Ask Team Practical: Stingy Guests


What do you do when friends don't bring gifts?

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Stingy Guests | A Practical Wedding

Q: My husband and I were married this past February. In our wedding party we chose mostly family as attendants. Two of them were married couples, two of his cousins who had actually married two of my best friends early last year.

We were in both couples’ weddings and we gave so much time, money, and energy to each. We decided to give them a good sum of money from us as a wedding gift because we figured they are our best friends, they absolutely deserve it.

Our wedding finally came around and we received nothing from either couple. We all went on a joint honeymoon cruise where they were all planning what they would spend their tax return money on. I figured maybe one of those things would be a gift for us… but nothing. Three months later and we are still waiting, but definitely not with bated breath. (Let it be known neither bridesmaid came to my bridal shower or offered a gift for that either—one didn’t even have a reason for not showing up.)

I know it’s selfish, but I am really hurt. I paid for all my girls to have their hair and makeup done, all they had to do was buy their dresses, show up, and be supportive. We sacrificed and gave them both so much because we love them, and we received nothing in return. I know I shouldn’t expect a gift, but damn!

Sincerely,
Hurting in Ohio

 

A: Dear HIO,

Before I jump into the tough love stuff (that you know is coming, be honest), you need to know that I completely understand the hurt. It can feel like you’ve prioritized someone, and they haven’t prioritized you. As I’m inclined to cry to my husband on occasion, “It’s not about that, it’s about what that meeeeans.” I understand that; that’s fair. So, in that case, let’s talk about what it means that they didn’t bring you a gift.

Let’s start with the benefit of the doubt. It is really, really hard to look in at someone’s financial situation from the outside and know why they’re making the financial choices they make. Your friends are on vacation! They’re planning how to spend all of their extra tax return money! It seems like they have a bunch left over, and giving you a gift should rank in there someplace… but it doesn’t. And though your gut reaction is that it means they’re not prioritizing you, it could mean something else altogether. It could mean that things are tighter for them than your realize, that whatever lavish plans they’re making for this cash have been back-burnered for a long time because of other things. It could have nothing to do with the money, but they just completely spaced on remembering a gift for you. Possibly they’re in the camp that feels being in the wedding party is “gift enough” (right or wrong, people think like that). Really, who knows. The point is, we certainly don’t.

Apart from the actual money of it, few things in friendship are exactly, accurately mutual. Friends are friends in different ways. One of the ways that you demonstrate support of your friends is financially. Some folks don’t. When you’re being fair, you know that you didn’t just give them a stack of money so that they could give you a stack of money back. You gave them that gift because you were happy for them. Maybe now you’re wishing they’d expressed that same happiness for you—but not everyone does that with money or gifts.

Mutuality is important in a good friendship. But that isn’t measured in “we gave this much, how much did they give us?” It’s a question of “does this friend generally support me?” Excluding the lack of gifts (and alright, the weird shower thing), are they there for you in other ways? Weddings can be a catalyst for revealing the real status of a relationship, for showing you which friends aren’t true. But sometimes all it shows you is which friends aren’t great at weddings, or don’t really prioritize gifts and parties as a way of showing love and support.

Team practical, how do you respond when friends don’t bring gifts? 

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.

read the comment policy before you post

  • Another Meg

    Liz covered so much of it, but I do have this to add-

    I’m in a similar place right now, but all I can think is that their presence at our wedding and all of their help, emotional and physical, is enough of a gift.

    Part of me really thinks this, and the rest knows that it only hurts my husband and me if I get upset about the gift thing. It’s not going to make life any easier if I take it personally so here’s what I do- any time it comes up or I start to get sad thinking about those who were in our wedding party and chose (for whatever reason- Liz covers that part well, I think) not to give us a physical gift, I try to think of what they did give us- amazing memories. Dancing at the reception with them, getting ready with them, even just seeing them standing next to me during the ceremony- a very visible sign of their support of our marriage.

    This sounds kind of silly, but it’s helping me. I even sent them thank you notes just for being at the wedding and showing support.

    • stella

      Not to disparage the rest of what you said, but I have always been under the impression that everyone who attends your wedding should get a thank you note, gift or not? Isn’t that common?

      • Another Meg

        I’m honestly not sure. I figured they should, but what I meant by that was that their presence was a gift. It deserved a thank you note. Writing them may have been correct etiquette-wise, but I don’t always pay attention to that stuff. It made me feel better about the whole situation to write them thank you notes. It made me put into words what I was grateful to them for, which was their support of our marriage by showing up.

        • MC

          I love this, and honestly, sometimes all you CAN give as a gift is your presence. Gas and plane tickets are not exactly cheap. So many people will be traveling to attend our wedding, and when I think about how much time and money they are spending to be there and support us – there is no way I expect another gift from anyone! I would so much rather have people there than have a food processor from them (and I would really love a food processor). Obviously it’s a little different when you have a more local invite list, but I still think that any time people make time to be present for such a huge event in your life, that’s a huge gift.

      • Meg

        yep! you thank them for attending :)

        • http://karenmadrone.wordpress.com/ Karen

          We didn’t do this because there’s no way I could have kept track of who was there and who wasn’t. We talked to practically everyone but without a head count and check off sheet there’s no way we could have done this.

          • Meg

            I had a smaller wedding and was a beast with the spreadsheets, so this is a bit easier for me.

          • MTM

            We had a parent grab the place cards that were not taken from the original table and assumed that if a place card was gone, the person was there.

      • Liz

        I pulled out both Emily Post and Miss Manners to check, but it looks like you do not need to thank guests who didn’t bring a gift.

        Adding: of course still thank any friends who helped with the planning etc.

        • K.

          This is maybe different for destination weddings/weddings where people have to travel? It seems like Emily Post and Miss Manners are often focused more on traditional, generally local weddings rather than the new reality that many, many people don’t marry people from the same hometown anymore (nor do people tend to remain living in hometowns), so weddings often require extensive travel from >50% of guests these days.

          I feel like someone spending hundreds (potentially even over $1k) on traveling to your wedding is deserving of a note since that’s often way more than someone would spend on a wedding gift anyway. Really, I’ll be shocked if anyone who travels to our wedding also gets us a gift – seems absurdly excessive.

      • Lawyerette510

        I’ve never received a thank you note for simply attending a wedding, but I love the idea and my husband and I actually wrote personal notes to each person/ family attending our wedding as their escort cards thanking them for being there and expressing what it meant that they were there with us.

        That said I’m not aware of any etiquette standard that you send thank you notes to everyone who attended.

      • M.

        We sent a thank you to every single attendee, and anyone who couldn’t attend but sent a gift. It was high on my priority list. What a wonderful thing our friends and family did coming to spend the day with us, whether from a half hour away or across the country. Friends who came from CA to MI, even with no card or gift, showed such love for us by being there. Send them for everyone (IMHO).

        • emfish

          I love this. I hadn’t even thought about it for our wedding this fall, but now I’m definitely going to do it. We hemmed and hawed about registering and about our guest list, in large part because we wanted to avoid making anyone feel obligated to buy us a gift. And now, I’m being super vigilant about sending thank yous as soon as we get the gift because I genuinely feel so grateful to anyone who gives us one (we’re in our 30s, we already have lots of nice things, and can afford to buy pretty much anything we need, so we really do feel like any wedding gift is icing). But stressing over this aspect of getting married has made me forget our original intention, which is to celebrate our relationship with as many friends and family as we can pack into one place. Of course we should show gratitude for that! Many people are coming from far away and paying for travel and hotels! I actually look forward to writing these.

          • M.

            Awww yay :) I loved writing them too (and I originally felt stressed about a registry too, but we made a very small one to replace things in our house with nicer/sturdier version. People used it. We were super overwhelmed and feel so happy using our new things!) We kept a spreadsheet of the RSVPs, and after the wedding added what people got us/a note about what to thank them for (reading at the wedding, helping with xyz, just for coming, etc), and then checked them off as they were written. It was easy peasy, and I felt all warm & fuzzy writing them. Good luck and enjoy :)

            Super pro tip: I addressed and stamped all thank you cards for “Yes” RSVPs weeks before the wedding. I knew I was going to send them to everyone and it made it a BREEZE when we got back from the honeymoon. I had dreaded thank yous taking forever and they were actually fun!

          • emfish

            I’m actually violating the rule and just sending thank you notes as the gifts come in, even though our wedding is a few months away. We are in the process of buying a condo and will be moving the month before the wedding, and even though we have cloud-stored spreadsheets for everything and I’m diligent, I know something will fall through the cracks. I don’t want it to be any of our gifts or the thank yous! It’s actually working out because everyone who has sent a gift has also RSVPd either yes or no, so I can include something in there about looking forward to seeing them at the wedding, or let them know they will be missed but we are very grateful for the gift.

            I’ve been surprised how easy the thank you notes have been so far. I’m usually awful about that kind of thing, but every time we get a gift, we have a conversation about how we will use it and then I sit down and write the note with that in mind. It’s been a wonderful exercise in mindful acquisition — really considering why an object matters and what use we will get from it, and then expressing gratitude for it. I think this process will make it easier to write thank you notes for gifts in the future, because I’m getting such good practice now!

      • Rachelle

        I spent sooo much time researching this because I wasn’t sure what to do about the non-gift givers. Miss Manners doesn’t just say you “do not need to” thank guests who didn’t give a gift, but that it’s actually bad form to send a thank you for attending card because it’s pointing out the fact that they didn’t give you anything.

        On another note, I absolutely cannot imagine attending a wedding and not giving the couple a present. This is something Miss Manners is adamant about and I think it’s ridiculously rude not to give a gift. If money is tight, you make something heartfelt, help with some aspect of the wedding or discount shop. I don’t care if it’s a $5 gift basket with items from the dollar store – you need to do something! Come on, people!

        • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

          Or at least a card!

          • Rachelle

            Yes! Some sort of note about being happy for them is totally enough!!! I understand being short on funds, but giving nothing just seems so mean.

