My Family Thinks We’re Being “Gift Grabby”


Ask APW: But etiquette be damned, we just want to celebrate with them

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

Q: After a year of horrible stress trying to figure out our wedding plans, we’ve finally settled on a private ceremony (just us and immediate family) followed by a small lunch reception and baseball game the next day with about thirty friends and family members. It’s the first time since getting engaged that we’re actually excited about getting married. But I already have family that would be invited to the reception saying our plans are “weird” and come across as “gift grabby,” even though no one ever even said anything about us expecting gifts.

This leaves me wondering, with this already being raised as an issue several months out, should we have a small registry for those who do want to bring gifts or forgo it completely? I don’t want to seem like we are expecting gifts, so as not to upset those who are already implying that’s the whole point of our celebration. At the same time, if we don’t have a registry (which is what I’ve seen recommended for couples who prefer cash wedding gifts), will it come across as “cash grabby” instead?

How do you get the message across that you want to celebrate with people without them thinking it’s about the gifts?

—Sarah

A:Dear Sarah,

Good old “gift grabby.” Maybe my least favorite wedding term? (Short of “br*dezilla.” Or maybe “STD.”)

The people who use a term like “gift grabby” are people who are probably going to think whatever you do is grabby. They’re usually people who see this whole wedding event thing as a transaction. That perspective is their problem, not yours. Yeah, yeah, there are things people can do that put an emphasis on gifts, or come across as greedy. But the very act of having a wedding itself isn’t a ploy for presents (what a bad idea if it was, if you know how much weddings can cost compared to toasters and blenders). Your wedding isn’t a gift grab, and it’s not an imposition. It’s a wedding.

Etiquette-wise, there are things you can do that place an unseemly amount of emphasis on gifts or make them into an expectation or obligation. Having a registry is not one of those things. Not having a registry is not one of those things. Registries can be a real help to your friends who are maybe not good at gifts or don’t know what you need, but they’re not at all necessary. People generally know how to buy and give gifts without ’em (just perhaps not the ones you want).

Speaking of etiquette, you’re not supposed to mention the registry on the invitation itself (which is why many folks just put it on a wedding website). But, if you wanted to, you could take it a step further and not mention it in writing anywhere at all. People who want to will ask, it’ll spread by word of mouth, and just the people who are looking for it will find it.

But, really. Don’t let these folks get to you. Do what you’d like with regard to the registry, and don’t give their opinions a second thought. The guy who thinks gifts are the only motivation for a happy party… may actually not know what a happy party is. Luckily, you have a chance to show him one.

If you would like to ask APW a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are 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 sons.

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  • Eenie

    If you’re being gift grabby, your certainly not doing a good job! As an outsider’s perspective this does not seem gift grabby at all. Hopefully the rest of the invited members know you well enough or keep their opinions to themselves. You get to set the tone for your wedding, and this sounds like a lot of fun!

    • RoseTyler

      Yep … you way under-invited for a gift-grab. You should have included at least a hundred out-of-towners just for the gifts! :)

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  • Sarah

    “But the very act of having a wedding itself isn’t a ploy for presents (what a bad idea if it was, if you know how much weddings can cost compared to toasters and blenders).”

    …exactly. I had a single friend bemoan that she’d love to having a wedding because until then no one will get her a stand-up KitchenAid mixer. I was like “girl, you’re a grown-ass adult buy your own stuff” I hate the attitude people have that weddings are gift free-for-alls.

    • Amy March

      Oh hell no! After 10 years of buying shower and wedding gifts for most of the people I know, I am not buying my own stand mixer! That is going on a registry some day even if it means creaming the butter and sugar by hand til I develop biceps.

      I don’t think weddings are a ploy for presents at all, but they do often come with them and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying or looking forward to that!

      • BN

        Yup. In my single years it used to really piss me off that everyone was jumping all over themselves to give people gifts for getting married. Single people need that stuff too, and I didn’t have another person bringing in a second income to share the rent and bills with.

        When I did get married, we didn’t register or ask for any gifts. If we expect single people to buy that stuff themselves, and we’re over 30 and already have most of the things we need because we bought them ourselves, why should we expect others to now outfit our home for us?

      • Cera Cera

        I love this.

      • lottie

        Thank you, Amy March. You rock (and I bet your butter-and-sugar-cream-made biceps do too).

    • Jess

      I am so guilty of having just done something like that. R was talking about maybe buying a really nice new pan to replace his old set as we moved in this past weekend.

      I said, “Well, if we’re getting married sometime in the next year or so, it’s something we could put onto a registry, because people love buying something like that to last and be useful. Otherwise, yeah, we could just wait for them to go on sale.”

      • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

        Whoops – we did that a lot. We did not have a lot of housewares between the two of us, and when we were living together, we definitely had conversations like, “I know these old knives are terrible and one of us is going to lose a finger. But can we just hang on until the wedding? Maybe someone will buy us knives.”

        I’m happy to report that after the wedding, we had twenty fingers and a new set of knives.

        • Jessica

          I think that’s totally reasonable–it’s not saying ‘people are totally going to buy us this!’ It’s saying “let’s wait and see. If no one buys us these knives we’ll pick them up ourselves”

          • Eh

            People told me not to buy anything (specifically housewares) before my wedding in case someone bought it for us. I see the point but it’s also silly since if I really need something then I’m going to buy it and if I get it as a gift I will return it or donate it. That said, the advice came after my BIL/SIL did not register for gifts when they got married which is a major faux pas in my husband’s family since they express their love through giving physical gifts. When asked what they needed or wanted they would say cash because they already had a house full of crap and they didn’t need more crap. That also didn’t go over well. Just before their wedding their toaster broke. My FIL started telling everyone that they needed a toaster so my BIL/SIL got a whole bunch of toasters.

          • Imagining their fleet of toasters cracks me up…

          • Jess

            Yeah, those feel like two very different philosophies.

          • Cera Cera

            Plus, there are the registry completion discounts- that’s pretty much how we bought the rest of our dishes.

          • Our registry is obscene, entirely because of the registry completion discounts. I am totally okay with appearing to be gift-grabby, because DISCOUNT! :)

      • meganfm

        I’m in this exact same place too. I’ve got a pot I use all the time that’s looking shabby but I don’t want to replace it because I plan to put a proper set of pots and pans (half of what I have are hand me downs) on our registry.

        Of course, if the pot BREAKS, I’ll just replace it.

    • gen

      I see your friend’s point though. We got beautiful presents from our registry that we never would have/could have bought for ourselves. We basically got an entire Crate and Barrel kitchen out of it. We never could have afforded to buy all those things on our own. I am very grateful for the generosity (and my beautiful new things!), but I still find it pretty unjust to single people. Getting married shouldn’t mean that suddenly you’re more worthy of high-end kitchenware. Single people, not to mention LGBT people who still do not have the freedom to marry in many states, like to cook and host dinner parties too. I don’t blame them for feeling bitter at showers.

      • Lauren from NH

        I mean you can ask for some of these things for Christmas/Birthday/ x-Holiday if it’s important to you and socially appropriate. And single people can still have house warmings and such. I guess I don’t see a way to make wedding gifts apply to single people, nor do I think it’s intentionally unfair or penalizing. Like Liz said, weddings often cost a lot more than some housewares.

        • RoseTyler

          Yes, Housewarmings …. great gift-giving opportunities for the single folks (or the not-married couples) among us!

        • BR

          The Stand-mixer I wanted was the bowl lift model. It is about $200 more than the Artisan that most people register for (unless you track down sales), which is already quite expensive itself. If I put that on my registry, my family would probably just laugh at me for being absurd.

      • Amy March

        I don’t even view it as bitterness, just fact. As a single lady, no one is going to buy me a stand mixer. If I put that on a registry and had a shower it would be snapped right up. I’m fine with people getting and giving wedding gifts and I don’t need some sort of alternate “you’re an independent adult now” shower, but I would like to at least be able to acknowledge that reality without getting told I’m a grown-ass adult who should just buy my own stuff.

        • TeaforTwo

          I do get how that would seem rude, but I would also refer you to Liz’s point above about the cost of a wedding vs. the cost of a stand mixer.

          I would never suggest for one second that guests should “cover their plate,” or any such nonsense, but I can tell you that the cost of our (relatively simple, afternoon) wedding was about three times the financial value of the wedding gifts that we received.

