The “No Boxed Gifts” Explanation

Sooo… this is kind of awkward.  And I’m sure my non-Pakistani friends were like what does “No Boxed Gifts” mean when they opened up the card (and by card I mean in the insert, because I didn’t want to write in ON THE CARD!).. it’s so normal to us as Pakistanis/Indians because it’s what’s expected at our weddings.  We say “no boxed gifts” because it’s the norm in our cultures to walk in with an envelope because we see it as a way to set the couple up for their financial future, to help towards say the down payment towards their home, or just to help them getting started.  They also tend to give gold jewelry if they are close members of the family, but wedding gifts in our culture aren’t seen as items for the home, but things to get the home started.  It’s extremely common at our weddings to do this.

It’s a wedding, people don’t come empty-handed but then again it’s so awkward bringing it up.  Etiquette says don’t mention the place you are registered on the card (have the bridal party spread the word), so etiquette masters would probably say do not even say “no boxed gifts” on the card because it’s just rude.  It’s a Pakistani/Indian cultural thing, they tend to give cash at weddings.

I myself thought it may be conceived as tacky to request “no boxed gifts” but it’s normal in Pakistani culture.  Also, South Asians (in general) cannot be trusted with a gift registry.  If a couple is registered at, say, Macy’s, and are registered for a Ninja blender the Desi aunty or uncle might go and get the  Cuisinart blender because it’s on sale and it’s more in their budget, and reason “well they need a blender” and completely disregard the fact that Ninja blender might just match the couple’s taste & color scheme better.

We tend to invite 400 people and that would just result in an outrageous amount of gifts…. most of which you don’t need.  How many different knives sets can you accumulate?  Also, my family has been stockpiling things for my wedding for years —  rug, check; flatware, check; dishes, check; pots & pans, check.. you get the idea.  I also already have the Kitchenaid stand mixer I need because I lived on my own for a while.   It just made more sense for the no-boxed gifts request.

I still think it’s awkward to ask for it,  it’s awkward that I’m writing about it, but I feel I have to defend it and explain it to my non-Desi friends.  It’s not because we want money or because we are greedy, it’s because it’s typical in my culture, and we knew if we did register to appease our friends, we would get way too many gifts.

I think there’s a proper way to do this and to write this on your invitations.  I’ve seen a couple explain it as “we intend on moving to the East coast so we kindly request no boxed gifts” and some others just plain ask “we kindly request no boxed gifts” yet others have rudely said “NO boxed gifts” without even a please.  So, it’s all in how you word it… I personally don’t really see how it’s more different than putting the Macy’s registry insert (that Macy’s provides!!) in one’s invitation ensemble, though.

and… I think in a day and age were most couples live together before getting married, I wonder HOW you even register for a wedding when you more than likely have all the stuff you need.  I wouldn’t register for fine china (because I don’t want it) and we only added stemware to the registry for the Macedonian event because my sister-in-law encouraged it… but do I want fancy crystal glasses, not really.  (so yes, we have a registry for our Macedonian event because Macedonian people aren’t used to the “no boxed gifts”).

Royal Albert Collection at Macys

So this is just a little explanation of the Pakistani culture of “no boxed gifts” for those who don’t know what this means and might accuse me of being tacky, because I’m not!!!

ALSO as a cute funny note, my dad invited my neighbor (a Asian couple in their 70s) and they sent over a gift… they sent us a beautiful jug that was not in a box but in a gift bag, because that was their interpretation of the request. SO CUTE!!  This jug is adorable and we absolutely love it!

(UPDATE 6/4/2013: bringing a “boxed gift” to the wedding wouldn’t come off as rude of the guest if you wished to do so; cash/gift cards are just preferred and you should do what works for your situation.  I loved the floral vase we got from my neighbor!  I have to admit it’s not been used yet, but neither has our cash – we are saving that to put towards down payment on our home – which in this horrid real estate market is a huge blessing to have been gifted from our wedding guests two years ago).


31 thoughts on “The “No Boxed Gifts” Explanation

  1. Hey fellow Pi Phi! I’m so glad you found my blog- the Pi Phi blog list was such a great idea! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. Enjoy every moment. I love your blog! This post caught my attention because I attended a wedding a few weeks ago that also said “no boxed gifts.” I knew it was a cultural preference so we obliged of course! I didn’t think it was rude at all, but enjoyed reading more about this. I look forward to reading more on your blog.

