Wedding gift, or not?
March 19, 2009 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Emergency last-minute wedding gift etiquetteFilter! Invite sort of says don't really bring gifts, but sort of says do. What do I do?!

So I'm flying to Seattle tomorrow to go to a friend's wedding. And I realized, just now, that I should probably figure out whether to bring a gift.

Here's what the invite (ok, the wedding website) says:

We think that the best gift is your blessing and friendship! But if you would like to give a wedding gift, please consider the options listed below.

Charitable contributions:
We welcome contributions to two charities that are important to us:


Housewares and camping gear:
Macy's, Crate and Barrel and REI (registry links below):

and I don't really know how to interpret it. I know how to interpret "no gifts, please," I know how to interpret "charity in lieu of gifts," and I know how to interpret "here's our registry." I don't know how to interpret all three in the same place!

Other info...

-The friend is pretty good, but not super-super close BFF.

-I'm a poor grad student, and, honestly, the whole gift registry thing puts me off. But perhaps I should at least give a good bottle of wine or something? The friend is a grad student too, but I think her family has money, and I'm not sure about the intended.

-I'm already spending $300+ on a junket to Seattle to attend this thing.

What to do? Save me, MeFi!
posted by paultopia to Human Relations (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Get them some inexpensive, fun camping gear.
posted by kldickson at 3:40 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: First of all, don't worry about the timing. It's considered totally acceptable to send wedding gifts in the mail a good couple months after the wedding. You don't have to figure this out immediately.

I personally would say if you are broke, and they strongly say the gift is optional, I would be willing to take them up on that option. But maybe I'm just a heel.
posted by aubilenon at 3:41 PM on March 19, 2009

It's a wedding, so bring a gift or donate to one of the charities. You don't have to spend a lot, especially since you are traveling to be there.
posted by donajo at 3:41 PM on March 19, 2009

Sounds like you are perfectly fine to not bring a gift, especially since you're traveling from far to get to the wedding. The other stuff (registrations etc) seem to be intended for those who'll still give a gift so they don't end up with twelve waffle irons.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: Make a donation you can affored in their name and write up a nice card referencing it. They'll get a note from the organization in a week or so that by etiquette will not note the amount if that's a worry.

No gift to buy and pack along, it meets their guidelines and gives you some privacy.

Done and done.
posted by Science! at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alternatively you could make a small donation that you can afford to one of the charities and give them a nice card congratulating them and mentioning the donation (without saying anything about the amount).
posted by aubilenon at 3:42 PM on March 19, 2009

You have a year to send a gift, if you want to send one at all. A gift is never a requirement; this is why it's called a gift and not an entry fee.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I like this months after the wedding thing -- perhaps I'll take that as license to de-stress for now. Thanks everyone for the blazing fast resolutions to my panic. :-) (MeFi: the best site ever? I think so.)
posted by paultopia at 3:49 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: Don't even worry about it. I am doing the same thing, it means that they just want you there, but are registering so that their grandmother/whoever who was going to get them stuff regardless will buy stuff they can use.

You shouldn't take presents to the wedding regardless, hard to cart them home for the couple.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 3:56 PM on March 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

If you have any artistic/creative talent, make a gift that is meaningful to both of you. You could even give them an IOU/coupon for a special dinner with them in the future, etc. Use your imagination.
posted by pyngthyngs at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2009

Interpret it as supertacky. Your "put off" instinct is the correct one.
posted by kmennie at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Supertacky? It seems like they're giving people who can't/don't want to give a gift an out, an option for people who would prefer to give to a charity, and a registry for Aunt x/Grandma who will not take "no gifts, please" for an answer. Perhaps it's tacky to be so open about the option giving, but it seems nice and non-confusing to me. If you have the money, give or buy something in the next couple of months, or don't give anything if it's a hardship for you.
posted by MadamM at 4:38 PM on March 19, 2009

Best answer: kmennie - Huh? How is a gift registry 'off putting'? There are people who will buy gifts for a wedding, even if the invite says in big red flashing letters *NO GIFTS*. This way, at least the bridal pair will get stuff they can use, rather than cruft they have to return. A gift registry isn't a begging list -- it's like a kid's Christmas list. It's a way of ensuring that a) the couple doesn't spend the first three months of married life returning extra gifts (who needs five blenders?), and b) that people who want to give a gift will feel reasonably sure that their gift will be appreciated (queen size sheets don't work on a king size bed, regardless of how spiffy they are).