        • Another Meg

          I actually disagree with Miss Manners on this one, particularly for destination weddings…

          I should probably add that our wedding was a weekend long thing in the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan with under 100 people. One bonus- I actually got to spend time with almost every person. This is my second wedding and the first time I came across this issue so I’m thinking, for some people, this might have been one of those situations where their presence really was the gift. And it was very gratefully received.

          While I’m heavy on letter-writing and note giving in general, I don’t think it’s everyone’s strong suit. Somewhere on the thread someone talks about love languages, and I think it’s spot on. Some people just don’t do gifts or notes.

          My brother, for example, didn’t give us a card or anything. He forgets birthday cards and stuff all the time so I really don’t expect anything else. But when I think about it, he’s already given me so much. He flew up from North Carolina with one of his daughters. His wife and other two daughters stayed home, because his wife is in remission from breast cancer and they are tapped out from her medical bills. I’m just glad he and my god-daughter were able to make it to be in the wedding, and I know it took a lot for them to be able to join us. So I’m choosing to count that as my card, as my heartfelt note. He came, I got to see my god-daughter, which only happens once every few years, and my immediate family was together for a whole weekend. It was a good gift. He got a long thank you note that I cried writing, like I’m crying now.

          Ooooh, maybe the best way to feel better is to become a huge sap like me. And a rambler, sorry…

        • rabbitdarling

          I somewhat disagree, here Rachelle. I think that your choice to gift or not should be based on the couple, not on general rules of etiquette. I would much rather receive a heartfelt, relaxed hug and conversation the morning of my wedding than a $5 gift basket, knowing that a friend had to choose between lunch one day and a gift for my wedding. I’m also not a collector of “stuff,” nor is my partner. A five dollar gift basket is honestly something I’ll just have to haul in the car, and have take up space in my apartment (or, if I’m being brutally honest, re-gift to someone who will receive actual joy from it). But a lovely note (Have I mentioned my abject hatred of greeting cards? Why is that ish $10? Just, Why, Hallmark?) or face-to-face exchange (EVEN BETTER BECAUSE SHARED MEMORIES QUICK SOMEONE TAKE A PICTURE) about how honored someone is to be present at my wedding? Worth way (way) more than a material thing, or token gesture. I hold pretty firmly that hosting a party doesn’t entitle one to anything apart from the joyous company of your guests, and the knowledge that people were willing to gather in your honor. Other couples might be (are) really different; but as someone who cares not at all for receiving gifts, the real gift would be knowing that my friends and family know me, and that I would never want them to throw money away on something just because some book says they ought to do.

        • emfish

          On principle I agree with you, but the reality is that a less expensive gift can be difficult to accomplish at times. You have to be careful with gifts not on the registry, because most couples frankly don’t want them (unless you know them really well and are certain they will love your homemade frame or won’t be annoyed by a basket of cheap items they now have to, basically, throw away and then feel guilty about throwing away). I’ve resorted to cheap items from the registry along with bottles of wine at times. I’ll admit to failing to buy a gift on a couple occasions, and I still feel bad about it. But in both cases it wound up being fine. The first time was my older brother, who got married when I was a grad student, broke and so busy I barely remembered to pay my own rent. The second time was a wedding I was in, a lavish affair on the opposite coast that ultimately cost me nearly $2,000 when you factor in travel, the dress and shoes, the bachelorette party and the hotel. I didn’t fail to give a gift because I was bitter, I just really didn’t have an additional money to buy something that felt substantial enough for two people I really love. I wound up buying nothing, and no one cared, and we’re all still friends. It turns out okay in the end.

    • Ashley Meredith

      “I even sent them thank you notes just for being at the wedding and showing support.”

      And THAT is how you heap coals of fire on someone’s head!

      … I say that ironically, and I’ll get to the serious part in a minute… but at the church I go to, we kind of make fun of that phrase a little sometimes because it sounds so odd to our modern ears and it can be done very self-righteously and even antagonistically, which is not at all the point.

      Speaking completely seriously, I think your approach to this is a beautiful one. And it exemplifies what that phrase is really about, which is that sometimes, showing people generosity prompts them to say, “Oh, I could have been more generous there too, couldn’t I?” But even if that doesn’t happen, you have added to the peace of the situation and reacted in a beautiful and healthy way. It’s hard to do sometimes. So no, I don’t think it sounds silly at all.

    • Lawyerette510

      What a wonderful approach to this kind of situation!

    • http://rebeccaharmon.blogspot.com/ Rebecca Harmon

      I wish I could look at my situation the same way as you, but I’m really having trouble! About six months ago, my husband and I traveled across the country for his cousin’s wedding. We took off work, we purchased plane tickets, and we got them a really nice gift. I took some photographs at their wedding, which the cousin’s husband loved, so I sent them the photos on a CD. I didn’t even receive a text thank you. We just got married a month ago, and his cousin didn’t get us anything. Not even a card. I’m having trouble with “amazing memories” and “visible support” idea because they didn’t really do that either. We barely saw them or talked to them at the wedding. We had family get togethers the day before and after the wedding, which they didn’t attend either. I understand that they may not be able to afford a gift, since they just got married, but the least they could do is sign a card!

  • Beth C

    I would be upset too, but I want to share something that happened following our wedding last summer. One of our best friends did not give us a card or a gift. We thought it might be in the mail, but it never arrived. He got engaged this spring and is planning his wedding for this summer. We were hanging out discussing his wedding (my husband is a groomsman) and he got a bit sheepish and said, “Yeah, I realize I haven’t gotten you a wedding gift it’s just that I haven’t found anything that I thought was right and I didn’t want to cop out and just give you money”. So after nearly a year of wondering ‘why no gift’ we know the answer, and honestly it’s a really sweet answer.

  • emilyg25

    It was just such a gift to have our loved ones come to our wedding and celebrate with us. One friend didn’t even get a card and I’ll admit that stung a bit. It was also 100% in character for him.

  • anonomish

    Confession: I am *terrible* at wedding gifts. I am otherwise — I think! — a competent and loving friend, but MAN I suck at wedding gifts. This is partly because most of the getting-married people we know already have shared/combined homes and all the stuff they need for them, and partly because…I don’t know. Maybe registries, with their sad leftover measuring-cups and not-that-useful napkin-rings, bum me out.

    But I am BALLER at baby gifts. And I will make you food. I’m trying to be better about wedding gifts, but mostly I hope my friends don’t feel as hurt as this letter-writer and know that I love them and support them and will show up (gift-wise and otherwise) in lots of other ways!

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

      in case it helps when faced with another registry…I loved receiving napkin rings and measuring cups! Using them makes me happy because I think of who gave them to me. And I am a big fan of cloth napkins and use them every day… :)

    • Lawyerette510

      I think that a card or a gesture to express your love and support, even if there is no gift, is adequate. It’s not the gift that counts, it’s the gesture, and it sounds like you know how to rock the gesture, so just apply that to your approach to wedding gifts and you’re ahead of the curve!

    • laurasmash

      I like bundling a couple of the sad leftover registry items into a fun themed gift basket. Get those measuring cups and spoons and throw in some cute cookie cutters and a favorite recipe, and voila! a baking basket! If they put it on the registry, they will be happy to have it!

    • Ann

      One of my friends picked up salt and pepper shakers and coasters off of my registry. His note alluded to their not great financial decision and that he felt bad for giving something so small. But you know what? I use his gifts EVERY DAY, and this means I think of him every day. And that makes me happy. Small gifts can be just as appreciated, if not more so, than napkin rings.

  • Winny the Elephant

    I’m siding with the friends on the gift. People seem to forget that it’s not mandatory for a guest to bring you a gift. If you invite someone to a wedding or to be in your wedding party, their presence and their well wishes are all you should expect. Is that not enough? It’s a wedding, not kickstarter

    It shouldn’t matter that you gave them a wad of cash for their wedding, you chose to do that! If you gave it hoping that one day they would reciprocate with a gift item of equal or greater value then that’s pretty shallow.

    • Cleo

      “It’s a wedding, not kickstarter”

      Yes.

      Also, I could be off the mark, but this focus on not receiving gifts feels very much like a place the LW is turning her energies to when things didn’t go how she’d hoped. She said these two bridesmaids didn’t give gifts at the shower and one didn’t show up and didn’t even have a good reason (which, to me is a problematic phrase because she could have had a very “good reason,” but not wanted to talk about it).

      The LW also said that she only expected her bridesmaids to show up and be supportive. This wedding shower story and a sentence like: “We sacrificed and gave them both so much because we love them, and we received nothing in return,” makes me wonder if she thinks that her bridesmaids didn’t even give her the gift of their time or attention in the way she’d hoped because even if she didn’t get a fat stack of cash or a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, she would have (hopefully) received that attention and support. And if she didn’t, that’s a huge issue that couldn’t be fixed with money (people letting you down is the worst!)

      But if this is really about the LW not getting the equivalent that she gave, I’m with Winny — this is so shallow.

      • Liz

        I want to nip this idea of it being “shallow” right in the bud.

        On the face of it, being sad over not getting a gift can seem shallow (and I think holds some of us back from talking about it). It’s easier to gloss over with platitudes about “the thought!” and “their presence!” but sometimes it just hurts that you’re not important to someone (which can be how it feels when a friend prioritizes something else over sending you a little something).

        • Stacey H.

          I wonder if this could be addressed under the umbrella of “The Five Love Languages”. Maybe the author’s love language is Giving/Receiving Gifts and the love language of the other girls’ is Quality Time. This would be a perfect instance of the impact of misunderstood love languages.

          • Fiona

            I was thinking the same thing!

          • Candice

            Yes, exactly!! It’s not enough to say that she shouldn’t expect a gift in return – of course it’s not about a kitchen set. But if the Bride feels love, friendship, and community through the giving and receiving of gifts (which is what it sounds like), then to her that means the friends are diminishing their friendship with her.

          • Inmara

            Exactly my thoughts! I’m well aware of 5 love languages as my husband is typical “quality time” person while I’m dominant “physical touch” but also appreciate giving and receiving gifts, and I constantly need to remind myself about this (and be in charge of gifts and cards whenever we attend weddings, birthdays and such).

