To many people, it’s become commonplace to request books instead of cards — everyone and her sister seems to be doing it for baby showers. Some have never heard of such a thing (until you stumbled upon Ask For Books and got totally convinced, that is). Others find the idea of any suggestions or restrictions for would-be gift-givers to be repulsive.
Whichever camp you’re in, read on. Here are 8 suggestions — arranged from the gentle to the more forward — to help you politely request books in lieu of cards or toys.
The first scenario is the easiest:
- Would-be gift-givers ask what you (or your kids) want, and you respond with, “Books, please!” — perhaps sharing a collection of books from this site to provide further guidance.
This is common in some families (my husband’s) but not in others (mine). So if your family is like mine, keep reading. We’ve got more ideas for you.
- Discuss your motives for desiring books with friends and family. Express your gratitude for past gifts while sharing your newly clarified family values as the reason for requesting books. It could be that you want to stem the flood of toys and clutter bombarding your home. Or you hate the idea of throwing away a pile of expensive cards the minute the guests are out the door (or the feeling of being obligated to hang on to them for-ev-er). Whatever your reason, most gift-givers genuinely want to please, and if you spread the word that you’re a book-loving family, they may just oblige.
- If you’ll be throwing a party, use books as your theme. You can take your cues from a single book (e.g. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), a character (Winnie-the-Pooh) or a literary genre (poetry). The invitation, decorations and refreshments can all be lit-inspired, and hopefully guests will follow suit. Kids’ birthday parties, bridal showers and baby showers all lend themselves to this tactic. It could even work for a bachelorette party, especially if romance novels are your thing!
- Ask someone, e.g. your mother, to spread the word for you. This works really well for baby or wedding showers, especially if you have a wonderful mother like mine who’s really good at spreading news.
- Leave it off the invitation but spread the word as people RSVP. Here’s one person’s experience:
I have been telling people as they RSVP not to bring a gift. Of course they say, “I can’t do that; isn’t there anything I can bring?” to which I reply, “Books.” It has worked out great.
Now we’re getting into the more forward strategies for those who are comfortable going that route. In some circles, these are perfectly acceptable.
- Include printed inserts when you send invitations. There are a number of book request cards for sale on Amazon, or simply print your own on standard paper and trim to fit.
- Include a note or poem on the invitation itself. This could be something simple, like, “Your loving presence is a gift; we request no other. But if you wish to bring a present, please consider a favorite book, new or old.” Or a bit more elaborate — here are two options for requesting books instead of cards at a baby shower (also see our post on all the cutest, sweetest, cheesiest wordings to ask for books, not cards for baby showers):
Just one last request, and we hope it’s not hard.
Please bring a book for baby in place of a card.
When you sign your book, we’ll remember and share
Your special gift, even when you’re not there.
Instead of a card
to baby and mother,
please give a book
with your thoughts in the cover.
- Include a book inscription sticker with the invitation. This could take a range of forms. The easiest would probably be common name-tag stickers (the kind with a nice border but that doesn’t say “Hi! My name is ___”). Enclose one with each invitation and encourage guests to write a note and stick it inside the book they bring. For a touch of nostalgia, these library book pockets and borrowers’ cards also could work. Or use something really special like these custom tags on Etsy (there are many, many other adorable options for sale, either pre-printed or as digital downloads — search “baby shower book labels”).
In the end, if you remain gracious and appreciative, the majority of people will be unoffended by your request.