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.