'No Gift' Kid Birthday Parties: What's a Guest to Do?

Talk about awkward: Your kid is invited to a birthday party, only the invitation says guests should bring "no gifts." If you've ever found yourself in this predicament, you might surmise deep down that you're screwed no matter what: If you follow the host's wishes and show up empty-handed, you will feel like a heel, particularly if other guests bring gifts anyway. Or, if you blow it off and bring a present, the host might truly be miffed and thank you through gritted teeth.

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"No gift" kid birthday parties may be tricky to navigate, but navigate we must, since they're becoming more popular as a way to keep kid birthday parties from spiraling out of control. "Both parties and gifts have become so elaborate in recent years, I think people are starting to feel gifting overload," explains Christine Landry at Retrouette, a modern guide to etiquette. "Stating 'no gifts' is simply the host giving guests a reprieve."

But letting guests off the hook may not be the whole story. Some party host parents may truly want to avoid cluttering their home with a ton of toys. "I believe that 'no gift' parties are on the rise because parents are starting to realize that their kids have too much stuff," says event planner Simone Jones Tyner.

More from The Stir: 7 Kid Birthday Party Etiquette Rules -- For Parents

If a host says no gifts, "feel free to take them at their word," says Landry (phew). When in doubt, feel free to ask the hosts about their reason. If it's because they really want to limit their child's possessions, then honor their request. "If you feel odd showing up empty-handed, bring something to aid the party, like cookies that you know are a favorite of the honoree, or a homemade card your child made himself," suggests Landry.

If the host says her "no gift" stance is more for the guests' sake than her own -- and you really want to give a present -- "there's certainly nothing wrong with giving a gift simply because you genuinely want to," she says.

That said, to avoid causing embarrassment to party guests without gifts, present your parcel privately or at another time entirely. That way, you can do what feels right to you without guilt-tripping other parents ... because come on, don't we all feel enough guilt already?

What do you do when a child's birthday party invitation says "no gifts"?

 

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