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Help with wording a party invitation to say no gifts

15 years ago

I hate stuff like this, but I have to do it. We're having a joint birthday party for all three kids this year to save money and effort (all of their birthdays are in early Fall). We're going to make it a backyard barbecue with about 10 families (most of them have 2 or 3 young kids). We'll have lots of games and stuff and a giant cake. We're thinking of doing it pot-luck style so that we provide the main food and each family brings a dish.

We definitely want to say no presents. There's no way I want anyone to feel obligated to bring 3 presents, and I don't want SOME bringing presents and others not - I don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable. SO, how on earth do I word that politely on an invitation? Any suggestions appreciated!

Also, any ideas for games? There will be about 25 kids from ages 1 - 9. We have a pretty big backyard.

Thank you!

Comments (34)

  • 15 years ago

    I get invites like that all the time. It usually just states no presents at the bottom...but one we got last said, in lieu of presents, please bring a donation (for the honoree) to take to the Help House (our local foodbank).

    I have no creative ways on saying no presents though.

  • 15 years ago

    No game ideas but when my daughter recently had a 24th birthday party, her invitation said Would love your presence, not your presents at my party ... or something like that.

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  • 15 years ago

    I've read alot that it's rude to say anything about gifts, but I'm with you, I wouldn't want people to feel obligated to bring three gifts.

    What I would write is, "Please no gifts, your presence is gift enough", or "your presence would be a wonderful gift", something like that.

    But be prepared, some people will bring presents no matter what you say.

  • 15 years ago

    Oh...I missed the part on games. Any water games would be a big hit, especially since it's summer. Slip and Slides are awesome. If you don't want to buy one, you can easily make one with plastic sheeting and a hose, will work better if you have an incline in your yard. Also, water balloon games, like a water balloon toss. Or you could make an obstacle course with things you already have around the house, or a scavenger hunt!

  • 15 years ago

    I should have mentioned - the party is on October 3, so it will be cooling off by then. I love the idea of a scavenger hunt!

    If someone DOES show up with gifts, I'll feel so awkward. I guess I'd just thank them and whisk the gifts away out of site?

  • 15 years ago

    Hummm... no gifts for a kid's party? Never heard of that. Will the kids be ok with that? It's ok to ask for no gifts for yourself, but I'm not sure you should ask for no gifts for your kids (unless it's their idea).

    And, a pot luck for your kid's b-day party? Asking to have your guests bring food for your kids' party is pushing it, IMHO.

    I'd figure out some cheap foods to serve yourself, don't ask anyone to bring food, and let people bring whatever gifts they want (they may decide to bring one gift the kids can share or bring 3 smaller priced gifts). But, if I'm going to a kid's b-day party, I'm gonna bring a gift(s). I would much rather bring 3 gifts than have to bring food. It's often very inconvenient and a lot more expensive to bring food, than to pick up some kids' toys on sale.

  • 15 years ago

    ok since you don't want presents, don't say birthday it a family fall festival.

    maybe have some of the traditional things like apple bobbing, or things you'd find at halloween parties like "guess this"...blindfold kids, and let them touch peeled grapes, cold pasta, etc...have a pinata...collect fall leaves if you have them...

    for the immeadiate family, like we grandparents, at least let them contribute to college funds, etc...

  • 15 years ago

    The kids are fine with no gifts at the party. They'll get presents from family on their individual birthdays.

    We were planning on barbecuing hamburgers/hotdogs and boiling a giant pot of corn on the cob and having everyone bring a side dish, but maybe we'll just order pizza and I'll make salads and stuff to go with it instead. That would free Claude up to socialize with our friends and help out with the games and stuff too.... I actually stole the potluck idea from a birthday party we went to last Summer. I never thought anything of it, but I guess it could look bad to some.

    Love the ideas for games, and I sort of like the idea of calling it something other than a birthday party to avoid the gifts. I still want to have a giant cake, though. :)

    We're toying with the idea of having some sort of entertainer too (magician or something).

