What to Do When the Invitation Says "No Gifts"

It’s a hard reality to face — receiving an invitation that says “no gifts” in one form or another. Perhaps you’ve heard through the grapevine that the happy couple has requested that no wedding gifts be purchased, or maybe you’ve been invited to a present-free birthday party. Whatever the case, it’s likely you’re itching to break the rules and give something anyway.

You might be thinking, Who doesn’t love an unexpected gift? It’s tempting — dare I say natural — to celebrate a loved one or a friend with presents, but doing so in the face of a “no gifts” message can backfire. A wedding invitation shouldn’t include any mention of gifts, but it could happen. We’ve seen it all here at RegistryFinder.

Like so many traditions, gifting has evolved over the years, so to help you navigate through the to-gift-or-not-to-gift dilemma, we’ve broken down how you can approach these sticky situations whether you’re a guest or a host.

Guests — Respect the Request

wedding request "no gifts"


The most common instance for a couple to request “no gifts” for their wedding is when older individuals are getting married — likely entering a second or even third marriage. People at this age and stage in life typically don’t want or need the additional items taking up space, so there’s good reason to respect their wishes and avoid adding potential clutter to their home.

anniversary party

Birthdays & Anniversaries

When it comes to birthdays and other milestone celebrations, it can be harder to fight that natural urge to give a gift. We’ve all heard it: “Your presence is our present!” It’s a common sentiment espoused in birthday or anniversary invitations, and it’s a hard one to agree with completely.

In this instance, we still advise sticking to whatever the host requests. However, if you really can’t resist, send a gift that can be enjoyed later, after the party or celebration. For example, consider sending a flower arrangement, a bottle of wine, or a simple card to express your sentiments.

If you’re like me, you’ll read into that one-liner from the moment you open the invitation until it’s time to show up to the party, going back and forth about whether they really don’t want gifts or if it would be safer to show up with something just in case.

If you’re tempted to ignore the request, here are a few things to consider as you decide:

  • Event venue — Is it conducive to gift storage? Will the guest of honor be more burdened than overjoyed by the gesture?
  • Your relationship to the host — Is this someone you’ve known for a long time, or do you have a more casual relationship? If it’s a close friend or family member, you can probably skate around the rules without issue.
  • Price point — If you do opt to bring or send a present, how much are you going to spend? Keep in mind that someone who doesn’t want a gift may have an unexpected reaction to a big-ticket item.

Things can be a little trickier when it comes to kids’ birthdays, but our stance is, if a parent includes those two words on the party invitation, there’s a good chance they really mean it. Simplifying and conserving are popular trends. To many, less is more, so we advise skipping the gift and bringing a card. If anything — you’re avoiding burdening someone with something they don’t want.

baby shower gifts

Baby Showers

You really shouldn’t see “no gifts” on a baby shower invitation; after all, the whole point of the party is to “shower” the mom-to-be with items that will make the parenting journey a little easier. If you don’t see any gifting information, you can always check RegistryFinder.com to see if the parents-to-be have registered for gifts.

Hosts & Guests of Honor

Register Anyway

We know — we just told your guests to respect your request, but if they’re going to ignore our advice and purchase something anyway, you’re better off if they have a wish list to work with. There are always going to be some guests — be they doting family members or lifelong best friends who can’t help celebrating with a gift or can’t bear to show up empty-handed — no matter how clear you’ve made your request to the contrary. So do yourself a favor and start a registry with a handful of items at a variety of price points, so at the very least, you’ll get something you want.

birthday party


For parents of younger children, the number of birthday party invitations received seems to grow exponentially with every year and activity, which means a lot of gift-giving. If you’re living that reality, it’s okay to keep your kid’s next birthday party gift-free. It’s becoming even more popular among elementary-aged children to request no gifts, sometimes in favor of a charity donation.

sip-and-see party
Photo courtesy of Happiest Baby

Baby Showers

Let’s get right to it: If you’re throwing a baby shower, you’re asking for gifts for the expecting mom or parents. However, if the guest of honor is not interested in receiving baby gifts, you can easily host a sip-and-see party after the baby is born. Similar to a baby shower, it’s an intimate, celebratory gathering where loved ones and close friends can sip on festive drinks and meet your bundle of joy. While it’s much more acceptable to include a “no gifts” note on that invitation, it’s safe to say that you should probably expect to see at least a few.

Gift-giving is nearly embedded in our DNA.

It’s downright natural, and it feels good. And we know that receiving isn’t too shabby, either. That said, we stand by our number one rule when it comes to the “no gifts” dilemma: Respect your host’s wishes.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. The ideas are ours, but we may be compensated if you make a purchase by clicking on one of the links. Thanks for your support!

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