          The wedding was totally worth it for the look on my aunt’s face as I walked down the aisle, and my little brother’s speech, and the way my husband’s eyes lit up during his vows. And our wedding gifts are tremendously meaningful to me. But financially, it would have been easier to buy our own stuff.

          • Amy March

            I don’t disagree with any of that. But I still think it’s really rude and very smug married to explain to single people that weddings are expensive! And you can just buy gifts for yourself anyway! Umm, yes, we know. We’re single not ignorant of reality. And this single ladies reality is that I’m looking forward to getting some wedding gifts some day! All I’m asking for is that I be allowed to express some longing for an event I’d dearly love to have without someone who has had that experience marriedsplaining to me how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

          • emmers

            fair point!

          • “marriedsplaining” heh <3

          • Manda9339

            New buzzword? Because we could have whole threads about that concept. Sub-thread: People saying, “Oh, you’ll understand when you finally make all the decisions I’ve made.”

          • Vanessa

            “You’ll totally change your mind when you’re engaged”

          • Eh

            ‘You’ll change your mind when you have children!’

          • Amy March

            Oh I’m so jealous of all the fun you must be having dating!

          • Vanessa

            “All I’m asking for is that I be allowed to express some longing for an event I’d dearly love to have without someone who has had that experience marriedsplaining to me how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

            YESYESYES.

        • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

          I agree. It’s not that I think people getting married shouldn’t get gifts (<3 you, stand mixer!), but I'm totally cool recognizing that it's kind of a weird/slightly unfair tradition. Had my husband and I not decided to get married, but continued to live together and do all the things we marrieds do, we wouldn't have gotten those gifts. If my sister never gets married, she will never get a giant pile of household gifts like we did. It's not that she won't host dinner parties or have a use for a stand mixer, she just hasn't done this thing that prompts a lot of gift-giving. It's weird. We should all get stand mixers! Acknowledge away!

          • BR

            I know so many people who didn’t get stand mixers when they got married. Just buy your own if you want it that bad. Seriously. It’s a great decision and makes impromptu whipped cream 10x easier. I’m not married and the fact that my Kitchenaid came from someone other than family doesn’t make the cookies I make in it any less delicious.
            I know the core issue here isn’t the Kitchenaid Stand-mixer, but still. As a grown-ass (unmarried) woman who buys her own crap when she wants it, none of this complaining makes any sense to me. You’re not obligated to buy people getting married anything. No one is ‘entitled’ to anything. You can’t fix people’s attitudes. So just get it if you want it that bad and don’t sigh to your friends spending tons of money on a party (which is partially for you) that you wish you had something which costs a fraction of what they are spending on the ceremony.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            I think it’s great that got yourself a stand mixer. There’s obviously a lot of variation between weddings and families, but my husband and I could not have afforded to buy ourselves all of the things we received as gifts. I didn’t feel entitled to those gifts, and I don’t feel obligated to buy gifts for other friends getting married. But I do get them gifts. Friends who I don’t see often enough to buy birthday or housewarming gifts for, I happily get them (sometimes multiple) wedding presents. Not out of obligation, but because my culture has taught me that’s one way we celebrate a marriage and I want to celebrate them and I enjoy giving gifts!

            I don’t think anyone here is really complaining. But in this space where we think critically about wedding traditions, marriage, and feminism, I think it’s ok to say, “yeah, this is kind of a weird tradition.”

          • BR

            I just think that some problematic attitudes can arise from the pervasiveness of this weird tradition, as you put it (I agree, btw – it doesn’t make as much sense when you’re not buying household items for two kids who are finally leaving their parents’ homes), which is really why I mentioned that no one is entitled to anything. We can get caught up in negative encounters and forget that, as you said, gifts are to celebrate, and having the mindset that the people you are buying them for may feel entitled can muddle that happiness. I love buying gifts that I think my newly married friends can get use out of! But I feel like building up the registry and gift experience as the be-all-end-all way to acquire nice kitchenware is probably the weirdest part of this weird tradition.
            I didn’t mean to undermine the happiness of giving/receiving things – mostly just wanted to point out that there can be tons of joy in saving up and conquering that purchase on your own, too, if it’s something you really want. It can be something as little as steak knives that you see on sale but don’t get because you may register for them, and then you’re sitting there for however long until you get married, hating your home steak experience because you have to use butter knives (oh, the struggle).

          • emmers

            I think it harkens back to a time when people typically got married soon after they left their parents’ houses. Now, we’re often gone a decade or more before getting married, it’s just that the tradition hasn’t caught up. It needs to!

          • Jess

            Early marriages and dowries! Both of which are in many cases outdated now (but not always).

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            Yeah, that makes sense and I agree (particularly on the butter knife struggle). I have a lot of warm fuzzies for our wedding gifts, but I am also super sentimental about things my husband and I saved up for and bought together early in our relationship. Also the few nice things I got myself as a young adult-ish. (Umm…I might just be a sentimental person.)

            The LW’s question and the comments here and how frequently people have concerns or issues with gift-giving and registries really makes me think about how this tradition just no longer matches the reality of getting married for so many people. Again, I love giving gifts to friends and family (see: sentimentality), so it’s not like I’m saying we should do away with this. It’s just interesting to me how this very reasonable tradition (young people starting adult life together, get them the physical tools they will need) has become challenging and kind of, as I said before, weird. But I guess that’s the case with a lot of other traditions, too.

          • Stéphanie

            You should see the way I look at a bowl from 10 years ago, just because it was the first thing I bought after I left my ex (I lived off cornflakes for a month or so ;)).

          • MDBethann

            According to my late grandmother, you should never give knives as gifts anyway – it severs/cuts the relationship. :-)

          • thefluter

            Ah, but if you attach a penny to the knife and your friend gives it back to you, they’ve just purchased the knife. No relationship severing required :)

          • BR

            Also, to add on to my comment – the ‘should I buy it now or register’ question DOES make sense to me when you are engaged or foresee being engaged soon. But I have friends who are single, not dating anyone, who won’t buy nicer storage because ‘well I’ll register for that.’ That doesn’t make as much sense to me as someone who would go insane waiting potentially years for a kitchen I don’t hate, ha!

          • Manda9339

            It’s just a sad testament to how society values women. You got your PhD while also serving in the Peace Corps and resuscitating puppies on the side? Too bad you’re not getting married, cause then I could give you a gift.

          • Liz

            I think it’s less that, and more rooted in the traditional old-school assumption that everyone would get married, and if you weren’t married yet you were still living with your parents and didn’t need your own flatware or whatever.

            (Which isn’t a BETTER problem, just a different one. Less about the value of female accomplishments and more about there only being One Acceptable Way to live. It’s been a good long while since that was the norm, so who knows when gift-giving customs will catch up.)

          • Violet

            I tend to agree with Liz on this one. It’s a convention that originally had a purpose (to outfit a new home) that no longer applies in many cases, but the convention holds on. I say this because I am not typically a person who gives gifts to celebrate other people’s accomplishments. Gift giving is not one of my things (but I will take you out for a drink to celebrate your PhD in Peace Corps puppy-saving, because I like quality time with loved ones!). I give gifts at weddings because it’s a convention, not because I think getting married is more important than other accomplishments. I also wouldn’t give a man who got his PhD a gift either, if that matters at all.

        • RoseTyler

          Maybe you should try making a “registry” anyway … I’m now an early 30’s single lady and I keep a running amazon.com wishlist for anyone who wants to buy me gifts (Christmas, Birthday or whatever). I received my stand mixer as a Law School graduation gift. And if finishing 8 years of college isn’t a transition into adult hood, IDK what is!!

          • AP

            I totally second the Amazon wish list. My family is all about asking for lists for Christmas and birthdays, so it’s a huge help. And I didn’t have to wait to get married (which doesn’t always happen for a lot of reasons) to get my stand mixer, which I got as a graduation gift for my post-grad internship.

            I have been on both sides, waiting to register for things and buying them myself…and I find buying things for myself way more empowering. I’m getting married for the second time this fall, and we still haven’t sorted out whether or not to insist on no gifts because we’ve got everything we need at this point and we’re pretty picky about our consumer habits. But we know people will want to give gifts. It’s a toss-up.

          • Annie

            I third the Amazon wish list. My family always knows what to get each other, since we keep lists, whereas my husband’s family can come up with some random stuff.

