Extravagant gift etiquette
November 9, 2014 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Some friends bought us an expensive and extravagant gift that we can't reciprocate, and it is stressing me out. How do I handle this gracefully?

Our baby is due in two weeks and some friends (who are both lawyers) just bought us a bottle of champagne that (according to Google) is somewhere between $130-$200. Normally I would just be effusively grateful and invite them over to share it with us. The problem is that their baby is due three weeks after ours and we need to buy them a gift. My wife and I (who both work in the non-profit field) usually spend about $25 on baby gifts - we typically buy books, a sleep sack, a swaddle (if appropriate), or other useful things like that. We could go to $40 (or I could crochet something), but that's our limit. What do we do?
posted by arcticwoman to Human Relations (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely crochet something! I've been a recipient of baby gifts twice now and I always love the handmade gifts. Is it cold where you live? How about a sweet sweater and hat?
posted by teamnap at 6:14 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think they are expecting a bottle of Cristal in return. I wouldn't be surprised if the Dom Perignon is some sort of re-gift anyway. Just get them something thoughtful that you think will be useful to them. You don't have to match them in terms of dollar value. For all you know, they got it free and wanted to get rid of it. You are clearly going to put some effort into whatever you get them, even if it's $30, and no friend is going to expect a monetary match. Just get what you'd normally get, and if you want to make it a little nicer than usual, that's fine. I wouldn't worry.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2014 [28 favorites]

Don't worry about it. If they're not jerks, they won't expect you to spend them same amount of money on them as they did on you. Get whatever you normally get. I also like the idea of crocheting something because you're putting thought and effort into it -- which may be more scarce for them than money.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

It is not your responsibility to match their gift-giving level. They didn't give you that gift with the expectation of matching it (unless they're horrible people in which case, who cares?). And unless you are a champagne aficionado it's not even $150 value to you. There's even a good chance that you were regifted that champagne.

Give them your normal level of gift and do it with a clear conscience. If you would have otherwise crocheted a gift for them then great, do that, but do not stress yourself out over a gift, it isn't necessary or even desired.
posted by brainmouse at 6:22 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think they bought that gift for you knowing that it was an extravagance you wouldn't likely buy for yourselves, and I really, really doubt that they're expecting an extravagant gift back. If they are close friends, than they know at least the vague details of your work situations and I am willing to bet they will love whatever you get them for their baby's birth.

I know that when I have been involved in friendships with similar income disparities (from either end), I've always been thrilled to receive all types of gifts and have had my own gifts received gracefully even when I've been in a situation where I was making considerably less than the gift-receiver.
posted by augustimagination at 6:23 PM on November 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

You are very kind, and they want you to be happy. Don't stress over it. Be effusively grateful and invite them over to share the champagne. Give what you would normally give.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

They probably have a whole pallet of Dom taking up space in the basement that they dip into every time they need a gift. I mean, maybe not, but I'd do that if I was a millionaire.
posted by theodolite at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above, but wanted to add, your child is due in TWO weeks, do not feel like you have to crochet something unless you really want to and have the time. Your go-to presents are lovely, useful, and will be appreciated (honestly).
posted by dawg-proud at 6:28 PM on November 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've been in a position of being able to give extravagant gifts. I've received extravagant gifts. But the gifts that have been the most beloved are:
- The little striped sweater a friend knit for my daughter on the occasion of her birth
- The handpainted tee shirt made for the same kids first birthday
- The precious crochet blankie my aunts neighbor made for my son when he was born.

A handmade gift is ALWAYS always always the most above-and-beyond kind of gift one can give to my kids.

Now get ready to pop that bottle of bubbly and enjoy your baby!!
posted by waterisfinite at 6:28 PM on November 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Had you been planning on giving them a bottle of less expensive champagne, that might indeed be difficult to do gracefully. But you weren't.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:29 PM on November 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

So, just to make clear what a couple of people have alluded to:

This is a great test of your friends and the friendship. If you give them something nice and thoughtful and personal, and then they end up sniffing or "accidentally" mentioning the exact price of the bottle of champagne they gave you, then they are assholes and you are well to be rid of them.

But I suspect we'll see an AskMe in a few weeks that starts with "My friend gave me this awesome crocheted baby thing, and all we got them was a stupid bottle of champagne, and now I feel like a doofus..."
posted by Etrigan at 6:36 PM on November 9, 2014 [24 favorites]

Oh, do not spend one more moment stressing over this. No one gives gifts to get a gift of an equivalent value. (I've been on both sides of this and freaked about it plenty.) Say thank you! Buy a book and write a sweet note from your lovely family.

Congratulations on your new addition!
posted by purpleclover at 6:38 PM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty sure what that baby needs is a crocheted baby viking hat. I vote one of your go-to gifts and then a crocheted hat, mostly because baby hats are like the quickest thing to make ever, and they're generally appreciated.

Just pretend you didn't google the bottle of champagne and are assuming that it's a normally- priced bottle of champagne. (Do people actually buy $200 bottles of champagne? Who knew?) And then assume that your friends are not keeping score.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:39 PM on November 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yes, definitely stop stressing about this! You can give them a "priceless" gift if you want -- like, babysitting their child so they can have a date night. Or you can give them something that's so valuable because it reflects the thought you put into it -- like crocheting something. But take the actual dollars out of the equation right now!
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the definition of a consumable gift that's nicer than you'd ever get yourself, which is a classic gift concept. It was thoughtful of them and if they knew you were stressing about it they'd feel awful! (Not that you're wrong to stress about it - just that they wouldn't want you to.)
posted by ftm at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Don't stress about trying to match the dollar value. Buy (or make, but that seems above and beyond) something meaningful to you, and leave it at that.
posted by jaguar at 6:51 PM on November 9, 2014

N-thing the stick with your go=to gifts and something crocheted/handmade suugestions/ I also like your idea of inviting them over to enjoy & share the champagne with you. Perhaps that something you can do after their baby is born to celebrate both of the births. I've always found Chanpagne to be one of those "The More The Merrier" kind of occasions anyway,
posted by KingEdRa at 6:55 PM on November 9, 2014

Also, having a new baby on the way buys you grace - I would purchase a usual nice gift and then if you feel up to doing something really nice for their baby's first birthday, that would be the time to consider making something.
posted by metahawk at 7:00 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I have been flush, it has been my great pleasure to buy nice gifts for friends and family who were not as flush. Maybe they thought it would be cool for the 2 of you to have this to share after your baby's birth. I am certain they do not expect something in kind.

