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Parties Extra! 20-40-60 Etiquette---I need the cash!

(Editor’s note: To ask the 20-40-60 team a question, email Helen



By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace


QUESTION: I am 59 and graduating in May. My friends want to give me a party.

I really don't want a bunch of gifts I won't use, but I'd rather have cash as I have mega student loans to repay. How would I word this on the invitation?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: If you don't want gifts, then state that on the invitations. Be grateful for what people are giving you.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: This is a tough one, because your need is legitimate, but there isn't a polite way to direct guests to give you money.

Keep in mind that the party is a celebration of your accomplishment with your friends and not a fundraiser.

For starters, say "no gifts, please" on the invitation if you don't want the usual graduation gifts or you can leave that off and let people give from the heart, whether it's a card or a gift.

Some people might ask the hosts what you would want, and the hosts could then direct them to help contribute to paying off college loans. I wouldn't ask for that on the invitation. Enlist hosts to spread the word if that works, but this is tricky, as asking directly for gifts turns the party into something for your guests besides a celebration -- an obligation -- which misses the point entirely. Instead, be gracious and thankful for sweet friends and proud of yourself.

And it is likely some of them will ask what you need; perhaps then you could mention casually that you do have college loans. Maybe they'll take the hint, or maybe not, but enjoy the celebration and their friendship, whatever happens.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Congratulations on this milestone in your life. It is wonderful of your friends to want to celebrate with you.

The invitation could read "no gifts, please."

To ask for a monetary gift is not right, no matter how politely you write it down. A gift is usually from the heart and should not be dictated by the honoree. That wording should never, ever go in an invitation. Your hostesses could pass the word when guests RSVP that monetary gifts would be appreciated.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: I would not feel comfortable guiding people in gift giving; however times have changed. This is a huge accomplishment and with it comes huge debt.

I would tell my hostess this desire and hope that she passes it along or coordinates with other guests to design a money tree as a gift. I would think you all could create a clever invitation that could read "no gifts necessary, but if you would like to contribute to reduce the student loan debt crisis, a monetary gift would be greatly appreciated."

That is a lot to say, but it could be done in a creative way that let people know you really don't need gifts at this stage of life, but you could receive money that can be used to meet any obligations that you incurred during school or for celebration funds for something you might want to purchase as a remembrance of your achievement.

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Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›