"No gifts please"
November 8, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Does "No gifts please" on a wedding invitation really mean No Gifts?

A friend of mine got married about a month ago and only invited a few close friends and family to the ceremony. She is having a party to celebrate the wedding with a larger group this weekend. The written invitation specifies "No gifts please" but is that really what it means? I don't want to arrive and find that everyone else brought a gift anyway.

If it matters, this is her second marriage. They're both in their 40s and this takes places in California.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Society & Culture (51 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:42 AM on November 8, 2012 [26 favorites]

In my experience, yes, that's what it means. Some people will show up with gifts anyway. The couple will (one hopes) be gracious in public but will probably be annoyed in private.

They're grownups. They already have stuff, and don't need more. Don't bring a gift; your presence is the gift.
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on November 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

Thirding the yes. Other people may still bring gifts (social pressure) but absolutely no need to bring one. You could bring a card with a lovely note or story about the couple if you feel as though you must bring something tangible. My guess is that having you there will be the best gift you can bring.
posted by anya32 at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2012

"No gifts" could mean "no gifts" or it could mean "no items, cash only." I come from a culture where giving stuff to the bride and groom on their wedding instead of cash is a pretty serious faux pas. I'd bring an envelope with a card and check in it and if everyone actually brings nothing just leave it in your bag, and if there are gifts or other envelopes, just plunk it down on the table. But don't get them stuff.
posted by griphus at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think the instructions mean what they say.
You can decide for yourself to follow the 'no gifts' instructions or not.
Other people will bring gifts.
posted by jazh at 10:45 AM on November 8, 2012

And, yes, of course people are not going to listen/pay attention and bring stuff. That doesn't mean it is any less of an imposition, and that doesn't mean you should too.
posted by griphus at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes. If you absolutely cannot contain yourself and absolutely must put your own needs first (which tbh is not the feeling I get from your question - you're more worried about social graces) I would suggest a charitable donation to something you have actual factual information about them supporting.

Also remember that if other people DO show up with gifts when they were specifically asked not to, and you do not bring a gift, THEY are in the wrong, not you!
posted by elizardbits at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'd send a little something ahead, such as a gift card for a nice dinner or something consumable.

I would show up to the party empty handed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

If my wedding is any indication, I think some other people will bring gifts, but not many at all. I recommend bringing nothing and enjoying yourself.
posted by ftm at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2012

It probably means that they are in their 40s and have more stuff than they want to deal with.

It definitely means that they do not want to you bring a gift. I'd suggest spending a little more time than you usually would on writing a short but thoughtful note.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:50 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I ignore "no gifts" instructions. I translate "no gifts" as "we don't need gifts, don't want to seem greedy and have no gift list and don't want random household crap."

Because I am an awesome giver of giftsTM I give something carefully chosen and not bulky. And generally don't give it on the day itself unless there is somewhere easy to put it. One can also circumvent the rules by simply giving a thank you gift after the wedding.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:52 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you think your friend is a malicious, manipulative person who, unprompted, will explicitly ask you to not do something when actually expecting that you will do it, and thus will be upset at you if you don't? If so, you should maybe not be friends with this person. If not, how about you take them at their word and don't give them a gift.
posted by brainmouse at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: (I did go to her first wedding and brought a lovely gift from her registry)
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2012

If you feel that you absolutely must give a gift despite their stated preferences, at least don't take it to the event. They won't have infrastructure in place to deal with it and it'll make everyone feel bad.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:55 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can always do a charitable donation in their name to a cause you think they'd endorse. I find that's a nice way of celebrating a wedding without buying a tangible gift.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:55 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

The no gifts please is for the people who attended her first wedding, if you did not, you ABSOLUTELY have to bring a gift.

This cannot possibly be correct.
posted by elizardbits at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2012 [70 favorites]

You should interpret "no gifts" as "We are grown-ass adults with all the stuff we need, for the love of god please do not burden us with photo frames we don't want and Cuisinarts we already own two of because, you know, 40 years old. Please just come and be happy for us, it's our pleasure to buy you a drink."

If you want to be a stand-out guest, buy them a card and then send them one again next year for their 1st anniversary.

If you absolutely cannot walk in empty-handed: booze. Or really crafty booze.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The no gifts please is for the people who attended her first wedding, if you did not, you ABSOLUTELY have to bring a gift.

I'm not sure that's right. My wedding was my first wedding, I wrote something about no gifts, and many people didn't bring gifts. Nothing bad happened to them, nor me.
posted by ftm at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2012

I love the idea of making a charitable donation in their name, preferably to a cause you know they support.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

The no gifts please is for the people who attended her first wedding, if you did not, you ABSOLUTELY have to bring a gift.