            As for the “having everything you need already” thing, I wish this is when people would stop being so picky about what kind of gifts you can give to a couple. I’ve known friends who have done honeymoon registry lists (dinners, activities, etc.) and similar, but I know that people (especially of my parents’ age) feel like that’s somehow “gift grabby” or inappropriate to ask for, like a blender is somehow more appropriate.

        • Vanessa

          A couple years ago for Christmas my mom gave me a used KitchenAid mixer and explained herself with a lot of half sentences: “Well, I just thought you might never…” “I didn’t want you to feel…” “If you and [bf’s name] don’t….you know… I just…” and finally “Well I got it at an estate sale so if you don’t like it I’ll give it to one of your brothers.” It was a great gift (which bf now uses to make me fresh pasta about once a week FTW) but it was clear that she thought I would never get married/never have a wedding shower, which, hey, unmarried people deserve to have their life events recognized too but I didn’t need a consolation prize for not being married yet at 28. I’d rather the fact that I’m not married yet not be a reason for pity-gifts.

    • Nell

      Reminds me of that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie goes on a rant about buying gifts for everyone’s wedding shower/wedding/baby shower/baby. . .

      My parents were married very young – and all of their housewares were wedding gifts. I distinctly remember the year my parents bought me a cuisinart for my birthday (I was very, very single) – and my dad said to me, “I think we have to accept that you are an adult now, whether or not you are married.”

      It’s not just the cash value of the gifts that can engender bitterness, it’s also the idea that there is this one moment when you are entitled to ask everyone you love to help you set up house. For me, I had to set up my home long before I ever met my partner.

      • RoseTyler

        “I think we have to accept that you are an adult now, whether or not you are married.”

        YES!

      • Sarah

        That’s true, and I didn’t mean to send anti-single people here. But I totally agree that non-wedding events like getting a new house, paying off student loans, adopting a puppy, running a marathon, whatever are just as big (maybe more so) of an accomplishment as getting married. These folks should get gifts! But telling someone in the midst of wedding planning that “oh, I just have to get married to update my kitchen” did rub me the wrong way. And I didn’t actually have the balls to say this to her…just tried to gently state that the emotional and financial cost of a wedding is often greater than the gifts which is totally to be expected.

        • Nell

          Oh absolutely! Marriage IS a big deal, and the gifts are only a tiny part of what happens at a wedding.

      • my university roommate got a nice set of all-clad cookware as a high school graduation present from her parents, which i thought was a brilliant idea. we had a sublet together, and outside of exam time, we nearly always had delicious homemade food, and threw awesome dinner parties. those were happy times!

        • Manda9339

          Love it. Everyone was always shocked that in college, I had a Kitchenaid mixer (which, if I’m reading comments correctly seems as connected to weddings as diamond rings). I got it because my mom saw my first apartment as a good excuse to buy the industrial size one and give the old one to me. I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait another ten+ years for that thing!

    • Lauren from NH

      I guess I see both sides. We have definitely put off buying some things for the registry, because we have limited items we need in the first place and we are very make-do people. On the other side I think there is something rather empowering in life in general about not sitting on your hands waiting for something you want and instead making it happen for yourself. On the third hand, we had our engagement party this past weekend, and though most of the gifts were bottles of wine and such (which is awesome, if less sentimental), I just felt sooo tickled and loved that people thought of us. So think there is rather a lot that swirls around the tradition of registering.

      • emmers

        Ditto to all this, especially the empowerment part. There were things I put off buying in my 20s with the thought that eventually I’d get married and would register for them. If I had do redo it, I’d buy some of those things, like matching dishes, because they’re not that expensive, if you’re just buying a few (our dishes, which I love were like $10 each from BB&B). I’m also a make-do person, but it would have been good if I’d given myself “permission” to do these things without being married. I would have enjoyed the hell out of things like those plates.

        Also, about the KitchenAid- I had a friend who register for one, and not too much else, and didn’t get it. You never know what people will actually end up buying you, since at the end of the day, they really are gifts– things other folks are choosing.

        • After a break-up with a short-term boyfriend in my late 20s I was discouraged, and my mom had the brilliant idea that she and my dad would pay for half of me getting some matching dishes from Pier 1. It was during my most broke years, and it was such an amazing gift to receive (and also to give myself). They were a reasonable, practice choice, but it felt like such an incredible splurge to invest in a set of nice dishes for just me. It was so freeing to do that, instead of waiting on an iffy one-day possibility of marriage to have something as basic as matching dishes in a sufficient amount to cover the amount of guests I often hosted. I still use these dishes now (ten years…and a marriage and divorce later), and still love them, and they are a reminder that I am “enough” and my marriage-status (or lack of) has nothing to do with my value. (Similarly, after my ex left with his vacuum cleaner, I eventually couldn’t handle the dustbunnies and cat hair and broke down and had to buy myself a vacuum cleaner. I researched and researched and finally invested in one that I love. I am proud of it and feel good about having done that for myself every time I vacuum…) That said, there were plenty of things I didn’t buy myself because it just was nowhere in my budget and I just hoped one day to receive a few of these things as wedding (or other) gifts.

  • Amy March

    I actually don’t think this is about gifts at all- for you or the people complaining that you’re being gift grabby. It’s their way of sharing that they don’t like your plan to get married without them there. That’s also not awesome, but people get to be hurt that they’re not being invited to an event they want to attend. You don’t have to solve that hurt; and nothing you can do regarding registries or gifts will solve it so there’s no point even trying on that front.

    • Alyssa M

      For some people, it really is about gifts. My uncle’s stopped sending Christmas presents when I was 10 because “we’d rather just spend the money on our own kids” and then accused me of being gift grabby for sending out high school graduation announcements years later. I chose not to invite them to my wedding. Wouldn’t want them to feel obligated.

      • Another Meg

        I have an uncle like that. He’s my godfather, and when I was in my late twenties he sent my dad an email asking my parents to tell me he didn’t want to exchange Christmas presents with me anymore. But he made it clear he still expected my parents to buy his daughter (my dad’s goddaughter) a gift. Some people are just go through life treating relationships like transactions, and they’re never going to be happy.

        Hugs.

        • Alyssa M

          I was never prouder of my mom than when she just kept giving them all presents, because she did it to make my cousins happy, not for any kind of exchange. :)

        • emmers

          Ugh, this happened to me with a family friend too, when I turned 18. It made me question why she’d bought me gifts before then. I would have really rathered she not have, if it was out of a sense of obligation.

          • Alyssa M

            I know exactly what you mean! I totally didn’t miss the gifts I might have gotten from my uncles… but it sure made me question how they felt about me as a person.

        • GBee

          I think it largely depends on family size. I had an Aunt who made it clear that she would give us money for Christmas and birthdays until we turned 21. I totally understood why, she had 15 nieces and nephews (not to mention a husband and her own children, parents, friends, etc) so unless she wanted to go broke, she had to cut it off somewhere.

          However, my SO comes from a tiny family, so at almost 30 years old, he still receives gifts from his aunts. Which, just sounds so crazy to me! But, I understand that I look at it from a different perspective.

          • meganfm

            We have a tiny family too, and I’m an only child, so I still get gifts from my mom’s 2 sisters for my birthday and Christmas even though I’m 26. But one of my aunts is also single and I see her every week, so I always joke that she’s my “proxy mom”.

          • emmers

            It’s all about the managing of expectations, I think. Those both sound like valid ways to do things. It just sucks if that’s not established, and then it’s like– uh.. what did I do? Why don’t you want to give me gifts any more?

        • Sarah

          This happened to my brother and I with our aunt. She and my mom have always had a few issues, and even though we were her only niece and nephew she never made an effort to call or visit us. (We live in different states and we used to visit them every year… While I remember them visiting us only twice) So basically the only way we knew my aunt thought cared about us was when she sent us Christmas or birthday presents. Then at some point she stopped even doing that and I was really hurt. It wasn’t that I cared about the gifts – it was the fact that she stopped performing her one small act of acknowledgment.

    • AP

      This is interesting. Fiance’s aunt has already been calling our plans “weird” too. She’s invited to the destination ceremony, but she thinks it’s too far to travel and too expensive to rent a hotel for the weekend. So she’s coming to the reception, but complaining that it’s weird and “weddings aren’t that hard to plan, why not have the whole thing in your backyard.” Ha! You’re right, people don’t always express their feelings directly.

