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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.

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    Be happy that the German culture is a direct one and thus when you say something like this, it is perfectly clear that you really mean it. – Wrzlprmft May 4 '15 at 21:39
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    @Wrzlprmft mind that while this is true in Germany, it is not in switzerland. – Burki May 5 '15 at 9:54
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@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.

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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.

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    Maybe it's just me. But in my opinion "Eure Anwesenheit ist Geschenk genug." sounds a little bit ironic. – raznagul May 5 '15 at 9:09
  • Do others know my example also just from funeral invitations? I have seen it on birthday cards as well. – lejonet May 5 '15 at 9:15
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    Wir bitten von Geschenken abzusehen is not funeral-only in my mind, but I think it does imply a large party of guests. As @lejonet said, it has a bureaucratic sound to it, because no one is addressed directly in this form - this can be the case if you invite 100 people and there are big differences in how close you feel to individuals, e.g. at a big wedding reception. – Sir Jane May 5 '15 at 11:41
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    @lejonet Seeing that I've never seen it outside of funeral invitations; yes, to me it is. – Jan May 5 '15 at 15:08
  • +1 for asking for a donation instead. This gives the guests that feel like they have to give a gift a good option. – 0x6d64 May 6 '15 at 16:16
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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.

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    Dieser Satz kein Verb. "Bitte bringt keine Geschenke" oder "Bitte machen Sie keine Geschenke" wäre m.E. vorzuziehen. – user unknown May 5 '15 at 20:38
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    Wenn man da unbedingt ein Verb haben will, kann man ja schreiben "Bitte keine Geschenke mitbringen", aber das Verb ist redundant. Einen Infinitiv oder gar kein Verb zu benutzen bei Aufforderungen völlig normal und umgeht auch das du/ihr/Sie-Problem. – user2183 May 6 '15 at 6:22
  • @HansAdler Ich bin erstaunt, was alles so als freundlich auf Einladungskarten durchgeht (das war der Rahmen). ;-) – lejonet May 6 '15 at 18:48
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    Meine Formulierung ist nicht explizit freundlich, sondern 100% neutral. Ich habe "friendly and with style" als etwas Sinnvolles interpretiert. Falls es darum gehen sollte, mittels extravaganter Formulierungen Aufmerksamkeit auf diese Nebensache zu lenken, ist eine schlichte und neutrale Formulierung natürlich nicht das Richtige. – user2183 May 7 '15 at 9:40
  • @HansAdler Dann bin ich jetzt überrascht, wie "freundlich und mit Stil" ausgelegt wird. – lejonet May 7 '15 at 15:29
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I’ve read

Geschenke sind nicht notwendig

a few times now. It has the downside that some people just can’t help it and bring one anyway.

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    And where's the downside in that? ;-) – Burki May 5 '15 at 9:53
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    "Geschenke sind nicht notwendig" sounds like "but if you have something I won´t say no" to me. Not as strong as "davon absehen" – deviantfan May 5 '15 at 11:54
  • @deviantfan you're technically right, but I've used the phrase as well hoping that people would get the hint that it's simply a more polite form of "leave me alone with your useless gifts". And the downside is, burki, that you actually do not want any gifts, or else you wouldn't have said anything, right? I don't feel enriched by simply having more stuff, so unless your gift is very thoughtful or it's a consumable gift, I don't want it. Or you might be moving soon by plane. – Volker May 6 '15 at 6:29
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    @Volker: Frankly, I wouldn't get that hint. It's not explicit enough for me ;) I'd understand it as "I'm happy about gifts, but I won't hold it against you if you don't bring one." – O. R. Mapper May 6 '15 at 11:45
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Wir freuen uns auf Euren Besuch ohne Geschenke.

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    Neat! I like that even better than "Bitte keine Geschenke". – Sir Jane May 12 '15 at 8:30
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    Hi and welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Your answer definitely gives a correct (and good!) phrase, and deserves an upvote already, but it would be even better, if you edited in a little more detail as to why this choice is good. Stack Exchange sites do not prefer one-line answers. The context here is, of course, partly present in other answers, so at least it would be good to reference them. (I commented this in English because the question is in English.) – Jan May 12 '15 at 9:36
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    Und bevor Hubert meckert, und weil dein Username deutsch aussieht: Servus und herzlich willkommen auf dem deutschen Stackexchange. Deine Antwort enthält einen definitiv korrekten (und guten!) Satzvorschlag, aber es wäre noch besser, wenn du mehr Details, wie zum Beispiel warum das eine gute Wahl ist, eineditieren würdest. Die Stackexchange-Seiten bevorzugen ausführliche Antworten gegenüber Einzeilern. Hier geben die anderen Antworten natürlich schon viel Kontext, also wäre es zumindest gut, teilweise auf sie zu verweisen. – Jan May 12 '15 at 9:38

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