This is nuts.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

One must believe that the couple does not want gifts, especially since they broke wedding ethics guidelines and mentioned gifts on the invitations.

Don't bring a gift. If you must, donate to a charity in the new couple's name.
posted by k8lin at 11:00 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you can safely assume they have decided they don't want wedding gifts--for whatever reason or whatever definition of "wedding gift"--and not give them a gift. It's especially okay to arrive to any wedding--even one with a registry--without a gift in hand because dealing with gifts at a wedding is a pain. If you must, send something to their house before or after the wedding. But really, take them at their word.

We said "no gifts" and we meant "no gifts". We got gifts anyway, which really bothered my husband. I'll note again, they were a huge pain to deal with at the reception, when we had not planned for dealing with them, and were taking cabs everywhere, and were not going straight home to bed after the event. But we did not sort our guests into categories based on whether they brought or did not bring gifts and every single person who attended got a thank you note for attending because that really honestly was all we wanted.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:03 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

'No gifts' means 'no gifts.' Please bring no gifts.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on November 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

They've said it explicitly so you're perfectly entitled to take them at their word whatever anyone else does. I like k8lins idea if you want to do something.
posted by crocomancer at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2012

It is a plain, straightforward declaration. There is no subtext. They have asked you to not bring a gift. If you bring a gift, you will be going against their wishes. Do not bring a gift.
posted by scody at 11:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

While no gifts mean no gifts three things to consider if you want to give something.

1. cash. Sorry but who doesn't like some extra $
2. something contributed in their name such as a charity they support
3. offer to take them out for dinner as a celebration
posted by stormpooper at 11:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

No gifts means no gifts. To me there is no hidden meaning in this.

I had a very good friend who got married and requested the same thing. I bought an expensive bottle of scotch for the group to share. It was part of the festivities, not a boxed up gift that they ended up having to take home with them. If you absolutely feel the need to bring something, I feel that this is a nice out. Of course, it will depend on the situation, venue, and the people getting married.
posted by Quack at 11:12 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I put "No gifts" or some such thing on the invitation to the party we threw months after we got married. I really seriously very much 100% meant no fucking gifts.

People still gave us gifts. We accepted them and that was fine and we certainly did appreciate them, but we really did mean no gifts.
posted by zizzle at 11:13 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think sometimes "no gifts" means "we really do not want you to bring a gift" and sometimes it means "please do not feel any obligation to bring a gift."

If someone uses it to mean "bring us gifts" then they are being jerks.
posted by mskyle at 11:14 AM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The no gifts please is for the people who attended her first wedding, if you did not, you ABSOLUTELY have to bring a gift.

There may be cultures where this is an acknowledged, if unwritten, rule.

It is not common in any of the North American weddings I have been to or heard about. Here's a Dear Abby letter from 2008. It's even specifically about second marriages.
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on November 8, 2012

I was at a small intimate wedding a couple of weeks ago, and was specifically told no gifts. The groom is a friend from childhood, so I know him very well, and knew he was serious. What I did was bring a bottle of 12-year old apple brandy (he is fond of brandy) to open after the ceremony, but since the father of the bride brought bubbly, I just quietly gave them the bottle afterwards and told them to enjoy it.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:20 AM on November 8, 2012

They probably have all necessary household goods or whatever else people give as gifts. Most people ask for you not to bring a gift because it is a celebration gathering of friends and family. I'm going to take a leap and say people who "write no gifts please" would enjoy a donation to a charity. I like to give money no matter what because in my culture, we give money in a red envelope for good luck and I like to say it is "planting a seed" for a beautiful future ahead. It's not about the money so much as it is a symbol. If I only know the bride, I give a small jewelry gift, also as a symbol of good luck.
posted by Yellow at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2012

Response by poster: I like the idea of a good bottle of booze or a donation. And if it matters, re: the inconvenience of bringing unwanted gifts home, the party is at their home and it's cocktails and dinner.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:28 AM on November 8, 2012

I was recently at a "no gifts" wedding and someone brought a gift and publicly gave it to the bride. She looked dismayed (annoyed), and rushed away and hid it so that other people at the wedding would not start feeling bad about not bringing a gift.

I think a bottle is fine, but, I would still want to be discreet about it.
posted by nanook at 11:34 AM on November 8, 2012

She looked dismayed (annoyed), and rushed away and hid it so that other people at the wedding would not start feeling bad about not bringing a gift.

