Does 'No Gifts' on Invite Really Mean No Gifts?

a nicely wrapped giftThe Evite to the birthday bash said, "No gifts, please." I complied. Everyone else brought a gift. Now I'm sorry I didn't. But should I be sorry?

At holiday and other parties across the land, it seems more and more hosts are asking guests not to bring presents. I welcome the gesture. I can save hundreds of dollars at a time of year when money's the tightest. And it reflects well on the party-givers, who add walk to the talk of wanting to celebrate for celebration's sake.So then why am I feeling so miserly? Jacqueline Whitmore of told me I should hold my head up high.

"You honored the request, so you were not wrong," she said to WalletPop. "Those people who brought a gift, they're not wrong either."

Whitmore, the author of a book on workplace manners called Business Class, has more pointed words for party throwers. Never put the "no gifts" clause on an invitation. It's more polite to inform attendees after they RSVP. To advertise upfront that you do not want gifts creates tension for both those who want to give a gift anyway and those who plan to heed the request.

"There are more subtle ways than blatantly putting it on an invitation," she said. Perhaps the best avenue for hosts to nurture the impulse of giving is to ask guests to donate to the hosts' favorite charities, she added.

Even at the end of the interview I was feeling a little guilty. My friend who had the birthday is a generous and lovely fellow. Living on a freelance writer's budget, I welcome opportunities to keep my wallet in my pocket. "Bleeping cheap" is how my sister puts it.

My wife didn't exactly ease my regret by scolding me with a lecture that I should always buy a gift, no matter what.

At least Whitmore's got my back. I reminded the manners maven that the occasion was at a catering hall, thus eliminating even the prospect of a hostess gift -- a modest offering of wine or household accessory. (Those are acceptable, she said, even when "no gifts" is the order of the evening).

So I asked her one last time if not giving in this case was OK. She replied: "If I didn't have the resources or didn't have the time, I would have felt comfortable."

After we hung up it occurred to me: If Scrooge had received a "no gifts" Evite to the Cratchits' Christmas dinner, would she have given him the same answer?
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