KATE: 'Please no presents' and the politics of bringing a plate.

Kate Hunter wants to know what to bring…



Is anyone else tired of reading between the lines?

I went to a 50th birthday party a few weeks ago. The invitation kindly, generously, specified ‘no gifts.’

A fortnight before the do, predictably, a whisper went around – everyone was chipping in $25 for a day at a spa, as a surprise. Of course I contributed, I love the birthday girl, I like the girl organising the gift. How could I have said no? But what then is the point of  ‘no gifts’?

It was my daughter’s 10th birthday last week. We had a small party for her – five pals for dinner and a sleepover. I was very tempted to put ‘no presents,’ on the invitation. My kids don’t need anything; I know choosing gifts for girls that age can be tricky plus it’s another job for busy parents.

I was talked out of it.

‘You can’t say ‘no presents’ for a kids’ party,’ said my sister, ‘People will think you’re making a statement; trying to start a trend. They will think you are being a dick.’

Really? I don’t mind buying presents – in fact, I quite like it – especially if it’s for someone I know well. I enjoy giving non-occasion gifts; a book I know a friend wants to read, a packet of chocolate liquorice bullets if she’s had a bad week, a fridge magnet for a collection.

But I told you not to bring a plate?

‘People might think twice about inviting your kids to parties,’ continued my sister, ‘They will feel weird about accepting gifts from you if you didn’t accept one from them. DON’T MESS WITH THE SOCIAL ORDER.’

The politics of presents is only out-complicated by the politics of bringing a plate, especially when no plate is required.

Why is it so hard to believe that when I say, ‘Seriously, bring nothing but a bottle of wine and your lovely selves!’ people think I’m either joking or insincere?


‘A salad? Cheesecake? Antipasto platter? I’ve got some zucchini tartlets in the freezer – I could bring those.’

‘No, really, we’re all sorted. Just rock up round about noon.’

‘Paddle Pops for the kids? A watermelon? Cheese and bacon pullapart?’

I’m worn down. ‘Yes! A watermelon would be great. Thanks. We’ll see you and your watermelon on Saturday about noon.’

Because I’ve always got fridge space for a watermelon!

Call me old-fashioned, but if I invite people round for dinner, I assume I will provide dinner. Along with condiments and watermelon.

If I’m invited to someone’s home, I’ll say, ‘What can I bring?’ and if they say nothing, I’ll take nothing (except a bottle of wine or maybe some flowers).

No gifts, right?

If it IS a ‘bring a plate’ affair, and there are say, 24 people attending, it’s not necessary for each plate to bear enough food for 24. This happens most often at school functions.

My maths is rubbish, but by my calculations, there will be food for 576.

I hate waste. I often hate my own waist. Both are impacted by over-generosity – if that’s even a thing.

Yes, yes, it’s the ultimate first world problem and boo-hoo for me; my kids get too many presents, friends bring too many plates. Do people worry their presence isn’t enough? That we might think them stingy?

I think I might have a doormat printed: WELCOME. WITH OR WITHOUT WATERMELON.

So what do you bring? Nothing? The wine? A watermelon?

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