Oh, I am feeling so torn about this very issue right now!
I am about to send out invitations for my twin sons' third birthday party, which will be on their birthday, February 18th.
For their first birthday party, we did a whole group party with all of their friends who were all turning one then too. Everyone brought one wrapped gift, and we all swapped, and it was really fun.
Last year we didn't do a birthday party at all because we were moving and it was crazy.
This year, my boys really understand the birthday party thing. We have been to so many birthday parties over the past year, and they always want to know when it's going to be THEIR birthday party. So, we decided we sort of have to have one, and I also do think it will be fun.
I feel tempted to do the "no gifts" thing, but Lukas and Jasper are TOTALLY expecting gifts from their friends. They always help me make or pick out the presents that we bring to parties, and that's always an exciting part of it for them. So, whenever we talk about their birthday party, they say, "and our friends will bring us presents, and we'll have cake, and a pinata. . . etc." So, I feel like they would be really disappointed if I said that there weren't going to be any presents.
And I feel awkward about requesting a particular type of gift, even though I'd really love it if everyone brought books or puzzles or something homemade. I think that the families we are inviting would all bring nice gifts since they know us and know that we're snobby like that (no plastic stuff), but I guess there's no way to know for sure. The whole thing is just awkward, especially since my boys are twins and I wonder if everyone will think they need to get a present for each of them (which, I guess they sort of DO need to do).
So, I'd pretty much decided that we just wouldn't say anything about gifts on the invitations, and that we wouldn't open any of the presents during the party. We are only inviting six families, so hopefully even if they do all bring gifts, it won't be too overwhelming. We are giving the boys each two puzzles, three books, and a small frog drum (something they've wanted for a long time), so I don't think the presents from us will be overwhelming.
But then I read this thread and now I just don't know. I love the idea of the book exchange, but I wonder if my boys would be confused as to why the presents aren't all for them, and since nothing like that has been done at any of the parties we've been to, I wonder what people would think. Do I say "no store bought gifts," or is that a lot to ask of the working full-time, less creative folks who would really prefer to just buy something? Do I say "no gifts please" and just explain it to my boys?
What would you do in my situation?