            Also, one more (maybe crazy) possibility – what if those friends were kind of perplexed upon receiving generous gift from LW because they knew that due to some financial reasons they won’t be able to give back anything equally generous? And didn’t want to look cheap by giving just card or something small, they cowardly didn’t give anything at all? Not exactly good solution, but it may happen sometimes.

    • Fiona

      I find that in friendship in general, we set ourselves up for disappointment more if we expect specific things from our friends, though I totally understand why the letter-writer is hurt.

      • Lauren

        I found that out the hard way. You could say that about family relationships, too. You might really want someone to act or be a certain way because you are that way or you think that is the “right” way to be, but the reality of the matter is that most people probably will react differently than you. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but so very helpful to understand when people aren’t treating you the way you wish.

  • joanna b.n.

    So I will admit I had some similar thoughts about people close to us who attended our wedding, and I think for me this was really tied to the worry that somehow by asking so much of them to travel across the country, spend vacation time and their money to get there that we’d asked too much. And that the lack of a gift was their way of saying, dude, you’re lucky I put out as much as I did. Which, I think there’s a huge diff between that attitude vs. being joyfully present but also not able to also dish out a wad of cash. Also, some people are more selfless with their money than others, and that doesn’t necessarily say anything about you or your relationship with them.

  • laddibugg

    I’m in the camp of ‘being in your wedding party is gift enough’. Not only did they have to purchase something that probably wasn’t 100% of their choosie, they also gave the gift of time and effort. Being an attendant is more work than being a guest.

    As for people who don’t give you a gift and aren’t in the party…you just have to let it go. What exactly do you think you CAN do? If you ask you are going to come off as rude.

  • Allie Moore

    Great response from Liz, as usual. Just wanted to add that some people just aren’t the gift giving type — if you needed something from me, I’d be there in a heartbeat and I’m always happy to help a friend or family member move or work on a project, cook a meal, treat someone to dinner, or babysit, but unless I come across something that just screams someone’s name, gifts just aren’t my thing. I probably wouldn’t show up at a wedding empty-handed but for birthdays and holidays it’s rare that I give someone money or a gift. Of course I don’t think I’m stingy, gifts just aren’t how I express my friendship. You can be overwhelmed with all the physical things you have in your life but when someone’s invested time to help you or be with you or celebrate you that is so special.

    • Outside Bride

      We felt a tiny bit…weird(?) that some of the people involved in the wedding gave gifts. I mean, it was super sweet, but, well, they did so much and the gifts were just like a little over the top. You weeded a yard and hauled heavy stuff around, and allowed us to take over your entire car, along with a million other things that allowed us to have a wedding. On the other hand, even though I hope to be able to return the favor in full, I know we will probably also slip in a little gift…mainly because it feels good to give. But, this whole post is kind of making me think about the whole love language stuff. Our “non-paragons” were the ones who agreed to help, but then chose to try to add drama to an otherwise fairly straightforward day. No amount of money or thoughtful gift really would have made that right, but I am hoping time will.

      I’ve always liked the idea (borrowed) that it’s kind of cool to always be in a situation of “owing” or “being owed”, in that reciprocity gives you that excuse to keep the relationship going. I really hate the idea that the dinner and gift were somehow a transaction, but I would love it if our people kept me in mind as someone to ask for help.

  • Natalie

    I think that here is a great way to examine love languages – because they matter with friends too. One friend may show me support through kind words or quality time with me, another may do it through gifts. If it’s not out of character for these friends to show their love for you through other means than gifts, I don’t think it should necessarily be taken as a slight. I kind of see gifts at weddings like gifts at birthday parties. There was a time when we were younger that all we had to do was show up for our friends parties, and then, generally, my mom always made sure we brought a gift. But as I grew older, I wound up being the one who was planning the party for my friends, and when I was more involved in the party planning I usually either forgot or didn’t have the cash to get a gift for that friend, because I spent it on planning the party.

    So, if someone’s in my wedding party I don’t expect a gift from them. They helped plan. They shelled out some of their own money for things. If someone just shows up at a wedding and doesn’t bring a gift at all, eh. I may be a little hurt, that so and so couldn’t be bothered to shell out a couple bucks for some measuring spoons or whatever, but I won’t lose any sleep over it.

    • KC

      To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever given a regular gift at a wedding where I’ve been a bridesmaid, actually, although at all but two of those I made or was part of making a Big Fat Wedding Cake, so I sort of figured the ingredients and time were the gift, and I did give shower gifts or lingerie where applicable. But shelling out time and money for a [in some cases hideous] dress, traveling, helping, planning, listening, this is how I say I care about your wedding, not a stack of new towels. At least, this was my not-previously-thought-through theory.

      But, aside from cake (which I do rock at) and a few other odds and ends of usefulness, I am not really good at weddings in general (and I am Catastrophically Bad at wedding showers and small talk and public speaking). So there’s that. But my friends generally seem to like me anyway. So there’s that. I don’t know.

  • Rachel

    I get it when people think being in the bridal party is gift enough. I was a bridesmaid last year and spent a ton of time and a fair amount of money helping my dear friend the bride. And although I did give a monetary gift after buying the dress, throwing the bachelorette party (that got expensive) and attending multiple bridal showers, I was a bit burnt out. People give what they can and sometimes the wedding gift is time, effort, and support over the planning process. Now, whether people provide the time, effort, and support as members of the bridal party is another question…

    • Inmara

      In my culture, equivalent of “wedding party” consists of 2 people (traditionally they are married couple), and actually bride and groom give THEM a gift after wedding as a thank you for their time and effort in wedding planning and support in the day of. So expecting gifts from BM and GM if they are actually doing everything that they are traditionally supposed to do, is something I can’t wrap my head around.

  • Revanche

    When I was in the wedding party for a LOT of my friends, it was when I was extremely poor, working hundred hour weeks to support my family. I could just afford to take the time off, and pay for my dress but I simply couldn’t afford to give a gift on top of that since I was struggling to keep food on the table. Some friends had an inkling of how bad it was but I didn’t tell most people why I worked so much, so it still stings to think that some less close friends would have felt that reflected on how much I loved them and was happy for them.

    So when our wedding came around ten years later and half my very good friends who have their own thing going on didn’t give us gifts or cards or anything, wedding party or no, whether or not they seem to be doing very well for themselves, I do this: I remember all the other much more wonderful things they have done for me (emotional support, teaching me things, generally displaying endless love) that simply cannot be bought with money. And by the time I’m done reflecting on the amazing ways they’ve been, I can’t even imagine accepting a physical or monetary gift on top of the gift of their friendship. But y’know. I have a few unbelievably awesome friends.

    And also for those who weren’t paragons of friendship, I remember: I invited them to celebrate with us. I didn’t ask them for their gifts. It doesn’t matter that in my family, gifts are expected to cover the plate and ultimately cover the cost of the wedding: that’s not why we asked them. So that helped with any last lingering bits of “hum…”

    • Julia

      I really like this line: “I remember: I invited them to celebrate with us. I didn’t ask them for their gifts.”

    • Fiona

      I have very good friends that got married in Ireland the summer before my senior year of college. My friend was very kind in considering things financially (letting me stay with them in the apartment), but the wedding was very far away, and she and her family do fancy restaurants a lot. I had no money and had to beg my mom to pay the plane ticket, and I couldn’t afford to pay for all the restaurant dinners leading up to the wedding. I tried to do it anyway, but when I begged off the dinners, they asked us to go anyway, and it became very challenging for us to understand where we each were coming from financially (her background is very different than mine).

      I made wedding gifts for them, and I always wonder what they thought of that, but I hope that someday I can do something wonderful for them that involves money, but that day isn’t today. I just hope they understand.

      • Cathi

        I can’t speak as someone from a super well-off family used to a more lavish lifestyle, but I can speak from my own experience that the most meaningful gift we got at our wedding was homemade. The elevated level of thought and intention behind it was just so touching.

        • Revanche

          As a person from a poor background, living among those who grew up well-off always, I tend to feel like your being touched by a homemade gift speaks even more well of you. It’s been my experience that those acquaintances who never lacked for anything utterly failed to appreciate the immense gift of love and effort that went into a homemade gift (in this case, another friend’s creating amazing works of art quilts for them, that was hundreds of hours for her and seriously craftsperson quality). It was so disheartening she stopped doing it.

      • Revanche

        I most certainly hope they understand and appreciate your effort as well! I hated being the person who couldn’t afford all the expected elements (esp when it turned into seriously elaborate affairs) but I didn’t have the skill to make something that didn’t look like a 2nd grader’s school project, so I had to go with practical, small gifts. :)

  • KT

    I think wedding gifts are 100% optional. If someone doesn’t get me a gift, I won’t be offended at all. In fact, I’ll be relieved, because I don’t want more stuff (we live in a tiny house and minimalism is something we value). If people really want to give, I’d rather have cash, but I feel shy about publicizing that…

    • JSwen

      I considered somehow phrasing that we could use honeymoon money… my mom nixed that and said that people will give money anyway. We shall see….

      • Pileofstix

        Have you considered something like http://www.honeyfund.com/?

        • JSwen

          Yeah, I let my mom nix that as well. :)

      • Rachelle

        I thought about that and using one of the websites as well, but decided to go the safe route so no one was offended. I was AMAZED at the amount of cash and checks we got. So many people never even consider buying off the registry and just always give money when going to weddings. No need to say anything and embarrass mom :) I’m sure you’ll get loads of it anyway!

  • Meg

    A gift is up to the discretion of the guest. There are extra costs for people in the wedding party, for instance Tux rentals are a lot more expensive than I realized and I felt bad for our attendants having to rent those! I think this advice is good. Try not to dwell on this. The big checks are for well established older family and friends of your parents to write, your friends like all of us are just starting out and every penny counts. They just paid for a wedding too, and probably have student loans and a downpayment to worry about/save up for. So just think of the fun you had having them there.

