I Royally Effed Up; Is a Nice Gift Enough?

And some other gifting issues, too

Q:Dear APW,

My husband’s cousin recently got married. We are very excited for her and her new wife. We, however, were not invited to the wedding. All other family members were invited, and even some step-cousins attended.

We do not know why we were not invited. There are strange family dynamics between the two families, but we aren’t aware of anything that sets us apart. Shooting from the hip, here are some ideas of why we didn’t receive an invitation:

  • Were there too many people to invite and we simply didn’t make the cut?
  • Did we unknowingly hurt her feelings somehow (my spouse thinks maybe he didn’t give the whole family the attention they wanted at various times because he is overworked and a dad of two small kids)?
  • Did she think we wouldn’t support her choice of an LGBTQ wedding?
  • Did they not want our children there but didn’t want to tell us it was an adult only wedding?
  • Did they assume that we wouldn’t fly across the country so didn’t want to waste the postage and print cost?

There are so many questions about if you have to send a gift if you are invited and you don’t go. But how about the opposite: sending a gift when you aren’t invited? Especially when the reason that you weren’t invited is unknown? Basically, if she didn’t invite us for some negative reason, I want to respect that. I don’t want to send her a gift that is interpreted as passive aggressive in any way. If we hurt her feelings, I don’t want to step on her toes and force myself into the wedding celebration by sending a gift. But if it was an innocent reason why we weren’t invited, we’d love to send a gift to show our congratulations that she’s committed herself to the love of her life!

—unsolicited gifter

A:Dear ug,

This is such a great attitude! I love that you’ve identified all sorts of reasons you may not have made the cut, including the neutral “not enough space” option. One option, clearly, would be for your husband to reach out to his cousin to ask why he wasn’t invited. It seems like you aren’t considering this, which might just be good manners or might be because they aren’t particularly close or might be because the weird family dynamics make it not that surprising.

My take on gifts if you aren’t invited is pretty much exactly what you laid out here. If you are sending a gift as a petty passive aggressive dig, please just don’t. If you genuinely feel celebratory about someone’s wedding that you were not invited to, absolutely send a gift! I’ve done it myself many a time for distant cousins, co-workers, old school friends etc.

My personal rule of thumb is to keep it on the smaller side and make it easy. The point is really just sharing warm well wishes. This is a great time for something small and easy from the store they registered at, like a set of kitchen towels, with a gift receipt (if you want a budget, mine would be not more than $25). Most important is a card saying how happy you are for them and that you wish them a lifetime of joy.

Q:Dear APW,

I need to confess this to someone: I truly screwed up a wedding last year. My dear friend was getting married during a time when I was out of town, and I just didn’t want to admit that or acknowledge it to myself, so I RSVPed yes, knowing I likely couldn’t make it, and then I didn’t show up, and now it’s been nine months and I still feel wracked with guilt and I haven’t sent a gift. I know I went about this all wrong, and now I’m avoiding the situation all together. Help me make it up to her?


A:Dear oooops,

Look, you know you screwed this one up, no sense yelling at you for it. We all get it wrong sometimes. You can’t 100% fix this, but you can extend an olive branch. I encourage you to give a generous gift. Take whatever amount of money you usually spend on a wedding gift and increase it by 50%. Let it be something that you have to sacrifice for a bit in your budget (to be clear, I’m talking like you skip a couple nights on the town, not you eat nothing but rice for a month, adjust to your own personal financial situation). See if there’s something still on her registry at that price point, or select something that you think she might like from the store she registered at with a gift receipt.

The key thing here is to show some effort. Don’t ship her a gift direct from Amazon. Repackage it. Wrap it in pretty paper. Include a nice handwritten card that expresses that you are so sorry that you missed her wedding, and you have been thinking of her, and that you wish her all the joy and happiness in the world.

And then forgive yourself and do better next time.

—Amy March


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