  • 15 years ago

    I think that the often-used "your presence is present enough" or something of that type still results in some people still bringing presents. It's not strong and sometimes can be construed as just being polite. In this case, if you really don't want gifts, I'd say something like "We respectfully request no gifts.". Or maybe you could say "While we respectfully request that you not bring gifts, we'd love to have you bring your favorite casserole/entree/dessert (whatever you want to put here) to share with the crowd".

  • 15 years ago

    There is no proper way to say "no gifts". No matter what you put some will know it is the children's birthday and they will come bearing a gift.

    There is really no polite way to dictate to a guest whether they should bring a gift or not. A gift is an offering that can neither be demanded nor refused. If one is offered it should be accepted with grace even if one doesn't want it.

    I like the idea of calling it a family fall festival or even a pre-Halloween party.

  • 15 years ago

    Nicole, I love the idea that you are having a family oriented party not centered around presents! Co-incidentally I am hosting an open house that same day for my Uncle who will be 80 years old on Oct. 7th. I'm hoping the 3rd will be better weather than the 10th since we are up North also and that time of year can be tricky. I have been thinking about invitations, too, and wanting to take the emphasis off of presents and more on sharing good times.

    My party is going to be a smaller gathering than yours but if it wasn't I wouldn't have any problem going pot luck! Myself, I'd think it was easier to bring food than to shop and buy and wrap toys! To each their own! And yes, we will have a birthday cake too, maybe more than one.

  • 15 years ago

    I said "no gifts" for my 50th. The few gifts that showed up, were put in another room, for later.

    You really can't keep people that want, and can afford to bring something from bringing anything.

    Just put the gift aside, to keep others from feeling left out.


  • 15 years ago

    Maybe donations, either $$$, food, or toys or clothing for the Domestic Violence Center, YMCA child care program, Food Banks, or other needy program. Decorate big box and people can leave donations, but do find out ahead of time where the items are going. Maybe they (the children) could make cards, draw pictues etc to put in box). Also are you near a base? Many of our military bases have needs also. Ask around and I am sure you and your friends can come up with good ideas. Another idea is school supplies for those who need them. Here in our area some of the organizations take up these donations and make up kits.

  • 15 years ago

    I love potlucks. I wouldn't be insulted to be asked to bring something! It's all in the name of fellowship!

    I've tried the "your presence is present enough, no gifts please" and there were still gifts brought. *sigh* I like the idea of stating "no gifts needed, please" and then just putting the ones that show up into a different room for later.

    As for games, bean bag toss is fun for all ages and you could easily make the bean bags and the target. Bobbing for apples would be fun. Last year at Annie's party, the kids made pet rocks. I found some nice smooth rocks and painted then black, green, red, or white. I had googly eyes and fake hair, fabric bits, string, glitter, etc and the kids made their own the exact way they wanted them. It was a lot of fun and took a bit of time.

    It sounds like a wonderful party! I vote for billing it as a birthday party because I'd be a bit surprised if someone pulled out a giant birthday cake at a "Fall Festival". (although I would have no problem eating the cake) LOL I hope this helps!


  • 15 years ago

    Personally I don't like the idea of telling people they should donate to a special cause to attend a party.

    Parties are social celebrations and I dislike the idea of making them into fundraisers. But I'm old school.

    Now I do think it would be nice for parents to encourage their children to donate some of their girts to the less fortunate if the children would like to.

    The real solution to not getting tons of useless gifts would to keep parties small and amongst friends that would already know your desires.

  • 15 years ago

    I put "Your Presence is the Best Present" on my friend's 50th birthday invitation... but I think everyone brought a gift anyhow. How about asking each family to bring a item (leashes, food, bedding) for the local dog shelter in lieu of gifts. You could even make dogs/cats a theme for the party. Maybe you could find a local college student who can make balloon animals?

    Sounds like fun. I wouldn't have a problem bringing a dish, I doubt most people would.

