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!
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!