Recently I received a wedding invitation which clearly mentioned - 'we request your valued presence on both the days and request presents in blessings only.'
A couple of days before the wedding, I received a call from another friend who had also been invited and she wanted to know if we were planning for a gift as a group. I pointed out that no gift was needed as their preference was stated quite unequivocally in the card and that we ought to respect it. But this friend was shocked that I intended to walk in empty handed and insisted that we check with the rest of the group. Finally I decided to take a bouquet as a compromise and it turned out that almost everyone had come with some gift or other - it seems that no one really believes that the couple mean it when they say something like that in their invitation.

Most of us know from our experience that there is nothing called a perfect gift for someone else unless it is close family or friends and you know exactly what they would like. Many times we end up picking up decorative pieces without even a clue about what their house looks like. I assume most people would prefer doing up their house according to their personal taste rather than be compelled to use assorted gifts that have been randomly picked driven by someone else's budget and taste.And in any case there are too many vases and clocks and tea sets after a wedding for one family's needs and they need to be given away or re-gifted.
So why do we insist on wasting money when someone has clearly requested not to bring a gift? We feel embarrassed to be empty handed when we go up to the couple to wish them. And we also know that no one else will take such requests seriously (as it happened at this wedding I was talking about) and you may end up looking like a fool.

So how do we make people stop this? How do we word this request so they know we mean business? One couple I know had stated that all gifts would be donated to charity and they would prefer if cheques were made in favour of a particular charity. Apparently there were two boxes at the entrance to the hall and everyone dropped their gifts/ cheque in the appropriate box and walked in empty handed to wish the couple. Brilliant idea, I thought. I don't know what others thought especially the ones who had insisted on taking expensive gifts. But I guess you have to do something like this if people do not understand simple instructions in plain language.

In case you are aware of any other effective means of communicating that you really want only their presence and blessings, please share them with me.

P.s: While on the topic of gifts, Paul has a lovely post here (actually all his posts are lovely and thought provoking) please check them out.
23 Responses
  1. Altoid Says:

    I've seen this too and I feel its either that you find an effective way to communicate you mean business or not do it at all. This innocuous "no gifts please" really does nothing.

    I like that box for charity idea, really shows them you mean what you say.

  2. Savani Says:

    Word of mouth. Donating to a charity is better since people feel they have given something. I also feel writing a preference for gits (even if it is to NOT want it) ir a bit umm.. impolite. Because this implies you expected people bring something in the first place. Registries are common in the US where the bride/mother-to-be pick items at store(s) and list is provided to guests. Although practical, this is also tacky... there is no harm in sharing registry information, but not so with the invite. It always puts me off. I always make it a point to ask while RSVP if the bride/mother-to-be is registered somewhere (most of the time they just put a list in the invite, ugh)

  3. rads Says:

    Well, I don't think I have an idea per se, but I certainly approve of the no-gifts or gifts-for-charity policy.
    I was invited to one of each and I settled for flowers and a check for the other. I think both the gifts brought happiness to both of us. I hope at least.

  4. Sumana Says:

    I really liked and appreciate the idea of gifting to charity. What a great start to a newly wedded life in the case of the couple you were mentioning.
    Even when people mention "no gifts please", there will be a set of people who when you go empty handed will term you as penny pincher. Anyway we should hardly care for them.

  5. Preethi Says:

    This brought to mind a story I read.. about a rich man who wrote the same in the invitation to his daughter's wedding.. apparently they were showered with bouquets and flowers. For the wedding of his second daughter.. he wrote Please don't bring flowers, gifts are welcome.. and there were loads of gifts. He proceeded to donate it all to charity.

  6. I feel a certain sense of joy when I give someone a gift, and this is without expecting a reciprocation. I agree most of the times people bring presents just because they *have to* bring something. Gifts have lost their meaning.

  7. Hip Grandma Says:

    I was at the receiving end when at the time of my husband's shashtiabdapoorty we requested our invitees to avoid presents and we looked like fools accepting them.The cash gifts were donated to needy people but some of the gifts in kind remain because I feel that there is no point giving someone things that i can't use myself.To top it someone remarked that by mentioning that people avoid gifts we are kind of making sure they do not forget.I have a friend who politely but firmly turned down all gifts at the time of her wedding.Looked a little weird but that was perhaps the best way.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Seriously, I would feel literally embarrassed to go empty handed to a function.. and most of the time my parents give money to bride/groom, so that they can buy or do whatever they want.[ and not "censure" us for the unthoughtful gift :)]

    I did specify what I really want for a gift individually, if that helps :)!

    Donating to charity is a good idea!! You get to do something for the society at least.. but i really don't understand what use a lot of vase, flowers, clocks, trays, utensils are going to be to the charity :D

  9. Shruthi Says:

    An old post of mine on the same subject

  10. Anonymous Says:

    i went to a wedding(in USA) where they said in the invitation-"No Boxed Gifts please" meaning that cash will be accepted. They had a box for the envelopes. I am sure the cash would have helped them and or charity.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    For my wedding my dad suggested this polite "presence no presents" mssg in the invitation. But I asked him to plainly put "Kindly avoid presents". He felt it sounded rude. But guess how many gifts we got inspite of it. Thankfully I think we would have gotten a LOT more if we hadn't mentioned it.

    We forgot to put this message in the groom's place reception and now we have 4 big boxes of night lamps, clocks etc. I hate how some of them were actually recycled gifts - they even forgot to remove the name tag of the previous gifter!

  12. Choxbox Says:

    recently one fo our friends celebrated their kid's first bday. they said no gifts please, but you could donate cheques to the charity they volunteer for. i was wondering whether to take a small toy/book and give a cheque but decided to stick to what they'd said. at the party i saw everyone handing cheques - no one had got anything else.