  • Anonymous

    I’m an unabashed giver of cheap gifts, so this is sort of outside my emotional wheelhouse, but could the friends be embarrassed that they can’t afford to reciprocate what you gave them? Maybe they feel like they need to come up with either an equal sum of money or the perfect heartfelt token, so they just keep putting it off? I get myself stuck in similar loops where I put off responding to an e-mail, and then feel like I’d better send an extra good response to make up for it, and then put it off more and more.
    That probably wouldn’t make it any more (or less) OK, but it might be another reason to see this as a human frailty not a slight.

    • Lauren from NH

      Not that is a detective game, where we are trying to guess where in the world her friends were coming from, but what you said there sounds very plausible to me.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

      I did that cycle with writing thank you notes…and I do it with emails too. And many other things. I am trying to get better and remember that perfect is the enemy of the good (and good is better than nothing) as far as tasks go in my life.

    • emfish

      I have played this specific game in the past, and it’s very easy to do. It can be hard to reconcile how much you can genuinely afford to spend on a wedding gift with what you would like to spend, and it’s easy to put off the decision to avoid that reconciliation. I’m better about this now. Last year a good friend of mine got married a few months after I’d been laid off. Every penny I spent at the time was dear to me, since I had nothing coming in. I wound up stalking her registry and buying something during a sale, just so I could feel like I was giving her something more substantial (but still spend less than $50, which was already more than I felt comfortable with, frankly). But when I was younger, I would think, “Oh, I will by that grill pan for them as soon as I get my paycheck,” and then my paycheck would come and I’d pay my rent and my bills and there wouldn’t be enough left. So I’d wait again, and then the wedding would come and go, and then nothing would be left on the registry, and then I’d wind up buying them a bottle of wine six months later and feel weird about it because I feared they’d think I was either thoughtless or cheap, or both.

      Honestly, the biggest problem here is that there are cultural ideas of how much you should spend on a wedding gift (depending on where you live, probably somewhere between $50 and $200), and sometimes that amount is a real burden on people. I wish it always felt totally okay to buy a $20 gift off the registry, but almost no one feels like it is. I would be embarrassed to spend that little on a wedding gift, even if it was all I could afford.

  • Anon

    My husband’s sister did not bring us a card or gift to our wedding (or the bridal shower, engagement party, etc.). In fact, I cannot remember a time we ever received even a card from her. And getting her to RSVP for my bridal shower was enough to actually cause my mom and best friend grief, even though she apparently always knew she was going to be there.

    After the wedding, I took it personally. I finally just had to figure that I will never understand it. She and her brother (my spouse) are fairly close and he doesn’t get it either. And I am pretty sure this is just us, because she loves to share stories of time-intensive craft projects she has gifted to friends or long shopping hunts for the perfect gift for her boyfriend. After nearly 12 years of considering her family, I have never even received a card.

    I could understand it all a little bit more if she was someone who gifted with her time, energy, or cookies. Anything. She just isn’t ever present when we are together unless we are talking about her.

    When my spouse considers leaving her off the holiday card list or not sending a thank you for her minimal hosting duties when we take the time to visit (she never visits us), I remind him that even though it won’t be reciprocated, he is still modelling good adult behavior to his younger sister. She gets out of cooking and cleaning during another Thanksgiving dinner? Continue modelling good adult behavior by doing both. Your parents need help? … You get the idea. She might never change, we shouldn’t lower our self-standards because of it.

    • Anon II

      I agree agree agree especially with the last paragraph, but good God! It’s so frustrating sometimes!! I really appreciate your response to the original post, your words helped clarify some things in my mind. Many thanks :)

    • Anon

      In my family, we NEVER gave each other cards; cards were for people we didn’t know well. Family was considered close enough that you just said out loud what you might write in a card to someone less close.

      • Marcela

        That’s how my family is too, but my husband’s family are HUGE on cards. The lack of one from his sister and her husband bugs me so much more than the non gift from some of our friends.

    • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

      My siblings and I are all over the place with gifts. I think it’s because we’re close enough that if something needs to give that year (due to finances, personal stress, whatever), that stuff with us can slide without there being any drama, or losing face.

  • nikki kovach

    Having just been in a wedding myself – I can say that the costs really do sneak up on you. I know the bride mentioned that she paid for a lot which I’m sure is undoubtedly appreciated, but dresses (and belts, pins, shoes) still add up quickly.

    Also keep in mind the parties. If they did attend any bachelorette parties or bridal showers, those are included as gifts. Time and effort spent into that support also counts as a gift. It’s possible that they sacrificed work shifts or extra money just to make those things happen. I know it’s a long shot, but having been through this less than two weeks ago, it can be a very real situation for some.

  • MTM

    “We all went on a joint honeymoon cruise” I would consider this awesome shared experience as the gift, especially if folks delayed their own honeymoons until everyone was married.

    Also, is it possible that a gift walked away or got lost in the mail?

    • Lauren from NH

      I also wondered if it was subtly gifted as covering this or that during the cruise.

    • Kelly

      This is my worry- what if I lost something? There was one item purchased from our registry that never appeared, and no gift/card from a very thoughtful friend who would have been all about that composter… If I ask, it could go badly. If I don’t ask, she might be miffed that I never said thanks.

      • Lauren from NH

        This was an episode of How I Met Your Mother and a pretty hilarious one at that. Check it out if you need a humor check :)

        • Kelly

          that is EXACTLY what I was picturing!! :)

          • Lauren from NH

            Maybe your problem calls for some thinking out loud? “I will always wonder what became of that composter from the registry… the strangest thing…” in casual and appropriate context of course!

      • KC

        Wondering if you might be able to ask the store for more details – I assume they don’t normally give out that information, but if it was shipped to you and got lost in the mail, that would be relevant…

        The other thing you can do sometimes for this sort of thing is a group email “does anyone know who might have given us this?”, which, if you get no responses, is an answer, but doesn’t put anyone as much on the spot.

        • Cathi

          I had to contact an Etsy seller to find out who’d sent us something from their shop. It hadn’t occurred to the gift-giver that their name wouldn’t be somewhere on the packaging.

      • Liz

        There are registry snags all the time- someone might have bought your composted for a different couple, and the wrong registry mistakenly got the tick mark.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I don’t know how many people saw it, but I updated our wedding website regarding thank-you notes. “We’ve sent thank-you notes for all gifts delivered before the wedding. If you sent a gift before the wedding and have not received a thank-you note, please let us know” – and a similar update after the wedding.

        The usual advice to a giver who didn’t get a thank-you or a couple who might be missing a gift is to “ask a close friend or family member to ask discreetly” about the missing gift or note, but that just wasn’t going to work with our spread-out, disconnected friends and family.

        • http://rebeccaharmon.blogspot.com/ Rebecca Harmon

          I suggested this to my mother-in-law because I was surprised by the number of people on her side of the family who didn’t give us gifts. My husband and I assumed that these people probably went in together on a group gift and it got misplaced. Anyway, my mother-in-law refused to ask discreetly because “the relationship is more important”.

      • Marcela

        We had a potato masher purchased from our registry months before the wedding. I noted it and figured it would turn up at the shower in a few weeks. Shower came and went, no masher. It never showed up in the mail and it was this weird thing in the back of my mind, that maybe someone had taken the package with the potato masher off the porch or something. Who knows?
        Come the morning after our wedding, Hubby and I are opening the gifts from the night before and there is the potato masher with a note from a friend “Bet you were wondering when this sucker would show up!” I chuckle every time I mash potatoes now.

        • ART

          That’s pretty hilarious :)

      • JSwen

        Many stores offer a “thank you list” service which your gift-givers can opt out of. This is how we knew who sent a gift that came without an invoice or pack list, by checking our registry site.

      • Cathi

        I had to do some major sleuthing to find out who bought us a really nice printer. We were lucky that it was shipped to us, so we were able to contact the shipping company to find out the address of the purchaser.

        Unfortunately, it was somebody’s work address so we couldn’t reconcile it with our address book. From there it was a game of “well, who do we know who works downtown? Out of those people, who have we recorded as giving a gift?”. Nerve-wrecking but kind fun at the same time.

    • Sara

      This actually happened to some friends of mine recently.
      Guest gave a card at the wedding but Bride never cashed the check. Guest asked me why Bride hadn’t cashed the check almost two months later. I suggested she follow up with a quick ‘hey, saw the check wasn’t cashed, wanted to make sure everything was ok’ type email. Bride apparently never received card/check! Guest sent her a new one. Bride had already written her a thank you note thanking her for just attending, told me she didn’t think anything of the lack of present. Just figured they hadn’t sent one.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        My mother once misplaced a card with a check in it between her front door and the evening wedding reception. Maybe she dropped it in the basket at the reception and forgot? Maybe she left it in the cab? Maybe she dropped it in the parking lot? Because she couldn’t remember or find it, she had to stop payment on the check and send an awkward note to the couple: “If I did put the original check in the basket, and you tried to cash it…”

      • laddibugg

        I think checks are probably the one gift it’s ok to directly ask if the intended receiver actually got. Personal ledger reconciliation trumps etiquette ;-)

        • Cathi

          Two months ago, my mom (who transported our gifts from the reception to home) found a card trapped in some random hidden compartment in her car when she was cleaning it out when she sold it.

          It was from my husband’s grandparents, containing a multi-hundred dollar check. We got married almost two years ago!! His grandparents never said anything! His grandmother is the VP of a bank, and I would have thought of anyone, she would have been all over the fact that we hadn’t cashed such a significant check! We’d sent them a thank-you card thanking them for their time and travel and presence, but… come on! I really wish they’d said something, I felt horrible.

          • carolynprobably

            Yeah I misplaced one page of the gift list and possibly thanked, like, four people for the wrong gifts (“untraceable gifts” – either cash or non-registry gifts). It STILL plagues me. Going back just to say “oops thanks for the gift you really gave me” doesn’t seem right either. So, bygones. But I’m still bugged by it 3 years later.

  • Kirstin

    We just got married about a month ago, and were finishing up our thank you notes this past weekend. We had a handful of guests not bring gifts or cards, including three folks in the wedding party. I totally get it – I’ve been the bridesmaid to spend A LOT on travel, attire, hair, etc. for a wedding, while being the poor graduate student. I was always thankful when it was a wedding where my mom was also invited and she was kind enough to sign my name onto the card too.

