September 1, 2011

No Gifts, Please - Just Pass the Cake!

You may know of my addiction to all things etiquette and advice-related. I frequent the columns of Miss Manners, Carolyn Hax and Dear Prudence and sometimes wish I could join their ranks, but that's a story for another day.

This time I'm asking for insight from you.

The question: As Mac's second birthday approaches, how can I convey that gifts are not necessary at his party?

The background: Last year, we explicitly stated "no gifts, please" on the invite. No one complied, but we wanted the small group invited to know that their excitement was more than enough for our well-loved boy. (Obviously, Mac was overjoyed and "wrote" everyone thank you notes. But the hope was that they felt free to come empty-handed, too.)

Emily Post and Miss Manners, however, believe that just mentioning gifts, even if you are asking guests not to bring any, implies that they should have thought to bring one, or that they would have.

So this year, I left that clause off. (Invites have yet to go out.) But we still want our nearest and dearest to know they needn't bring anything but themselves.

We're inviting guests so we can have a few extra voices in the mix as we warble out "Happy Birthday!" and stuff ourselves with cake; I don't want them to feel compelled to bring a thing.

Side note: This is not a judgment against people who do want people to bring their children gifts. Who doesn't want their child celebrated? And it's not that gifts are entirely unwelcome or unappreciated, just unnecessary. Coming by means enough!

Mac isn't covered up in toys, as we have gone heavy on books and light on shiny things in his two years. But he has no need for anything in particular besides cake and candles.

So the goal is: if you want to swing over for a sweet treat and the blowing out of two candles, feel free to do that, sans the trip to the toy store.

Back to the point: How we should we let people know? Word of mouth? A note after the invite that conveys we'd love to see them, but they should feel welcome to bring only themselves?

How would you do it? And was there an age (for your children) at which you stopped saying "no gifts" or is that always an acceptable concept?

(Do fifth-graders rebel at such nonsense, or are overstretched parents even more thankful then for the reprieve?)

So looking forward to your thoughts!

A hostess planning two dinner parties thisveryminute to appease Miss Manners' "where has non-gift-related entertaining gone?!" voice pointing out her hypocrisy.


Unknown said...

I actually put that on Benjamin's birthday invites... "No gifts, please"... and most people complied! I was thankful.

I think once the kids are old enough to "expect" gifts at holidays, you need to explain to them they expectation is not acceptable. We can be grateful but not entitled. And once Ben is a little older, I am going to strongly encourage him to ask for no gifts, and even suggest collecting donations for toys for tots or a similar charity. :) Just thoughts (from a etiquette non-expert).

Blue-Eyed Bride said...

hey... you know what we did for hudson's first party just because i knew that people wouldn't come empty-handed but i thought it was more important for us to take our friends' generosity and pass it on to deserving kids who had real needs.

i'm not saying that everyone should donate to a charity for their kids' birthday parties, but it is an option.

if invitations have already gone out, word of mouth is the only way to do it. tell a close friend and ask them to tell one person. maybe the message will get passed around.

also- if people do bring gifts to the party, don't open them publicly because this will make those that followed your request feel badly about not bringing a gift.

Danielle said...

I included a small card along with my daughter's 1st bday invite that had a cute picture of a coin going into a piggy bank that said "Christmas just passed, her toy box is full. If you'd like to bring a gift, remember she's already saving for school." It totally worked. Most everyone (including grandparents) took the amount they would have spent on a toy (that she would have played with all of 2 days) and gave her cash/checks instead and we dumped all of the money into her savings account. She will get MUCH more use out of that money one day than a plastic toy.

Claire D. said...

I recently received an invite for a party with a line at the bottom reading, "Just your presence, please."

Margaret said...

We always put "no gifts, please" on the kiddos' invitations and most of the time people comply, but pretty much everybody in our town does the same thing on their invitations so it's pretty standard around here. I have a friend who lives in another SC city and she and her friends actually take their children to REGISTER for birthday gifts.....aaaaaccccckkkk!!!!! My face turns red just thinking about that!!!

I think if you know your friends/family aren't going to comply with your request, you could always ask them to bring a book or toiletry item to donate to a women's/children's shelter--or whatever charity y'all like. :)

Melissa @ I Pick Pretty said...

We've struggled with this too, and I think now the way to go is the "no gifts, please" on the invite when possible. I know that isn't traditional etiquette, but manners are meant to make social situations navigable and comfortable as possible/ suitable; when I've seen "no gifts, please" on invitations, I feel like it does just that. If invitations have already gone out, then I'd just mention it politely if/when partygoers ask about the gift.

I'm also a fan of the Misses Manners, Hax, and Prudence and often wonder if that's not the best job going.

Kathy said...

So, Emily Post would disagree with us, BUT we put "no gifts, please" with an asterisk and then on a little paper print out we wrote, "in lieu of a gift, if you'd like, you may bring one of the following items for the Ronald McDonald House" and then I listed the items. Things like clorox wipes and coffee.

Perfectly Imperfect said...

so... I am ridiculously uncomfortable with mentioning gifts at all on an invitation. I would do word of mouth. When they ask about gifts, just say they aren't necessary. However, I'm also the person who absolutely cannot go anywhere empty handed so... Maybe that colors my opinion?

Connie said...

One line of my cheesy poem that I wrote for Sam's invitation said, "Don't bring a gift; let's just splash for a while. Simply bring yourself and a great big smile!" Some families brought something. Others didn't. No big deal. We did not open the presents at the party. I wanted something that was "no pressure" and conveyed the fact that Sam would be utterly thrilled with a chance to play with so many friends at once. I thought it worked pretty well.

Whitney Bouknight said...

For Virginia's party, we did exactly what Erin did for Hudson's party.


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