Open thread

by EPI Staff on June 15, 2010

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This open thread is your space to use as you like.  We invite you to discuss current and traditional etiquette. Feel free to ask questions of each other and the community moderators here.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul June 15, 2010 at 3:49 am

I was very recently married, and a majority of the guests from my side did not bring gifts (or send my wife and I gift) to the wedding. My bride’s parents went to an incredible amount of trouble and expense to give us the beautiful wedding of our dreams, but the lack of gifts or cards makes it appear that my family does not care (especially compared to her friends and family, who attended in full force and gave us an array of nice gifts from our registry). My in-laws are incredibly hurt, and I am embarrassed by my family and what this says about me. The wedding was also out-of-state for most of my extended family, so only a very few even attended.

I want to talk to these family members and figure out why they didn’t attend, and why those who didn’t attend didn’t bother to send a gift. My family did throw a shower a few months before the wedding for my bride and I, so I think maybe they thought that was the end of their responsibilities.

If guests don’t know that is recommended to send a gift when you don’t attend, am I OK to broach this subject with them? What about confronting those from my side who came but didn’t send a gift? Can I enlist my parents to get in touch with these family members to figure this out? I want to get to the bottom of this and stand up for my in-laws and bride, but I don’t want to come across as “why didn’t you get us a nice gift?”

What is the best way to handle this situation and confront these people?

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Elizabeth June 15, 2010 at 6:41 am

Are you crazy?? No one is obligated to give you a gift, whether they attended or not. You had an out-of-town wedding and wondered why many of your extended family didn’t attend?? Have you considered your relationship with them, or your entitled attitude? Your in-laws don’t need ‘standing up for’. They gave you a beautiful gift – a wedding – and they didn’t do it so you’d receive presents from other people. They did it so you could have a beautiful day, to celebrate your new relationships with their daughter. The best thing you and your wife can do is to write them a heartfelt thank-you note or invite them over for a nice dinner and express your gratitude directly. And say no more about your family! No doubt your in-laws are already wondering if your boorishness will one day be directed towards them!

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Graceandhonor June 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

Elizabeth, I must say I believe this response is somewhat harsh. Paul expressed his anxiety and confusion over this situation in a genuinely concerned way and is seeking the means to reconcile his own feelings and the normal expectations of the family he married into. Yes, his bride’s parents gave this wedding out of love for their daughter and Paul sounds like the kind of man who will voice his heartfelt thanks to them, not once, but often.

It is unfortunate that those we expect to behave a certain way at important events in our lives sometimes do not, and even fail spectacularly. It is valuable for young adults to develop the attitude of delighted, surprised and heartfelt gratitude when others come through for them, and simultaneously develop a thick skin for those times they do not. This is an important life skill that will prove sustaining in innumerable ways throughout one’s life.

Paul, do heed Jody’s advice: Demonstrate your own graciousness and your new family will see you for the good man your friends here at EDaily have no doubt you indeed are.

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THE Jerry June 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Elizabeth’s response was absolutely correct! The mere fact that someone is getting married does not entitle them to send a bill to those who are minding their own business.

You are right to wonder why more of your family did not attend, however. I would make some polite inquires through another family member and make sure that you stay close with those that decided to come. Buying a plane ticket to attend a wedding is not too much to ask.

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Alicia June 16, 2010 at 2:48 am

Jerry,

Calling a person crazy is always inconsiderate and unkind. One of the key concepts of etiquette is to be kind and considerate.
It is however true that nobody should expect a gift just be pleased and thankful if they are given one. However, nor should you expect attendance as attendance can be a much bigger and harder gift to give in terms of money, time, and logistical nightmares.
A plane ticket can be much more to ask then a gift. I’m attending a wedding of a cousin next month. Plane ticket, hotel, and meals out I am budgeting $800 total. The plane ticket alone was $580 and the only hotel in the area is $65/night. Several of the brides family are not attending. Largely due to logistics of having to work and go out of town but several also for the fiscal burden of the travel. I will be buying them a gift in addition but I will probably spend less about 5% of the money I am spending on their wedding on a gift worth about $40 or $50.
It is hard to know what time and money burdens those we care for have. So do not be sad or feel that it in any way speaks to their love of you or lack of love of you if they can or can not attend and do or do not make the choice to send a gift. Just be happy and enjoy your time with those who attend and be thankful for the gifts you recieve. The other lesson is to remember this when you are invited to other evens that matter a lot to the person celabrating them. This is the reminder that sometimes it is worth going thru the hassle to attend and be there for those you love even when in reality you might prefer to take it easy at home and spend the money on yourself.
Best wishes

Daniel Post Senning June 16, 2010 at 3:10 am

Hello Elizabeth,
Many right and sane people feel if you are invited to a wedding that there is an expectation that you reply with a gift of some kind. There are exceptions and it is clear you do not share this expectation but when someone marries into a family that honors this tradition it shows respect to consider their feelings whether or not you agree with them.

