Ask B: Does “No Gifts” Really Mean No Gifts?

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Dear B,

I was invited to a children’s birthday party and the invite said “no gifts please.” I’ve always been confused by this, because I’ve been to parties before where the host requested no gifts, yet some people still brought presents. Can you tell me what the actual etiquette is for a “no gifts” situation?

Sincerely,
Perplexed Party Guest


PPG,

The “no gifts” situation is one I absolutely can clarify! While some may interpret this as code to still bring a present, it is in fact proper etiquette to follow the invite’s instructions and not bring a gift. The reasoning is two-fold: First, as a guest, it’s best to comply with host’s wishes, and if they would prefer no gifts, then attend the party sans present. Secondly, if you decide to bring a gift, yet other guests don’t, they will feel bad and embarrassed for showing up empty-handed. Moral of the story: no gifts really means no gifts. If you still wish to do a little something for the host, consider bringing a beautiful card. It allows you to share your well wishes for the occasion you’re celebrating, yet still respects the host’s desire to have no gifts.

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