The Invite Says 'No Gifts'. What's Up With That?!

Gifting comes with a lot of baggage-- from old traditions and old fashioned etiquette, to new trends valuing experiences over things; and even a consideration for the environmental impact of gift giving. So what's a parent supposed to do?

In a recent Facebook group post, a mom asked about no gifts and birthday parties. (Because this is a hot topic among parents, we created an open thread for your comments. We'd love to hear what you think!)

From the Original Poster:
"I'd love to talk about this 'no gifts' on birthday invites. What's up with that?!

I think writing 'no gifts' when gifts are actually optional is tacky (after speaking with/finding out from parents I actually can bring one).

Here's the thing...'no gifts', I get that it's a courtesy to say a gift isn't expected OR some parents truly don't want more crap in their house, maybe their kid has enough. But the dilemma is, how people interpret it. 

For me, I always want to bring something, even if it's small. It's not my love language by any means, but I think it's polite and it brings kids joy. It's my way of saying Happy Birthday AND thank you for including us, and in a sense "I see all the effort and money you put into this party so here is a nice little gift your kid, siblings, and maybe even you to enjoy" (I once got a family friendly interactive gift.) Anyway some people are great gift givers and some aren't and I get that; I also understand parents don't want other parents to have financial pressure to buy one if they can't.

Now here's where I see the problem... I went to two parties where the parents of the birthday kids noticed the gift table (why was there a gift table if the invite says no gifts?) and it had three gifts on it (one small one from me)... so one mom commented "oh taht's not many gifts, that's sad" (ummm your invite said NO GIFTS in CAPS) and I said "Well I brought something small I knew she would enjoy but isn't a toy because I felt weird coming empty handed despite the 'no gifts'. I think the other parents just took it literal when you wrote it how you did". The other parent at a different party said "well I guess this is what we get for writing no gifts". So you can see...when you write no's open for interpretation."

Her post received over a hundred comments with a range of opinions, so we thought this was a great discussion for Partydip parents. To answer the OP, a commenter, Rachel, answered simply-- no gifts means no gifts! 

A lot of moms said they felt uncomfortable showing up empty handed.

One mom suggested books and experiences instead of toys. Writes Mhari:

I wrote no gifts when we did parties because I knew my kids didn't need more stuff and because they would get so distracted by one gift that then none of the rest would get opened or would get shoved to the side and there was no appreciation or gratitude for them. We asked for books instead but have now stopped parties completely and we just do an experience with either the family or maybe 1-2 friends. They appreciate things so much more now.”

Several moms said they preferred experiences.

Lauren commented:

“I agree I don't want a million toys, but also don’t want my kiddos to feel like they don’t have anything to unwrap. Haven’t figured out a way to say it yet. I’d love to get experiences or gift cards towards something but feel like it’s tacky to ask for specific things. Interested in what others say.”

Lauren, we’re happy to say it’s not tacky to ask! Over 70% of the moms we surveyed said they didn’t mind getting a wish list. Plus, Partydip lets you include local experiences on your child’s wish list. 

Lots of moms said they were tired of all the stuff too.

Billions of dollars of unwanted gifts end up in landfills each year. A great way to avoid unwanted gifts is to provide a wish list of gift ideas to your guests. In the Facebook comments, Immie said she likes to ask the parents for gift ideas.

“Even if it says no gifts, I ALWAYS talk to the parents personally and ask what they would like me to get. Like something specific that they are ok with me getting. ‘Hello, I’m Blank's mom/dad. I know you said no gifts, but I would love to bring something to say thank you for inviting us, is there anything I can bring or is there anything we can get your child?’”

Lots of moms agreed, saying they LOVE shared wish lists because they help so much with gift giving.

Karleigh responded saying how wish lists have helped her so much, saying, “They really do!! I started one for my daughter after the first mom invited me to her list.”

Jolie also agrees with asking for a wish list, saying, “I just simply ask the parent, does your kiddo have a bday wish list? It’s so much easier to just ask!”

Some moms suggested donations to charity instead of gifts. Writes Courtenay, “I’ve done a few parties where we requested donations to a specific charity organization. That was fun.”

When it comes to gifting, do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

Commenter Marlena got the most likes when she summed it up best, saying:

“The whole topic of birthday party etiquette is kinda ridiculous, honestly. Just do what you feel comfortable with, gift or no gift and take the stress out of the entire situation.”

Marlena, we couldn’t agree more, and that’s why Partydip is here for you and all the other moms! We take the stress out of party planning and gifting with party planning tools, invitations and supplies, a wish list registry you can share with guests, and experience gifts too. 

Next time you throw a party, remember your guests feel more comfortable bringing a gift. You can help them avoid an awkward situation if you provide them with your Partydip wish list when you send out your invitations. If you prefer a party with no gifts because you’re tired of all the stuff, register for experiences instead!

What do you think about gifts versus no gifts? Feel free to leave a comment.

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