  13. noon Says:

    I am not yet sure about this...I don't feel comfortable walking into a party - esp a kid's birthday - without presents. And in some ways, I don't also like this donate to charity thing - I feel I will donate to charity anyway - I feel like giving you something to celebrate your occasion. This is for close friends. I feel sometimes people feel obligated to give to charity if I say so when in fact they would either give me/kids something to remember them by or not give anything at all. So they end up doing both often times - make a check to charity and give a gift. I don't feel good about imposing on them my opinion of how they should donate to charity. I am holding a celebration and inviting them - so it's either please no gifts or just let them do what they want. One invite I got recently said "No boxed presents please". So every one gave cash or gift cards...

  14. Anonymous Says:

    ery thoughtful post Usha..

    I personally think writing on the invitation instead will act as a reminder. Probably gifting during marriage must have started to
    help the couple to start their family with few basic items that they would need(of course now the young couple do plan out on such things and some already would have their home set up before wedding ).

    I feel books are good gifts..!

    In villages, they plan out some expenditure out of the gift they receive as cash, so for them, it does make a difference..

    To be very frank, I don't like going to any such occasions without gift :-) Charity is something which I anyway do ...

  15. An interesting post as usual Usha.

    While on the search of the 'mirage of the perfect gift' what about Gift cheques or vouchers? Has the concept not caught on in B'lore?

    Charity box is a very nice idea too.

  16. dipali Says:

    I suppose it really depends on the relationship you have with the person inviting you. If they say 'no gifts', it should be respected, particular if it's the wedding of youngsters who will be living abroad. Charity is so personal, would like to do it on my own, not under anyone else's scrutiny.
    For my S-I-L's golden anniversary there were no such restrictions written- the family of course brought special gifts which were highly appreciated, and their friends mostly got them bouquets.
    The entire house was full of flowers- adding to the grace of a once in a lifetime experience.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you for the generous mention! I've been feeling a bit out of sorts lately and the kindness of your mention has cheered me up. :)

  18. Usha Says:

    altoid:In fact this is how some was well be something I can use.

    Rads: saying it with flowers is a great idea but this wedding I went to, the whole huge hall was done up with flowers. I think in such cases flowers become redundant too.

    Sumana:I think we are conditioned to think thatyou have to take gifts when you are invited on a special occasion - it does not seem to matter much whether it is useful for the recipient but having a gift parcel in your hand makes you comfortable that's all that matters.


    Final_transit:Personal Gifts among close friends on special occasions is a different story but it is when you are invited to a wedding of a colleague's son - that is when you hesitate to go empty handed, you have no idea what they may like and so you are dictated by your budget and taste and most often the gift may be of no use to the recipient. And the pity is that about 70 percent of the invitees in a wedding belong to this category!

    Hipgran:Shows how tough it is to change certain traditions - you have to expect criticism and rude comments.T changes.hinghat is why most people take the easy way out and not

    Veens:I suppose money is the simplest way out. And tyraditionally they only gave money and it was used by the family to meet some of the wedding expenses or by the young couple to start their lives.

    Shruthi: will check it out.:)

    anon: I think in the US they are a lot more open and practical about these - like making lists etc.

    SS:This is the part I don't understand - that people don't get it when you plainly request the NOT TO do something.

    Choxbox: Good to see that at least some people understand simple instructions. :)

    Noon: we are not talking about kids' parties here. It is adults who have practical problem handling too many unwanted gifts - storage is a problem with smal flats, using so many clocks and night lamps is an impossible task. So they are requesting you not to get anything and if you still have a problem with that they are giving you a choice of their preferred charity. As good a way of making them feel special on their special occasion.
    Obviously their first preference is for No gifts. I am quite comfortable with this.

    Veena:I love to receive books - but sometimes they don't know my taste and sometimes I already have it.
    Since it is almost given that everyone takes something as a gift, i don't see why we should feel squeamish about mentioning the G word on the invitation. And if we really feel strongly about something, we have to feel bold enough to say it and not worry about what vibes we may be sending out.

    bala:You worked in a bank here right - then you do know that banks introduced GCs way back in the late 70s.But many times they are not used - we forget to get it from the bank or more importantle we have a gift to recycle at home. LOL

    Dipali: within family, it is usually not a problem. The unwanted gifts usually come from people we don't know well - people from our colony, colleagues of parents etc.

    Paul:I hope you are better now. Thanks to you for the beautiful posts.Anything I can do to cheer you up?

  19. The Nomad Says:

    I know excatly what you mean... I do belive that people do not like to take others words... I like the charity box idea. We end up doing that anyway, with the enumerable flower vases and bowls you get :-)

  20. Mahadevan Says:

    I feel, when they say No presents please, we must respect them. Giving to a charity, directed by them does not seem to go well. Charity is something where one has to follow one's own impulse and not to be dictated by others.

  21. you are spot on, gift giving at weddings are really difficult especially when you are not that intimate with the couple, i like the idea of the donations to a charity, we have had two family weddings, at which i was appalled at the request on the card, my cousin asked for all gifts to be in cash, money for the honey moon,...honey why go to the moon if you cannot afford it? which of course she could.but she must have known the outcome, the financial gifts were huge, must have been cause daddy's in government,oooops i'm being nasty. i think though a charity would have been a good idea,
    the next wedding invite read, we would appreciatte a penny or two as we are off to london, so what do you think, should i give one or two pennies, i have some old english pennies, a throw back to british rule in south africa, lol

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  23. Anonymous Says:

    The line, in my opinion, didn't mean no presents, it meant "give presents in blessings only" meaning don't give them if it going to be a big deal, which it seems it was for you.