Etiquette Question: Is It OK to Ask People Not to Give Presents?
Ah, the festive season is upon us—a magical time filled with amazing food, the best movies, holiday cheer and presents. Ohhhh, the presents. The piles and piles of presents that your kids inevitably grow tired of within a couple of months. Well, if that mountain of gifts has ever felt like too much, you’re probably not the only one who’s wondered, What’s the deal with asking people to refrain from gift giving? Totally acceptable or completely rude? We examine both sides of the argument before turning to an etiquette expert for the final verdict.
Yes, You Can Absolutely Ask That People Don’t Give You (or Your Kids) Gifts
Real talk: You don’t need another scented candle, and your kid definitely doesn’t need more Frozen crap. And isn’t asking for your friends’ and family’s presence over presents the real meaning of the holiday season? Not only will most people probably be relieved that they don’t have to deal with the horrors of shopping during the craziest month of the year, but the burden of reciprocity can be tough on those who don’t have the means to match other people’s generosity. This year, keep things simple and just say thanks, but no thanks.
No, Asking Someone Not to Give Gifts Is Rude and Inconsiderate
Geez, Grinch much? 'Tis the season for celebrating, and that means gifting. If you’re worried about having too much stuff (or anticipating a toddler freak-out), then just ask that friends and family limit the number of presents they give. Because this isn’t just about you—asking people to refrain from gifting robs them of the joy of giving. And if you do ask people not to bring presents to a gathering, you know that someone (ahem, your in-laws) will ignore your request, making all the other non-gifters feel awkward. Come on—how much of a burden is Aunt Sally’s gift, anyway? Just smile and say thank you.
The Expert Opinion
Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette, has this to say: “It's absolutely OK to politely tell your friends and family if you prefer that you or your children do not receive gifts for a certain occasion, for whatever your reasoning may be.” But timing is important—ideally you would do this when someone asks for a wish list. And how you do it matters, too. “I would also recommend giving a reason with your answer, and of course showing you are grateful for their thoughtfulness,” says Meier.
Need some help with the wording? Here’s what Meier would say: “It's so kind of you to want to give the children gifts and we truly are grateful for your thoughtfulness. This year, however, we are celebrating the holiday season a little differently and teaching our little ones the reason behind the season. Therefore we're focusing less on gifts and more on the meaning and spirit of the holiday.”
(But hey, no judgment if you decide that the spirit of the season involves a wish list from Ulta.)