      • Lauren from NH

        Yeah to me, in part this sounds like just a good excuse to socially shame the couple for going about their wedding in a nontraditional way that makes some people uncomfortable. Your wedding is about everyone but you btw and it’s a huge imposition to be invited, you didn’t know?

      • Janet

        It sounds like she is disappointed because she feels there is a price of admission to attend, whereas a local wedding would have been easier. Don’t you think that’s the issue?

        • AP

          With this particular relative, no. She’s going to find something to complain about, regardless. We chose a location that is within driving distance for the majority of our family, including her. I have relatives coming from much farther distances to attend, who aren’t calling our wedding “weird.”

          That said, I’m flying to Virginia in August for the wedding of a dear friend in her parent’s town. I’m excited to be able to go, but it will cost money for flight and hotel, transportation, food, and a gift. She could have chosen to have the wedding in her own town, where I might have been able to save money by crashing at a friend’s house instead of having to get a hotel room. But I don’t have that expectation, and thus don’t feel the need to complain, because her wedding isn’t about me.

          • Janet

            Now I understand better. I was envisioning a resort in Mexico or something!
            Yeah, it’s hard when you need to find a central location to accommodate everyone.

          • AP

            Lol, if my fiancé had been able to have his way, that’s totally where we would have been! But I wanted to make sure our grandparents (who don’t fly) could come if they wanted. So Florida it is.

    • TeaforTwo

      Yep, that’s how I read it, too.

      A few years ago, I was disappointed when I was invited to a friend’s out of town wedding, which I gladly travelled for, and then arrived to find out that my invitation for 7:30pm wasn’t to an evening wedding – it was to an after party that followed their afternoon ceremony and dinner.

      It wasn’t that I thought they were being “gift grabby,” but what I didn’t like was that I travelled for their wedding to say “yes! you are important to me and I want to celebrate with you!” and then felt like I had been cut out of the actual wedding (as in, the part where they actually got married.)

      I don’t know anything about LW’s friends and family, but they might be (poorly!) expressing that same kind of disappointment.

      • MABie

        Wow! As I said above, I agree that this is about people being hurt about not being invited to the ceremony. At least LW is trying to manage expectations up front, which your friend did not do. I have to say that I am REALLY surprised that your invitation did not make it clear that you were invited to the after-party only. A close friend of mine just got married, and she had a private, family-only ceremony; she emailed all of her guests individually to tell them that. Managing expectations is so important! I’m really sorry that happened to you. It sounds like a total buzzkill

        • Manda9339

          Yes, I agree. Managing expectations is key. I went to a wedding this winter that was set up the same way. Very private ceremony, followed by big reception. The groom had visited us right before and casually mentioned these logistics. But a lot of the guests did not catch it on the invites. So, I ended up explaining to strangers that they hadn’t missed anything…

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        This happened to me too. I was invited to an after party following ceremony and dinner and it just felt lame. And it DID feel gift grabby to me as I just didn’t see the point other than to have more people show up with gifts since I wasnt close to the person anyway. I ended up not going but a friend did and said people who were invited to the after party had to stand in the hall bc they weren’t done with dinner yet. That’s just tacky and rude.

        In THIS case though, I think LW’s plans aren’t necessarily traditional but I don’t they scream gifts. The person being invited is still being included whereas in my situation, people were being tacked on as after thoughts.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          To clarify it was a dinner reception followed by after party. Hence folks standing in the hall waiting to join.

          • Kate M

            I agree that that scenario is rude and not handled well at all. I have a few friends from small mid-western towns where it is pretty common for members of the community to be invited on a larger scale to dancing after dinner. I had never heard of it before, so maybe this was a take on that, obviously a poorly executed one. I think it is good to keep these things in mind when planning a wedding. However, no bride and groom sets out to be rude, I would assume they were just trying to include more people in whatever way they can.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            I don’t think they intended to be rude but I’m looking at execution and not intention. Good intentions do not cure all.

        • Jenny

          That was tacky. Miss Manners has written about this type of thing before and she doesn’t like it. It’s rude, as you said.

        • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

          My husband and I were invited to something like that once, it was handled much more graciously, and it was really fun. There was a big group of guys who were teammates of the groom, and they couldn’t invite everyone to the ceremony and dinner. But inviting them all to the reception (safely after dinner was over), was a nice way to include folks but not pick and choose from the team. We brought a gift but didn’t feel obligated to, and we had a nice time.

          My husband also had a few colleagues who told my husband they wanted to come to our wedding just for the dancing after dinner. Etiquette issues of inviting yourself to someone else’s wedding aside, they were happy to show up, have a drink, dance, and bring us a gift (one of them brought us a crystal vase?!). But they were totally comfortable with it and told us, “Don’t pay for us for dinner. We’ll hire a babysitter for after the kids are in bed and come and dance and give you gifts and celebrate you like there’s no tomorrow.” I wouldn’t have suggested it to them, but they were cool with it. So I think it’s common in some communities to do that, but like most things, you have to communicate expectations and be gracious. Asking people to wait in the hallway while others finish dinner is not good.

      • meganfm

        Looking at it from the other perspective I can see people doing this so that they can still celebrate with people they care about but just don’t have the space/money to invite for the actual ceremony or reception. BUT I feel like that rule flies out the window for an out of town wedding-it’s one thing to ask someone to cab downtown for an after party but a totally different beast to ask them to go out of town just to show up at the end of the night.

        • Liz

          I’m okay with even asking out-of-towners to come to a party like this. Just let them know that’s what they’re coming to!

          • Agreed, I’m out of town for almost all of my friends and for the most part I would happily come in for a chance to party on their wedding day, even if I wasn’t invited to the ceremony as long as I knew that’s what I was coming in for. It’s all about managing expectations.

          • Jenny

            Uh, I think this is a terrible idea. It’s one thing to have a private ceremony, but if you have a separate party AFTER a reception that excludes some of the guests, it feels like guests are being divided into an “A List” and a “B List”.

          • Lauren from NH

            It’s an invite not a summons. If they view it that way and are offended they are not required to attend.

          • Jenny

            When did I say it was a summons? I said it’s offensive. So has Miss Manners, btw. Etiquette wise, it’s okay to have a tiny ceremony and a large reception. But it’s not in good taste to have a regular reception and then an after party that you invite your second-string friends to that weren’t good enough for the reception. The theory behind this is that you are never supposed to overtly clue your friends in to where they rank in your circle of friends.

          • TeaforTwo

            I get the impression that it is somewhat common in the UK to have an “evening invitation”, often for the couple’s friends to join for dancing and drinks but not the dinner.

            Frankly, it was being excluded from the ceremony that I was most disappointed by. If I’m going to celebrate you getting married, I want to get all teary during your vows and agree emphatically when the officiant asks if everyone there will support your marriage, and cheer when you kiss for the first time. That’s the wedding: the part where the couple is actually getting married. Way, way more important to me than dinner or an open bar or whatever else happens afterward. And letting people come to the ceremony is FREEEEE.

            What I was reacting to with this particular wedding was the implication that I wasn’t important enough to the couple to be present for the part of the wedding that is actually significant. (And free!)

          • EllsUK

            But you have to accept that there sometimes isn’t physical room or budget to include everybody you want to. But you want to include everyone so invite them for later on. And yes, it is often the case here that there are separate evening guests. However, there is usually a buffet or something for evening guests so they have some food.

          • TeaforTwo

            Yep, that’s fair. As a general rule, I accept that people get to have whatever kinds of weddings they want. And I also try to cut people A LOT of slack when they are planning their wedding, because I know it’s an emotional/financial/etiquette minefield, and that it’s ultimately not about my feelings anyway.

            So I don’t hold a grudge, at all. But if I had been told that I wasn’t invited to the wedding, and was invited to dance and party afterward, I wouldn’t have travelled for the wedding, and would have taken the couple out for dinner to celebrate later on instead.

          • EllsUK

            I think again that’s the key. Communication! It would’ve been fine if you’d known that was what you were being invited to.

          • Lauren from NH

            And then other times people do just need to realize that they are not in the couple’s inner circle. (Speaking in general, not specifically to TeaforTwo’s experience.) I have lost count of the people who have tried to invite themselves to our wedding when they weren’t even on the B list. Unfortunately weddings force some people to realize that feelings aren’t mutual. Old friend who we haven’t kept up with and wouldn’t be friends with today, you are not invited. Distant family member who doesn’t talk to either persons in the couple during family gatherings, you’re not invited either. I am sorry you didn’t know we’re not close and had to find out this way…eeee….

