[Wedding Etiquette Filter] no gifts expected, unless you really wanna
July 30, 2014 5:56 PM   Subscribe

We've invited some people to our wedding reception that aren't close family or lifelong friends, but good friends and colleagues whose company we enjoy, and have been warm and enthusiastic about celebrating with us. We would like to convey that our invitations to them absolutely do not come with the expectation of gifts.

At the same time, we don't want to make a hard and fast command of "no gifts", since some people might genuinely want to get us something. (I personally get a lot of pleasure out of gift-giving, and would be a bit offended if I was told to lay off.)

Invitations have been sent out with no mention of gifts either way, but we have a wedding website (and needless to say, no registry). We're not interested in the charitable donations route either.
posted by redlines to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, not having a registry is likely message enough. Let your nearest-and-dearest know that you're not particularly interested in gifts, and they can pass that along if anyone asks.
posted by muddgirl at 5:58 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or rather, not that you're not interested, but that you don't have a registry nor an expectation.
posted by muddgirl at 5:59 PM on July 30, 2014

Say nothing on your invitation or website. In fact, say nothing at all unless guests individually approach you and demand to know what kind of gift you want. Then you can say "oh please, no gifts!" Then if they insist again say "well, if you really wanted we would not turn down [x]" and move on to another topic.

People who are hell-bent on giving you a gift will figure out a way to do so and people who don't want to give a gift will be happy to see there's no mention of the G word anywhere.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:02 PM on July 30, 2014

There are some positive ways to say this, like, "your presence is the best gift we can receive." It doesn't technically say "no gifts," but I think it makes clear that you don't expect gifts.
posted by gladly at 6:35 PM on July 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yup - we said that we couldn't imagine a better present than them coming to share the day with us! I mean - wow - that's HUGE!
And we were just that peppy and genuinely thrilled that they were coming and people got it. Some brought gifts, some didn't and a fabulous time was had by all.
posted by tabubilgirl at 7:13 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

What gladly said - if I got invited to a wedding and there was no registry, my assumption would be that I should give cash and a card. I definitely would not assume the couple did not want gifts.
posted by Sal and Richard at 7:34 PM on July 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is not exactly you're situation, but tel3path posted an excellent comment about wedding gift etiquette here. The part that would seem to be the most applicable to you is:
...And yet at the same time, it's not okay to mention gifts in the same breath as an invitation, and furthermore you really wouldn't say no to gifts if they were offered. So what you do is, do NOT register. Just don't. NO registries NO NO.

If anyone asks you or your friends what you want for a gift, you say "oh my goodness you are so so kind but really! honestly! all we want is to see you there. That's present enough for anyone!"

If they press you, you say, "no no really."

If they grab you by the throat and scream, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!? JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!!!" you then have my permission to go "eep" and point at their hands. When they let you go, you have a surreptitious peek at the list you are hiding under your desk, and you look at what is not crossed off the list, and you say "well we really, as I said, don't want anything but the pleasure of your company but if you absolutely insist, maybe, oh, off the top of my head a Kenwood Compact FP120 1.4 Litre Food Processor in White? You know, hypothetically." And you surreptitiously write their name next to that item as you cross it off your top secret list that you don't actually have.

Will some people take you at your word that you don't want gifts? Probably. Will some people guess at what you want and give you stuff you wouldn't have chosen? Probably, but that's the nature of gifts, you can't control 'em.

Normally, wedding gifts are sent to the bride's home in advance of the wedding, and people will have to figure that out for themselves. People who are giving you gifts will probably bring them to the wedding. It is common practice to have a "gift table" on display, but as you rightly point out, this is done at risk of making non-gift-bringers feel like assholes, and it's not really polite to display gifts like that, so what you want to do is designate somebody to babysit the gifts on your behalf and put them out of sight. If it is at a venue I recommend asking reception or security to keep watch over them.
posted by Shouraku at 8:14 PM on July 30, 2014

I'm old-school about wedding etiquette. According to traditional etiquette, the wedding invitation should not mention gifts in any context. I hold with this, as I think even some of the expressions gladly linked to can come across as presumptuous.

