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Would you ever throw a “no gifts allowed” birthday party?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Last week I got an invitation from a friend who’s having a birthday party for her two little girls. Shortly after the Evite arrived, I got an email from her apologizing for the invite and saying that she feels guilty overloading us with her family’s parties (her son’s bday was the week before). Then she said, “I wanted to write no gifts on invite but am always torn if that looks tacky or weird? Erin maybe you can devote a blog to that question!” I immediately wrote back and told her A: We were very happy to be invited and B: We were even happier to have something fun to do with our kids on a Sunday afternoon and C: I would definitely blog about it. Because I feel her pain.


I have considered the no gifts things for Alex’s birthdays in the past, particularly since we invite so many people (it’s as much Labor Day BBQ as it is a kid party) and the boy just doesn’t need that many toys--see the photo above, from his 3rd bday, as evidence. And I don’t need to write that many thank you notes! And also because I want to let people off the hook—trying to figure out what to buy kids these days is tough! But I never have. Because my friend is right: It does feel weird. Any time I’ve mentioned this idea to my mom (the birthday party etiquette police) she has said, “You can’t do that, Erin, you can’t tell people what to do.” People like to bring gifts, Alex should get gifts for his birthday and, the kicker, “you’ll be buying gifts for all those other parties, you know.” But for me it’s not about tit for tat, it’s about overloading people with obligation—and overloading my house with Cars 2 crap. I also think many people would bring something anyway and that gets even weirder….


Another friend said she recently went to a first birthday party where the invite clearly stated: “No gifts please, your presence is gift enough.”  Cute, right? My friend still brought a little something—a small unwrapped book tied with a bow. But when she arrived at the party, the apartment was “filled with humungous beautifully-wrapped presents.” Wait, it gets worse: “Before cake, they had a full on gift-opening ceremony where everybody oohed and ahhhed. Not cool.” Not cool, indeed. In fact, that’s awkward. And I would have been pissed. I am a rule follower and if the invite said no gifts I probably would have done just what my friend did: Bring a little book. Ugh.


What do you guys think? Is there a way to handle this that’s both classy and direct? (I’ve honestly thought about doing an “in lieu of gifts, please make a donation to XYZ charity in Alex’s name” but, again, that feels weird. And presumptuous. And just plain wrong. Is it just a fact of mom life that kid parties are always going to come with gifts—and guilt. (there’s also the thank you note debate, the goody bag issue and the “do we seriously have to invite every damn kid from the preschool class?” dilemma) Gheesh, when did this get so hard? Let’s discuss. Would love to hear your thoughts. Especially since I have some time before my invites go out!



PS, for those of you coming to Alex’s birthday party in September, Cars 2 crap is perfect.