Etiquette Daily’s Greatest Hits: Wording A “No Gifts Please” Invitation

Etiquette Daily’s “Greatest Hits” are questions that generated a great deal of conversation when they were originally posted. At the Emily Post Institute we have learned that some etiquette questions never go out of style and are bringing back a few of these popular conundrums for your further consideration. Enjoy!

Q: I am throwing a birthday party for my son and want to invite his whole class. I don’t want other parents to be inconvenienced and would rather this be a B-day party with no gifts. Of course we will have a dinner and give presents from family and close friends after the class party is over. How do I let parents who I don’t know well know that they should not bring gifts?

A: Gifts are expected for birthday and anniversary parties, but when honorees really don’t want presents, their wishes should be respected. In the past, any reference to gifts on invitations was considered in poor taste, because guests were assumed to know the occasions when gifts were obligatory, and even today, it’s incorrect to mention gifts on wedding invitations. But in light of the current gifts-for-every craze, it’s a courtesy to inform guests when presents are not expected. The etiquette is to write “No gifts, please” at the bottom of the invitation – or to tell invitees when inviting them in person or by phone.

When you receive an invitation with such a request, it should be honored. Showing up with a present when asked not to would embarrass the hosts, the honoree, and other guests who, correctly, didn’t bring anything. If you want to give a special token of affection, you may do so at another time.


  1. Terre

    That being said, I’m invited to a wedding and I’m not sure if I should get a gift. This is the 3rd marriage for the groom — he has quite an established homestead — and there is no mention of a registry. However, there also is no indication on the invitation of “No Gifts.” I’m perplexed.

    • Alicia

      You are not required to give more then one wedding gift per person so you have already given at the first two weddings you do not have to give a gift but if you want to may do so.

  2. Cindy Cunningham

    I am throwing a college graduation party for my daughter combined with my mothers 80th birthday party. How do I write on the invitation, no gifts for my mother but gifts for my daughter are OK? My mother has requested no gifts, and I don’t want my daughters friends to feel obligated to bring my mother a gift, and the other way around; my mothers friends feel obligated to bring my daughter a gift. Any wording for the invitation would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Alicia

      I would send out two separate invites . One for graduation. One for birthday. They are very different events and likely even during the parties will be seperate social groups. Only once they arrive would I make it known that you’re hosting the two different parties at the same time and venue. Although if at all possible I would seperate the time and venue as well as what would please college kids and 80 year olds are likely different.

    • Elizabeth

      You should not mention gifts at all on the invitation, not even to say “no gifts.” I of agree that sending two different invitations is not a bad idea, or focusing on one event (the graduation) on the invitation and letting select people know by word of mouth that you’ll also he celebrating the birthday at that time.

  3. Fran

    I am considering a phrase similar to (a 50th anniversary party): your presence is our gift, no other is desired.


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