I would say nothing. Tell your family that if anyone asks after the registry, they just reply 'Oh, there's no registry; the happy couple are just hoping everyone can be at the wedding!' or something similar. If guests want to throw money in a card, or buy you something, they will.
posted by Salamander at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

No matter what you say directly, convention will pull people into a feeling of obligation (and then confusion, frankly). I agree with muddgirl that guests will be more reassured that this is what you really want if they hear it from someone who's close to you, but not you.

Absent a registry (not just a lack of instruction), I too would bring at least enough to cover my plate (and a card).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:22 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may want to create a simple registry anyway. People will feel weird about not bringing a gift. With a registry, you will not only get things that you actually need but you can return things easier than if the gifts all come from random stores. It is nice that you value your guests presence over their presents but there is a cultural drive behind showing up with a gift. Sometimes the nicest thing that you can do is to allow people to do what they always do.
posted by myselfasme at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not having a registry is an invitation to getting a bunch of shit you'd NEVER want in a million years.

We did a registry at Target. That way there were little, inexpensive things our friends could get for us that we'd really enjoy. Beach towels, DVDs, plastic dinnerware, stuff like that.

I'd leave it alone. If you're asked where you're registered you can reply, "we have so much already with combining two households, we're more interested in celebrating with our friends."

People like to give gifts, even if you have two toasters. So give them the option to pick something you'd like.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:41 AM on July 31, 2014

My husband and I didn't have a registry (actually we had a "charity registry" that only a couple people availed themselves of) and we got a lot of cash, some wine, and some very thoughtful gifts. Of course your mileage may vary.
posted by muddgirl at 5:43 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

No registry is not a way to say "no gifts," it is a way to say "cash please" to people who don't come from a culture or geography where cash is the only acceptable wedding gift.

I think it would be very awkward to tell some guests "No gifts" while other guests are not being discouraged from giving gifts, if only because the guests in the first category will show up empty handed and yet see Tiffany boxes and envelopes full of cash being handed over by guests of the second category.

In this circumstance, the right thing to do is to create a (second) registry and have ONLY inexpensive things on it, which would permit people to buy you a token gift and feel comfortable about it.
posted by MattD at 6:31 AM on July 31, 2014

I personally love giving gifts. I also think that at a wedding, having a registry is something you do for your guests, to make it easier for them to get you presents that you will keep around and use and not put in a box somewhere. One of my friends got married, and there was no registry information, and it ticked me off (I suspect it was some sort of stupid secret 'we can't mention the registry' thing) I ended up getting them a gift card, and not enjoying the process as much as if I'd got them a real present. On the other hand, another of my friends was very clear about absolutely no gifts, she didn't want gifts. She has been my friend for forever and I like her, so I got her action figures of superhero versions of her and her spouse. That was OK.

It would break my heart to give cash, as I like to think of my presents as non-fungible items that will bind me to the recipient in a symbolic way. I'd only do it if it were a situation where the couple was clearly very broke and needed money desperately.

I think you should have a registry that is thoughtfully constructed, ie the items are meaningful, clearly not all tailored towards one spouse's taste (I have seen this and it's annoying if the other spouse is the one that was originally your friend), and cheap. Include some items that are *really* cheap and clearly only of symbolic value, ideally still meaningful things that you will use every day like a keyring. Then let people know where it is, but make it clear that it is non-optional and only there to make present-buying easier for people who absolutely must give presents. But then, I hate all the Miss Manners stuff where you're supposed to read between the lines and guess everything.
posted by Acheman at 7:31 AM on July 31, 2014

It seems weird to me that, when it comes to weddings, suddenly we need registries to make thoughtful gift purchases. The rest of their lives we can consider the person and buy them something we think they'll like, but all bets are off at wedding-time.

Like I said, we had no registry and people who wanted to give us gifts still did. One was an incredible hand-made quilt. Another was a cool wall hanging. Another were beach totes with a bunch of fun stuff we used during our beach honeymoon. Thoughtful, personal gifts that could never have been registered. And some people didn't get us anything at all, which was fine - that's why we didn't have a registry in the first place.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it would be okay to post something on your wedding website - one of the suggestions on the link gladly posted would be good. To me, that's the best way to gently discourage gifts. But if you said nothing, I would think you only wanted cash. Which would be okay!
posted by lyssabee at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2014

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