Ask Team Practical: Accepting Giant Gifts


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Accepting Giant Gifts | A Practical Wedding

I’ve been thinking aloud about hiring a local DJ my fiancée and I both love to play our wedding. Friends of ours hired this DJ at a discount, and I just found out that they paid this DJ what would be a full 10% of our entire (small) budget. Having this DJ at our wedding would be awesome, but not at all worth that much of our budget, and we can make a DIT iPod situation work fine.

I was with a close friend when I found out how much this DJ cost, and I’d mentioned to her a few times before that I’d like to hire this DJ. She offered to pay for the DJ as a wedding gift. We were drunk at the time, so I told her that it was a very kind gesture but that it’s an awful lot of money and not to worry about it. Weeks passed and I didn’t think anything of it beyond starting to plan a DIT playlist. I then heard from my friend that she’s thought about it while sober and repeated that she intends to hire this DJ for us as a wedding gift. She said that it’s more money than she’s comfortable spending on her own, so she’s gotten another friend of ours to go in on it with her. This is incredibly kind and generous of both of them. But the friend she’s going halfsies on this enormous gift with is someone I don’t know very well, to the point that she’s only met my fiancée once and I don’t even have her phone number. An added layer to this is that my friend and I dated briefly when we first met years ago, and I learned through a mutual friend that she carried a torch for me for quite a while. She also took a while to warm to my fiancée. I wonder if this overly generous gift might be her way of showing that she’s happy for me and supports this marriage.

I’m not sure what to do. I’m happy to have the DJ or the iPod playlist—I’m concerned about this friendship. She hasn’t made an offer in the form of a question that I could say no to; she’s said declaratively that she plans to hire this DJ with this other friend who I like but don’t know well. Do I tell her that her gesture is so kind but that it’s overwhelming and that we’re happy to do an iPod playlist that we’d love for her to contribute ideas to? Or do I accept her generosity graciously and hide that I’m overwhelmed? Other ideas?

Sincerely,
While Heartwarmed, Overwhelmed and Awkward

Dear WHOA,

You nailed it. Right here, with this part: “I wonder if this overly generous gift might be her way of showing that she’s happy for me and supports this marriage.” Yes! I’m sure that’s exactly what it is! And what’s wrong with that?

That’s exactly what gifts are about, whether small and modest or giant and generous. Heck, man, that’s what weddings are about. Not the ceremony and vows section, but the reception and community and party things? They’re all about people being happy for you and excited about your happiness, and joining in celebrating all of it. So how do you handle generosity? What do you do in response to someone wanting to express being happy for you? You say, “Thank you.” Assuming there isn’t any subtext, ulterior motives, tandem expectations (like that time in college when a guy offered me a car), you swallow your pride and let your community love on you.

I know, I know. She was drunk when she offered. It’s completely fair to say, “Hey, this is really just overwhelmingly generous. We’re really very happy with our iPod playlist!” Give her an out. (It sounds like you already tried to?) If she still insists after that, girl, take it. One little round of, “No, please don’t!” “But I insist!” is friendly and endearing. After that, refusing someone’s kindness gets sort of insulting.

Suuure there are times when it is just flat uncomfortable and a no good very bad idea to take up someone’s overwhelmingly generous offers. But most of the time, that squicky feeling is pride. It’s, “Ohhh, I don’t want to put her out…” when actually, someone who is offering you a gift feels anything but put out by you graciously accepting.

So go on and let her know you feel overwhelmed by her generosity. But when she insists, you go ahead and take her up on it. Just be sure to send a thank you card.

*****

A friend and client that has known my honey for ages has given us a gift card for a resort. The amount of the gift is huge (and the resort is expensive). We love that they wanted to give us such a wonderful gift. And we know they are wealthy people. But it is a very large amount. Big. A lot.

Do we just say, “Thank you so much!”? I mean, of course we say thank you so much. But do we also return it to them? Try to gift some back to them somehow? (It is their favorite resort. Have I mentioned that we are not people who have been to enough resorts to have a favorite?) Or do we just say thank you so much and spend the whole dang thing on ourselves?

