I’ve Been Invited to a No-Gifts Holiday Party — Should I Bring Something Anyway?

Close up of man serving Thanksgiving turkey to his friend during a meal at dining table.
Drazen Zigic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s the giving season, but what do you do when you’ve been told explicitly not to bring gifts to a party you’re going to? Is that rule enforced, or is it just not to make anyone feel obligated to bring a gift? The short answer is: no, do not bring a gift.

There are a few reasons why you’ll want to abide by the invitation. Read below before you decide to bring something to a “No Gifts” party. 

Bringing a Gift to a No Gifts Party Is Disrespectful to the Host

The host specified that no presents were required for a reason. Perhaps they don’t like to receive gifts in those settings, they’re worried about people not being able to afford gifts, or they found that people feel pressured to outdo each other. Whatever the reason is, it’s something your host believes in firmly. Showing up with a gift in spite of what the host asked for comes across as if you do not care about the host’s wishes.

Food and Drinks Can Be Okay–But It Depends

Many of us were raised to never show up empty-handed to a party, but what happens to that when you’re invited to a no gifts party? Sure, you’re not going to bring a pricy dishware set as a gift, but what about a meat and cheese tray, or a bottle of wine? This truly depends on the host. The best way to find out if this is appropriate is to contact the host directly to make sure you’re not making any missteps. Perhaps the host truly meant “bring nothing” because they’re having the event catered. Or, they just didn’t want anyone spending an arm and a leg, but bringing a $10 bottle of wine is totally acceptable. Either way, it’s always better to ask than realize you made the wrong choice once you walk in the door. 

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Gag Gifts and Gifts for Hosts’ Children Are Still Gifts

Maybe you think that bringing a joke present or something very silly as a gift would be okay since it’s not something you would give in seriousness. The thing is, a gag gift is still something you went out and bought and gave to the host. It not only goes against the host’s request, but it’s probably something they don’t actually want or need, so it’s even more of a nuisance. This same advice applies to bringing a gift for the hosts’ kids. This could still be seen as going against the hosts’ wishes. Additionally, depending on the age of the child, this could lead to a disaster in which they expect gifts from all of the party attendees. Avoid an embarrassing situation and stay away from gag gifts or gifts for kids. 

Cards Are Okay, Provided There’s No Gift Inside

If you want to express gratitude to the host, a card with a written message inside is perfectly acceptable at a no gifts party. However, do not take this as an opportunity to sneakily put cash or gift cards inside. A simple message of thanks and wishing the hosts a happy holiday season will suffice. If you want to be extra safe, you can send a thank you card after the party so you aren’t seen giving anything to the host during the affair itself. 

Flowers and Donations to Charities Are Okay

Etiquette experts tend to agree that floral arrangements and the like are acceptable at no gift affairs, but make sure it’s not an ostentatious display. Something modest that you can pick up at the grocery store is perfect. The same goes for donating in the host’s name to a charitable organization that either they or you are passionate about. This one, you don’t even have to let them know you did it if you don’t want to, and it can just serve as a good deed. However, if you want to tell them, you can tell them in a card.

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If You Still Want to Give a Gift, Do it On a Different Date

If you can’t help yourself, or if you traditionally give gifts to the host of the party, make a date to give them a gift before the party. Do not bring it to the party expecting that you’ll get a pass. Most likely, the host has specified no gifts to cut out any confusion for anyone wondering if they should bring a gift. For the night of the party, leave the gift at home. 

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