Gift for a Stranger
October 19, 2014 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I don't know the guest of honor. Should I buy a gift for a 50th birthday party?

I know the wife but I don't know the birthday guy. He's turning 50 and having a party at a country club with food and drinks provided. I know the wife from my kids. We see one another at events, get along well, and are chatty. We've never socialized formally, just when our kids are together at performances or sports stuff. Our kids are fairly good friends. I've seen the husband a few times at events and we've only exchanged hellos. My family of four will be attending the party. I RSVPd yes because I like the wife, and when someone extends an invitation to a 50th birthday party I would like to say yes if I am available. I do hope it's not awkward. I think we can mingle and be fine.

I'm thinking of a restaurant gift certificate for a gift. I don't know how these things work half the time. Sometimes it's gifts and sometimes not and I don't know the husband. I don't want to ask the wife.

What would you do as far as a gift and would you go to a party where you didn't know the guest of honor? Thanks for your advice and comments.
posted by Fairchild to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bottle of wine, or other alcoholic beverage. Go to a decent wine/spirits store near you, and tell them that you are looking for a 50th birthday gift and what price range: they will be able to help you.

I wouldn't give a restaurant gift certificate, because feels much more difficult to suss out the receiver's preferences.
posted by troytroy at 6:20 AM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Do you know if he is involved in any service organizations like the Lions Club or a volunteer fire department? A card with, '$50 has been donated in your name to...' would be nice.
posted by myselfasme at 6:21 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are on the right track with something consumable. But it may be awkward if it's an affair thrown at a country club. Of course there will be those who will bring items, but usually there's no place to put them, or they'll all be on a table, leaving you nervous that the card doesn't get lost in the shuffle or worse, stolen.

Send something ahead of time. I'll be 52 and what I love most as a gift is an Amazon gift certificate. $50 is a nice round sum, and meaningful. I'd skip the restaurant, unless it's a local place that you particularly love. Outback Steakhouse is okay, but it's never my first choice for dinner.

When you send the card with the gift card in it, be sure to say, "we're looking forward to celebrating with you on the big day!"

There, now you've actually provided something that will be well received, won't clutter the home and you've done it so that there's no hassle on the big day.

Now have a BLAST!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:53 AM on October 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

I would certainly go to a party like that if invited. Giftwise, another thing you might do is have something sent to their house after the party as a thank you/birthday gift. Or give it to his wife if you see her. If you discover during the party that he is interested in some topic, you could send a book, or you could send a mail order foodstuff. A nice bottle of cognac or scotch might be nice if he drinks.

Or, depending on the relationship, you could invite them out to dinner (or over to your house) at some point to reciprocate. We don't give parties much so end up reciprocating that way a fair amount.
posted by BibiRose at 7:11 AM on October 19, 2014

Am I the only one who doesn't drink and hates getting gift certificates or gift cards? I mean, I always think it's sweet that the person is trying to give me _something_, but it shows nothing of _you_ in the gift. Especially if it's an Amazon gift card. It's just short of giving cash, which is OK in some cultures but is still very impersonal.

I think more people eat chocolate than drink alcohol. If there's a boutique chocolaterie near you, a few individually-selected pieces from there would be my go-to gift; if you want to go the extra 20 feet, maybe specify two pieces for each member of the family, so that they could have a fun family experience when they all sit down next week sometime, each try "their" chocolates, and tell the rest of the family how they like them.
posted by amtho at 7:12 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

amtho, you are not alone. I'm not a big drinker but I'd rather receive the bottle of wine because gift cards seem so impersonal. I like the idea of fancy candies too.

But surely if you're friendly with the wife you could ask her to give you a general idea of what her husband likes? I think it would be the polite thing to do and better than taking a stab in the dark. He may not drink, he may not even like chocolate! And for me if I got a gift card to a place like Olive Garden or Outback Steakhouse I'd be horrified (my husband and I love eating out but we like eating authentic local food, not mass-produced chain restaurant microwave stuff). Yet I know a lot of people love it, so again it's just tough to guess what people want when you know nothing about them.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:28 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

This might be a California thing, but fancy olive oils, balsamics etc often go over pretty well. Of course, it helps if you know if the person EVER eats at home.

I think most 50 year olds don't care too much about presents (I could be wrong) so it's more symbolic than not. I wouldn't give a gift card unless it was for something quirky that's in their neighborhood ("This entitles the bearer to one wheel of triple cream camembert from Mabel's Cheesery and Wine Shop.")
posted by small_ruminant at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Amtho and Treehorn+Bunny, I totally respect that younger folks enjoy receiving a thoughtful gift. And if these folks were good friends, certainly, a consumable that one knows is particularly enjoyed or even an adventure like a Durian, would be in order. But considering that the recipient is unknown to the OP, and since Amazon has so many awesome things to choose from, I'm going to stand by my suggestion.

For the record, I'm allergic to flowers and synthetic fragrances, I try not to eat candy because I'm sensitive to sugar and I don't drink. I also have plenty of tskhotches and rather resent being given an item that I have to work into my decorating or dust or find a place for. I usually buy whatever thing I want pretty much as soon as I want it, so I am a NIGHTMARE to buy a gift for. I know it. But if you give me flowers, candy or wine, it's getting recycled...quickly.

I'm also going to go out on a limb and say that tennis players have more balls and sweat-bands than they can shake a stick at. Golfers have every device ever invented for that game, and have preferences about what they DO like. The same for any hobbyist if I'm honest.

Your fifties are about experiences and getting rid of excess crap in your life. Honest. So a way of downloading books or music, or for buying whatever you'd like on the Internet is actually practical and appreciated.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, Ruthless Bunny, no offense. I hear you; but why not just give cash in that case? To my mind, an Amazon gift card is about the same as cash, and a restaurant gift card is asking me to spend my time in a way that I may not want to. I probably won't be able to eat anything at the restaurant somebody else chooses, and I'd rather spend my limited time doing something else that _I_ choose.

(Also - I'm not that young, promise. In fact I worried I was being old-fashioned.)

Gift-giving is legitimately hard. I've heard that gifts are better if there's a story that accompanies them.

I was trying for an experience/story gift with my chocolates-for-each-family member idea; one or two really good filled chocolates is OK for me even though I always feel guilty giving people unhealthy gifts. The point is the story and the experience. The giver can tell why he/she chose those particular chocolate pieces for the individual family members, and then the family would have the experience of tasting their individual chocolates and sharing the tasting together.

Maybe fruit or nuts would work as well... now I'm going to think about that (although I can't eat nuts really... gift giving is hard, which makes a good gift a triumph).
posted by amtho at 5:05 PM on October 19, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers. I'm thinking of a tangible gift at this point. I looked on his Facebook page and I see that he likes a certain football team so maybe team drinking glasses would be a thoughtful gift. Chocolate is also a good idea. We have a great shop in town. Thanks again for the answers and suggestions.
posted by Fairchild at 10:05 AM on October 20, 2014

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