          • TeaforTwo

            Oh yes. That’s huge. I commented here extensively when we were planning our wedding about how many people I alienated by not inviting them. The fact was that we had 150 seats in our venue and 140 family members on the “have to invite” list. So we told everyone it was family only.

            Turns out we know lots of folks who only have three cousins, and lots of queer folks who are adamant that family of choice is just as valid as blood family. (Which it totally can be, except that these individuals were neither our blood relations nor our family of choice. Because family of choice were in fact all invited.)

            It can be tough. I also think because people vary so much in what degree of “distance” they use as a guest list cut off, for a bunch of reasons. But definitely, unless you gave birth to the bride or groom (with some huge caveats and exceptions even there) you don’t have an unalienable right to attend the wedding.

          • Lauren from NH

            My precise feelings on that last part.

          • Amy March

            Or you accept that you’ve allocated your budget and space to priorities other than including this set of people, and accept that means that those people won’t be celebrating you.

            Not speaking for the UK where I know this is common, but in the US I’d be offended by an invite to an after party. Even though I fully understand it’s not a summons.

          • Jenny

            I’ve read that after parties are very common in France also. People there don’t seem to mind that they are second-string friends. But this isn’t France and here it’s offensive.

          • Stéphanie

            Belgian living in France here, it’s SUPER common, my sister had not the same people at Church (everyone got invited), “punch”, dinner and after party. Usually at “punch” your parents got to invite their friends, “give back invitations” (I HATE that part), dinner is family+close friends and after party is family+close friends+friends.
            Guess why I’m still not married.

          • MDBethann

            What is a “give back invitations”???

          • Stéphanie

            Your parent’s colleague you saw twice in your life invited your parents to their son’s wedding ? Then it’s considered rude if your parents don’t do the same at your wedding. I just can’t stand it even tough I understand the point.

          • Lauren from NH

            I find this a little all or nothing in an unproductive way. Most people have a wide range of friends and family and communities who they may relate to in very different ways. I can imagine scenarios where is makes complete sense to have a nice dinner with family and long term friends and have more casual friends, coworkers, teammates, join in after. The first group might be more comfortable with that kind of formal celebration and the second group might be more at home with the latter.

          • Jenny

            It’s not considered improper to exclude guests from the ceremony if space is an issue. It’s the exclusion from the reception but inclusion to an after party that doesn’t feel right.

          • TeaforTwo

            See, THIS is exactly why weddings can be such an emotional/etiquette minefield: I felt exactly the opposite way.

          • Jenny

            I’m definitely not saying you are wrong to have those feelings. Just wanted to let you know the actual etiquette. Yes, the problem with weddings is that there is a lot of complicated etiquette that so many people don’t pay attention to. And then there’s the emotional stuff that is sometimes made even worse by the inattention to etiquette on all sides.
            Some etiquette may need to change, but often when people forge their own paths, it ends up being graceless and even more people are hurt. Complicated for sure.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            But if so many people don’t pay attention to the “actual etiquette,” what’s the point in doing something that aligns with traditional etiquette but hurts people’s feelings? And I know a lot of people treat Miss Manners as natural law, but there are a lot of cultural traditions or expectations that are just as legitimate. To me, saying people should abide by Miss Manners just because it’s Miss Manners, the feelings of their guests be damned, seems awfully arbitrary.

          • Jenny

            Miss Manners doesn’t even pretend to interpret the etiquette of other cultures. So if someone if from another culture, then her advice does not apply obviously. I’m not really sure what you are getting at by saying traditional etiquette hurts people’s feelings. What specifically did you have in mind?
            Like it or not, our culture does have established etiquette and it was established to minimize problems and hurt feelings. People who don’t pay attention to it are the ones who complicate the situation for everyone. If everyone is operating on their own vague ideas of etiquette, then more people are bound to get hurt due to misunderstanding. At the very least, people should learn etiquette and the theory behind it before they start tweaking it to fit.

          • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

            TeaforTwo’s feelings were hurt by not being included in the ceremony, and a few other commenters have expressed similar feelings. In my husband’s family, even if they’re not invited to the reception, it’s common for neighbors or church friends to attend a ceremony if there’s room in the church. But your comment said that, according to Miss Manners, that’s not the proper etiquette. If I’m trying to plan a wedding, why should I prioritize the advice of Miss Manners over the feelings of the people who will attend? They are all considerations that might get weighed, but I disagree that the Miss Manners prescription is automatically the “right” way to do something. Another example – it’s my understanding that Miss Manners disapproves of RSVP cards and wedding registries. Skipping those, even because “Miss Manners says so,” would have frustrated my family members. I agree that the goal of etiquette is to minimize hurt feelings and make social situations run smoothly. But in some cases, blindly following Miss Manners can defeat that purpose.

            And a note on culture – not everyone on APW shares a culture. Not all of the U.S. shares a culture. Catholic wedding traditions, secular beliefs, African-American traditions, feminism, Midwestern wedding traditions, and many other cultural expectations informed my wedding. In some cases, those traditions and expectations came into conflict. Sharing your culture’s etiquette or traditions can be helpful to other APWers trying to resolve these conflicts. But saying, “this is the right way to do it,” can not only ignore people’s feelings, it can also minimize their cultures.

          • Jenny

            I don’t advocate following anyone “blindly”. I’m saying to know the rules before breaking them.
            I think you are confused by what I was referring to, or I’m confused by what you’re saying. It sounds like you’re saying Miss Manners says a small ceremony excluding people is the way to go. No. She is saying that if there is no space, then it’s okay to have a private wedding followed by a large reception. In such cases, no one has done anything wrong. She’s not saying it’s ideal, but it’s okay.
            On the other hand, a wedding ceremony with everyone attending, but only a select few invited to a reception is problematic because it openly divides your friends into an “A List” and a “B List”. Miss Manners advocates going with only cake and punch if that’s what you can afford in favor of having everyone there.
            As far as RSVP cards, I agree with you! This is a case where both you and I know the proper etiquette, but choose to tweak it. I just think it’s a good idea to know the etiquette first before tweaking. And let’s face it, the real reason people send RSVP cards is because they most people never bothered to learn etiquette and they have no idea the proper way to RSVP is by writing a letter. The RSVP card reigns because of ignorance really. Oddly enough, if everyone knew to reply by letter, it would save the couple money because they wouldn’t have to invest in RSVP cards, envelopes, and return stamps!

          • Alexandra

            I was invited to a wedding recently where this happened–the couple invited about 200 people to the ceremony and about 70 to the reception. My husband and I were not invited to the reception, and many of our closest friends were. My feathers were ruffled, I’m not going to lie. It felt like being left out of an elementary school birthday party. All of our friends went to the reception afterwards, so we didn’t have anybody to hang out with. We went home, took our party clothes off, and felt a little weird about eating pizza and watching a movie all by ourselves. I still don’t look at the couple quite the same as I did before, although my husband (rightfully) scolds me for this.

          • SLG

            That’s awkward. I can see how that would really sting, and I’m sorry that happened to you.

            I also want to note that if a couple wants a large ceremony but a small reception (for budget reasons or whatever), there’s a courteous way to do it: immediately after the ceremony, have a cake-and-punch-or-what-have-you gathering with everyone who’s there. Stand around, get lots of hugs, tell everyone how happy you are that they came, honor those you cared enough about to invite to your ceremony. Then have your intimate reception *hours* later. In between you can take a nap, freshen up, take photos, or (ahem) engage in other activities. Your intimate-reception guests can use the time to rest or freshen up, and your ceremony guests won’t feel slighted (or at least won’t have it rubbed in their faces).

          • Jenny

            Similar to what I’ve been trying to say, but you said it better. Perfect advice.

          • Jenny

            Ouch. That was awkwardly done, to say the least.

          • InHK

            That is, in my opinion, total crap.

            And really, I would look at the couple and my friendship with them differently afterwards, too. It’s just… that was mean spirited. And if even if they didn’t intend it to be, it does sting.

          • Yes, like your husband, I grew up in a place where ceremonies were often open to the whole church, but the receptions were invite-only. In some communities, this is not ride; it’s just how it’s done. To me it’s a good case of “know your audience.”

            ETA: I am not the same Jenny as the other Jenny commenting on this, in case it’s unclear.