Yes, this right here is the precise problem to avoid! At no point should the individual guest's desire to feel special and in the spotlight ever be allowed to trump the celebrating couple's expressly and clearly stated wishes, least of all on a day that is obviously all about them and their needs and their happiness.
posted by elizardbits at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2012 [12 favorites]

My Finacee and I are likely to put a "no gifts" type thing on our invitation because we're both grown adults in our 30's, we have everything we need, and we have a small house with no room to store misc things that are given to us. This is also his second marriage and there are still random useless things kicking around that were gifted to him then. (Why he insists on keeping that wooden chicken I'll never know...)

On top of all that, and frankly more importantly, I really don't want our wedding to cost all of our friends and family a bunch of money. We are having a strict "no gift" rule also for the engagement party and wedding shower, etc. People coming and spending the day with us to celebrate our marriage is all we really want.

That said, gifts of money would be very welcome. We're frankly hoping the people who don't feel comfortable not giving *something* (of which there are many in my family) will go in that direction, but we would be just as happy having people not bring any gift. People who show up with either no gift or a gift of money will be bang on perfect. Someone arriving with a gift, though, is going to be sort of frustrating mostly because we have no place to put anything and its like, damn, I mean we wrote out "No Gifts"... we weren't kidding!!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We SO didn't want gifts!! And we made a charity registry and everything. Even so, some people brought gifts, and they were lovely and well-chosen and we appreciated the thought, but we would rather they hadn't.

A charitable donation would both show your support and not add any more stuff to the pile of stuff they are probably trying to figure out how to sort through in merging two households. A gift of wine or food sent to their house after the honeymoon is also a nice thought.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, I'd Love to believe it, but I recently went to a birthday where I believed the "no gifts" note, and then felt badly watching the birthday grown-up as they ceremoniously and graciously opened gifts from almost every other individual/couple there. Annoying!

If it's at their house, booze sounds great. They can either serve it at the party or keep for themselves for later.
posted by ldthomps at 11:48 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dude, if they explicitly ask for no gifts and then get upset at guests for not bringing gifts because the "no gifts" request was actually some kind of Bizarro World passive-aggressive ploy to receive gifts, the guests are not the ones at fault.

However, it's reasonable for them to get upset if they explicitly ask for no gifts and then their guests bring gifts anyway.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 12:00 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please, please, please do not bring a gift.

As someone who got married and was all NO GIFTS YO, SERIOUSLY, NO GIFTS, well, people couldn't help themselves. And therefore I did much schlepping at my wedding. Which was pretty awful, since my wedding was out of town. No gifts really really means no gifts. And if someone brings a gift, THEY SHOULD BE STONED TO DEATH. (Okay not really, it's very sweet. But unwanted.) Some people will! But you will be like "haha I am a good person, I did what was asked of me."

Also I have a bunch of hilarious (but also sweet, sure!) gift checks that I never cashed that I am going to give back to the gift-givers when I get divorced or on their birthday or at their wedding.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:36 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The no gifts please is for the people who attended her first wedding, if you did not, you ABSOLUTELY have to bring a gift.


There may be cultures where this is an acknowledged, if unwritten, rule.

It is not common in any of the North American weddings I have been to or heard about.

Well the culture I'm talking about is Long Island. The tri-state area is a culture to itself when it comes to weddings though. As I stated I believe the OP is fine going with no gift since she attended the first wedding but I have direct experience with a friend who later falling out with the bride where gift omission was specifically brought up.
posted by any major dude at 12:53 PM on November 8, 2012

No gift. if you feel too weird about it, give to a charity they, and you, would like.

Definitely take a card with a nice note.
posted by theora55 at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2012

I got married in the US (Michigan) and agonized for a few weeks on the wording on the invites, because we REALLY didn't want gifts (small apartment, had been living together for 5 years, etc). Yet, there is a cultural tackiness in the US associated with saying no gifts, because then it means you're assuming you're going to get gifts, which you should never assume, but if you don't tell people no gifts then you'll get a bunch of stuff that you didn't need that you wish they hadn't spent the money on, because many of them are coming from out of town and really, we just were happy there were there to celebrate with us and if they couldn't be there, that they'd wished us well.

So... TL:DR - if the bride is from the U.S. and has overcome all that ^^^^^^ cultural conditioning enough to say "no gifts", she means it. Personally, I wouldn't even take booze, simply because we received 6 lovely bottles of wine - which we had to give away, because I don't drink and my husband is allergic to it (the recipients loved them, though!) We received a LOT of really lovely cards, so I would say if you'd like to bring something to congratulate them, bring a nice card with a lovely sentiment written inside.
posted by RogueTech at 4:06 PM on November 8, 2012

We're going the no-gift route, and tbh even the charity gift would make me feel awkward. Most people like to be taken at their word, and I doubt this is an exception.

