plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

July 11, 2008

weddings and gifts

Filed under: giving — Tags: , — plonkee @ 11:10 am

I am not and never have been married. Which of course means that I’ve never had a wedding. I am invited to weddings from time to time, and of course weddings are gift giving occasions. Since I’m always the giver at these things, I’ve got more opinions on that side of things, and I’m going to share them with you.

advice to the happy couple

If you ever look in etiquette books, you’ll see that the bride and groom are always advised that their wedding is not a grabfest and they should refrain from suggesting directly that gifts are required or even anticipated. In English culture, it is definitely not considered polite to mention gifts on the invitations that you print, and including an insert about a registry is also frowned upon. Note that as with all etiquette rules this is culture specific.

Send thank you notes to all the guests that you invite who turn up (regardless of whether they got you a gift), and those who don’t turn up who send best wishes, congratulations or gifts. Essentially, everyone that you invite should be getting a thank you note. If they ignore your invitation and your wedding, then (and probably only then) you needn’t bother.

advice to the guest

Get a gift. If you’ve been invited, get a gift regardless of whether you’re going or not. It’s true that you don’t have to, but it is expected, by society at large, that you will. No gift needs to cost a lot of money and it doesn’t need to be taken from a registry. It should simply be something appropriate to both you and the couple, as far as is reasonably practicable.

There are exceptions. But if you’ve been invited, politeness requires that you send at least a card with your best wishes. Failure to do this is really an insult to the couple. Meaning to be rude and doing it is one thing, but inadvertently being rude is something to be avoided.

double standards

So, I’ve suggested that couples getting married definitely shouldn’t expect gifts from their guests, and guests definitely should send gifts to couples. Does this feel like a double standard to you?

It’s not. The rule of being polite and courteous is that you put yourself out in order to make things more comfortable for other people. It is more polite not to expect a gift than to expect one. But on the other hand, it is much more polite to send a gift to a wedding than not to send one. It indicates that you care about the couple, and that you support their marriage.

If you suspect that you’ve only been invited in order to solicit a gift, then you can either fulfil their expectation and send a gift, or send a gift of nominal cost – which could just be a card. If you aren’t that close, and they moan about it to other people, they will only make themselves look bad. Sort of giving them enough rope really.

what do I actually do?

I consider myself pretty lucky. All the weddings I’ve been invited to have been for people that I would consider friends to some degree or another. If they’ve had a registry of gifts I’ve always bought off that, which has worked out well because some/most of them have had very different taste in stuff to me. Otherwise, my standard gift is a bottle of champagne or wine, or extremely posh chocolates for non-drinkers. Plus a card filled with best wishes. I can be a bit cheap I guess, because I normally spend in the £20-£25 range (approx $40-$50). I would push the boat out for siblings or parents (and any other close relatives if I acquired them) but haven’t had the occasion to yet.

what about you?

What do you think about weddings gifts? Do you feel as more or less obligation to send them than I do? Let me know in the comments.

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