Anonymous

Dear Anon,

Get yourselves to that resort, have a blast, and send them a postcard with thanks. Don’t you dare try to return it to them or make it up to them somehow (and though you didn’t ask, don’t let it impact how you gift to them in the future, either). You know that “thought that counts” thing? That goes for the big gifts as well as the small. Imagine if a wedding guest gave you something small, like, a plastic spatula set or something. Imagine if you tried to give it back to them. That would be really insulting wouldn’t it? Just because this resort gift card has a higher price tag, it doesn’t make it any less insulting to refuse the gift.

Go have fun already!

*****

Team Practical, how do you respond when friends offer crazy generous things? How do you thank friends who have already given you giant gifts?

Photo by APW sponsor Gabriel Harber

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Tania

    My grandparents have just given me and my fiancee a large amount of money as a wedding present. My grandparents are not wealthy at all, and it really is the last thing they should be doing with their money as my grandmother has just had to move into a nursing home, and that can’t be cheap. My mum told me my grandfather was very insistent that she take the money and deposit it into my account. That he wanted to give us something to help us set up our lives together. This had me in tears. But there is absolutely no way I would ever refuse the gift. It was a such a big gesture from them and it means even more to me.

    • http://www.smittenchickens.com SarahHoppes

      My (retired) grandmother did the same thing, in the middle of her cancer treatments. We were very uncomfortable accepting what seemed like a big sum of money from her, but my parents explained that she’s a grown woman who has been making grown-up, responsible choices with her money for a long damn time. She chose to spend some of her money to invest in our lives together, and being able to do that for us meant a lot to her. It was incredibly generous of her, and it would have really hurt her feelings if we didn’t take her gift out of a misplaced sense of politeness.

    • http://www.everythingweddingsandmore.net/ Gee | EverythingWeddingsAndMore

      I totally understand Tania. I usually feel the same way when someone is way too generous and I happen to know a bit of their financial situation (especially family!). It is just pretty awkward for me but i doubt I’d refuse it…refusing a gift is still awkward too.

    • Reader47

      My family gave us some really large financial gifts the as wedding presents. I know that my brother is starting college in two years, so I already plan to pay for some of his schooling. Maybe, if it makes sense to you, you can pay for a some small portion of your grandma’s nursing home as a gift somewhere down the line?

      It sort of sounds like giving the gift back, but I don’t think of it that way–just family helping each other as the timing makes sense.

    • z

      Sometimes giving by older people is triggered by an asset qualification requirement for Medicaid, which pays for nursing homes, or some other state program. Or in some cases they had wanted to give various gifts for a while, but didn’t have the liquid cash until they sold their house.

  • Kristen

    As someone who loves giving gifts and who loves to pick up the check, etc., I so appreciate Liz’s words of wisdom here. Because I wouldn’t offer or give, if I didn’t mean it. Having generosity simply accepted and appreciated, is wonderful.

    • http://butnothanks.blogspot.com NB

      Yes! This!

      And in the kindest way possible: Your guests are grown-ups. Yes, it is a little…squirmy-feeling…to accept a gift that you couldn’t possibly give, particularly when there is a dollar value attached to it, but when someone chooses to give you a gift, they are making their own (very personal) choice. Dollars are not a measure of love or merit (this is something that I had to keep repeating to my squirmy soul, too)—-those X dollars are what, that day, your guest said: “Hey! I am going to use this to buy a thing for my friend! I sure hope they like it!”

      Write a very nice thank you note. Some day in the future, pay that generosity forward in time, or dollars, or listening ears, or really really giant hugs. I promise, 99% of the gift-givers at your wedding just want to do something delightful for you. This is their Something. The other 1%…yeah. Maybe some strings attached. But that is an issue for a totally different Ask APW. And even so? It’s not the worst thing to blissfully assume that people are nice because the love you. Because they totally do.

  • Laura C

    My FMIL, who is already paying for a substantial chunk of the wedding (which allows it to be a wedding that will include many members of her extended family) has a couple times said something along the lines of “and of course I will be giving you a major gift,” and asked me/us to think about what. Which is hard! Especially the part where we’re supposed to say what it should be — I mean, I’d rather that than get some giant thing that isn’t something we actually want, but I don’t know how much we’re talking about and don’t want to ask for something that’s too big. Not to mention we’ll be moving in a year, we don’t yet know where, and likely a year after that, so there’s so much about our lives that’s up in the air that even if you took all the other stuff out, I wouldn’t be sure what to say. Like, one of the possible places we might move, we’ll need a car. But I don’t really think she’s offering a car! (Ok, maybe a used one.)