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Vanna Keiler June 15, 2010 at 6:20 am

I don’t know if there is an appropriate way to ask why gifts were not produced by attendees and non-attendees to your wedding. I do know there is a school of thought that says you don’t have to send a gift if you are not going to be in attendance at the wedding. Perhaps you could call the wedding goers and pleasantly enquire if they enjoyed the wedding, and if they have some feedback to offer you (not by explanation, but more for insight into their thoughts about the event), it may help answer your question. Based on answers on this site and others, I believe it is considered poor etiquette to not bring a gift when you are in attendance of a wedding, but worse than that would be to comment to the attendees about not receiving one.

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Sarah DC June 15, 2010 at 7:50 am

Keeping with the topic of wedding presents — My husband and I received a Crate and Barrel gift card in the mail, directly from C&B. There wasn’t a gift enclosure or any other identifying information as to the name of the gift giver. Has anyone had a similar experience where they received a wedding gift without knowing who it was from? We were thrilled to receive the gift card and would like to thank the giver, but are at a loss on how to identify them.
Thank you!

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Graceandhonor June 15, 2010 at 9:06 am

Contact C&B and ask they provide you with the buyer’s information. C&B is responsible for handling this transaction properly for both the buyer and you, and should have this information on file. Don’t let them off the hook; the buyer should be thanked!

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Jody June 15, 2010 at 8:07 am

You say the wedding was out-of-state. What’s not clear to me is how far your family had to travel. Maybe it was rather expensive for them? Some may have been able to afford to attend but not to give a gift; some may not have been able to afford either.

In any case I’d say it’s inappropriate to ask them why they didn’t give a gift. If you’re gracious to your bride and her family, they’ll see that you’re a good man and they shouldn’t pay attention to how others behave.

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Paul June 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

Thanks for the helpful feedback, Elizabeth… but I think you are missing my point. My in-laws are the ones who are very upset and hurt. I don’t think your solution is going to satisfy anyone.

The situation is: my bride’s side showed up with an outpouring of support and love, but my side has been sorely lacking in this respect. I don’t want to chalk it all up to a difference in background (my family comes from a very different background and is not in the same place, economically speaking). I don’t feel “entitled” to great gifts from them! Far from it- I just want to strike the right balance between standing up for my wife and in-laws who invested considerable time and expenses into this wedding with little to no appreciation from my side, and not coming across as angry or entitled to my family in asking why they didn’t come, or at least send a card or gift. Thanks!

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Daniel Post Senning June 16, 2010 at 2:58 am

Hi Paul,
What a great question you have asked. It has generated one of the best discussions we have had here on the Daily. You are showing the kind of care for other people that comes from considering their perspective. This is the heart of all good etiquette. The “balance” that you are striving for is so often the key to negotiating many of life’s tricky situations with class. Best wishes as you embark thoughtfully on your new marriage.

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Elizabeth June 17, 2010 at 8:39 am

That’s just it – there’s nothing to ‘stand up’ for. Your in-laws didn’t ‘invest’ in a wedding, because investors expect returns and weddings aren’t fundraisers. Your family isn’t required to respond to a wedding invitation affirmatively, nor are they required to send gifts, however nice it would be if they did so.

Your original question seemed very much like you were looking for a way to chastise or rebuke them – and that isn’t something you can do politely. Other posters have suggested that you call around and obliquely ask why your wedding wasn’t better attended or more richly gifted. I think this is a terrible idea. You could ask your parents, of course, but asking any other family questions along this line is guaranteed to glean responses you’d probably rather not hear. If it was a reason that wouldn’t hurt you to hear (like Aunt Mary is sick, or there’s another important family event the same weekend) they would have already given you that excuse. What you are essentially proposing to ask is: “Why don’t you value me enough to attend my wedding or send a decent gift?” It’s just not a good idea. Rather, spend time and develop relationships with the people who do care enough about you to show up and wish you well.

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THE Jerry June 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I concur!

