No presents at a party

Is it okay to ask for no presents? PSP members discuss the do's, don'ts, and etiquette of requesting no gifts at a party.



In this article:


Organizations to give to in lieu of gifts

No gifts? Idea of what to say on the invite




Original poster asked:

“I have a kid’s birthday invitation etiquette question. My third child is turning one and we’re having a party for him. He doesn’t need any clothes or toys. He has plenty from his older siblings. Would it be ok if I wrote on the invitation something like, “your presence is the only present wished for,” or put in a link for people to make a donation, like to a respected charity like The March of Dimes?  Would that be ok or really rude?”


And followed up with:

“Thank you to those who answered my question.  Several people responded that they have already asked, in one way or another, that people not bring gifts for their child on his/her birthday.  One person made a good point that it's hard to teach your child to be generous and give when one is asked not to bring the birthday child a present.  Maybe a good compromise is making a donation to a charity.”


Here's the responses below:


“DEFINITELY not rude. What we've said in past years. Your presence is the only present wished for, but if you feel you must give a birthday gift, please feel free to make a donation to: xyz to help blah, blah, blah.”


“Yes, either is perfectly appropriate.”


“I'm a bit rushed by didn't want to pass by this post as it's something that I've grappled with so please excuse my wandering reply. 
I think that people are so used to giving presents that even when given alternates wishes may not be honored. I've put "your presence is your present" or "no gifts please" and it goes unheeded by most so I've given up. Years ago when my kids were smaller and I asked for no gifts another mom commented "how do I teach my child to give if you aren't allowing gifts?" which was a fair point at that stage, when our kids wanted to only have toys for themselves and not to give as gifts. We are now at the stage to be working on being grateful so we need to be given gifts in order to be grateful (reminder to self to actually send our last batch of thank you cards!).”


“I  didn’t see the original post so I don’t know what age group this is for but I have a 12 year old boy and everyone still brings presents to birthday parties, going strong.
If you really don’t want to give or get presents, you could emphasize this in the invite but just don’t be surprised or dismayed when some people bring them.  I just wouldn’t feel comfortable coming empty handed.  You also could suggest that people make donations in lieu of gifts, although I’ve not yet seen that for birthday parties.
We don’t encourage or discourage it but my stock gift these days is an Amazon gift card - $30 (which some people may think is too high – or too low – but I figure it averages out in an acceptable fashion), since especially older kids like picking their own gifts out (or saving for something big to avoid all the clutter), and gift cards seem more in vogue for older kids.  Common is Amazon or Toys R Us or sometimes Barnes & Noble.  Books are always good.  The older the kid gets the less random gifts seem to come in.
Our old rule of thumb was that if a gift was unopened or unused a year after the birthday, it needed to be donated or given away or (very very rarely) re-gifted when seemed particularly right for someone else.”


“Even with my first son, I said "no gifts" for birthday parties one and two, at least, if not #3, also (I can't remember). And I actually see it with a fair amount with his peers. I actually think it's weirder to suggest a donation (which I've seen). I think ppl get it when you're like "we want to celebrate but we don't need gifts." I think I gave an explanation like: "he doesn't yet expect gifts and we're okay keeping it this way for another year!" But, like other responders said, some ppl will still bring gifts. Which is obviously fine. With those, I literally saved them for a rainy day and let my kid open them when I needed him to be occupied/entertained, etc. Good luck!”


“A few other options we've encountered:
A friend asked for no presents at her daughter's recent birthday party but said if you feel the need to give please give $9 to a charity or $9 which is what we did. The $ amount was in honor of 9th birthday.
Another invitation asked to bring a book for a book exchange - but I missed that detail on the invite and brought a present anyway (d'oh!).”


“Totally OK to say "no gifts please". I've seen it on many invites. And you can say something like: if you'd like to make a donation in his name please donate to:....”


“For the two parties we have thrown I always put "your presence is present enough." If I see people in person before the party I'll mention to not worry about presents to reinforce it. Usually a few people do bring a present, but most don't and are pretty cool about it. We of course send thank yous to the one who do in keeping with good etiquette. I'm actually surprised when people have parties that they want presents. Who has room for all those toys?”


“I think that’s awesome.
I might write something like:
‘X is so fortunate, he has everything he could possibly need. In lieu of a gift, would you please consider making a donation to help those less fortunate at__________’”


“This isn't rude at all! This is very common. And it's great for guests who can't afford presents.”


“At 1, I think totally appropriate to request no gifts.  I did (to extent we even HAD parties ... I remember 1st kid turning 2 when I'd just gone back to work after having 2nd kid and my husband was stuck traveling somewhere in a snowstorm ... kid didn't even get a cupcake, let alone a party, though he did get random presents people had sent at random times to help me preserve my sanity).  Once mine hit a certain age, though, I just gave in and accepted that we would get too much stuff.  For a couple reasons ... it's pretty hard for a 5 yr to give a gift and see everyone else getting gifts when he doesn't get any himself.  And I figured other parents might see it as a bit "holier than thou" and off putting, as in, "we will bring your greedy materialistic kids gifts, but we don't want any. anyway, there's no wrong answer here, but I don't think it's rude at age 1 to say no gifts.  also, even as mine are older, I sometimes tell certain parents I know well enough to feel free to recycle a toy their kids not into as ‘gift’”


Organizations to give to in lieu of gifts:


-- I got responses from quite a few of you who offered as a great organization.

-- Someone mentioned donating a book to a school on the child's behalf


-- Wide Horizons for Children,

-- See PSP’s list Local Gifts That Keep Giving

-- See PSP’s list of local charitable organizations here:


Idea of what to say on the invite:


By the way, here's what I put in the invitations as a separate note:



[Child’s Name] says she understands there are kids who don't have as much as she does. She therefore asks that you, her friends, don't bring presents for her Birthday. (She also knows she's getting plenty of gifts from her immediate family.)

IF you want to donate a gift to an organization in lieu of a Birthday gift for [Child’s Name], feel free to make a donation to or any other organization you might know about.

If you do bring a gift, we will donate it to Room to Grow. Your gift will help children living in poverty receive the things they need for a secure and safe start in life--including healthcare, books, clothing, equipment, toys and other things. If you want to donate on behalf of "[Child’s Name]," they'll be able to send her a

letter to let her know that her selflessness has made a difference.




It all worked out fine, she got lots of presents from her grandparents and other family folks. We sent thank yous to everyone who came (regardless if they donated), she got to have a party (and cake and goodie bags) and it turned out just fine.


Related reading on PSP:

Too Many Presents/Gifts

Homemade Gift Ideas