    • C

      I totally get it! My FIL’s told us at the beginning of the planning process that they are paying for my and my honey’s honeymoon, which in itself it SUCH a generous/expensive thing to do, but throughout the whole planning-the-wedding-process have been saying “oh we’ll pay for that, too, check it off your list”, which at times can be so overwhelming and hard to take with a smile and gracious thank you. My fiance, who is an only child, just keeps telling me “they like to do things for other people, I’m they’re only kid, and they want to help us out.”

      It’s certainly a lesson in humility, that is for sure!

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      …“and of course I will be giving you a major gift,” and asked me/us to think about what.”

      Perhaps you could start a dialog by asking her some questions in return, for example, if there is anything in particular or any type of thing that she has in mind. Be honest and say that you are a little overwhelmed by her generous and much appreciated offer, and would like some guidance.

  • Amy March

    I completely emphatically disagree with the advice in the first question. This isn’t a generous great aunt. It’s a former love interest, who is giving a gift they cannot afford (see needed other friend to contribute) that is out of your comfort zone. This person is inserting themselves into a position in your wedding/life that is overly close for the relationship you have. Showing support for your marriage is customarily done with a reasonable gift and a card. I think you need to approach this friend and say “I’m touched by hearing from others that you plan to do this. But it makes me very uncomfortable. Please don’t “. I see this as a major boundary cross.

    • Amanda L.

      Eh, I disagree. The FULL amount was more than she was comfortable spending, but HALF the amount is right in her wheelhouse. The ‘former love interest’ thing does complicate things a tad, but if they’ve both moved on with their lives (it sounds like they have) and this person is a close enough friend to be invited to a smallish wedding, then they seem to be a close enough friend to do something big as a gift.

      As long as OP doesn’t have ANY nagging feelings that this gift really says ‘Look how generous I am, don’t you want to be with MEEEE?’ then I say accept it graciously and move on to other things.

      • Amy March

        If the former love interest had really truly moved on 100% whole heartedly, I think former love interest would be showing that by respecting boundaries and behaving as a close friend- not positioning themselves as a person of particular importance/closeness.

        • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

          It’s really hard to say the degree of “former love interest”ness and degree of “close friend”ness from the info given, but if I put it in the context of a different close friend (i.e. if someone else of similar closeness, but w/o the romantic history, made the DJ offer), then I think it’s an appropriate offer, rather than posturing. That’s probably the test I’d suggest WHOA apply to the situation.

          To me, the more awkward part is the acquaintance going halfsies, esp if the acquaintance didn’t (or wasn’t going to) make the guest list. I think that’s something for the acquaintance to sort out with the friend in question though (she has the choice whether to chip in), rather than the bride-to-be.

        • meg

          Oh, I don’t think so. Close friends do stuff like this all the time. We just paid for a friends wedding photography, for goodness sake. I mean, yes, we worked it out so we got it at a discount, but you can bet that it was a hefty sum of money for us.

          But you know what? We could do it. We could afford it, we knew they couldn’t get pro wedding pictures any other way, we wanted to do that for them, we did. I would have been pretty insulted if we’d gotten all that organized and then they turned us down.

          We owe the universe, we repay in many different ways. This wasn’t a former love interest at all, but it would have made sense if it was. I care about you, we have a complicated history, here is an awesome gift. Done.

    • Kristen

      Just when I thought I knew how I felt about this, your comment made me reexamine. Because I think you’re making some valid points here with boundaries and motivations.

      But I also keep coming back to the idea that, what a gift means to you and what a gift means to the giver, are two different things and that’s ok. My husband bought me dollar store ben-gay this week. To him, it was barely a gift, more like a, “it’s only a dollar and she said her shoulder hurts” kind of thing. But to me, it was so much more. And I thanked him for what it meant to me, tears and all.

      Maybe it doesn’t matter so much why someone gives us or offers us something, maybe its simply what the receiver feels that matters. I don’t know, I’m still not sure what the right answer is, but I’m pretty sure these situations aren’t simple, no matter how much I wish they were!

    • LikelyLaura

      The part that makes me uncomfortable with the answer (in addition to the former love interest issue you bring up) is the acquaintance that’s being dragged into this very large gift, as well. Was WHOA even going to invite the other gifter to the wedding before this?

      It’s hard to tell if WHOA wants to take the gift or not, but if not, I’d politely refuse.

