Girl Talk: Are Wedding Gifts Optional?

After our wedding, when my husband and I finally got around to opening our gifts and noting who gave what for our thank you cards, we became concerned that a bunch of our wedding gifts might have been stolen. About a third of the 150 guests who attended our wedding did not appear to have given a gift — that seemed a little odd. However, I was aware that wedding etiquette says that you have up to a year after a wedding to give a gift, so I didn’t put too much worry into it. After our wedding, a number of friends and family members contacted us with questions like, “Where are you registered?” and “What is your mailing address?” I answered all their inquiries, but strangely never received gifts of any sort from any of the people who asked.

A gift expresses, “Thank you for throwing this beautiful party and having your friends and family here to be a part of it. Here’s a token of my appreciation for this wonderful day and a good wishes for your future together.”

”A year passed since the wedding, and in that time, about five people did send a belated gift. But it still left the others to be a mystery. Obviously it would be rude to bring it up and I had no idea how to approach the subject. “Hey friend that I see every day at work … was it your intention to not give us a wedding gift?” The people who “forgot” to send a gift ranged from extremely wealthy to extremely broke. It was friends of mine, friends of my husband, mutual friends, relatives, and even friends of my parents. Some people had to travel for the wedding; some did not. There was no pattern.

I was angry at myself for caring about something so stupid. I was so lucky that I had found someone to spend my life with; that was all I really needed. But what hurt me was how I began to question if I was friends with rude people. I have never been the rich friend. In fact, for most of my life, I was the broke, single friend. But I always felt like I’d rather give what I could to help the couple start their life together—whether it was a cutting board from their registry or a modest $75. I never thought, I’ll give them an amazing gift when I have money one day. The truth is, that day most likely isn’t coming anytime soon, or if it does, you’ve waited so long you forget, and you end up giving nothing.

A modest gift isn’t rude at all, as long as it comes from the heart. For example, I had a group of “self-proclaimed broke friends” come together to give us concert tickets. And you know what? My husband and I went to that concert and had a great time. I thought it was thoughtful and kind that they made an effort to be there on our wedding day and gave us something unique we’ll always remember. Gifts for me are not about the monetary value; they’re about the thought.

A gift expresses, “Thank you for throwing this beautiful party and having your friends and family here to be a part of it. Here’s a token of my appreciation for this wonderful day and a good wishes for your future together.”

” One friend simply gave us a card, saying she hopes one day she can afford to take us out to dinner to celebrate, but for now she just wanted to tell us she loved us and congratulations. I loved that card. It had no monetary value, but it showed she had manners. The gesture was what mattered.

About a month after our wedding, my husband and I attended another wedding. A few of the guests overlapped. While on the shuttle to the reception, we noticed a mutual wedding guest writing a check and card out to the bride and groom. This particular person did not give us a gift/check or even a card. When we caught her eye, she rudely snapped, “I know I didn’t give you guys anything, but I have a year, you know.” Both weddings required this guest to travel out of state. Both weddings required this guest to book a hotel. Why did she choose to be polite to one couple and not us? This guest never ended up sending us a gift, and both my husband and I cannot shake how rude it was that she gave someone else a gift right under our noses and was so defensive about it.

The only time I have ever not given a gift was when I was the only friend who went to a wedding in the Virgin Islands. My friend called me and personally instructed me not to give him anything, as it was costing me thousands of dollars to come and no one else was there for his special day. (Ironically, when I got married, this same friend never gave us a gift even though our wedding was in the city he lives in!) Other than that, I have given whatever I could, no matter where the wedding was, or if I needed a hotel, rental car, flight etc.

I am going to a wedding next month for one of the guests who never gave us a gift at our wedding. I struggled with what to do in terms of giving her a gift. I thought about how it hurt me that this particular friend who is about to get married never acknowledged our wedding with even a simple card. In my circle of friends she is notorious for coming empty-handed to weddings and never owning up to it. I thought about how I questioned her manners and realized that I believe you should always do unto others as you would have done to you. So, maybe it’s not fair and square, but considering I didn’t like how it felt, the last thing I would ever want to do is make someone else feel that way, or to think that I was rude. So I bought her a gift—but I used a coupon to soften the blow! Somehow, that made me feel better.