will happily go in with you on the bike—which, however plain or fancy, will be perfect. Your husband will surely ride it with gratitude for such thoughtful friends and family.
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Want to Ask Your Own Etiquette Question?
Submit your social conundrums to Catherine at realsimple.com/modernmanners. Selected letters will be featured on the website each month.