            And also, the all-church ceremony invitations were printed in the church bulletin, so you knew that if you did not get an official invitation, you were not invited to the reception, so it was clear from the beginning…

          • MC

            We went to a friend’s wedding reception last summer that was a day after the ceremony, and the ceremony was strictly close family only – because it was really important to them to have the ceremony at their family cabin which is small and hard to get to. We have friends this summer getting married on a small beach but having the reception at an inland, easier-to-get-to location. So yes, while theoretically having guests at your ceremony should be free, logistically that’s not always how it pans out. Just to offer another perspective!

            I agree with what everyone is saying about managing expectations and communicating clearly with guests and it sucks that that was not the case for you.

          • RJ

            I agree – if I’m invited to a wedding – I want to see the marriage – happy to be invited to wedding, and dance, but not the dinner in between.

            But just the dance… it’s got to be a good friend, a large family and a tiny venue.

          • Inmara

            I’m amazed of this logistics, too – it’s quite common in my culture to have ceremony where more people are invited (if they live close, and they’re not expected to bring any gifts) and then reception for smaller number (due to costs and logistics). I’ve been to several such ceremonies and never felt like “B list” or something, because people getting married were more acquaintances than close friends. Never seen it done with small ceremony and big reception (though I can understand this intent if “big reception” is hundreds of people, which never happens here).

          • LucyPirates

            Just to say this is very common in the UK – especially for work colleagues! I don’t mind being invited to the ‘Evening Do / Reception’ by someone who I wouldn’t consider a very close friend. However I do cringe a little at the thought of having to do it myself. I think it would feel a little like splitting people in tier A and B level friends…

          • I know this is two years old, so don’t feel like this is directed towards you! I just want to clarify that in the UK, because you need to have a licensed officiant and a licensed venue, ceremonies can get very expensive very quickly. Most registry offices offer a £50 ‘elopement’, but after that you’re looking at a couple of hundred quid for about 30 guests (inc the couple!) in a room at the registry office (which can mean anything from a fancy Georgian town hall to a room off the side of the local crematorium) to around a thousand pounds for venue fee plus registrar fee plus travel costs. Most religious institutions have some kind of fee, but I don’t know much about that because I’ve only been to one church wedding. Anyway, the cost of the ceremony definitely plays into the whole evening guests culture here – if you can only have 30 ceremony and reception guests (because it is rarer to have a separate reception list to ceremony list) having a part of the day where your larger friend group can join still holds emotional significance.

          • Jess

            I some faith communities its very common to invite the entire congregation to the ceremony (via wedding announcement in the newsletter) but totally expected that not everyone will be invited to the reception. I have attended several weddings like this and no one was upset because it was a cultural norm of the community. Typically there is a mini cookies and punch reception at the place of worship after the ceremony so congregants are still able to wish the bride and groom well before they head off to the reception.

          • Jenny

            Ah! You are describing something different. That cookies and punch reception IS the reception. That said, I would hope the folks invited to the second more exclusive gathering (is it dinner?) don’t broadcast it to those who aren’t.

          • Catherine

            This is common practice at my church. No one would call it the wedding reception, though. In fact, after the receiving line, a lot of the wedding guests (ones going to the dinner reception) don’t linger very long, and the bridal party usually leaves pretty quickly for photos. The congregants who show up for the wedding are aware that there’s another dinner reception following the ceremony, but (with rare exception) no one is offended that they’re not invited.

          • Emma

            That’s what my sister did for her wedding, though I’m not even sure if that’s actually the norm in that church? It was basically because the ceremony venue was huge, but she became very attached to the idea of having the reception on boat that only holds 120 guests, which was basically both extended families and the wedding party. She was super stressed about people feeling left out, but I didn’t hear any complaints. I think people understood that there was limited space and huge families who were all coming in from the other side of the country.

          • Liz

            Yep, that’s not what I was responding to, perhaps you’re reading the thread incorrectly? I’m responding to the idea that a reception apart from a ceremony is a bad idea for out-of-towners.

        • Jess

          I totally have gone to a wedding where I attended the ceremony and the after-party. They didn’t have the budget to have all their friends for the dinner portion, so we went to grab barbecue and beers… and came back for dancing.

          It was an awesome time, BUT our group totally knew that it was the expectation going in, so we planned ahead.

          • pajamafishadventures

            “our group totally knew that it was the expectation going in, so we planned ahead.”

            I haven’t had the chance to test this theory but I believe that most of your guests will be fine with pretty much any plans as long as you are open and communicate what they are to them. Like I’m going to be peeved if I show up to your meal-time reception and it’s dessert only. If you say “dessert only reception” before I show up, I’m not going to care at all. If you say the ceremony is family-only but you’d love to have me at the reception/after party I’m going to be excited for that. If you don’t tell me, I’ll be a little hurt that I wasn’t invited to the other events. Let people know what’s up and they can adapt their expectations to almost anything.

            Communication: it’s not just for couples!

          • Jess

            HA, that is totally the thing I wanted to clarify with that. Not just for couples, indeed!!

            if you say, “Cake and punch”, I’ll expect cake and punch. If the invitations were explicitly for a ceremony and dancing, and you tell me that the dinner is family only? Totally cool, so long as I know!

      • Vanessa

        Yeah, if I’m not close enough to the folks getting married to be invited to the entire thing, then I’m also probably not close enough to spend my limited vacation days and travel budget on them. It’s uncomfortable but that’s definitely something I’d want to know up front.

      • PurplePeopleEater

        So just to add, the English do this. I mean “day guests” and “evening guests” are pretty standard there, so if your friend is English, maybe she/he just assumed? Although, it would say this on the invitation (“you are invited to the evening reception..”) and also, weddings there are LOOOONG. 2:30 ceremony, wedding “breakfast at like 5 in the afternoon, speechES, cake, then evening guests come at like 7:30, dancing, an evening buffet, then it ends around MIDNIGHT. I mean, I think that’s partly why they have a distinction – they don’t want to bore their colleague at work with Uncle John’s long speech about diapers, followed by one of the five bridesmaids speech about that drunken night in Tokyo.

  • AP

    I’m bewildered as to how the LW’s plans can come off to anyone as “gift grabby.” Is it separating out the ceremony and the reception? Because it doesn’t make any difference whether people come to the ceremony or to the lunch, or both. (It’s not like a wedding gift is an entrance fee. You don’t have to pay twice to play twice.) Or is it having the reception at all? Which, if that’s the case, then pretty much everyone is “gift grabby.”

    FWIW, we’re doing something similar. Small destination wedding with immediate family (and a few close extendeds) and then a huge housewarming/backyard reception two weeks later. I’ve already been surprised by the family that are already planning to travel to both, even though we specifically are throwing the housewarming reception for the folk we couldn’t invite to the ceremony. But I highly doubt they think they’re supposed to bring a gift to each.

    And here’s the thing. I’ve been involved in weddings where there was an engagement party, then a couple’s shower, then a ladies only shower, and a bachelorette, all spread out over the months before the wedding, so yes, I did feel pressured to bring a gift to each event. I might have felt a bit of wallet fatigue, but at no point did I resent the couple or think they were only having those events for the gifts. (Because isn’t that what “gift grabby” really means?) I just gave what I could based on my budget and moved on. If someone’s inclined to cry “gift grabby,” they’re gonna do it no matter what kind of wedding you have.

    • Annie

      I think some people have strong feelings about not being invited to the ceremony, like the rest of the celebration isn’t real somehow because you didn’t see two people say “yes, I want to be with you forevs” to each other. Frankly, I’m all for going the reception-only way. It frees up part of the day and means I still get to celebrate with the couple. (Especially if, like in your case, it means I don’t have to buy a ticket/book a hotel room for a destination wedding.)

  • Katie

    I had a friend who decided to hold on to an attitude like this throughout our wedding festivities. There was too much going on for me to deal with her at the time, but after the wedding was over, she and I sat down and I asked her to spill the beans. She told me that because it was the second time I was married, having a wedding and a bridal shower was just for gifts, and she thought it was rude and gauche. Nevermind that: 1. I did not throw myself a bridal shower, nor did I dictate what sort of party it would be; 2. It was my partner’s FIRST marriage, and many of the traditions were important to his family; and, most importantly, 3. WTF? Having a party and inviting people was GAUCHE? and RUDE? I indicated all these things to her, told her she had been invited, not forced, to attend, that she hadn’t NEEDED to attend, and she certainly didn’t need to give any gifts if she didn’t want to. After all that, she said “I have a wedding gift for you in the car”. I politely declined it, and we “broke up”. It’s OK for people to disagree with how you choose to go about doing things, like celebrating your marriage, but it is NOT OK for adults to hold choices like that against you. “Your wedding is not an imposition” might be a mantra most people need to tell themselves when they are trying to people please, but it might also need to be a mantra some of us tell OTHER people who are being unfairly judgy.

