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The new rules of gift-giving

Celebrations have transformed in the last decade. It’s no longer weddings, birthdays, childbirth and anniversaries. Today, we clearly like to party—as is evident by the countless celebrations that lead up to these momentous occasions, a few after the fact, and the unique gatherings that have emerged over the years.

Weddings now have engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, welcome dinners, and post-wedding brunches. New moms celebrate with gender reveals and baby showers—or a baby sprinkle, if it’s her second child. And the list goes on: housewarming parties, half-birthday parties, pet birthday parties, and even divorce parties.

Which of these events are people most excited about, though? Do we need to bring gifts to all of these celebrations? And how do we know what’s appropriate to spend with so many celebrated occasions?

We surveyed 989 people who recently attended at least one party in the last year to establish a modern gift-giving guide and learn what people really think about these modern celebrations.*

Proper Party Etiquette

There are many traditional guidelines when it comes to gift-giving, but some of the trendier occasions might not be as familiar to partygoers. These lesser-known celebrations include things like pet birthday parties and gender reveals, events for which over half of respondents believed gift-giving was necessary!

One en-vogue party that most people thought was necessary to attend with a gift was an elopement reception. Many couples choose to elope to save money and to avoid the hassle of a traditional wedding, but some may still opt to have a small gathering after they’ve tied the knot.

I’m So Excited, I Just Can’t Hide It

While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by constant invitations to parties, remembering that these events bring joy to others can boost our own enthusiasm if a friend or family member invites us. That’s why we were curious to see how excited respondents would be if invited to different parties.

From baseball to tennis, hockey to golf, sports-viewing parties garnered widespread appreciation from fans and hobbyists alike: Nearly 46% of respondents reported feeling “extremely or moderately excited” about getting an invite to these get-togethers. These days, sports fans can even gather at large-scale watch parties, which are often sponsored by the teams themselves.

Pumped for the Party

Respondents were not as likely to enjoy going to divorce parties, however, with over 17% of those surveyed reporting they felt excited about this sort of invite. 

Divorce parties might feel like a strange thing to celebrate, especially if you attended the wedding. In fact, one of our survey respondents felt this way, commenting, “The most awkward party was my best friend’s divorce party. It just felt weird celebrating the end of something that we thought would last forever.” 

On the other hand, divorce parties can be extremely liberating and signify a fresh start. By stripping the taboo from divorce, women and men can reclaim their happiness and lighten the mood around divorce. 

Baby boomers and Gen Xers were most excited about attending elopement receptions, while millennials were more pumped for the after-party following a wedding. 

Extending the party after the wedding is a new norm for millennials getting married, with about 25% of millennials reporting having followed this trend. Baby boomers were also the most excited for gender reveals, while millennials and Gen Xers surveyed were less thrilled with attending these affairs.

To Gift or Not to Gift?

​With so many types of gatherings, many want to know the answer to one question: Is it necessary to bring a gift to every party you’re invited to? It turns out that some events might be more gift-appropriate than others.

Modern Guide to Gift Giving Chart

There are some special occasions where gifts are expected, and it would be out of the norm for someone not to bring one. 

One example of a “gift-mandatory” party is a wedding, an event for which approximately 95% of people surveyed deemed it necessary to bring a gift. 

This is also the kind of celebration that warrants spending the most money, as the appropriate average minimum amount to spend on a gift was a chart-topping $73. Interestingly, respondents said that gifts for a couple who eloped only needed to be a minimum of $49, on average.

Birthday parties for kids, friends, and family members were also thought to be gift-giving occasions. However, the same wasn’t necessarily true when the birthday party was for a pet: About 42% of people surveyed didn’t think it was necessary to bring a gift to that type of party.

Celebrations that mark major life events—like graduation parties—seemed to be the ones for which respondents found gifts to be essential.

Price Is Right

Figuring out the appropriate amount to spend on various occasions can weigh not only on your wallet but also on your mind. How do you know what’s expected of you? Regardless of the cost, you want your gift to be meaningful, but you also want to price your gift in the right ballpark.

Millennials surveyed spent almost $80 less than Gen Xers on gifts in the past year.