    While writing our thank you notes, we were questioning what the etiquette was for those whom we didn’t get anything – do we still send them a thank you note for someone who came but didn’t bring a gift/card? A “Thanks for coming to the wedding” card. I don’t really mind that they didn’t bring gifts. Not getting a card though was more of a surprise, and I was more worried that they somehow got misplaced, and that perhaps there was something inside, and now we look like jerks for not saying thank you? Or were they part of a group gift that we somehow missed? Nothing has turned up for either of those scenarios yet.

    • Liz

      Someone further down asked this and I honestly didn’t know! So I pulled out Emily Post and Miss Manners, and it looks like you don’t have to send a card. If they sent something, hopefully they’ll ask if you received it.

      • Kirstin

        Thanks for the clarification!

    • Marcela

      I can’t remember where I read this, but in the haze of american wedding etiquette reading, I recall seeing that it’s considered impolite to send a thank you card when you did not get a gift because it could be seen as a poke for the recipient to pony up. Anyone encounter this?

      • Lauren from NH

        Oh goodness! drama!

      • Liz

        Someone quoted that as being said by Miss Manners, but I never found the original article where she supposedly said it.

      • Kirstin

        That would definitely not be our intention. I never would have thought of that.

    • Amy March

      No thank you if they didn’t give a gift. I know you want to thank them so so much for attending your wedding, but your reception thanked them for doing that. A “thanks for coming” card risks making them feel like you are calling them out for not sending a gift. And if they had sent something and never got a thank you, they could call you and make sure you got it.

      • YOQ

        We have specifically asked people *not* to give us gifts, beyond a picture of themselves at a joyful moment in their lives. We have asked that if they want to give an additional gift, that they donate to one of two charities that we support, and we provided contact information for those organizations. We will be writing thank you notes to everyone who attends, because their love and support, as expressed in their presence, is so very important to us. If they read that as calling them out for not giving us something, we really can’t control that. But (contrary to what Miss Manners or whoever is supposed to have said), I don’t think it is ever INappropriate to write a nice note to someone expressing your love for and appreciation of them.

        • Amy March

          Go right ahead! But know that in doing so you are violating a rule of etiquette that your guests may care about. I suspect you don’t care about that particular rule, since you also violated the “no saying no gifts” rule, which, whatever you know your friends.

          But it is a rule and I think it’s important people know what those are before they decide to break them.

          • YOQ

            Fair enough. Also, re-reading my comment, I hope it’s clear that I don’t think everyone should be doing the same thing–this is just what we’re choosing to do.

          • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

            I didn’t realize “no saying no gifts” was an etiquette rule as well, good to know since we had discussed doing this! No one in my family has ever been really huge on etiquette. Guess who will be googling “wedding etiquette”….

          • ART

            careful, there are some doozies out there! i was just reading the Crane Papers etiquette page and getting a little sick to my stomach (good heavens, the GROOM doesn’t write thank you notes! egad, you’re keeping your MIDDLE NAME instead of bumping it for your MAIDEN NAME?! you’re keeping your maiden name but want to be termed MRS?! *web page author faints*)

      • Sarah E

        Another option could be to send a holiday card that just *happens* to say how much their attendance at the wedding meant to you. Then you can dance around the line of etiquette by saying Merry Christmas! or Happy Fourth of July! We’re so glad we got to see you at the wedding it meant so much to us! You express your feelings, and it’s not technically a thank you note.

        That’s kind of what we’re doing re: save the dates. Spreading the news via word of mouth (or a family-wide email sent by my FMIL- yay! for saving me work on people I’m not sure how to contact), then, since I got a boatload of holiday cards for cheap, they’ll receive a Happy Holidays! Hope to see you May 16th! in December. And yes, I do feel a little smug about taking this route ;-)

    • JSwen

      I’d say, send a thank you if you want to! Many of my friends will be traveling great lengths to be at my wedding and I’m sooooo thankful. More thankful than I am about the random registry item that arrived from a family member who can’t bother to come. Therefore, the no-gift travelers are getting cards from me. :)

  • http://karenmadrone.wordpress.com/ Karen

    My wife’s brother didn’t give us even a card which I thought was strange since he is so unbelievably supportive. He was the only person who didn’t give us something that we were slightly offended by but we also know that that’s within his character. We have out of town friends and M’s step sisters who also didn’t give gifts but we know they spent a good deal of money coming to our wedding. All of them will be getting cards from us with pictures of them at the wedding. It was incredibly important to us that they were there.
    I’m sure there were others who didn’t give us gifts but we didn’t notice, we were blown away by what we did receive both monetarily and emotionally. No one threw us a shower or engagement party and yes, that hurt. What we know deep down is that we are loved beyond anything anyone can purchase for us. In the long run, relationships are more important than money or things.

  • Kelly

    3/5 of my bridal party (sisters and cousin) and my parents did not give gifts or cards. I’m not worried to have less stuff, but I’m ridiculously sentimental. If they had given a dollar store wooden spoon, I would have forever loved it as “the spoon my sister gave me for our wedding.” It makes me a little sad not to have something like that.

    • Marcela

      This is how I feel too!! A broke friend got us a laundry hamper and every time I chuck my clothes in there I think of the funny jokes she wrote all over the packaging. I made a book with all the cards we received from the shower and the wedding and it makes me sad when I look through it and there are some glaring absences.

    • Allison

      I’m all over this. If my parents contribute to the wedding, obviously that’s a stellar gift. BUT…I would love a lace tablecloth, or something that I can look fondly upon (“oh, mom gave me this at our wedding!”) even if it meant them contributing less.

      Unfortunately there’s rarely a non-presumptuous way to approach that.

    • Meg

      wait your parents didn’t even give you a card uhhhh. Don’t they know you’re picking their nursing home?

  • Whitney S.

    I think, in general in life, one should not do or give things that they are not comfortable with not ever being done for them in return. Same with money. You give it as a gift and expect to never see it again or reciprocated.

    For example, I invite people over to my house on the regular and feed them delicious food (or so I’m told) and have no expectation for such an experience to be replicated. If I did have these expectations, then I would be continuously disappointed. No one even has the space or skills to really even offer this in my friend group.

    Comparison is the thief of joy.

    • Lawyerette510

      Oh I love the “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

      • Whitney S.

        It is very true, and I have to remind myself this on the regular . ;)

    • Allison

      While I agree with avoiding comparison 100%, it is HAAAAAAARD to do in reality when you have the opportunity to do it so directly. The other weddings were not even a full year ago, and they had the same roles in each other’s! They all had enough dough to go on a cruise, so presumably no one is in dire straits. Thus, the hurt is definitely understandable.

      It’s also important to note that this is “selfish” (or at least self-interested – and thinking they didn’t have a “good reason” to not show at a shower is certainly egocentric), but totally VALID feelings. And selfish isn’t always greedy or bad – sometimes it’s just looking out for ourselves and our emotions, protecting our boundaries. LW made a sacrifice for them, she feels it’s not reciprocated, so of course things feel out-of-balance and icky.

      We come into certain social agreements with the [even unconscious] expectation that there will be something in return, so it’s not 100% fair to dismiss this as a “you shouldn’t expect reciprocity” thing – because on some level, you can. Not 1:1 maybe, and not even in the same format. I give gifts at Christmas because I freaking LOVE gifting, but yeah, I would be hurt if no one gave me anything at all. Whether I gave them a $75 gift and they gave me a $30 gift isn’t that big of a deal because the gesture is there. Similar theory here. I’m not giving BECAUSE I want someone to give me a gift later at my wedding, and I doubt that LW did either (or lawyerette510 below), but damn! We see the world primarily through our own lens and usually assume that others’ behavior will match ours if they feel the same about a situation. Totally false! (See: 5 Love Languages) Furthermore..some things are clearer on the reciprocity side than others. Christmas with your family: easy. Wedding in which you’re a bridesmaid: fuzzier. (Even if said friend did just give you a gift.)

      There’s also a loss of control issue. If their wedding had been AFTER, LW may have been hurt, but it might be easier to get over later because she could still pick what gift to give the couple. She would not necessarily make the same sacrifices (let’s say $300) AFTER she knows it won’t be given (at least not on that scale).

      This is mostly a matter of resolving that either they’re A) shitty friends (I would give the benefit of a doubt and see if that’s actually true…..) or B) they just don’t see things the way you do in terms of giftiness/their personality is less generous/things are going on with their finances that you don’t know about.

      • Whitney S.

        For me, I use to have a really hard time with this and still do sometimes. I have a pretty strong sense of social contracts and etiquette. I was spending a lot of time being upset that people weren’t following what I considered understood social rule or reciprocating in relationships. All this was doing for me was keeping me pissed off, and its not like my hurt was leading to any one changing their behavior.

        The best thing for me was to do what I could which was to no longer approach things that, “Well, they would do the same for me!” If I’m giving freely without an expectation of a return I’M happier. Obviously, you don’t let people just treat you like crap. You observe how people treat you and maybe decide it time to move on from the relationship or to no longer bend over backwards. But I just try to be open to people expressing their affection in ways that are different than how I do.

      • Anon

        I think the circumstances of shower non-attendance could matter emotionally, and I do not think it is egocentric of LW to be hurt by non-attendance without an explanation. We don’t know what happened here, but if this friend is close enough to be in the wedding, she needs to say something other than “regrets.” The friend could simply say: I can’t go into details, but I’m sorry to say that I can’t make it to the shower. Is that enough? Well, it depends on the level and nature of the friendship. But this problem sounds like it could be the sign of an imbalanced relationship, in which LW sees the relationship as closer than her friends do.

  • Violet

    I do think there’s something to be noted about language here. LW says of her own giving practice with these friends: “We decided to give them a good sum of money…because we figured they are our best friends, and they deserve it.” Deserve is such a tricky word. I have a VERY dear friend who is strapped for cash (grad school), and I would never consider her not being able to give me (or anyone) a sum of money as having anything to do with whether or not she thinks we deserve it. It’s about what she can afford. I think a lot of friendship is assuming good intent whenever it’s ambiguous, and there is definitely a distinction between “what this person deserves” and “what I can afford.” Sometimes the two concepts match up monetarily, but certainly not always.
    In life, plenty of people get more than they “deserve,” in any number of ways. Plenty of people get less. Gifts are the same way- they are not necessarily a reflection of the gift giver’s feelings toward the recipient.