    • Alyssa M

      And unfortunately there are some people you can tell that till you’re blue in the face, and they’ll never get it.

      • Katie

        Yeah, totally. That’s why I broke up with her!

    • macrain

      I am so sorry. That sounds painful and awful.

    • Jenny

      Second weddings don’t deserve loved ones attending? She thinks you had a wedding is just to get gifts? Unbelievable!

  • pajamafishadventures

    I thought of someone as “gift grabby” exactly one time: They made a facebook post a few months before their wedding that said “we just checked the registry and no one is buying us anything off it! So here’s the link again!!” (and then they never wrote a thank you note for the present I did get them). And that’s it, the one time. Put it on your invite, have five separate parties, do whatever you want and as long as you’re not whining about presents I’m not going to think of you as grabby.

    • VKD_Vee

      ARE YOU SERIOUS? That’s so ugly. Ugh!!

      • pajamafishadventures

        I like to think I’m an “etiquette-schmetiquette” anything goes type but that… that made me seriously not want to go to their wedding (which was actually just the reception, they’d eloped earlier and I still don’t really see the later party as a gift-grab) or get them a gift!

        The friendship has not endured (and honestly… they ended up getting divorced about a year later and my first thought was “oh you have time to file divorce paperwork but not to send me a thank you note??” I’m not proud, but yeah.)

    • Jessica

      Who buys presents off the registry months in advance? I wouldn’t want to have to hold onto a present that long, and wouldn’t want to send it that early. I’m pretty much in the “buy present the week of the wedding” camp, unless it’s something really personal or inside-joke-y that I want to get ahead of everyone else.

      • Eh

        My friend was really set on buying me the teapot off our registry. She looked and it was there and she was really excited but she didn’t have the money and then a few days later (more than 2 months from our wedding) it was bought by some body else. She was devastated. She can’t remember what she bought me but I remember that she bought me a gravy boat (I guess the next closest thing to a teapot). I can’t even remember who bought us the teapot (another friend bought me a kettle which was an inside joke since she had a fight with her ex-husband about a stove top kettle).

      • pajamafishadventures

        To be fair, I generally try to get something as soon as the registry is up before it’s picked over (I also finish my Christmas shopping by Halloween every year). But most people aren’t me and there was plenty of time for those people to buy gifts (and also I know a lot of people were just getting them giftcards because they were moving two days after their wedding and thought that would be nicer than giving them more stuff to last-minute pack!)

      • Teresa

        Since I got married, I have started shopping for gifts as soon as I get the registry information because I want to get people the things I love to use most, so a registry gift feels more personal. I couldn’t wait to buy my friend the kitchenaid paddle that has the spatula edge because it brings me joy and I know that she and her husband bake all of the time and would love it too! I make sure I write in the card how much I/my husband love using whatever it is in our married life and wish them lots of joy using it as well. I wasn’t quite as sentimental about all of this stuff before I realized how often I think of my friends and family when I use the things they gave us.

    • D: That’s pretty bold.

    • Manda9339

      Wow. Also pretty impressive that they could invite all their Facebook friends to their wedding…

      • pajamafishadventures

        Oh that’s the other “great” thing: public status asking for gifts, but not all their friends were invited!

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  • MABie

    I’m inclined to think that the rude family members were hurt that they weren’t invited to the ceremony, and they didn’t know how to deal with that in a productive way, so they chose to cast stones at poor LW and her fiance instead. I’m hard-pressed to come up with another explanation because I cannot think of a single person who would not be like, “Lunch reception and baseball game? How can I get myself invited to this?” I hate sporting events, and *I* want to attend LW’s wedding!! It sounds amazing.

    I think LW needs to proceed exactly as she was planning to proceed before she heard about these reactions from her family members. There is nothing about what she is doing that is “gift-grabby.” It’s only a 30-person wedding!! If she wants to register, she should still register. Nobody has to buy her a gift, and it doesn’t sound like she even expects people to do so.

    People are going to say shit about your wedding. Period, full stop. I know this because I have said things about other people’s weddings — but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t really happy for them and excited to be there. It sounds like LW has planned an awesome day, and there is no doubt that her family members are going to have a great time. I really think they just don’t know how to deal with their feelings about not being invited to the ceremony — and hopefully, all that will evaporate when they come to the reception, and they’ll be able to share in the joy of the day.

  • Kayjayoh

    Geez, I wonder what these people think about birthday parties? I mean, talk about gift-grabby, right?

    Yeesh. Some people are going to judge no matter what. Liz as the right idea.

    • Jess

      This comment made me laugh! I was thinking the same thing – so how do they feel about Christmas or Mother’s Day? Also gift-grabby?

  • macrain

    “It’s the first time since getting engaged that we’re actually excited about getting married.” To me, this says that you are absolutely making the right choice. Don’t let anyone make you second guess what you already know is the right thing for you.

  • Mrrpaderp

    I’m one of those people who thinks there’s a world of difference between witnessing two people commit to one another for the rest of their lives vs. attending a party celebrating the fact that two people have committed to one another for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it’s because I’m a very private, introverted, mostly stoic person. To me, marriage ceremony is intensely personal. You’re inviting others to be a part of the moment that you open your heart and bind your life to another person. You’re selecting the community that you want to participate in the act of you beginning your baby family. It’s likely the most intimate public thing that you will ever do.

    I don’t mean to knock after-the-fact parties; it’s fantastic to celebrate with a newly married couple too. But the two are not the same thing. In one, you’re a participant (albeit a passive one); in the other, you’re a notified party. And of course wrapped up in that is the feeling of exclusion that others have touched upon, which arises from the expectation that a guest of the reception is also a guest at the ceremony.

    And so attitudes on gifts aren’t necessarily the same. People are free to let that reflect in their gifts if they choose. But calling such an event “gift grabby” makes unwarranted assumptions about a couple – that the only value they see in their reception guests is their wallets.

    • Kay

      Your first paragraph is really beautiful. Thank you. :)

  • meganfm

    Slightly off topic, but since we’re discussing the idea-is it “gift grabby” to ask for things on your registry that you may not have space for now but you know will be incredibly useful for you down the road? Our condo is tiny so we don’t necessarily have the space now for everything we need, but we plan to move in a couple of years to a larger place with more storage (but still a condo-yay Vancouver housing prices!). Example-our stove doesn’t have a storage drawer, so I have no room for any baking sheets. I always bake around the holidays, and it’s also a pain roasting veggies in a drawer-sized pan, so I have a need for them just….nowhere to put them at the moment. Or sets of 12 wine glasses (I got room for 4? 6?) Is it reasonable to put things like that on a registry?

    • i think you should put whatever you want on the registry. If you have the plan to have more space from it in the future and it’s something you want there is no reason not to ask for it. You might just want to work out what you’ll do with the stuff in the meantime.

      • meganfm

        It’s called the 4 empty bedrooms + storage room at my parent’s house ;)

    • Eh

      Totally reasonable. We lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment when we were married and had no room for anything else but we registered for everything we would need to through a dinner party if we had a house. We stored everything at my in-laws house. We now have a house and all of our wedding gifts.

    • RoseTyler

      I say yes. I stored various household items in my parents barn for years until I purchased my own home and had room for them.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      I think it’s totally reasonable, and things like wine glasses and baking sheets are good candidates for storage. Small appliance things may not age well (gaskets dry out, better options come on the market), but cookie sheets and wine glasses are things that won’t decay in storage and will stay more or less the same over a few years. Also, you may end up with more cookie sheets and wine glasses than you register for anyway. I did, and extras are in storage!

    • i don’t think anyone would think about how much space you have. we live in a tiny sublet, and we’ve been trying to explain to our family that we can’t do a large registry because then we’d have to put everything in storage for x years (which isn’t really in our budget, though we haven’t said that). but people still want to give gifts. they get excited about gifts. no one, besides my mom, seems interested in whether we have storage space or not.

    • Amy March

      My baking sheets live on top of my fridge, in case you have room there!