      • meg

        To me, THAT is where we have to draw the grown ass adult line, brought up so smartly before. Other gifter is a grown ass adult, making her own decisions. That part is simple to me.

        • KC

          But if other-gifter was not going to be invited to wedding before, this would either:
          a) force an invitation or
          b) get really awkward

          I mean, I disagree with the etiquette “rules” on must-invite-all-people-who-attend-any-sort-of-shower sorts of things, partly because there are different degrees of participation, but BIG GIFT plus then finding out that there is no wedding invitation seems like it would be pretty weird.

          If said person already knew their wedding invite status, though, then yes, they are a grownup and can make their own choices, as long as actual coercion does not appear to be involved.

        • LikelyLaura

          But that’s the thing. WHOA is a grown adult, too. WHOA doesn’t have to accept something that makes her uncomfortable.

          I’m not telling WHOA to not accept the gift. If they want it, then awesome! They have no reason to feel guilty.

          I’m just saying she has a right to say “thank you, that’s very sweet, but really, no.” I feel this is the same as telling a parent “no” to a financial contribution if the couple knows it’ll make things weird later.

  • Jaya

    Ok not to self promote but my friend and I write an etiquette site and JUST dealt with some similar things, in case anyone is interested!

    http://uncommon-courtesy.com/2013/07/22/how-do-i-accept-a-gift-from-someone-less-fortunate-than-me/

    http://uncommon-courtesy.com/2013/07/15/is-this-gift-a-ploy-for-an-invitation/

  • Caroline

    I agree with Liz. A hearty thank you. I’ve had several friends give us and me what felt like over-the-top-expensive gifts, both personally, and in response to our engagement. Respecting that adults know what they want to do with their money and what they want to do with their money is shower you in love in the form of a big gift that means a lot is key. It can be hard/humbling to accept that particular form of love (big gifts that you know are big to the giver), but they’re giving it out of love, so I try to say thanks and accept it with love (and gratitude, and holy crap, oh my goodness this is such an amazing/expensive/generous gift expressed only with my sweetie.).

    I also try not to let it affect how I give them gifts. We’re younger than a lot of our friends, and not surprisingly, a little to a lot poorer. (Most of our friends are slightly to significantly successful 30-something professionals. We’re poor-as-church-mice early 20′s students.) When I feel really enthusiastically excited for friends, I try to give over-the-top-generously. Which some months is a $20 gift, and that’s okay. I try to get them an awesome gift for my budget, and know that getting them a big for our broke selves gift is great.

  • Remy

    I think gifts are my mother’s love language. :/ She not only helped with gathering wedding materials, took care of some big details like tablecloths and silverware, and helped set things up and break them down on the day of, she also bought and wrapped a stack of presents for my wife and I. And ON TOP OF ALL THAT, she and my dad wrote us a surprise check that more or less paid for the entire wedding. Like, we didn’t even know what to do with that. I think both us cried (alone together in our honeymoon suite).

    We called and thanked them, and wrote a proper thank-you, but… really, what can you say to that? I’m not even close to my mother. I know the amount made/makes my wife a little uncomfortable. But we DO appreciate it, more than the awkwardness, so… yeah. Thank-you notes.

    • Lacey

      Gifts are MY love language. I love looking through people’s registries and picking something special for them, or offering to help them with something. I feel like I get to participate in their lives, and I love imagining them using the thing I bought them. I also really, really love receiving the resulting thank-you note. But I’m the kind of gift giver who goes straight to theknot.com to see where someone is registered when I get their wedding invitation and has so much fun just AGONIZING over the perfect thing.

      And I unashamedly love receiving gifts. Large, small, expensive, inexpensive. I feel loved and thought-of and important when someone gives me a gift, and I am truly grateful.

      For someone who is just really into gifts, a sincere “Thank you” truly is enough. We just love giving you things! It’s fun for us!

  • Blair

    Wish we had this problem. :( Our friends and Lovey’s family are amazing. My family cannot afford much and we actually have to pay for their accommodations on top of the entire wedding.
    I’ve had the boundaried conversation with my mom about paying us back for deposits but I really doubt I’ll be able to keep them when push-comes-to-shove.

