Metro-East Living

Etiquette: Flying the flag today is a labor of love; birthday girl wants to treat friends

Q. Is there anything special we are supposed to do when displaying our American flag on Labor Day

A. No, nothing special — just fly it high and fly it proud.

Q. I will be celebrating my 70th birthday . I want to spend part of the time with friends that I have had thru my life. I would like to invite about 20 women to have lunch with me at a local tea house. I will pay. How do I word the invitation and suggest that instead of buying me a gift they can contribute to one of several places where I volunteer, such as a food pantry , St. Vincent de Paul, BEACON, etc.? Can you help me ?

A. According to most etiquette experts, it is improper and rude to add any kind of comment to an invitation relative to gifts, whether you simply say, “No gifts”, or “No gifts, please”. The reason: To make any comment about gifts, gives the impression you are expecting a gift. However, it is the American tradition to give a gift when invited to a birthday party, a wedding, an anniversary party, a housewarming, a graduation party, etc. Because of this long-standing tradition, whether sanctioned by etiquette experts or their long-standing rules, adding comments of “No Gifts, please” or “Your presence is my gift” or “No gifts, please” is now often included on invitations. In some cases, the words: “However, if you feel you must do something, you may make a contribution in honor of my birthday (or our wedding, or our anniversary) to my favorite charity (or charities —list one or two. Or “to your favorite charity.”

The preferred, or more proper method of making your wishes of “No gifts” be known, however, is to verbally tell one of your closest friends you are inviting to your party, and ask her to please relay your wishes to the other invited guests. If you feel your invited guests will still want to give you a gift, or do something nice for you regardless of your wishes, then relay the information pertaining to your favorite charities, to your closest friend as well and she can pass it on.

One other note as a reminder: To make it clear you are paying for all of your guests’ meals and to avoid any guest attempting to pay for her meal at the tea house, the wording on your invitation should read: “... request the pleasure of your company as my guest for lunch.” Also, be sure to notify the tea house that you prefer one bill for you and all of your guests, and that it should be presented to you at the end of the lunch. Ask them to provide this information to the waitress assigned to serving you prior to your arrival the morning of your lunch. Hope you have a wonderful birthday celebration!

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