    • How funny! I seriously wrote this because I thought… I kind of need to explain this to my friends without outright telling them what it means! But Thank you for the compliments–I am so behind on blogging because it’s just 2 1/2 weeks away!

  2. Lol Sidra…my sister sent me your blog since I’d decided on purple/green/gold for my shaadi jora colors and yours came up in a Google search. I just had a funny conversation with my husband-to-be about “no boxed gifts” and this post totally hits the nail on the head! We’re still deciding whether to have the wedding in the U.S. or in Karachi, and I’ll totally be including this in the invitation!

    • So glad you found my blog helpful, Rana! 🙂 I loved my wedding outfit colors, the makeup was definitely easier to pick with it than a “red” gharara would’ve been. Can’t wait to hear about your wedding goes!!! The no boxed gifts is a total must! lol! We didn’t go home with any blenders. :p

  3. Pingback: How to Ask for “No Boxed Gifts” | The Bridal Diaries

    • Hi Toni, thanks for stopping by. Sorry for the late response. Hmm, I kind of did write posts about planning but intend on doing more later on to help out brides. Keep posted on teh blog 🙂

  4. I an not an expert on Pakistani culture, but I am an Indian and have lived in India for years and now in USA for years… And have attended innumerable Indian weddings. No one in India will even mention anything about a gift on the card… In US, most couple spread word of their registry through the bridal party or share their registry info in an insert. I have seen only 1 invitation which said “no boxed gift” and found it very tacky… Seems like the blogger is trying

    • Thanks for stopping by – Not trying to “justify my actions” in this post, Sunny – this is how almost all of the Pakistani/Indian wedding invitations I get these day come. You are mistaken. As a matter of fact, many people find my blog by searching for this wording, presumably to figure out what the wording means on an invitation they got. Have a nice day.

      • Hi

        I also came across this blog through a search for “no boxed gifts” to gauge how widely the expression is used, as I have just sent out my invites with this on it. I am Chinese and getting married in London England, and we also follow similar traditions with regards to gold and gifts. My Fiancee and I currently do not have a home of our own, so boxed gifts would not really be appropriate, but that isn’t to say they wouldn’t be appreciated – indeed quite the opposite.

        By “Kindly request no boxed gifts”, nowhere does it say that any gifts must be cash, yet I am surprised to see some people slating it – I don’t understand how people can jump to conclusions about motives behind it. To be quite frank the invitee has been CHOSEN to be among the couples’ closest friends and family to celebrate their special day, to which they are being entertained and fed by that couple. They should surely feel honoured if they are true friends.

        Anyway, thank you – I was very pleased to come across this, as there is clearly some ambiguity around the phrase, most of which hopefully (for our sake) doesn’t arise when the couple are from a non western culture…

  5. Thank you for this blog post. I did a search of “Indian Weddings: No box gifts”, and your post was at the top of the search results. I received an invitation to the wedding of an Indian friend, and the invitation stated “No Box Gifts.” As an American, I had no idea what this meant, and didn’t think it would be polite to ask the bride. You blog post provided the information I needed. Thanks.

      • Thank you for this explanation It came up when I googled it, I didn’t understand at first as I am from a different culture, I don’t want to get things wrong or embarrass my friend, but it so makes sense and I think it’s a great idea which I’m sure will catch on, as lots of people set up home already.

  6. The comment you are looking for on the card is “Your gift to us is your presence”. And regardless of the fact that a family of 10 brings a $25.00 gift or a $250.00 gift should not matter. A wedding is not a gift gathering session, its more of a blessing gathering session. You will have many blissful joys to celebrate where gifts will follow, anniversaries, baby showers, holidays, birthdays, etc. You invite people to your wedding to share your joyful bliss, not to have them pay for your financial future. I hope you take this constructively.

    • Priya – I agree that would be nice, in theory. I don’t believe though that people would attend a wedding without bringing a gift, I certainly would not. I’d take a gift that shows my excitement for the couple! 🙂 If they register, I’d take something from there, if they don’t, a gift card or cash I am sure will be totally welcomed.