    • Lily

      “I think a lot of friendship is assuming good intent whenever it’s ambiguous.”

      This. So very true.

    • Allison

      I love this, and you get into another interesting point: because “deserve” is a slippery slope, you can actually end up failing to set boundaries appropriately when viewed like this.

      What’s more….”afford” is a dangerous word. MOST of us mean “isn’t in the priorities” rather than “I literally do not have the money in my bank account right now”, but society likes us to actually appear to DEMONSTRATE this inability by naming what’s priority. And that priority should be acceptable. Examining three responses from the same person….

      “I can’t afford a $300 wedding gift for you because…” [$300 = more than most would spend on an average gift, yet an amount most are ALSO likely to actually possess]

      - “I have to make rent next month”: reasonable despite selfish
      - “My kids will need college money in 20 years”: somewhat less reasonable despite rather altruistic (and despite the importance of this, compounding returns, etc)
      - “I want to fly first class to New Zealand and the plane ticket is expensive”: unreasonable and selfish, even if that person has had a lifelong dream of traveling and it’s the most important and fulfilling activity they can partake in.

      Society’s weird.

      • Cathi

        What’s more….”afford” is a dangerous word. MOST of us mean “isn’t in
        the priorities” rather than “I literally do not have the money in my
        bank account right now”

        Indeed. When my best friend got married (I was MOH), toward the home stretch I was feeling very much a panicky sense if “I can’t afford this!” when it wasn’t strictly true. For me, my priority wasn’t even “I’d rather allocate this money to fancy donuts once a week”, it was “I really don’t want to spend money on this any more.” Spending multiple-thousands of dollars on a wedding that wasn’t my own was feeling very out of control.

    • emfish

      Excellent point. Especially when you put it in the context of wedding gifts, because I have plenty of single friends who “deserve” a nice stand mixer or a good sum of money every bit as much as my fiance and I do. I also have a recently divorced friend who probably deserves it more than any of us do, given the strife she’s been through in the last few years. But now that we’re getting married, it is implied that all those people will buy gifts for us, even though none of them can expect us to reciprocate anytime in the near future.

  • Julia

    In a recent year, I was in 4 weddings for 3 close friends and 1 close cousin. All of them had many parties: engagement parties, bridal showers, couples showers, and the actual wedding. There was no way I could afford to give a gift at all of those events as well as pay for travel, accommodations, bridesmaids stuff… and even though some of the brides were incredibly gracious in paying for things like hair/makeup/whatnot, it still added up really quickly and my bank account took a big hit. I ended up giving a small gift at each event that financially equaled what I could afford, and then I hoped that my presence made up the difference. None of the brides ever mentioned it, but I did wonder if they felt I was being cheap at times (aka, giving them a $25 wedding gift off their registry), and that made me sad because that wasn’t the case at all.

    I think it’s important to remember that financially, you can’t control the priorities of others, and there’s usually a lot going on behind the scenes for a person or family. It’s pretty much never helpful to assume that you know what someone can or can’t afford. I think it’s perfectly normal to feel slighted if you didn’t receive a gift — especially since it sounds like the author of this post made a huge effort to give gifts, and thoughtful ones at that! And it’s normal to feel frustrated when someone behaves in a way that YOU wouldn’t — aka, you would obviously prioritize gifts (because you clearly did), and so it confuses and hurts you that they wouldn’t act/think the same way.

    But let it go. Your friendship with these folks matters more than who gave what gift. And like a commenter said so clearly below, you invited them to celebrate, and they came, which is kind of the most valuable thing, right?

  • Lawyerette510

    One thing I’ve been turning to a lot lately in regards to feeling hurt in interpersonal relationships when my expectations aren’t meant is the mantra of “I accept and I allow.”

    The idea being that I accept people and circumstances as they are and acknowledge that I do not have the ability to change them but I do have the ability to find peace and sometimes joy in them, and I allow myself to accept the gifts that life presents me, even when they are not in the form I would prefer.

    • Sarah E

      Great mantra, thanks for sharing that insight.

      • Lawyerette510

        Thanks, I first encountered it in a yoga class last month, where the “I accept” was meditated on the inhale, and the “I allow” on the exhale. Credit goes to a woman first name Liza, last name unknown who lead the class.

        • Sarah E

          As a recently-certified yoga teacher, my ears perked up at that right away. Adding the breath is wonderful, and I may steal it for future classes!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    I don’t want to discount anyone’s feelings, but I think this may help couples who are not yet married: I can’t relate at all. We invited about 200 people. 80 attended. That’s big by APW averages, I think, but small by the US averages I’ve read. I don’t know how many households or gifts that worked out to. I had a shower, but not many households gave both a shower and wedding gift. Gifts came so fast leading up to the wedding, and we did such a good job getting thank-you notes out quickly, that I didn’t/couldn’t keep track in my mind of who gave gifts and who didn’t. We marked off on the spreadsheet each gift that arrived, the date, and the date a thank-you was sent, but I never looked back to see who never sent a gift. After the honeymoon, gifts trickled off, so there wasn’t a “no more gifts are coming; let’s see who never sent one” moment.

    So maybe if you stay on top of your thank-yous, you can avoid the LW’s angst, if your wedding is big enough. Obviously, this plan wouldn’t work so well if you only sent 10 invitations.

  • Megan

    I think this is another instance where now that I’m planning a wedding, I have a better understanding of how to be a good guest. There were cousins’ weddings in the past where my parents purchased a family gift that I was included in as a giver, but I never wrote my own card or anything, which is such a small and meaningful token that I’m sure a cousin would have appreciated. And I don’t mean that being a good guest means you have to get a gift–but there are little things, like a meaningful note on a card–that can still mean a lot to people if you don’t send a gift!

    I’m a little bummed that one of my bridesmaids didn’t send a gift or anything for my shower a couple of weeks ago. We knew she wouldn’t be able to attend the shower, but it would have just been nice to hear something from her on that day–through a card, or a text, or a phone call to check in to see how things went. I don’t expect a gift because she’ll travel for my wedding (although it’s to her hometown) and for bachelorette festivities, but it’s just nice to know others are thinking of you, ya know?

  • JSwen

    My wedding is here in a month and I’m remembering the crappy gifts I’ve given in the past and the weddings I couldn’t make and neglected to send a gift anyway. Now that all of this generosity is pouring in (some of it from people neither of us have ever met), I wish that I could send some of those supportive couples a gift in retrospect. I wasn’t as well-off financially when some of them got married. I know that they wouldn’t expect it so maybe I should just be at peace with it? Or instead give a housewarming gift next time I visit to make myself feel better?

    • ElisabethJoanne

      The Dear Prudie advice column on slate.com covered this situation just last week. Check out the article and comments if you want ideas for gifts or want advice on just letting it rest.

      • JSwen

        Thanks!

  • E19

    I know gifts are technically optional, in the sense that there is no law of the universe that one must give a gift at a wedding, but frankly, in my world, it is UNTHINKABLE that I’d ever attend a wedding and not give some sort of gift (if financials were really tight, something handmade or a $10 trivet off a registry or an inexpensive bottle of Prosecco, but SOMETHING). My mother was horrified the first time I was invited to a shower+engagement party+destination wedding and I asked her if she thought it was really necessary to give gifts for all three – she thought it should have been obvious the answer was yes. I’m still not entirely convinced on that point, but that gives a sense of where I come from — that it’s unspeakably rude and just Not Done to attend a wedding and not give a gift.
    My wedding is still months away and I’m trying to come to acceptance that not everyone sees the world this way in case I end up with no gift from some attendees. If you’re in the gifts-are-optional camp though, I’d encourage you to think about the fact that for many people, it’s an extraordinary slight not to receive anything and reconsider giving literally nothing.

  • YetAnotherMegan

    Honestly, I still have lists around, but I couldn’t tell you for sure who did and didn’t give us gifts without cross-referencing the shower gift list with the wedding gift list with the came in the mail gift list and the guest list. I do know, though, that my in-laws didn’t even give us a card. They did generously pay for the rehearsal dinner, but from the beginning, it felt like they were doing that because they felt they were supposed to. Neither of them made a toast or said anything to us that was in any way sentimental, so not getting a card on top of it just feels crappy. Even though I’ve spent a good bit of time with them over the years, I still don’t feel all that welcomed into the family (except for one grandmother and cousin). So again, not about the lack of physical object, but it still stings.

  • Meredith

    A friend of mine got married two weeks after I did. She was not a bridesmaid, but a close friend. She and 3 other friends stayed at my apartment the weekend of my wedding since my husband and I had a hotel room. I figured since she didn’t have to pay for a hotel room (also, the wedding was just a 3 hour drive from where she lived so no plane ticket) she would bring a gift. She and her fiance never gave a gift, while the two single friends who also stayed with them brought inexpensive, but thoughtful gifts.

    Meanwhile, two weeks later at her wedding, I gave her a very nice gift from her registry, and drove in an ice storm to be there and paid for a hotel room. She did not even send a thank you note.

    I had an easy time brushing off other guests’ stinginess, but the fact that this girl didn’t even thank me (or any of her guests – mutual friends compared in the following months) for giving her a gift just two weeks after my wedding made it sting. I very much regret giving her and her husband a gift and I hate that. It’s silly, but I tend to be very fair. I give what I receive and ALWAYS send thank you notes.

    So, yes, it’s shallow, but sometimes it still hurts.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

    Sigh, we had similar.
    My SIL got married 3 months before us, and we did a gift basket of goodies for them – nothing expensive, but still spent about $50.
    When we got married, we didn’t even receive a card from them.
    We’ve since found out they think we are excessively wealthy in comparison (we aren’t. we’ve done the maths and after tax breaks they bring home more than we do), so obviously they felt they were so poor they couldn’t afford a $1 card on top of travel and accommodation.
    Its really hard to get past.