  • Remy

     I think gifts are my mother’s love language. This is weird for me, because it sometimes comes along with her boundary-pushing. :/ She not only helped with gathering wedding materials, took care of some big details like tablecloths and silverware, and helped set things up and break them down on the day of, she also bought and wrapped a stack of presents for my wife and me. And ON TOP OF ALL THAT, she and my dad wrote us a surprise check that more or less paid for the entire wedding. Like, we didn’t even know what to do with that. I think both us cried (alone together in our honeymoon suite).

    We called and thanked them, and wrote a proper thank-you, but… really, what can you say to that? I’m not even close to my mother. I know the amount made/makes my wife a little uncomfortable. But we DO appreciate it, more than the awkwardness, so… yeah. Thank-you notes.

  • Anonymous

    We dealt with this situation when my mother-in-law insisted on hosting our rehearsal dinner. Sure, it’s traditionally the groom’s parents’ responsibility, and it would have been rude of us to refuse her that honor if she really wanted it, but it was still uncomfortable. She invited every out-of-towner there (about half the wedding!) and held it at a swanky country club. We were planning for more of a cookout-at-someone’s-home deal, and I really didn’t want her to feel like she had to impress me or my family by footing the bill for something fancy like that.

    Since we were genuinely worried about her ability to afford it, and we wanted to make sure she knew our expectations, my now-husband sat down with her and told her we didn’t exactly want something like that. She sternly told him to let her decide what she can and can’t afford, and he should appreciate it. (In a sweet way, not the controlling way some parents tend to be). It ended up being wonderful, a chance for us to relax before the wedding we planned ourselves, and an opportunity to spend more time with the people who had traveled so far to be there.

    It might be different when the person in question isn’t family, but in general, I’ve learned to accept people’s kindness with a heartfelt thank you. On this side of my wedding, I’ve found myself being more generous, especially when it comes to wedding gifts, now that I have experienced the extreme generosity of some of my friends and family. Thank her, and then pass it on. Not necessarily in financial value, but in filling in a need or want someone else in your life has.

  • http://www.weddingfortwo.blogspot.com Ellie

    Like we always say that you don’t know the financial situation of the person who didn’t give a gift, or didn’t give a nice one, you also shouldn’t assume you know the financial situation of the person who gave you a gift. Some people like to be generous. Some people recently got a nice gift and want to pay it forward. Some people give a lot of money at weddings. Some people have finally started to earn a real income and want to make up for all those dinners out where they were short on the check. Some people may have recently inherited a large sum of money or gotten a big bonus at work.

    The only gifts that you can politely refuse are gifts that come with strings attached, and they are not gifts.

  • Stalking Sarah

    To the resort writer:

    Yes, you do repay it beyond the typical thank you. You send them a fantastic picture of the two of you LIVING IT UP at the resort, and you write them a gushing note about what a great time you had.

    Because that’s really what the gift was about, right? They love that resort so much that they wanted you two to enjoy it as well, because they love you and they love that resort.

    To the DJ writer: Take the generous offer and, like above, make sure your thank you is gushing.

  • Stalking Sarah

    Wanted to add: We got a very generous check from one of my relatives who lived abroad. Rather than writing a thank you note, we made them a simple thank you video — did one take with an in-computer camera, and sent it to them, warts and all. I think they really appreciated the authenticity of the thank you, and it helped us make our thank you a little more special.

    • LMN

      I love your ideas about ways of making a “thank you” special. Every “thank you” is special, and a heartfelt note totally gets the job done. We had a lot of fun writing our thank you notes after our wedding. But we’ve been having even more fun snapping photos of ourselves using the gifts & emailing or texting those to the giver. In this age where people often buy a gift online and never actually touch or see the item they’ve given you, I think they enjoy seeing that hey, that toaster oven we bought for them is real! And it’s really in their kitchen! And look how excited they are to be making cookies in it! Even when we can’t send a photo, I send a quick text or email the first time we use a new gift–it shows the giver we are thinking of them, and we’ll be thinking of them every time we use it as we build our lives together.

      • Stephanie

        This is just terrific. I am going to make it a point now to do this after our wedding, I know how much I would love to receive such a note about a gift I had given. Thanks for the idea!

  • anon

    I gave extravagantly to my brother and his fiance, precisely because i did not know her all that well, and my bro is a bit distant for the last few years. I meant it as a token of support and as a promise of future involvement in their wellbeing. Not as ‘little sis mames more money, nah nah’ as my bro originally felt. We talked, and he knows that i simply desire a continued relationship in whatever capacity his broke busy grad school butt can manage.