      • meganfm

        WHY DID I NEVER THINK OF THIS!!! There isn’t a ton of room, but there’s a bit!

  • cbee

    Slightly off-topic, but still on the “gift grabby” trail… We’re doing a small/medium-sized wedding for family only next summer (60-70 people) with full dinner reception, but we were also planning on doing a friends “reception” back where we live after the event. It’s planned to be a cookout at a park with cookout food and beer, very casual, but now I’m concerned this could come across as gift grabby? I just want to celebrate with friends since we won’t have the bandwidth to invite friends to the actual ceremony… :/

    • EllsUK

      I don’t think so. I think if you just don’t mention gifts at all it can be assumed that you aren’t necessarily expecting them and if people choose to give you a gift that is up to them.

    • anonpsu

      I don’t think so at all. I would just phrase it “Please join us for a casual celebration of our recent marriage”. If you have the ability to do so, I would spread the word that this was your plan all along. Your friends will probably bring gifts because they WANT to, not because they feel obligated to.

    • Rhie

      My fiance and I are planning something similar and this question–will our friends feel like they’re being slighted, hit up for presents, etc–has really been nagging at me… so far I’ve been making sure to say to all my friends who’ve asked that we’re planning a family-only wedding plus a friend party later so they know exactly what they’re getting into and hoping for the best.

  • Charis Scott-Holm

    This is interesting, I also think it’s an issue of the day after party, not the way you’re going about the registry.
    In the UK weddings split into daytime and evening guests are commonplace, and anyone coming as an evening gift would never be expected to bring a gift, though a card is always a nice gesture.
    Me and my husband didn’t mention gifts in our invitation and placed a registry on our wedding website, but all but about 3 people gave us cash anyway!
    I think if you’re really not interested in gifts maybe suggest people donate to a charity close to you? Then they know you definitely aren’t just inviting them to a second event for the presents!

    • Eh

      Cultural differences are interesting. My dad has very strong beliefs about people being invited to both the ceremony and reception (supper part). Where I grew up (my father is not originally from there) some people will only invite you to the ceremony and the party after supper or only to the party after supper (not the ceremony). My dad has lived there for 25 years and still has a hard time with it. He is also a strong believer in open bars at weddings so even though it’s not common where my in-laws are from (where I got married) we had an open bar (which was a bit of a cultural shock for my in-laws).

      • Charis Scott-Holm

        I can imagine, I think having two separate parties for people in the US would be quite an interesting thing culturally, they might misunderstand the reasons behind having two celebrations and think it’s about the extra gifts.
        Yes, barely anyone in the UK has an open bar, cash bars are the norm, but more than often a drink to toast will be provided and also wine on the tables with dinner. I think guests from other parts of the world would be shocked by paying for their drinks then having new guests turn up after dinner!

        • Eh

          Interestingly, I live in Canada and the cultural differences I mentioned are all in one province (ok, Ontario is really big). I don’t think my dad sees it as being about gifts but about saying that some people are more important than others. People invited to the ceremony and the supper got to be there are an very personal moment, and the people only invited later are the people you don’t care enough to be there at a personal moment but you want to party with (people in the second group generally don’t buy gifts where I grew up). His point about an open bar is that your guests shouldn’t have to fork out cash (they wouldn’t fork out cash if you were having a dinner party). This actually threw me off the first time I went to a wedding with my husband, I did not realize that it was going to be a cash bar since all of the weddings I had been to were open bar. I only had enough money for one drink. Thankfully their was table wine and I was at a table with three pregnant women.

          • RoseTyler

            On the open bar topic – I’m the exact opposite. I’d never have an open bar or any alcohol at my *hypothetical* future wedding. I don’t drink, I can’t imagine my future partner drinking, and my religious tradition strongly frowns on the consumption of alcohol. It is just not something that make’s sense in our little subculture.

            That said, I can’t imagine having a wedding with cruise-ship esque policies where my guests had to pay for their own soda or punch. :)

          • Eh

            Actually I think my dad would understand not having any alcohol over having a cash bar (though if he didn’t know before hand he might be a little disappointed).

            I am very happy that we had an open bar because I didn’t realize until we got our bar bill but our guests would have pay for their own soda if we didn’t.

          • RoseTyler

            Wow, really? Now I can’t imagine going to a wedding and paying for my own non-alcoholic drinks!

          • Eh

            I guess we never got to that part of the food service contract since we told them off the top we wanted an open bar. The only thing that was free was water.

        • I think in the UK the cash bar/open bar thing is more of a class divide. FWIW I grew up in a working class/poor area and I have only ever been to one cash bar wedding in my life – it was such an unusual experience for most of us that a lot of people quietly discussed it to each other as the evening ran on (mostly in the context of assuming that the pay bar was dictated by the rather fancy venue, rather than any judgement against the couple for the choice they made)

          • Eh

            Where my inlaws live an open bar is seen as an extravagance that only rich people would have. Where I grew up everyone has an open bar. The poor/working class people have different options at the bar but it would still be an open bar.

            My husband’s brother got married at a very expensive venue and they had a cash bar. He said that they should have just had a open bar because the cash bar didn’t make the minimum so they ended up paying a lot (in the end an open bar wouldn’t have cost much more).

  • Kyns24

    Another perspective on the split ceremony/reception and how it relates to gifts that I grew up with: My dad actually is a firm believer that it is against etiquette to bring a gift at all to the ceremony and/or reception. Gifts are for showers only, or if you don’t attend the shower but still want to give the couple a gift, to send to them some other time. But he thinks its tacky to bring the gift to the actual wedding day(s) as those are meant for witnessing the marriage and celebrating it by being there. So spreading it out over a couple of days doesn’t affect gifts AT ALL. But I think that anyone who complains about gift grabbiness b/c the two are split has really misunderstood what receptions are for (i.e. celebrating the couple together as a community)

  • InHK

    I had a similar conversation with my sister about her (hypothetical!) wedding. She likes the idea of a very small, intimate ceremony. We have a decent amount of cousins, so does her lovely boyfriend. It is tradition in both families to invite everybody. My sister thinks it would be fine to either a) forgo inviting cousins on both sides or b) invite only immediate family to the ceremony.

    Look, one day it’ll be her wedding and I’ll support her (because she’s my favourite and I love her so!) but that is a can or worms I would not open. There’s just no effing way that decision won’t seriously wound the feelings of our family and her boyfriend’s family.

  • NLinUK

    Interesting to read all the comments, and everyone’s valid and different perspectives. I think ‘etiquette’ differs immensely culturally. My personal opinion is: you are inviting them to CELEBRATE your union and love for each other, by putting on a party: how can anyone get upset about that?! There can be lots of reasons for you wanting or having to keep the ceremony small, and ultimately that is YOUR choice. Having been raised in The Netherlands and living in the UK, where (especially in NL) you can be invited and not invited to several parts: for example: not invited to ceremony, but invited to reception after, not invited to dinner, but invited to evening party; which can amount to some awkward filling of time and having to fend for oneself and find food in between, but it will be your choice to accept or decline. Often children would be invited to the first two parts, but to the evening party, and the community can congratulate the couple during the reception with cake and coffee, while colleagues and friends join for the party in the evening (saving them on having to take the day off work). Anyway, we are currently planning our wedding and have gone non-traditional too: we had a very small legal ceremony with a few friends and my HB sister and poppa (sister is pregnant and can’t make the wedding) poppa is elderly and we wanted him there, then we’re having the ceremony with vows in France with a small group of family and friends over a long weekend (our families live in different countries and we wanted to celebrate and spend some time with them (it’s probably the only time we can get everyone together, and the place is special to us). We are, however, also throwing a reception for my Dutch family and friends in NL (my family is massive) as we wanted to celebrate with them and it’s a great occasion to get them all together. We are not expecting gifts: not in France, as we’re asking people for their time and the cost of travel; and also not in NL, as it will be our pleasure to see them. We feel blessed and lucky to have the budget to plan this and share our marriage with as many loved ones as possible. I was worried that the Dutch enclave would not want to come and celebrate (weird self-depreciating thoughts of why anyone would want to come to something that is for me (and HB, of course)), but so far we’ve only had two ‘regrets’! Apologies for waffling on a bit (first post on site), I really hope that everyone eventually will understand, make peace with your plan and turn up with love in their hearts and in good spirits. Wishing you a happy ceremony and celebration!