    • Eh

      My SIL also thinks that we’re excessively wealthy. This included when my husband was a student and we had just started dating. They offered to help her sisters (who were also both students at the time) pay for wedding related stuff (e.g., dresses, shoes) but more or less said that my husband could afford everything (mainly because “guys” stuff costs less).
      A few months before our wedding they went on a huge family trip. When they got back they told us that they were broke and my BIL, who was supposed to be our Best Man, couldn’t afford the bachelor party. My husband mentioned that he just wanted a day with the guys (if they could only afford hanging out and drinking at someone’s house he would have been happy with that) and suggested that his brother talk to the other guys involved but his brother decided not to so someone else planned the party and his brother didn’t attend.

  • z

    It sounds like something is amiss in your friendship. No-showing at a shower AND no gift at all? That is pretty significant. Perhaps there’s something else going on that is affecting your relationship with your friends.

    Do you think perhaps your financial gift made them uncomfortable? It would really weird me out to get a large cash gift from a peer, it’s definitely not something I think of as normal. However, if someone gave me a large cash gift, I would be 100% certain to get them a normal wedding gift. When people give me uncomfortably large gifts, I deliberately don’t reciprocate in kind. I give them a normal gift back, because I don’t want to get into a recurring pattern of obligatory extravagant gifts. I don’t just get them nothing and blow off their other wedding stuff!

  • Allison

    I kinda take issue with the headline of “Stingy wedding guests”. To me, this reads totally differently if the non-gifter was a plain guest versus a bridesmaid. (Interesting that one of the links at the bottom is to the “I don’t want to be a bridesmaid” Ask APW article.)

    I’m of the mindset that the bride and groom should 100% pay for any required day-of appearance, from dress to shoes to makeup, as this is YOUR wedding. That’s hard, because this isn’t the [American] cultural norm and as such is very hard to reverse. Why are people okay with this? Because it is BUILT on reciprocity, even if we don’t want to admit it. “When my friend gets married, I will buy my own bridesmaid dress, so she should buy hers.” There’s more grumbling (silently) from someone who is serving in your party for the 2nd time, or who never plans on having a wedding, because the tit-for-tat is less obvious. (That being said, those people still stand to gain by being in the party for less material reasons, like preserving friendship.) Many times I’ve read about “But I was ALREADY a bridesmaid for her, so why should I do it again?” The chance to recoup the loss is gone, and the willingness to help is lower…so even though she should theoretically be just as excited to support you in a way that she isn’t getting to choose, it’s much harder because you KNOW you don’t get anything back out of the transaction.

    That being said: to me, a $50+ bridesmaid dress plus the time and emotion IS an acceptable gift, even if it’s not presented like that (after all, how would you? Take a photo of your dress when it comes in and say “congratulations”?). I’m so extremely conscientious of all the things that take time and money from the bridal party that this gets an automatic pass from me. A guest is different. I’m a gifter, so because I haven’t had another opportunity to express my excitement/support for you, I would definitely bring a gift.

  • Valerie Day

    We didn’t share registry information (we had one for family that requested it) and made it clear that gifts were not an expectation through a simple line in the wedding website. I know this is against apw grain, but for us it was the right decision. We did receive the most lovely gifts and money from some of our guests, cards from many, and nothing from a good portion. But those folks showed up for us, fully! I think we need to remember that etiquette is a culture and community based guidebook that isn’t universal across all cultures. Also, we wrote and are writing thank yous to everyone, even those with no cards or gifts. We expressed our hope that people would join us, and when they did it was amazing. We tried to reflect that. Writing thank you notes has been the best antidote for post wedding blues. Gratitude does wonders for me. However, I wonder if the letter writer is experiencing that all too familiar sting of not having reciprocal relationships. Its really hard when you realize you invest and care more in your friendship than is felt on the other side. While they are going on a joint honeymoon (did I read that right?!) it seems like they aren’t looking for ways to make her feel cared for. I wonder if they don’t share her values, or are otherwise people who are very preoccupied. (You know, some friends we make are great for so many things, but not for loving us well). We got a gift from someone who was very unkind the week of the wedding and so you know, even though this letter is about a gift, I think maybe she’s feeling something big and looking for concrete evidence for the feeling that they don’t care. If they had known what you needed, communicated if they couldn’t/didn’t share that value but met you in celebration in another way I don’t think the gift would be a problem.

    • Channa

      I also take slight issue with this pervasive notion that the only good, right and proper thing to do is register, and it’s okay not to…sorta…except actually you should, and if you think you shouldn’t, you’re probably wrong. I hate, hate, hate that that’s ALL the commentary we see on gift-giving and registries in the wedding world. Every article or blog post on “to register or not to register” always starts with a couple mulling their options, and ends with them deciding to register and recommending that you do so, too. I would have expected more/better on some websites, but it has not been forthcoming. How about a post on not registering, and how the world did not actually end? Or mulling one’s options and deciding NOT to register, and how that was okay? (I’d write it, but at the moment I’m just not feeling “weddings” as a topic to write a blog post over.)

      Because there really are some of us for whom registering is not the best choice, and who made a better decision according to their circumstances (everyone’s being different and all) not to do so. I’m still feeling that that side is not well-represented.

      • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

        I would like to see something about this too. We’ve had a lot of conversations about registering and have decided that we won’t be, however we are still solidly pre-engaged though, so it’ll plenty of time until we know how that does for us, ha.

        Most of the things I have read or heard about registering seem to be that people will be getting you a gift anyways, it’s better to give them guidance. From our standpoint, we will have been living together for several years by the time we tie the knot, and it doesn’t make sense to either of us to register when we have everything for the house we need. But I also understand that people are happy and want to celebrate and one of the ways people do that is through gift giving. Hm.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          They might be 3 years old, but there are posts about making the decision whether to register.

          • Channa

            Yes, and all of the one’s I’ve read end with “in the end we decided to register”. Not one ends with “we decided registering wasn’t for us, and that’s OK”. That’s the post that’s missing.

          • YOQ

            Yes, that’s what I’ve seen too. I would be interested to hear more about your experience, Big Chief Nugget (what a name!)–thus far (we’re about 10 days out) we’ve only had a few people who seem actively annoyed with us. We’ve gotten the line about “you should register because people will give you gifts anyway, so you might as well get stuff you want” from people I thought would know better (FMIL; marriage counselor). One friend (thus far) has given us a check; another gave us a gift certificate to a lovely store that sells high-end crafted items (handmade pottery, blown glass, handcrafted furniture, etc.) One friend is giving us a quilt. So it’s true–people will still give us things, and I am finding my peace (and, frankly, joy) with that. I would be curious to hear from other people who decided against registering–especially the whys and the what happeneds.

          • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

            Agreed! I read through a bunch yesterday and all of them ended with deciding to register. I did read in the comments of one about Etsy and Amazon having registries which was neat, but I’d love to hear from someone about not registering and how that went, good or bad.

        • Channa

          In our case, it was that we live abroad but had the wedding in the USA. Getting a whole buncha boxed presents from the USA to Asia…yeah, no. Shipping is also ridiculously expensive so we couldn’t ask people to ship it to where we live (the cheapest package rate is about $29), nor could we afford to ship things ourselves. The country where we live doesn’t do registries (I don’t think any Asian country does – money is the wedding gift of choice) so we could not register locally. We had nowhere in the USA to store items, and anyway why register for a bunch of things you’re just going to store in another country – possibly permanently? So although we could have used the stuff, it just made no sense.

          My case is extreme, but there are plenty of good reasons *not* to register (maybe those times when the inconvenience of registering truly trumps the guidance it gives to guests, or you truly can’t use all those boxed gifts, even as upgrades to what you already have), yet that’s rarely explored as an option.

          I subscribe(d) to all of the alternative wedding blogs (APW, Offbeat Bride, A Los Angeles Love etc.) when we were planning our wedding, and even then I felt like a rebel for daring not to register!

          • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

            It sounds like in your case registering made total sense!

            “My case is extreme, but there are plenty of good reasons *not* to register (maybe those times when the inconvenience of registering truly trumps the guidance it gives to guests, or you truly can’t use all those boxed gifts, even as upgrades to what you already have), yet that’s rarely explored as an option.”

            Agreed! To us, it won’t be a case of letting people help us build a home, we already have that. We’ll have lived together for several years before we have a wedding. It feels a lot more like “stuff for stuff’s sake” in our case, which doesn’t sit well with either of us and both of us feel a bit odd about encouraging.

  • Cardamoms

    Reading the letter and the comments, I am glad that my husband and I choose to try and spread the word before the wedding that we preferred no gifts. The result was that we still received lots of gifts from those guests who were insistent, and never once wondered about the motivations of the rest of our loved ones who we were so happy made the time and effort to be at our wedding. It is so easy to compare and wonder and feel hurt, and I feel lucky that we inadvertently cut that mental pathway off for ourselves.

  • Eh

    I would only be concerned about someone not giving us a gift if I thought it was a symptom of something bigger, for example, “does this [person/couple] generally support me[/us]?” I know that there were a couple of guests who didn’t give us gifts for our wedding. One was my MIL’s friend. Since she’s not my friend I’m not concerned about it.

    The one that does concern me is my BIL and his wife not giving us a gift or a card or anything. There was a lot going on at the time including a family feud which almost resulted in my BIL not coming to our wedding (his wife and children did not come, he did not act as Best Man and he only came for the ceremony). A year earlier my BIL and his wife got married and my husband and I had been as supportive as our financial and time constraints would allow us. They did not think it was enough (they were mad that we didn’t do things that they never asked us to do, even when we asked if we could do anything else) and decided that they would do nothing for our wedding (after our wedding they did admit to this tit-for-tat attitude). Before we were even engaged they were not supportive of our relationship (she didn’t like me because I am friends with people she doesn’t get along with, and before we announced we were engaged they “warned” him about me). We got no card or gift for our wedding (this lack of support was still related to the feud). After our wedding we started working things out with them. We started cautiously testing the waters if we could trust my BIL and his wife. The first test was the day we moved. We had asked him to help us move about six weeks before we moved. We reminded him two or three weeks before and my husband confirmed two days before. Everything seemed a-go. The day we moved he didn’t show up. My MIL told us that something had come up and he couldn’t make it (stuff comes up and we understand that, but part of us working things out we had discussed better communication, specifically direct communication and not sending messages through other people). A few months after we moved we had a house warming party. We sent out invitations and asked people to RSVP. We heard nothing from my BIL and his wife (my husband even tried to follow up with them and his calls weren’t returned – this is not that unusual for my BIL). They did not come to our house warming or give us a reason they couldn’t attend (this was not about gifts; this was about showing that they could celebrate with us). Since then things have been getting better.

