Can I ask for cash on a birthday invite?

by Older sister
(Newbury Park CA)

My dear sister is turning 60 this year and I want to have a surprise birthday party for her. I am paying for the venue and food. Barbara has lost her husband a year ago and has recently lost her job at a Christian book store. Needless to say she could use money instead of gifts. Her church friends put together cash trees, but since I am not having her celebration at the church I would like to ask for ten dollars in a card for her instead. She lives paycheck to paycheck. How do I do this without feeling like it is in poor taste?


I am planning on inviting 80 guests. I am torn and almost thinking that giving her the 3k instead of having a party would serve her better. Yet I want to celebrate her and overwhelm her with our love.

Any advice would help, thank you!

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Sister's Party
by: Ms P Etiquette

Dear Older Sister,

I am sorry to hear of your sister's situation.

This is a very difficult and could lead to an awkward situation asking for cash in lieu of gifts. This does risk offending some of the guest. You certainly cannot ask for a certain amount. when it comes to appropriate gift giving, it really is up to the individual gift giver as what they feel they would like to give. In addition, you may also risk offending your sister should she find out, as she may feel you are treating her as a charity case.

All that being said, and if you want to take the risk of offending someone (including your sister), perhaps you can state that "in lieu of traditional gifts, a cash tree will be set up." Do not state, "Cash gifts only" or something like that, as this will definitely cross the line.

As far as gifting your sister directly instead of the party, it is something to consider, but, again, do you risk insulting her as a charity case.

Your heart is in the right place, but this is not something easily executed.

Best of luck!

Ms. Practical Etiquette

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