'No Gifts' Birthday Parties Put Guests in an Awkward Position

Rant 125

We've been getting birthday party invites with some unexpected fine print lately. Instead of "bring your bathing suits" or "feel free to drop off," it's "no gifts please." Sometimes in lieu of presents, they ask for a charitable donation and provide a link. I can't decide whether I think this is a great idea or a terrible idea that deprives a child of one of life's simple thrills -- tearing open tokens of acknowledgement on their special day

The first few times I got invites like this, I admit I blatantly ignored the request. Not getting a kid a gift just seemed so ... harsh. But more recently, the wisdom's started to sink in.

After our daughters' joint 6-year-old dance party last year, the amount of presents my husband and I hauled home literally made us sick.

Our girls don't get a ton of stuff during the year and they know their birthday is special and that they're lucky to have all that they have. But because there were two of them and a guest list of girls from two classes (our school's suggested policy), the riches seemed obscene. It took days to open all the presents and write thank-you notes, which I insisted they do themselves. But would going to the opposite extreme this year really get the message of gluttony across? How do you go from heaps of goodies to zero when you're still buying Barbies for your friends?

My sister-in-law introduced me to a website called ECHOage.com, which seems like a promising middle ground. It works like a cross between Evite and PayPal with a donation component built in. Guests contribute money with a credit card. The total gets split between a charity of your choosing and the birthday kid. They'll have a lump sum to put toward one meaningful gift like an iPad or a bike.

The site emphasizes compassion and the good feeling that comes with giving, of course. But they also underscore a practical bonus that hadn't occurred to me. Not receiving gifts also means, if others follow your lead, not having to spend your weekends shopping for them.

Do you think "no gift" birthday parties are a good idea?


Image via shorts and longs/Flickr

birthday parties, kid parties, birthdays

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Fondue Fondue

I think the ECHOage thing you mentioned sounds like a money grab.  I liken that to asking wedding guests for cash instead of gifts.

nonmember avatar Zoe'sMom

Yeah, I agree that asking for money in any form from more than likely, strangers really is just tacky. I don't have a lot of money, but I'd rather shop through Target and find a nice gift that fits my budget and makes that child smile. I can't imagine most young children truly understand or appreciate online charitable donations anyway...

nonmember avatar Elena

I while those idea have there places, for say memorials or such, this all takes away from the joy of GIVING a gift that people look forward to. I know for my daughter I like saying; "You love that blanket from Auntie huh?" you know? Cash doesn't have that same effect especially at such young ages, and no gift policy all together just seems like forced ideals.

redK8... redK8blueSt8

My kids have been invited to a no gift party and they were bummed, because they really liked the birthday girl and were excited to go and pick out a present for her and see her face opening it. They missed out on an important lesson of GIVING, and the birthday girl missed out on graciously receiving. Both lost out. Unfair all around.


Honestly, if parents think their kids have enough stuff already they can give away some stuff pre-birthday and/or some of their birthday presents. Much better lesson on greed and abundence.

Stink... Stinkydog

We've never instituted a no gift policy  but when my kids have gotten too much on their birthdays (or at Christmas) we simply stash some of the gifts away and let them open them other times during the year--Easter, Valentines, When You've Been Reeeeally Good and Not Driven Momma Nuts, etc. My kids are 4 and 2. They can't count how many boxes they got, so they don't know. 

Michele L James

Wow. When my kids get new things they get rid of old things. Shopping for friends and sibling is a huge deal for them. We don't have much money to shop with so they try extra hard to make it special. Their excitement, wether giving or receiving, is priceless.

PonyC... PonyChaser

the only time I agreed with the "no gift" policy was when the boy chose to have his birthday at an expensive 'fun place'. I think it was lazer tag. The mom wrote on the invite, "in lieu of a gift, please bring $10 to help defray the cost of admission". All the other moms and I were fine with that, since we generally set a $20 limit on gifts. The boys had a wicked time, and the birthday boy didn't miss the gifts b/c it was his idea to do the bigger party. He considered that his gift. BUT - the operative thing here is that it was HIS idea, not his parents imposing it on him. I think this was his 8th birthday.

Craft... CraftyJenna

I don't really like the idea, I love giving gifts. Plus the website you mentioned sounds really tacky, like just asking for money. I would rather get a gift than cash any day, a gift means you took the time and engery and picked something out, rather than stuffing cash in a card. 

nonmember avatar JustSaying

Oo boy. Let the kids have some presents on their birthdays! Once you grow up people stop caring all together about your 'special' day -lol- let alone do you really get presents! Let them enjoy it now. Donate used toys/clothes you have too much of... teaching thoughtful giving and graciously receiving followed by humbly donating. Sounds like some good life lessons you'd be missing out on.

nonmember avatar Reina Gonzalez

I don't really like this idea. As kids get older they appreciate money especially if they are saving up for something they want. I still think that they love the idea of opening gifts and being surprised. I agree with the comment below that the website to give a donation is kind of tacky. I definitely think that bringing a gift you put thought into is a better idea. :)

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