Q:We got married five weeks ago, and although it was a perfect day for us as a couple, there’s been a stinger since the day after that we’re just not able to shake off. My dad didn’t give us a wedding gift. He will tell you that he’s poor and only has $900 left to survive on with no income… but in reality he owns two properties (one of which he is currently renovating) and at least four expensive classic cars. He didn’t give us an engagement gift either, despite being at our engagement party, and there was no mention of helping financially toward the wedding at all. I feel self-centered thinking about it because I don’t want to expect presents at any point in my life, but I just feel like as a parent of the bride or groom, should there be certain expectations?
Even a novelty gift would have been amazing. Like a couple of cheap Mr. & Mrs. glasses or something that we could look at and say, “My dad gave those to us for our wedding day.” Both of our mums and my step-mum (my dad’s ex) all gave us a little money toward the day. I don’t feel like I can approach him about it because he would go and buy a gift out of guilt and I would hate that. I also don’t have an amazingly close relationship with him as he and my mum divorced when I was five, and I find it near impossible to have a deep and meaningful conversation with him. Am I right for feeling the way I do? Do you think I might get over this with time?
A: Dear Giftless,
Normally I come down pretty hard on folks who expect a gift from somebody. Really hard. But I think what you’re asking here is a bit different. Sometimes it’s not about the gift. Sometimes the gift is just the most tangible evidence of what you already knew about your relationship with a person, and that can be really hard to swallow.
No, your dad isn’t obligated to give you a gift. Even though he owns property. Even though he has expensive hobbies. Even though he’s your dad.
But it sounds like your dad has never made you a priority, and maybe this nonexistent wedding gift is just the latest example. It sounds like you’re used to hearing that he’s “too poor” to do something for you, but not too poor to treat himself. And it also sounds like this is part of a bigger pattern with him. Him first, and you… well… sometimes you make the list, sometimes you don’t. And yeah, it’s okay to mourn that. In fact, it’s important to allow yourself to mourn that.
It’s more than fair to be disappointed that he can’t even put the effort into finding a little trinket, even when it’s a special occasion, even when it’s expected. Sure, maybe he’s not around for deep heartfelt chats, but he couldn’t even pick up a picture frame on his way to the wedding? I know it might feel shallow or selfish to be so bothered by a gift, but this sort of thing can be harder to grapple with than, say, a lack of emotional support or something else that isn’t so tangible.
I’m so sorry. It’s not self-centered to hope for your dad to prioritize you in this small way, on this big day. It’s what we all want from our parents, and sometimes we just don’t get it. And that’s really, really sad, no way around it.