DEAR MISS MANNERS: We are preparing to celebrate my daughter's fourth birthday and are hosting her first party. We don't expect any gifts. The invitation is extended for them to come celebrate with us, no gifts expected.
Lately, on half the invitations we've received, there is a statement about "your presence is the only present required." But if we show up empty-handed, there still appears to be a pile of gifts, and we feel embarrassed. When there is no mention on the invite, people still seem to bring gifts.
Is it better to put the "no gifts" disclaimer on the invitation, or just say nothing and hope they know that it's not expected? It seems tacky to mention gifts, but might it appear that we expect them if nothing is said?
GENTLE READER: When you say that "we" do not expect any gifts, Miss Manners would be delighted, if surprised, to hear that the pronoun includes your daughter and not just you and your spouse.
Denying, convincingly, that your child is counting on a present, and yet showing enthusiastic gratitude when one arrives, is good manners, but it would require an emotional dexterity that challenges even adults. Although hypocrisy in the name of good manners can be a virtue, telling people on the invitation that a present is not expected at the birthday of a 4-year-old strains credulity beyond reason.
Better to omit any mention of presents, accept the gifts that do arrive with a smile, a thank-you -- and, of course, a subsequent thank-you card -- and put them away quickly, for later consumption.