    • Weddings are wonderful time to share with family and friends. The expense and the cost of the Wedding is solely the responsibility friends who are attending.

    • Priya, THANK YOU for writing this “Your gift to us is your presence”.

      I don’t like the idea of gifts at any occasion. You almost stole my thinking until I saw your comment “You will have many blissful joys to celebrate where gifts will follow, anniversaries, baby showers, holidays, birthdays, etc.”

      But I agree with Sidra that its hard to stop people bringing in gifts (boxed/bagged/cards) or cash in envelopes. 🙂

  7. Hi, thank you for explaining this! I don’t find it tacky and am happy for the clarification. As someone who is just out of college and not making a lot of money, what’s an amount I could give without seeming rude? Thank you!

    • Kate – I am so sorry for not responding sooner. You should give what you are comfortable giving. “Etiquette gurus” say your gift should equal what “your plate” is at the wedding, but I don’t know how a guest can possibly figure that out, but don’t go broke over it as you said you are right out of college. We have a fun tradition of rounding up $1, so if you were to get $40, you can round up to $41 – this is so that the blessings are “beginning” (hence the 1) rather than “ending” at a 0.

  8. Pingback: Gifting at Weddings – Guide for the Wedding Guests | The Bridal Diaries

  9. I heard somewhere that the amount of money you give to Asian weddings should end in something like a 5 or 1 or another odd number, like $101 instead of $100. But I can’t remember – could you explain this?

    • Yes- it’s just a tradition and not totally necessary. If you end on a “1” it kind of signifies continuation and beginnings, whereas ending on a “0” means it’s ending. I might be slightly wrong, but, people definitely do typically add a 1 to amounts, so, $51, $101, etc.

  10. This post is hilarious because I can so relate to it (I’m of Chinese ethnicity btw). I think it’s a very Asian thing to do, asking for money instead of things because as you rightly pointed out, there’s always that one auntie who’s bound to give you that item on sale and/or something off you registry if you have one! I find it rather practical and logical as well to ask, albeit very politely and in a more diplomatic way than “No gift box please”, for money instead of gifts because what’s the point of finding yourself with 10 kettles but no frying pan at the end of the day…or receiving some ugly gift and having to force a smile and say how much you love it and/or use it each time you see the person.

  11. Thank-you for this helpful blog on “No Boxed Gifts”. I am happy to abide by the wishes of the family who has invited me as their guest. I do not find this tacky at all. I am excited to go to an American-Pakistani wedding as it will be a new experience for me. Also thank-you for the tip on the amounts.

  12. Hey Sidra! It’s so nice to see a ‘desi’ wedding blog and I loved reading you entries.

    I am a Pakistani and I would politely differ with you on the statement that our wedding invitation cards commonly mention “No boxed gifts” or there is a custom of making requests as such … First off, I have been a recipient of wedding invitations from higher class to lower class families, and I never came across such term either in Urdu or in English or anything even close to it anywhere. Secondly, I never heard of the term until I saw your post, to be honest.
    Yes, there are certain needy families who would personally make requests or share preference for “cash gift” with their close members or friends.. But it always goes without saying that guests come along with gifts to weddings and “cash” is always the most convenient present as it saves time in hunting for the most perfect gift that would suit the couple.
    With this said, I do however agree with you about this norm that our people do not arrive without a gift (any form – boxed or enveloped) to a wedding, or else the guests themselves would feel embarrassed and would try to compensate with a present whenever they meet the couple the next time.

    Maybe this “no boxed gifts” concept works outside Pakistan but not yet within Pakistan.
    Just thought I should share my knowledge about my country’s wedding tradition. I hope I didn’t offend you or anyone else here! =)

    I am following you now btw!! It’s always a pleasure connecting with a fellow desi blogger =D


    • Hi Kanzah – it’s possible it’s an American-Pakistani tradition. 🙂 I know my khalas told me in Karachi they always either gifted jewelry or a couple hundred rupees when they went to weddings. I think it would be funny to imagine my khalas going to a shadi with a blender or toaster oven as a gift 🙂 Thank you for stopping by! I’ll be sure to check out your blog, too.

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