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16 TONS

A festive question:

Is is polite to write “no gifts, please” on a birthday party invitation?

LISTEN:

No it is not.  That presupposes someone’s intentions, and that’s always poor form.

I recognize that you’re trying to be sort of reverse generous, telling people not to spend money when you just want their company, and that’s lovely.  But there are some people in the world who, through training or constitution, cannot bear to arrive at any sort of social event or hosted entertainment without some sort of offering.  And God bless them.

So a birthday party would be a special form of torture for them if you wrote “No gifts, please” right on the invitation.  And I think we can all agree that torture is categorically rude.

What you can do, however, is respond to verbal questions.

“What does Millicent want for her birthday?”

“Oh, nothing at all – she has everything in the world she needs, and only wants more of your friendship.”

Or something treacly like that.

People will bring things, and they can be set aside until after the party.  Only children should open presents during a birthday party, unless it’s a very small gathering of close friends.  Those who do bring gifts should be sent a prompt thank you note, even if the present was dreadful.

Happy Birthday!

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