But: the cocktail & dinner format does lend itself nicely to a hostess-type gift. If you feel you absolutely can't walk in empty handed, a nice bottle of something festive to share (delivered quietly to the kitchen) might be the way to go.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:11 PM on November 8, 2012

So this is why this happens. We got married in June, we've been living together for a couple years, we don't need ANYTHING and did not set up a registry and told everyone who asked that we really really really didn't want anything. And fuck if we didn't get a shit ton of crap anyway, which we gratefully accepted in public and sort of seethed about in private.

They went a step further and put in in print, black and white, on the invitation. Listen to what they are saying!
posted by lydhre at 5:12 PM on November 8, 2012

If the invitation said "No children please", would you go ahead and bring your kids?

No gifts = no gifts.
posted by notme at 6:59 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that no gifts = no gifts, but I do like what Space Kitty said - you're going to their house, and a hostess gift would be totally appropriate. In this case, a bottle of wine or spirits to share with other attendees on that evening would be perfect.
posted by echo0720 at 7:28 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We said "no gifts." This had to be explained to a few family members, especially older ones. His mother was deeply concerned about how his grandparents would take it, and I have a suspicion that it got translated to them as "they don't want you to buy them anything, but you could make them something, so you should make them something."

We received:

- A both-sets-of-parents-funded backyard deck and landscaping, to turn the yard into a suitable venue for the reception. We all put a ton of sweat equity into this project, spending all our summer weekends toiling in 100-degree heat. But the yard still looks wonderful.
- Two six-packs of beer, from a friend. Aww, you totally get me.
- A giant quilt, from his grandmother. And a blanket with woven embellishments from his grandfather. One-of-a-kinds to be cherished always, thanks.
- A pledge to make a quilt with colors and patterns of our choosing, from his other grandmother. So it will actually match my bedroom? WONDERFUL.
- Gift certificates ($20-$25 each) to three locally-owned restaurants (Thai, Indian, vegetarian) from my uncle. These were great, because we checked out places we wouldn't have otherwise gone.
- Cash from his great aunt and uncle who were unable to attend, along with a nice card.
- Cash from both of my dad's out-of-state siblings.
- An insistant demand from a cousin who'd gotten married the month before (I didn't attend, didn't send a gift) to tell him where we were registered.
- Repeated twitter DMs from a crazy neighbor of my mother who really really really wanted to send me a gift.

What I really wanted:

- No gifts.

What, if you really really really really wanted to give something, I wouldn't have resented receiving:

- A thoughtful card or letter.
- Something handmade, if that's really your thing (the quilts were wonderful, and both grandmothers are always giving quilts to someone) and it wasn't an extravagant undertaking.

Basically, people who were just so damn happy for us that they couldn't help themselves -- grandmas, etc. -- did whatever they were going to anyway because they're stubborn. People who were less close -- my coworkers, etc. -- took the "no gifts" on its face and played along.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:34 PM on November 8, 2012

Argh, yes, we said no gifts and we really meant it and we got all these well-intentioned gifts and then had to figure out a place to put them while we went on our honeymoon straight from the wedding-that-wasn't-in-our-hometown and then had to figure out a place to put them in our tiny apartment and we have been moving them around ever since. It is ANNOYING to buy gifts for people who have specifically asked you not to bring any gifts. I tell my friends to register because otherwise you will get weird, weird crap. We were among the first people we knew to get married and nobody told us that there is a subset of the human race who read "no gifts" and interpret it as "go buck wild and get those crazy silk pajamas you've been wanting to give somebody."

We got an ugly vase and it's still at my mom's house and I'm always worried that someday the person who gave it to us will come and look around our house and see that it doesn't have a place of honor and be horribly offended. Our wedding gifts have caused us loads of stress.
posted by town of cats at 7:48 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone I know who says "no gifts" means exactly that.
posted by jeri at 11:25 PM on November 8, 2012

Response by poster: Okay, so we brought a really nice bottle of wine and stuck it, along with a card, in nook in her kitchen, to be found after the party (or maybe during, who knows). When we arrived there were probably already 30 people there and I didn't want to "present" her with the gift, just wanted to ensure she found it eventually. I saw a couple other people arrive with bottles but didn't see any presents anywhere else. Mission accomplished.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:24 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

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