  • Daisy6564

    I got married in May and I was surprised by the gifts in some ways. We got mostly cash, which I was fine with. What surprised me was that some younger, unmarried, or less well-off guests gave us more money than I was comfortable with, or very thoughtful gifts. One guest who we only recently became friends with, and who is just starting her career, hand made us a beautiful card made us a gourmet meal with wine a few weeks later.

    At the same time, some of my longer-term friends who are already married gave us less than we gave them for their weddings or nothing at all. One of my aunts didn’t even give us a card. I do not believe that any of these cases were intentional or even inconsiderate. I think people just forget. I am not hurt, each of these people was at our wedding, enthusiastically supporting us. Knowing her, I am sure my aunt will remember someday and feel embarrassed. But she drove my grandmother in from out of state, making it possible for her to be there, so that is gift enough for me!

    Also, three of my husband’s friends also got married this year. The four of them talked ahead of time and decided not to give each other gifts at all. That way we weren’t all trading money back and forth.

  • emfish

    As someone who has both failed to buy a gift at all (sorry, bro and sister-in-law! I hope I make it up to you now with love and hosting the occasional child-free weekend in the city) and surprised people with an unusually extravagant gift (I was flush at the time and filled with joy for my friends, and they’d just bought a home and didn’t have any seating), I would add that you don’t need to treat this one thing as a referendum on your friendship. I think it’s okay to feel hurt, because this is something you did for them that they failed to do for you. It’s not really about the money — you probably wouldn’t feel hurt if they’d given you a homemade gift or something, right?

    But friendships, like relationships, don’t boil down to one moment. You can forget to give someone a wedding gift and still be their friend. Down the road, these might be folks that watch your oldest child when you go into labor with your second. You might continue to vacation together, and derive years of fun and memories from the relationships. The point is, it’s okay to fuck up sometimes in a friendship. None of us is perfect. It’s okay to be a bit hurt over the lack of a gift, but I think the real danger here is in letting it sour the entire relationship. Feel hurt, and then Let It Go.

  • Londongirl

    For our wedding we said no gifts but asked people to make a donation to a charity which supports those suffering from the cancer my father in law died of. The wedding was lavish, all expenses paid and in most people’s home town. Yet some didn’t make a donation. I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t have spared $10 for something so close to our hearts. I was hurt beyond words…

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m sure this organization is wonderful, but I’m very careful about my charitable giving. It’s usually planned out in January, and I only support organizations I’ve researched. Yes, I can donate $10 to a new charity and $10 less to charities I’ve chosen, but there are all sorts of reasons I might decline to support a charity – I don’t think they conduct their research in ethical ways; they don’t treat staff well; their overhead : programs ratio suggests lack of effectiveness; they give away or loan or sell their donor list.

      I also generally make donations anonymously. I’d have to be super-duper sure that the amount of my donation was private to allow a charity to send a notice of my donation to the couple. Even then, it wouldn’t occur to me that the couple were checking off who donates and who doesn’t and thinking or feeling deeply about it.

      • E19

        99% of the time, I agree with you on charitable giving. For instance, in the context of my employer trying to nudge me to donate to a particular charity, that’s a no go because I have a charitable giving budget and I like to have full say over where it goes.

        However, in the context of a wedding, I don’t really see it having anything to do with your charitable giving budget. What does that have to do with how much you were planning to spend on a wedding gift? The fact that the (desired) gift happens to be a charity shouldn’t relate to the charitable giving you down on your own. If you’d budgeted $500 for kitchen equipment this year and already made plans to spend it on a new stand mixer and a blender, would that prevent you from buying the flatware on your friend’s wedding registry? Seems to me the money for wedding gifts should be coming out of a different part of the budget.

        Now, if you have an ethical concern about the charity’s mission, that’s another thing entirely. In that case, I’d probably just give cash and let them make whatever donations or spending decisions they want. But if they’re encouraging me to make a donation in their name, unless it’s a charity with a mission or practices I find reprehensible, I’m happy to get the tax deduction myself!

  • Hannah B

    I’ve also been on all sides of this. One time, I simply forgot to go out and buy a present because I had just moved back to the area of the wedding and I also had very little money. That couple wrote me the kindest and sincerest thank you note for simply attending the wedding and enjoying it. It’s been over a year, but I am STILL planning on giving them a gift, now that I have a job. I was also a bridesmaid in a wedding that involved a lot of travel, for another incredibly sweet couple, and though they view my participation as singer as their gift, I still plan on getting them something, too, once I see the opportunity.

    At my own bridal shower, several of my bridesmaids were unable to give me a gift due to their financial situations, but I didn’t care. They were there, or they called me to apologize for not being able to be there.

    I guess the point is, you never know when people are broke, but still thinking of you. Obviously, you expect your friendship to go on far past your wedding, so there’s always time to support each other. The LW’s friends could still get her back at some point in the future, or give in non monetary ways. Like we thought in girlhood, BFFs, right?

  • B

    If this happened to me, I would be seriously upset too.

    Is it possible they just forgot? Can you ask another friend to somehow drop it into conversation? Discuss weddings and gifts in the general sense in front of those friends, and see if the lightbulb goes on?

    I think it’s very rude to not reciprocate a gift. Especially when you went all-out on theirs! I mean, sure, maybe they have no money, but you can still give someone a card and a token gift. It’s the thought that counts, right?

    Over the years, I’ve learned which people in my life are NOT gift-givers, and have changed my approach to only giving them small tokens so that I don’t get offended when nothing is returned. Obviously, gift-giving is my primary love language and it’s very difficult for me to NOT get upset if someone gives me nothing. (I mean, I want to give them endless presents because I love them and that’s how I show love, but I invariably get upset if they don’t show love the same way even though I theoretically understand it, emotionally I don’t!)

    I don’t understand thanking people for attending your wedding. It’s a privelege to be invited to a wedding, with the expenses involved. Sure, the guest may have spent $$$ on travel and accommodation, but you, the bride, also spent $$$$ on the wedding&reception. “Thank you for coming and letting us spend $$$ on you!” Nope. ;)

    • YOQ

      We’ll be thanking everyone for attending our wedding. Their love and support, as expressed through their presence, is incredibly important to us. It IS the gift we requested from them. (We did not register, and only asked people to give us a photograph of themselves at a happy time. Those photos will go into our wedding album, along with our wedding pictures.) Yes, we are spending money on the wedding–but I don’t consider the wedding something we are “giving” our guests, so their presence is not an equal exchange.

      My perspective on this issue is very much shaped by where I am in life and the form my wedding will take: I’m getting close to 40, and marrying someone of the same gender in a state where that only recently (less than six weeks ago) became legal. Some of our family members will not attend the wedding, we suspect because they don’t approve. The church I grew up in, and the pastor who has known me since high school, refused to hold my wedding in their building. We are *having* a wedding (instead of doing the courthouse thing) because it is important to me to stand up in front of my community and say, out loud, “this is the person with whom I choose to spend my life.”

      Neither one of us has ever been married before; we’ve lived independently since college, so we each have a household’s worth of stuff to our name. We don’t want more stuff, no matter how wonderful–so we did not register.

      The most important gift our friends and family can give us is their support as we form a new family. Given all this, I don’t see how we could NOT express our gratitude to them for celebrating with us (and celebrating us).

  • Big Chief Nugget

    All 4 of my best friends who attended my wedding did not bring me gifts. It didn’t bother me a bit. I know they are all on a tight budget. However, they went above and beyond for my wedding – crafting, acting as an MC, getting the dance floor going, etc. They really made the night special for me. Not to sound cheesy but their presence was gift enough. Now, there were people there who did not get us presents nor was their presence a present – one woman comes to mind in particular. She was a downer all evening and was rude to a variety of people and did not get me a present. My wedding helped put some stuff in perspective like who are my real friends and who aren’t.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I don’t know if it’s the way I grew up or what, but I just do not understand this expectation that people are supposed to give you gifts. For me personally, I think it’s important to acknowledge in some way (congratulations, a card, a gift if you want, etc), but I don’t think anyone is entitled to someone else going out, spending their hard earned money and getting one a gift.

    Regarding the thank you notes, this is where I depart from Miss Manners (and where I can find these rules of etiquette a little ridiculous sometimes). It was extremely important to me that people came to our wedding and supported us. I could think of no lovelier thank you than a handwritten note to each guest expressing our gratitude and appreciation whether they gave us a tangible gift or not.

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I would be more hurt about the not showing up to the shower or giving a good reason not to come.

  • NTB

    People do what they can, when they can, with what they have. We had many weddings to attend this summer, and we were only able to get small gifts for each couple. Everyone’s financial situation is different.

  • carolynprobably

    There have been a lot of mumblings about “not even a card!!” here, which left me curious about something. I have made gifts now for a few of our friends (hand-knitted afghans) and to be honest, it always takes longer than I plan and I totally blow it on having a gift to take on the day of the wedding. My question is, in these instances I have always chosen to save my pretty wedding card to include with the later shipment. Is that weird? Should I be taking a card the day of to make sure my friends don’t think I hate them?!?! Are they stewing over this until months later when I get my act together???

    • Kamena

      I don’t know your friends, but I wouldn’t mind. You are giving them a lovely gift that you made yourself. I think handmade gifts are great; knowing someone worked hard and took the time to make me something special is the best! Even if it’s a little late.