The Gift of Going

by epi on February 22, 2012

Q: I am headed to a destination wedding in St. Maarten.  I have already bought an engagement gift, bridal shower gift and bachelorette gift.  I am flying to the island and staying there four days for the event.  Do I need to give another gift?  If so, what amount of money is appropriate?  (I usually give $100 per attendee.)

A: Weddings and the preceding events often involve gifts to the couple, especially if you are an attendant or a close friend.  An engagement, shower, bachelorette and wedding gift may be appropriate if you are a bridesmaid or a best pal.  Past gift-giving customs dictated a separate gift for each event, but, with the possible exception of a wedding gift, these gifts were not as elaborate or as pricey as they are today.  For example, an embroidered handkerchief or a set of dishtowels were considered acceptable shower gifts.  Today, kitchen appliances and implements are more the norm.  At a certain point, common sense says enough is enough, as is the case when a guest is invited to multiple showers and isn’t expected to take a gift to each one.  You have already given this couple numerous gifts, not to mention the gift of your presence at their destination wedding, which many couples consider to be their wedding gift.  Depending on your budget and your closeness to the couple, I say you do not need to go all out on a wedding gift, too.  That said, there’s plenty of gray area here.  Since you don’t necessarily need to give the couple another gift, the question is whether you want to give them one.  If you do, then instead of worrying about the correct amount of money to spend on the gift (for which there is no guideline other than your budget and your affection for the couple), think of something they might enjoy after the wedding.  That might be a “Welcome home!” bottle of Champagne or a photo book made from pictures you took over the wedding weekend.  Think about your friend and what feels good and right for your relationship.  In any case, enjoy the wedding and be there for your friend and her new husband.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne February 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

My husband and I were married in a small civil ceremony last month so that we could be together in the UK while he is finishing his PhD. Because of the quickness of the event, only immediate family could attend and we both come from large families. Following the ceremony, we sent out marriage announcements to those we wished could have been there and stated that when we move back to the States this summer, we would like to have a much larger celebration with our friends and family. What is the best protocol for following through on this type of celebration?

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Alicia February 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

Host a party. Any type of party you would like to have. Wedding has come and gone but a 6 months anniversary party or something like that could be charming and fun.

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Stephanie April 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I have been invited to a friend’s bridal shower/bachelorette party, but have yet to receive an invitation to her wedding (other friends have received invites). I’m not that close of a friend to her, but have attended other showers of hers as well. Her wedding is a destination wedding, but not out of any means unreasonable and within driving distance. My real question is, is it rude to invite someone to your shower but not your wedding? In all actuality, she isn’t paying for her shower, but is paying for her wedding. I keep hearing it is rude or it’s justifiable. I just don’t know anymore.

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Just Laura April 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

Good morning, Stephanie – yes, it’s impolite to invite someone to showers but not to the wedding. The only time that rule might be waived is if there is a workplace shower (not that I agree with those, but they are a reality). It’s akin to saying, “I like your gifts, but I don’t really want you at the actual event.” It doesn’t matter who is paying for showers/wedding. However, if you enjoy attending the showers and it doesn’t bother you to not attend the wedding, then don’t worry about a thing.

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Rena August 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I recently attended the wedding my good friend’s daughter. I had been invited to the shower but was unable to attend but delivered a very generous shower gift to her. I did not take a gift to the wedding and now my friend is very upset with me and confronted me about this. Was I wrong in not taking a gift to the wedding? I am very hurt by her lack of appreciation for the gift I did give and for my attendance at the wedding not being enough.

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Country Girl August 26, 2012 at 6:07 am

Even though you generously provided a shower gift (a lovely gesture, although not required since you didn’t attend) it does not replace/sub for a wedding gift. These are two different events, and a wedding gift is still given if you attend the wedding. That being said, two wrongs certainly don’t make a right. Your friend should not have confronted you to make you feel bad.

Some etiquette experts say wedding gifts can be given after the wedding, so you still have time to fix your slip-up if you choose. It would be nice for you to give the couple a token of congratulations and thanks for hosting you at their wedding, and this seems like a small and easy step in mending your friendship.

On a side note- A wedding gift should always be thoughtful and within your budget. In the future you can decide your budget first and then divide it as you see fit between shower and wedding gifts.

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Winifred Rosenburg August 26, 2012 at 11:27 am

Yes, you should have given your friend a wedding present. Shower presents are traditionally smaller in scale than wedding presents so I don’t know why recently people have started spending most if not all of their budget on shower gifts. Actually in this case, you didn’t have to give a shower gift at all because you didn’t go. Generally you should spend roughly one quarter of your gift budget on the shower gift and the rest on the wedding gift. However, the greater rudeness here is your friend in instructing you to give her a gift. I suggest you give her a small gift and apologize for the tardiness.

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Elizabeth August 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I agree with CG and WR – but boy, I would be really turned off by my friend’s behavior if I were in your shoes. The rules of gift-giving have two sides: as a guest, you have certain obligations to give, but as the host or bride/groom, your obligation is to expect nothing and to be grateful to people for sharing your event. People are not invited to things so they can get gifts! There is nothing to be gained by getting angry at someone for not gifting, except for the bad feelings you now feel. Plus – how do you come back gracefully from something like that? How do you now send the newlyweds and gift and feel good about it, and them feel good about accepting it knowing that you were guilted into it by mom?

I wonder, Rena, if your friend is doing some bean-counting. Did she give two generous gifts to a child of yours that was married, or do something big for you recently? People have funny ideas about quid pro quo, and it could be that she’s engaging in some calculus that hadn’t occurred to you. Did she throw your daughter a shower and get her a gift? If something like that is the case, she may be feeling like you didn’t hold up your end of “the bargain.”

Personally, I feel like if you gave a really generous shower gift and didn’t even go to the shower, that pretty much fulfills your obligation. An additional wedding gift would be nice, but I can absolutely see how you felt like – well, I already got her something expensive and it kinda counts for both. If you had gotten her a trifle for the shower, that would be different.

At this point, if you want to just pacify your friend, find something kind of unique-ish, and send it to the couple by explaining that you just hadn’t found the right thing until now, and here it is with your well wishes. But if I were you, my feelings about my friend would probably be irreparably damaged.

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Country Girl August 26, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I can see your point Elizabeth in that friend’s behavior may sour Rena’s mood a bit about getting a gift, but I would not presume to take out those feelings on the wedding couple. A gift should not be thought of as an obligation, but rather a token of congratulations for the happy event that they have invited you to share with them. It seems like saying “well I already spent xyz on the shower gift so that should count for both” is almost the same amount of bean counting as the friend. If in the future you do not feel close enough to a couple to want get them a wedding gift, the best option would be to decline the wedding invitation all together.

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