Despite the popular belief that millennials spend all their money on things like entertainment, clothing, and more frivolous items, research shows that this may not be the case, possibly explaining the modest amount of money this age group spent on gifts.

Additionally, the rise of the DIY community and the influence of Pinterest have led to an increase in homemade gifts, which could also explain the lower amount spent on gifts by millennials.

Generous Gift Giving Graph

It’s no secret that weddings can cost a lot of money: In fact, the average cost of a wedding is at an all-time high of $44,000. And that cost may even extend to the guests. Interestingly, we found that men had spent nearly twice as much on bachelor party gifts as women did on bachelorette party gifts in the past year.

Thanks to easy-access online registries and overnight or two-day shipping, there is really no excuse to fail at getting a gift to the wedding couple in time. Tradition says that a wedding guest has up to a year after the event to send a gift, but today’s technology throws that idea out the window. Gifts should be sent within two months at the most and sent directly to the couple and not brought to the wedding reception.

If you attend multiple celebrations per year, developing a gift-giving budget for yourself will be helpful as these parties and events start to fill up your calendar. That way, you already have money set aside, removing much of the stress and allowing you to focus on the excitement instead.

Life’s a Party

Survey results showed that we tend to gather for those who are close to us to commemorate one more trip around the sun. And as birthday parties continue to be more extravagant, and with celebrity birthday blowouts dominating social media, many desire to keep up with the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous.

What are the types of parties people attend?

Elopement receptions have also increased in popularity, with over 54% of millennials having heard of these parties versus only 28% of baby boomers. Younger generations tend to favor smaller ceremonies over large, expensive weddings, leading to a rise in prominence of the post-elopement party.

Gender reveals, which were attended by a little over 14% of those surveyed, have also become incredibly detailed and complex. 

This was the “new” party phenomenon that all age groups had heard of the most. It’s not enough to just slice open a cake and reveal a colorful interior or pop a balloon filled with blue or pink glitter. And people are getting increasingly creative with their reveals, such as having an obstacle course race, skydiving, or strategically organizing a series of objects around the house to trigger different actions, like a gender-reveal scavenger hunt.

Happily Ever After

No matter the occasion, most people love a reason to celebrate! It could be a milestone moment (anniversaries and birthdays), an excuse to get friends together (sports-viewing parties), or an opportunity to keep the party going (wedding after-parties, post-wedding brunches).

But if you aren’t sure what kind of gift to give for any of these events, Happy Cards are always a good idea.

From Happy Bride to Happy Moments, each card offers the recipient their gift of choice with up to seven retailers, entertainment venues, and restaurants for redemption.

With so many choices, there’s something for everyone! You don’t even need a special occasion – there’s never a bad time to give a gift that can make someone’s day a little bit brighter.Happy Cards are sold at retail stores nationwide and online at and

Methodology and Limitations

*The “New Rules of Gift Giving” study consisted of an online survey conducted by Fractl on behalf of Blackhawk Network in August of 2019.

The sample size was 989 adults, aged 19 to 73, who’d attended one of the parties listed in the study in the last 12 months.

The survey was conducted using Amazon Mechanical Turk. 40.3% of respondents were men, 59.3% were women, and less than 1% were nonbinary or chose not to identify.

Participants ranged in age from 19 to 73 with a mean of 44.2 and a standard deviation of 13.5.

Quotas were set to acquire sufficient numbers of participants representing the baby boomer, Generation X, and millennial generations.

For the amounts that participants spent on gifts and the amounts they believed were appropriate, we excluded outliers before finding the averages.

Zeroes were included in the averages since not everyone spent money on gifts for the occasions they attended.

To show the percentage of people who believed a gift was not necessary for a given type of celebration, we found the percentage of participants who entered “0” for the minimum amount appropriate to spend on a gift.

This study is based on self-reported data, which means the data could be influenced by respondents’ minimization, telescoping, or exaggeration. The results were neither weighted nor statistically tested.

Fair Use Statement

Is your calendar filled with trendy parties? We don’t want you to be stuck wondering which ones you should attend with a gift. Feel free to share this information about gift-giving etiquette with your friends and family, or use it for yourself! Just please be sure to use this piece for noncommercial purposes only and always link back to our original study to give credit.