  • 15 years ago

    As I read your post I was thinking the same thing, why even say its a birthday party? Just call it a celebration of children or something and do the games and cake etc.
    I'd be fine with a potluck.
    Party games, pin the tail on the donkey, scavenger hunt, balloon volleyball or regular volleyball,if its October how about a pumpkin hunt? Get the little pumpkins or gourds, you can find artifical ones pretty cheap.Apple dunking? Or the game where you pass the apple from person to person without using your hands? Throw bean bags thru a target?
    Gosh I think this sounds like fun, I wish I could come!!

  • 15 years ago

    I threw two parties requesting "no gifts" on the inviyations. The parties were for my DH 40th birthday and our daughter's Christening. Most people brought gifts anyway.

  • 15 years ago

    Oh another game thats fun for kids is toss the ball in the ping pong balls, space the buckets out in a line from a few inches from their feet to about an arm length from the standing spot.

  • 15 years ago

    Actually, Wildchild has a great idea. Since you know people will probably bring some gifts, I would say something like, "In the spirit of giving, if you would like to bring a gift, we will be making a donation of new or slightly used toys and clothing to Toys for Tots" or whatever children's charity is in your area. That way, you are helping out kids who are in need, you don't have to keep more toys, etc that people would bring, and you can get your kids excited about helping out other kids who don't have as many cool things as they have. You could even have your kids help you decorate a cool box before hand for the donations people will bring to the party.

  • 15 years ago

    How do you ask people to bring food to a party on an invite? never heard of it unless it is a usual thing in your circle of friends in that case I'd say something lik "Our turn to host the pot luck dinner. We'll provide the main course There will be games and fun for the kids" something like that and leave birthday out of it I agree with Carla

  • 15 years ago

    I know it would be a little early, but what if you had a pumpkin carving game or contest, age-related teams, and asked everyone to bring a small pumpkin instead of a gift and then the kids would get to keep all the pumpkins?

    I wouldn't do a pot luck either because I hate when you end up with 15 meat dishes and no veggies! I'm too controlling for that, I like to know what will be served, so unless I have several good friends who wouldn't mind being assigned a dish, I would supply all the food myself. That doesn't mean I'd make it all, I might buy the potato salad already made.... have fun, Nicole- it sounds like a really good idea.

  • 15 years ago

    Jenn I think you misunderstood me.

    I don't like any social occasion used as a fundraiser or to sell things called a birthday party, family party or whatever.

    Guests are invited to parties. They choose whether to bring a gift or not.

    An invitation telling them what to bring or where it will go to is not a party invitation. It is a fundraiser.

    I did think that it would be nice for Nicole's children to donate some of the gifts they receive if they have too many toys,duplicates whatever if they wish to. But that is between her and her own children. I would never tell or even hint to guests they have to donate to anything no matter how worthy the cause.

  • 15 years ago

    I have a very large extended family and we do pot lucks all the time. When someone extends and invitation and "please bring a dish to share" we usually respond right away and let the host know...I'll bring my meatballs, or my fruit salad, etc. We're not shy about saying "Patty's already bringing a pasta salad" so then that SIL might say, "okay, can you use some brownies, instead?" If they're close enough to invite to pot luck, they always check what everyone else is bringing. We know each other's standby's but still mix it up a little bit for interest. It makes hosting so much easier when you only have to concentrate on the house & yard and beverages. Sometimes people provide beverages, too!

  • 15 years ago

    I disagree. I think its great to collect items for a worthy non profit cause. Just make it optional. Take Flameys idea and turn it into pumpkin painting. Then the kids will have pumpkins ready when Halloween rolls around. Be sure to check out party ideas and games on They have food, games, and craft ideas for all sorts of parties.

  • 15 years ago

    I like: While we respectfully request that you not bring gifts, we'd love to have you bring your favorite casserole/entree/dessert (whatever you want to put here) to share with the crowd".

    But, to be honest it should just be a fall festival, if you tell people it's a bday they will feel like they have to.. so, just keep that info out... And nothing wrong with a potluck, many people could not afford to entertain it it weren't for potlucks. I would rather bring a dish or ask for a dish then not entertain/see my friends. I could not afford to put on a party for 30-50 people at this time in our lives (husband on furlow) but I could afford to "potluck" a party...