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Jen June 15, 2010 at 8:44 am

Paul,
I have the very same problem! I think it could be an issue of distance! I have family out-of-state and out of the country-I think it’s easy for them to feel out of the loop due to the distance. Perhaps it might be a good idea to give them a call and thank them for coming to the wedding or chat about it, this might help reconnect. I totally agree, you do feel bad and a little bummed out because your side of the family didn’t contribute! The other thing could be, some families have no idea about etiquette (maybe they were struggling single parents and money was scarce) and they did NOT grow up sending thank-you notes, knowing how to set a nice table or understanding the proper things to do. In that case, take the lead and write a thank-you note…send graduation gifts. Maybe it will rub off and they’ll learn by example! In the same boat! JS

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Alicia June 15, 2010 at 9:21 am

Congrats on your recent wedding!
First, Stop discussing what gifts people do or do not give you with your in laws. It is not their concern if your relatives give you a BMW or nothing. They have no reason to feel slighted in the least. When it comes up change the topic around to how much you and your wife appreciate them.
Second, traveling out of state can be either logistically or fiscally impossible for people. No matter how much they love you by making the choice to get married in a place where it would require travel for your family you have to accept that logistically or fiscally it can be impossible. Nobody owes you attendance they only are required to send a prompt RSVP.
Third, Traditionally guests have a year post wedding to send a gift. So since your wedding is recent there is a good chance they might be sending something later. Have you been back to your hometown? It may be that you will recieve gifts in person when you return home and see these people next.
Last, it is always rude to imply that someone should buy you more stuff. So no you can not ask why they did not give you more gifts. The only people being rude in this whole senario are you and your in laws for assuming that gifts should be flowing your way. Stop worrying about it and go write your thank you notes and then enjoy your wonderful marriage. Truly that is the best wedding gift getting to be married to the person you want to be married to.

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AB June 17, 2010 at 12:11 am

I understand how easy it is to be embarrassed by family’s bad behavior. With that being said, there just is no tactful or gracious way to ask why people didn’t send you a gift. Maybe they don’t know any better. Maybe the recession has hit them harder than you know. Maybe the ones that came couldn’t afford a gift on top of travel. And maybe the ones that didn’t go skipped the event because they couldn’t afford to go OR buy a gift. Either way, why embarrass them?

Furthermore, since the gifts would be for you and your bride, why is it her parents business what you did or didn’t get? I understand that they were the hosts, but people send wedding gifts to wish the couple off to a great marriage, not to reward the host.

Let it go. Move on and enjoy your marriage. Show your appreciation to your in laws for the great wedding and remember that other people’s actions don’t define you.

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Hannah June 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

I recently had a birthday party for my 4 year old son. I sent out invitations weeks in advance, and when I didn’t hear from people, I called to get a head-count for his party:(since we were providing food, drinks, goody bags for the kids,etc.) I was wondering what the correct response from me should be when close friends and family members call at THE LAST MINUTE and bail out after saying they would definately come. There was no real reason they did not show up. They just flaked out at the last minute. This really hurt my feelings. Any suggestions?

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THE Jerry June 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Unless someone was sick or dying, they are not close friends.

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Graceandhonor June 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm

“I am sorry you won’t be able to come; we have already prepared for you, and Johnny will be sad to hear you aren’t coming.” Yes, there is some guilt applied here, but they should understand the consequences to your family. Other than this, I can understand your feelings and encourage you to try to let it go. If you invite them next year, you can, in good humor, say, “We will definitely look forward to seeing you this year since you had to cancel at the last minute last year.”

Whatever you do, do not reciprocate in kind. Go as you promise, and demonstrate good manners and conciousness of the feelings of others.

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janice September 17, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I need a outside opinion, recently my common law spouses daughter has moved back to our home town, in the last 2 years that we have been together I have not met his daughter or even talked to her on the phone. The other day his ex wife invited him for dinner at her house which his daughter is staying at with Thier three grandchildren, he refused, but then his daughter called back and he accepted, I am very upset about this, I think it is rude of them motto invite me, andiI am also upset at my boyfriend for accepting the dinner invitation, I told him I was upset and that he should not be accepting dinner invites that exclude me, I suggested that he take his daughter and grandkids out for dinner. He said he would but I have my doubts as he oromisddhiz daughter he would come for dinner.

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THE Jerry June 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm

And pointing out someone else’s rudeness is also rude, Alicia. Calling a person crazy is not per se inconsiderate or unkind. Sometimes calling someone crazy is the proper response when a person makes . . . a crazy statement! While many right thinking people may feel that an invitation requires a gift, many others do not. Etiquette does not require that a person subordinate his or her feelings on a subject (i.e., that an invitation does not require a gift) to another’s.

It is true that traveling costs can be prohibitive, but I would imagine that if cost were an issue, the questioner would not have asked his question — he would know why people did not come and should have explained that to his new in-laws. To the extent that someone makes an extra effort to attend a wedding in a far away location, one should take extra care to stay close to them. A friend (or family member) who makes their affection known by spending lots of money AND time traveling is a friend indeed!

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