July 14, 2014

Etiquette: Birthday gift registry annoys gift giver

Q. My little grandson recently was invited to a friend's birthday party and the mother of the birthday child wrote a note on the bottom of the invitation, something like (I didn't see it because they don't live near me.): "Little Johnnie is registered for Legos at ..."

Is this some new thing? I think I'll have my husband throw a birthday party for me and write a note at the bottom of the invitation that I am registered at such and such stores for a new red Chevy. How can people be so bold? Is it proper to write this on a little boy's birthday party invitation? Does that mean you can't give this child some other gift besides Legos? Unbelievable in my book!

A. While I would like to tell you this kind of brazenly inappropriate incident is a rarity, it is not. Is it acceptable in the etiquette world? Absolutely not. If a mother hosting a birthday party for her little boy wants a certain type of toy for her child, rather than put a note at the bottom of the invitation, she should hold her request until she is asked: "What would little Johnnie like as a birthday gift? What kinds of toys are on his 'wish list'?" At that time. the mother of the birthday boy can provide a couple of moderately priced toys as suggestions.

Yes, you can give a different type of toy. It is the giver's choice as to the gift to be given, whether it is for a birthday, a wedding, a graduation or a shower.

Q. My dad's first wife died recently. They were divorced many years ago before I was even born. He decided to go to her funeral. Is that right?

I'm wondering what her current husband thought about that? He told me he just sat in the back of the church and did not go to the cemetery.

A. Unless a funeral is identified or published as "private," anyone can choose to attend. A funeral provides the opportunity for showing respect for the deceased. Not a word need be said by any person choosing to attend a funeral. His or her mere presence speaks those words.

Just because people divorce each other does not mean they do not respect each other. In effect, your dad attended this funeral to show his respect to his former wife, a person with whom he had shared a portion of his life. He chose not to make a disturbance of any kind, nor draw unwanted attention to himself as he sat in the back the church. He was also showing respect to the deceased's current husband and family. I hope they received his gesture in the manner in which it was intended.

Q. We've been invited to a 50th wedding anniversary. Is a $50 restaurant gift card enough? It won't pay for two meals at this restaurant, but we know they enjoy going there.

A. A gift card for $50 is very appropriate for a "50th" wedding anniversary and very thoughtful. You do not need to feel obligated to pay for their entire meal at this restaurant. No doubt, this couple will be thinking of you as they enjoy their meal.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to

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