Wedding etiquette is a delicate arena defined by rules of behaviour that sometimes seem to contradict each other. This is evident in the subject of gifts; while couples are expected to register for specific items, it is considered gauche to indicate any mention of wedding presents, even a request for "no gifts" on an invitation. There are ways to impart this wish to guests, though, as well as options for those who feel the need to present the new couple with something special.
Emily Post, the guru of modern-day etiquette, insists that it is unacceptable for couples to indicate "no gifts, please" on wedding invitations. There are, however, ways around this rule. Including verbiage such as, "Your presence is the only gift we desire," in small print on invitations lets guests know your wishes for a gift-free event. Alternatively, let key people, including the Maid of Honor, Best Man and parents of the bride and groom, know of your no-presents request. As invited guests reach out to them for ideas on gift items, they can help in spreading the couple's desires.
Regardless of how strongly a couple may feel about not desiring wedding gifts, the reality is that many guests simply want to present them with something special on their celebratory day. Rather than fight this, couples can instead create a registry that includes fun or nontraditional items. Consider asking for movie tickets and certificates for snacks at a local cinema, create a wish list for items such as couple's massages or dinners out, or create a fund for something large like furniture or the honeymoon, so guests can make contributions through an online registry.
Despite your best efforts, you may just end up with a bunch of picture frames that just don't match your decor, or yet another iron that you simply won't use. When guests insist on bestowing gifts upon you, be gracious recipients. Send proper thank-you notes and either return the presents for store credit, donate them to charity or store them for potential future use.
If you have been invited to a wedding where "no gifts, please" is the request, but you just don't feel comfortable arriving empty handed, consider bringing something truly useful or unique for the couple. A wine and cheese gift basket, a gift card to a restaurant that they frequent, or a donation to charity in their names are gift ideas that won't clutter their cabinets. Gift tokens for services such as massages or portraits will allow the couple to enjoy an experience rather than acquire a product. Be creative, but remember that if the couple is requesting no gifts, it is completely acceptable to abide by their wishes.