The topic of wedding gifts, specifically whether or not a wedding guest must give one, is touchy. While it’s by no means mandatory to gift the happy couple, most consider it the right thing to do. It’s a gesture of goodwill and a lovely way to express your support of the newlyweds. That said, it’s highly likely that not every guest at a wedding will oblige. In fact, it’s been estimated that between 7 and 10% of guests at a wedding fail to give a gift. If, like me, you’re: a) petty AF and/or b) someone whose love language is receiving gifts, you may be wondering WTF is wrong with these people? how to handle this situation. Fortunately for you, I’ve been through this and have some advice on the matter. To be clear, you should not accost every person on your invite list who failed to get you something off the registry, or make a passive-aggressive Facebook status derailing “how selfish people can be these days.” What you should do is take into account the particular circumstances, your relationship to the person, and act (or don’t act) accordingly.
1. The No-Show
Let me be clear. By “no-show,” I don’t mean someone that RSVPed “yes” and then failed to show up to the wedding at the eleventh hour. Barring a true emergency, that person should be ashamed and should absolutely send a gift to make up for the added stress and expense their last-minute ghosting caused. Instead, I’m talking about the person that RSVPed “no” from the get-go. While it’s certainly the classy move for such a guest to send a gift, it’s definitely not required.
How To Handle: This one is understandable, especially if the guest in question isn’t a close friend or family member. You may feel disappointed if the guest is someone near and dear to your heart, but there’s not much you can do or say without looking tacky. Make peace with the fact that this is perfectly acceptable and move on.
2. The Flaky Friend
We all have that one friend who is all over the place. They flit from event to event, and can barely remember to brush their hair, let alone put together a wedding gift. It’s inevitable that this friend is going to neglect to send a gift, even after a reasonable amount of time has passed.
How To Handle: What is a “reasonable amount of time,” you ask? Tradition has it that guests have up to one year to send a gift. But seeing as how we live in the age of next-day delivery and most of us can barely remember what we ate for lunch yesterday, this seems a bit antiquated. A couple of months appears to be the new norm. If at least that much time has passed, you consider this person a good friend, and are fairly sure it was an oversight, it might be worth having an honest conversation. But it’s important to make it about your feelings and emphasize that the nature of the gift is of no importance. For example: “I consider you a good friend and it hurt me that you didn’t even acknowledge the wedding with a card.” A true friend will immediately own the gaffe and make things right.
3. The Reciprocator
This should go without saying, but if you attended someone’s wedding and did not get them a gift, then you have no right to complain if they return the favor and arrive at your wedding empty-handed. While technically, two wrongs don’t make a right, your petty self should respect the game and do better next time.
How To Handle: Zip it, acknowledge your hypocrisy, and fix your life start practicing the Golden Rule.
4. The One Who’s Gone The Extra Mile (Literally or Figuratively)
It’s no secret that weddings aren’t cheap, especially when you consider all the other related events such as an engagement party, bachelor/bachelorette, or a bridal shower. For those guests who aren’t flush with cash, these costs can build up quickly, and adding a wedding gift on top of everything else might understandably be more than some guests can handle financially. It’s also important to consider the guests who have expended considerable time and money traveling to the wedding and other events, especially when these events are more than a brief car or train ride away. This is especially true for the members of your bridal party.
How To Handle: The best approach here is to be grateful for everything this guest has contributed up until the wedding. Whether it’s the bridesmaid who has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on celebrating you multiple times leading up to the wedding (and buying a bridesmaid dress she can never totally wear again), or the friend who flew in from a different continent to be there for your big day, try to channel your inner Elsa and let it go. If you really can’t help yourself, you can try sending a subtle hint in the thank you note by thanking this guest for their presence and see if they pick up on the signal. If they don’t, move on.
5. The Borderline Invite
This is by far the most frustrating one of the bunch. There’s always going to be at least one guest you’re hesitant about, who you ultimately decide to invite, whether it’s a colleague you’re lukewarm on, a distant high school friend you lost touch with, or some other rando. In my experience, these are often the people that treat the open bar like it’s their last night on Earth and/or end up half-dressed on the dance floor busting moves that even a dad would find uncool. This would be fine, except for the fact that these same people are the ones that conveniently forget to bring or send a gift, leaving you wondering why you invited them at all.
How To Handle: If you can’t avoid inviting this person and they do end up disappointing you, cut your losses and try to distance yourself where possible. When you do see them, be polite, but there’s no need to dredge up the subject with someone you didn’t care much about to begin with.
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t care at all about wedding gifts, you’re a unicorn and I commend you for your magnanimous spirit. For those not so blessed, it’s perfectly normal to feel slighted and a little offended , but it’s important to consider the specific circumstances and remember that it’s the gesture that matters (not how much money your guest dropped on the gift).