Are Wedding Gifts Mandatory?
Would you ever go to a wedding without bringing a gift? I’d sooner show up to a black-tie affair in a Speedo®. Yet, a few people came to my wedding metaphorically nude – without even bringing a card. And I’m not sure if I have any right to be annoyed.
This is not about wanting a new toaster. I am genuinely hurt that some people who I am close with did not think to (or worse, decided not to) give us something to help start our new lives together. That’s the point of a wedding gift. As the couple debates about kids and where to live and what shows to TiVo®, the wedding gift gives that couple one less thing to worry about. Even JDate sent us congratulatory matching t-shirts, and we didn’t invite them. Sorry JDate – it was a relatively small affair, and we just couldn’t accommodate all half a million of you.
Sara and I talked to a few married friends and relatives about our mysterious non-gifters and everyone said that they had faced the same problem. Seems that this is common; 5-10% of any given wedding will assume their presence is present enough.
People who come from far away, I can understand. If you’ve already blown $1,000 on plane fare and hotel, there’s no need to see where the happy couple has registered. And if the wedding itself is a cheapo affair, I can also understand. But we spent a great deal of money on food, drink and ambience for each of our guests, and had people who lived close enough to walk to the ceremony not bring anything—other than their appetite, of course.
I know what I sound like – call me ungrateful. But also call me honest. I believe that anyone in my situation would be as equally conflicted. This isn’t a suggested donation to a museum – this is a gift to a person who you care about on the most important day of their lives. And it says more than just “hey, here’s a toaster.” It’s the thought that counts, and they counted to zero.
Before you judge me, we’re not the type of people to bleed our friends dry with gift giving occasions. We don’t have birthday parties, and we won’t be having a housewarming. When we invite people over, we cook and tell them not to bring anything. There was no engagement party, no bridal shower and no other silly pre-wedding “I need to think of a reason to bore my friends while they give me stuff” events.
Am I wrong to expect everyone who attends a wedding to give a gift? Maybe – it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong, as those of you who like to write in to this column enjoy pointing out.
On one hand, I was thrilled to see everyone who came to the wedding; on the other, really? Not even a card? There’s a CVS around the corner, you can save on a stamp. Maybe they were just giving us a multiple of chai: 18 times zero.
I have never been one to follow etiquette rules – I put my elbows on the table, don’t care which fork I eat my salad with and would happily wear white after Labor Day (if I ever wore white). But even I know that you don’t go to a wedding without bringing a gift. Hell, I send gifts when I can’t make the wedding. Except for one occasion when someone I barely knew invited me because they knew I couldn’t make it – in that case, get your own damned toaster.
Speaking of tacky, we can’t think of a good way to handle this. Do we say something? Do we let it go? Do we casually talk about a wonderful gift someone else got us? Do I write a column and passive aggressively hope they read it? Probably not, since I know my friends only pretend they read my column.
“Steve, great column.”
“What part did you like the best?”
“Um. The part about Jews?”
We’ve decided to wait a few more weeks and then take the high road. We’ll simply send each of the non-gifters a thank you card for coming, letting them know how much their attendance meant to us. It will be kind and courteous – and maybe it will remind them to check our registry.
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