  • 14 years ago

    How old are the kids? If they are in their early to later teens, you could find a temporary tattoo artist. They are a lot of fun. We have them at our holiday party at work and they are always a big hit. Now that I think of it...even the little ones would like it.

    I think you and your DH will enjoy it more if you stay away from having to grill hamburgers and hot dogs. Have something that is already ready to eat when people arrive, so you aren't tied up still cooking.

    And with the economy the way it is...I don't think many will have a problem with it being a potluck. I agree with it being announced as a Fall party.

  • 14 years ago

    People do not bring food to birthday parties. I have never, ever seen that happen. The host and hostess supplies all the food for the birthday parties.

    As for gifts, I love it when I hear the stories of intead of giving gifts to kids to donate.

    One little girl had her friends bring pet stuff and they went down to local SPCA; pound,etc. They brought bags of food, toys, etc.

    There are tons of pets, tons of people, tons of health issues to donate too.

    Kids these days have so much stuff and don't need anymore. Its nice to teach them to give to others that don't have and are in dire need.

  • 14 years ago

    The more I read the more I think the whole thing is just getting too complicated.

    Your kids are still little. Give them each their own little party. You keep the costs down by limiting it to their own special friends of their own age. One guest for each year. No siblings, no trying to please all age groups on one day.

    Every child loves to have their own cake on their birthday. Doesn't matter if you bake it, it's bought at the market or special ordered at a bakery. As long as their name is on it and there are candles to blow out all is good. You could probably throw 3 regular no-frills little birthday parties for the cost of that huge cake you need to feed the crowd of 25 kids and their parents you are planning to invite.

    Maybe have the little ones each have ONE friend of their own age over to keep them occupied on Sophie's day and on their birthdays Sophie can be the little co-hostess and game organizer/ entertainer for the little ones.

    The first 10 years are special for children.They pass quickly. Plenty of time for combined birthdays later.

    I'm a big believer in hosting what you can afford. Hosting does not mean potlucks,collecting for charity or over-spending. It means having a good time with close friends.

    If this were a family (as in related to you) I would feel entirely different.

  • 14 years ago

    Thank you for all the suggestions everyone! :)

  • 14 years ago

    10 families? Why not just make 10 phone calls and make it clear that you want no presents and why and get a commitment from them. Then you can put on the invitation as we agreed, no presents please. It would be rude of them to not honor your request, though people are rude. But this is probably the easiest way to head it off. I take it the birthday thing is out of the bag so calling it something else won't eliminate the fear of presents. You can still have cake. Have it say HAPPY SUMMER! or ENJOY THE BBQ!

  • 14 years ago

    Oops, make that, GOODBYE SUMMER!

  • 14 years ago

    From Emily Post

    "Q: I am throwing a birthday party for my son and want to invite his whole class. I donÂt 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 donÂt know well know that they should not bring gifts?

    A: Gifts are expected for birthday and anniversary parties, but when honorees really donÂt 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, itÂs incorrect to mention gifts on wedding invitations. But in light of the current gifts-for-every craze, itÂs 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, didnÂt bring anything. If you want to give a special token of affection, you may do so at another time."

    See - it's fine to put "no gifts, please" on your invites.

    And I don't see anything wrong with having folks bring a dish to share instead of gifts.

    Do what you want and have fun!

  • 14 years ago

    Game ideas- A friend of mine had her daughter's birthday party outdoors, early fall also. She set up stations. There was a bubble station, a play-doh station, coloring station, etc. She had regular kid outdoor toys set up, like ring toss, badminton, etc. They did toilet paper races (sounds tacky but the kids thought it was hysterical) 2 people on a team, holds a roll of toilet paper on a stick (each kid holds one end of the stick) then the teams race each other, 2 at a time until the roll runs out. Get the el cheapo toilet paper that doesn't have much on the roll. They didn't really need anything too organized or complicated. They all just played together in the yard.