How do you ask friends and family not to bring any gifts on an invitation card? It should be short and explicit, but friendly and with style. Phrases like
Wir bitten von Geschenken abzusehen.
are common, but they sound bureaucratic.
@lejonet, taking the conversation out of the first answer’s comment section …
You were asking for my ideas on this, but I’m afraid you got me wrong there. I was just trying to clarify the context of Wir bitten von Geschenken abzusehen. (Which is common, but puts some distance between you and your guests.) Just a side note anyway, really, since you asked for something to tell family and friends. In that case, I’d actually go for one of these:
Bitte keine Geschenke!
Wir freuen uns auf euren Besuch ohne Geschenke. (https://german.stackexchange.com/a/23243/9417)
which is really perfectly fine, especially in a private context. You can be more direct there, if you will, because politeness in the sense of making people feel more welcome so they have a good impression of your house is not expected there. Inevitably, family and friends already have an impression of you.
Bitte keine Geschenke is neutral, versatile and very common. However, you could also elaborate on the point, making it a real sentence with a longer message, which would by itself show that you gave the topic some thought but still decided against gifts. Something along the lines of
Auch wenn es lieb gemeint ist: bitte bringt keine Geschenke mit!
(clear – but some very well-meaning people, like your grandma, might still bring smaller things like flowers or money)
Auch wenn es lieb gemeint ist: bitte verzichtet auf Geschenke!
(stronger – your grandma will probably bring nothing, but make a comment when she says hello. And “secretly” give the money to the kids later.)
You can also add a little explanation:
Wir haben nicht so viel Platz, darum wäre es schön, wenn ihr keine Geschenke mitbringen würdet.
(neutral, very friendly, most applicable to a situation where people would bring the more space-consuming gifts as a special pleasure. They still might bring flowers.)
..., wenn ihr uns nur mit eurer Anwesenheit beehren würdet.
(A little ironic, but still clear. People will understand that their gift will probably end up in the hall or the cellar to make room for the party.)
Theoretically, there are no limits to your imagination, depending on how you want the overall tone of the invitation to be. But in this case, you’d create something very individual. In terms of real phrases that can be used in the same form over again, Bitte keine Geschenke is the thing. Really.
Von etwas abzusehen kenne ich nur von Beerdigungen, à la
von Trauerbekundungen am Grab bitten wir abzusehen.
I’d just say
Bitte keine Geschenke.
You could add something like
Eure Anwesenheit ist Geschenk genug.
Sometimes people may also ask to donate to charity instead of bringing gifts, and then point people to a certain organization like Greenpeace or Kinderhilfswerk or whatever you prefer.
In German it’s perfectly normal and not unfriendly to be direct, so why not keep it simple?
Bitte keine Geschenke!
I think the only way to really make this request more friendly would be by stating the reason for it.
Geschenke sind nicht notwendig
a few times now. It has the downside that some people just can’t help it and bring one anyway.
Wir freuen uns auf Euren Besuch ohne Geschenke.