Do what you can, with the resources you have. After all, you are about to give birth, so do not stress yourself out over this! Please! Just figure out a nice gift within your means and do it and let it go. If they are truly your friends, they will enjoy anything you give them. Both of you should enjoy your babies with each other and no stress due to monetary gifts. The best baby gift I got was a soft white baby blanket with a silky satin border and my daughter used that as her blankie for years, so maybe a nice blanket?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:01 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

+1 for very likely a re-gift. They probably received it from a client. Don't stress and give them whatever you were planning to give them.
posted by jshort at 7:11 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with others that they are likely not expecting an expensive gift and that something homemade would be a lovely gift. Also, having been in the position of the "lawyer who makes a lot of money" (but also has crushing student loans and credit card bills) they probably feel pressured to give a gift of this caliber. Amazing the number of people (so-called friends) who scoff at gifts that they think cost less than the absolute maximum you could spend given their imagined idea or your budget.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:14 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lawyer married to another lawyer who also (a) feels pressure to give extravagant gifts and (b) gets gifted a lot of expensive booze I don't like but love to share with friends who do. A simple homemade gift or one of your standards would be appreciated!
posted by notjustthefish at 7:36 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't worry about it, they're probably just bad at gift-giving (so am I). Thank them exactly as much as if they got you a $40 bottle of Champagne and forget about it.
posted by miyabo at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2014

I have friends with way more money who give expensive gifts to my kid, and some expect parity culturally, others don't care. What I do is go for time+thoughtful = money. Handmade crochet hat with a little board book and a sweet card with a poem or some sweet sentiment about looking forward to your two babies growing up as friends is the equivalent for both a friend who is culturally expecting parity (it's not necessarily rude, it's just some people run complicated mental accounts of what Aunty X gave relative to what Uncle Y gave, compared to their income, blah blah, and you either follow the rules and give the minimum with a top-up of cute packaging and a thoughtful note to balance, or you opt out entirely).
posted by viggorlijah at 9:13 PM on November 9, 2014

As someone who has given gifts of wine that I knew were more expensive than the recipients typically drank, my only advice is to drink the thing. No one who gives a gift like that expects it to be be kept forever like a splinter from the true cross. Plan to open it at baby's christening or something and let them know.
posted by wnissen at 9:50 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am currently somewhat more flush than a number of friends and family and it gives me great pleasure to give them treats they won't/can't afford. I do not expect that they match the monetary value of these things and I am thrilled, if my circle do for me whatever they normally do...
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:06 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like expensive bottle of champagne is the ultimate "we want to get them a nice gift, but we don't have the time or energy to think of an actual personalized gift for them so we'll just spend more than we normally would and get them a nice bottle of alcohol."

I feel like this is especially true given that pregnant/nursing women aren't likely to be drinking. So in that respect it's even more of a cop out.

This isn't a judgment. We've all been there. The fact they have money just means they were able to give you a very nice generic gift, but still it's a total cop out of a gift.
posted by whoaali at 4:39 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Match the tone of the gift, not the amount. THey gave you a bottle of champagne for having a baby. They gave you a little treat for yourselves. While I think it would be a good idea to give a baby themed gift, these people seem to see teh looming need for a little self pampering, so maybe include something with your gift that could be for them (such as a box of nice chocolates or whatever consumable would go well with them. Gift card to favorite take out?)
posted by WeekendJen at 7:14 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why not get them something meaningful that you can afford and then invite them over to share the champagne in a few weeks as a celebration of the birth of both babies?
posted by Laura_J at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Unless you belong to a culture where parity is very obviously and explicitly required (if this were the case, you wouldn't be writing the MeFi), there's no need to reciprocate $ wise. In fact, they'd probably be horrified to learn that their gift is causing you anguish. Plus, you never know how much they actually paid. Retail at full price is only one option. I've bought great bottled at serious discount through favorite shops and discount stores. And, don't count out a regift.

Crochet something when you have time and enjoy the Champagne. That's more than enough. They gave you the bottle with hopes that you'd enjoy it. So, banish the worry and enjoy it as they want you to. And, most of all, congratulations on bebe!
posted by quince at 9:33 AM on November 10, 2014

Assuming you are not part of a culture where the value of the gift needs to be reciprocated in a specific way, the best gift you could give them is something within your price range alongside a card or letter with a heartfelt and caring message inside. Kind words will be treasured for a lifetime, and when in written form they are the best!

You mentioned you will be giving a gift when her baby is born. When I was born, my mother received many gifts for me. Over 30 years later, the only items kept were a gold coin with my birth year, a mint set of coinage that would have retailed for the equivalent of $20-30 in today's money... And a brief but touching letter wishing wonderful things for her and her baby. The clothing, quilts, toys, cards with generic messages, and baby care items are long gone over many moves. Generally these don't survive to get handed down over generations. I still have the coins (because they are worth a ton of money now) and the letter (because it is so sweet and filled with loving words for me) though.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2014

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