The Polite Way To Tell People "No Gifts, Please"

A kind and thoughtful way of making your request known.

Small Gift Wrapped in Pink Gingham Paper with Blue Ribbon
Photo: Getty/Sanga Park / EyeEm

Whether you have limited space in your home or simply don't need any more stuff, it's perfectly acceptable to decline gifts at your next event. But when that gathering is one where guests typically bring a present, like a wedding or a baby shower, you'll want to give everyone a heads-up about your no-gifts preference.

So where's the best place to indicate that you'd prefer not to receive gifts? According toJacqueline Whitmore, an international etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, the invite itself might not be the appropriate avenue.

"An invitation isn't necessarily for listing whether you're accepting gifts or not. An invitation is just that: an invitation. Here's the date, the time, the place, and the theme," she says. "If you're sending more formal invitations, you can put an insert into the invitation. If you have an electronic invitation, you can explain it right in the invitation itself."

Whitmore adds that we're living in a "casual society" these days, so for especially informal events, like a housewarming party, making guests aware verbally is fine.

If you're struggling with the wording to indicate to your guests that you'd prefer not to receive gifts, Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette, has a few suggestions.

"Saying something like 'Your presence is all that I/we wish for. Please save gifts for the next wedding or party you attend!' is a warm way to make the request. Adding a more playful line can also help to soften the request. This might be something like 'We have everything we need and your attendance is the cherry on top! Please no gifts,'" she says.

Whitmore adds that you could also say something like, "Your presence is our present" or "The gift of your company is the only gift needed."

Depending on your preferences, consider encouraging your guests to donate to a charitable organization in lieu of gifts. If you have a cause that's near and dear to your heart, you might suggest that the donations go to that group.

"I love the charity suggestion, as it's a way for the person or couple to give back instead of taking a gift they don't need or want," Meier says.

Even with the most carefully worded invitation or request, you might find that a guest brings a gift anyway. When this happens, Whitmore encourages you to graciously accept it. And don't forget the thank you note!

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