Friday, June 26, 2009

Isn't it Ironic?

A week or two ago, we met a woman who was enraged at receiving "18 bottles of booze, a clock and a set of towels" for a housewarming party where she had told her guests gifts were not expected. (She was enraged not because gifts really weren't expected, but because she was hoping her guests would spontaneously refurnish her home, and felt she got a low ROI on the $$ she spent on the party. Yes, really.)

Last Friday in Carolyn's live chat, the same question surfaced:

Housewarming parties?: I bought my first house in December. At the time, my coworkers were bugging me for a housewarming party, but I didn't have one then because the house was NOT in order. Now, it's mostly organized and clean, and it's barbecue weather. I'm thinking of having a belated housewarming party in August.

Now, housewarming parties are completely new territory for me, so what's the deal with these things? Is eight months later too late for one? What kind of food/drinks do I serve (I'm still low on funds from buying the house)? I do NOT need gifts--still got a garage full of stuff to sort through from the move--but a couple of coworkers mentioned registering somewhere (I thought that was just for babies and marriages?). Should I, just in case? Augh! Help me, I'm clueless!

Carolyn Hax: Have a party, and don't call it a housewarming. Ta da.

Housewarming parties: LOL, ok, fair enough. :-) But I really am curious about the etiquette for these things, since I expect a lot of my friends (20-somethings) will be having them in the next few years. I'd probably bring a bottle of booze as a present. Good?

Am I right that registering for a housewarming party is tacky? Just curious about that one. I promise not to be rude if anyone I know develops a housewarming registry.

Carolyn Hax: Good, if it's a booze you know they like.

Registries are a convenient evil that solve the very narrow problem of helping guests from afar buy appropriate gifts to acknowledge major milestone events to which they're invited. Extending the definition beyond this narrow one is among many culprits in the commercialization of feelings, and presumably you're not inviting your Aunt Whosie to come from the opposite coast to celebrate your housewarming, so I would say yes, ixnay on the housewarming registry, thanks.

The echoed phrase "bottle of booze" almost makes me think these two are connected--like the chatter read the column or something. Especially because I'm used to the idea of bringing a bottle of wine, but I don't know that I'd call that "booze." I'm less used to people showing up with a fifth of bourbon (or something), but maybe that's what's done for homes (as opposed to dinner parties?).

Advice columnists in general tend to be very skeptical of the registry. Like Carolyn, they often suggest it's only barely tolerable if you're having a large event where many people who don't know you well are expected to present you with gifts. And in general, they follow that up with something about how forcing strangers to give you gifts is in bad taste anyway. However, I think it's fair (and not an excuse) to note that they're also useful for allowing guests to coordinate...eliminating lots of duplicates for events where a similar "type" of gift is common, and also allowing guests to purchase a small part of a larger set (silverware, dishes), or even get a sense of your style and preferences in order to choose something on their own.

That being said, I think the registry HAS gotten way out of control, especially for baby stuff and just plain old parties--little kids' birthdays, etc.--where neither the stranger factor nor the matched set factor apply.

Maybe I'm just not familiar with housewarmings, but it seems strange to me to expect all your friends to give you stuff for your new house. Foolishly spoke the recently showered bride. Old traditions die hard, I guess. So I will rationalize: it seems to me in very poor taste to expect people to do this for you more than once in your lifetime (e.g. a wedding and five years later a housewarming...or a wedding and five years later another wedding).

But on the other hand, if you choose not to marry (or are prevented from marrying by law), shouldn't you also get YOUR big celebration (ala Sex and the City and the shoe registry)? I think so. And in that situation, the milestone of a new homestead (which, to be fair, was probably equated with a wedding in days of yore) seems as good an opportunity as any to celebrate. But it still goes both ways: a big lavish housewarming where the gifts equate to wedding gifts shouldn't be followed by a traditional wedding registry down the road, if that time comes.

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