The invite makes perfect sense.
1) We don't want material gifts. We want you at our wedding.
2) If you must spend money on us, send it to one of these charities.
3) However, we realise that some of you (gramma, aunt louise, great uncle max) really feel uncomfortable if you don't give something. For you, we've registered here and here so that we won't get something we have to hide from our friends (or four tablecloths that don't fit the dining room table that we never use tablecloths on anyway).
posted by jlkr at 4:57 PM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

I suppose I'm supertacky, then. We wanted to say "no gifts" but instead decided to put something along the lines of, "we don't need any gifts, but if you want to do something, please either make us something or donate to these charities". (We have a lot of artist friends, hence the "make something" request.) We did not need or want anything, just the presence of our guests.

After that, my mother-in-law harangued me for months until I finally caved and also added a wedding registry at Target. She insisted that we have one because many of her relatives wanted to get us a gift and were just plain clueless about what to get without a registry. It was exactly as MadamM said above - we had the registry for the people who would not accept "no gifts, please" as an answer.

I'd say just show up to the wedding sans gift and share their happiness. People who say "we just want your presence" generally, in my experience, mean it.
posted by bedhead at 5:04 PM on March 19, 2009

Acer_saccharum has it exactly right, I think. We did exactly the same for our wedding - specified no gifts, told people when we saw them that it was no gifts, but did a registry because some will always buy a gift and it might as well be something we can use.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:12 PM on March 19, 2009

People who say "we just want your presence" generally, in my experience, mean it.

Except when they follow that expression with a list of freaking housewares.

Weddings are a racket, but if you're going, you have to play. Take a gift.
posted by rokusan at 5:38 PM on March 19, 2009

Weddings are a racket, but if you're going, you have to play. Take a gift.

My opinion is the opposite. They say no gifts, then not giving any gifts is totally fine. Have a good time. If you feel weird being empty-handed, write them a letter telling them how much they mean to you and send it along with a photo of them that you have and they don't. My interpretation is the same as others'.

- No gift is okay
- A charitable donation is fine if you're moved to give one
- Registry available because either they've been hassled into it or because people expect it.

I go to weddings and if I'm travelling I rarely bring gifts, or I bring something small that says "I'm thinking of you warmly." If people think that's rude, then that's what they think.
posted by jessamyn at 6:47 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's actually fairly significant, in my mind, that it's the wedding website, and not the invitation that includes that breakdown.

Were it a formal invitation with registry information enclosed (tacky by definition), I'd think they were trying to appear unmaterialistic and trendy, while secretly hoping for gifts. But on a wedding website makes it seem a lot more like the "Great Aunt Louise is going to buy you some towels no matter what you say, so if you don't want them in lilac with fuchsia accents, I suggest you register" factor has come into play, and they're just listing it all there for convenience.

One the other hand, when you don't secretly want gifts, and are doing an obligatory registry for Great Aunt Louise, you don't usually register at 3 different flipping stores, so there's still some room for "secretly wants gifts" to come into play here.

Were it me in your financial and social position, I'd make a small donation to charity and give them a lovely card that references the donation but not the amount. Whether they were secretly gift grubbing or not, they can hardly fault you for following their instructions. I don't generally like charitable giving in lieu of gifts, but I think that in this case it might be the best option for ensuring that you've lived up to whatever their expectations happen to be -- what they've actually written or something you were supposed to read between the lines.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:05 PM on March 19, 2009

N'thing a small donation and a card. The everlasting damnation of someone who tracks gifts and holds a perceived lack of generosity against you (after you traveled to be at their wedding) isn't worth stressing about too much. But I'm a wedding grump :)
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:12 PM on March 19, 2009

Nthing that the mixed-message-ness seems to me to be an obvious cave to parents/older relatives who just can't get their heads around no gifts/donate/make something.

Think of it as a code -- the part that appeals to you is the part you should follow.

I think a card is always nice, though.
posted by desuetude at 6:41 AM on March 20, 2009

There's a possibility that they're being passive-aggressive about it. However, it does seem that they're giving you an out. Don't feel bad about taking it.

If you ever feel like it, you can always give a gift. That's the nice thing about gifts. :)
posted by Citrus at 7:21 AM on March 20, 2009

It's totally fine not to bring a gift. You're spending money to be there; that's a gift. If you really want to give them something, mail it after you get home, so neither of you have to cart it around. Or just write them a nice letter- "real" mail is rare these days and fun to get.

A wedding is not a shakedown, much though some people try to turn it into one. :)
posted by oblique red at 4:27 PM on March 23, 2009

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