Is turnaround fair play when it comes to weddings?
October 19, 2010 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Despite my profile name, my wife and I recently celebrated our two year anniversary. Yay! We recently received an engagement party and wedding invitation from a couple that didn't give us a gift for our wedding. Now, we're not sure how to handle the gift situation. Do we get them a gift as we would any other wedding, do we scale down the size of the gift, or do we not give a gift at all?

In fact, a surprising number of our wedding guests did not give gifts, so it's not like they were the only ones. In addition, there was no rhyme or reason to it. Some friends had traveled far to attend and gave gifts, and some were local and didn't, and vice versa. Another couple sent us a gift one week before their own wedding last year, so it would seem they were fully aware of the situation. It felt a little awkward to go out and get them a gift at that point, but it also happily settled the question for us in that case.

Some background, we're in our 30s, at the time fully employed and living together with all the basic necessities for our home. We lived in a one bedroom condo, and we were eight weeks pregnant, so we were not looking to get a lot more stuff, since we knew that baby gear was around the corner. As a result, our two registries were not extravagant, we ably communicated them to our guests, and both were simple to use. So no excuses there. The wedding itself was at a nice restaurant on the beach on a Saturday night, with a full meal and open bar (well drinks, but still). There was no wedding drama, and much dancing and rejoicing was had by all. We wouldn't have changed a thing.

This question was our situation at the time, and I read it with great interest this morning, though I'm not sure why the asker is troubled by only two guests without gifts:

I agree with TrixieRamble's quote from Emily Post (my italics for emphasis):

"couples shouldn't question a late arrival. Nor should couples ever ask why they didn't receive a gift from an invited guest. However, a guest who does not receive a thank-you note after a reasonable time -- usually three months post-wedding -- may contact the couple to learn if the gift was delivered."

We held by that tenet in deed and spirit. After-wards though, and just between my wife and I, we couldn't help but re-evaluate the friendships a little bit. From my own perspective, I didn't think it was possible to go to a wedding without a gift in hand. At the very least, I think of it as a night out on their dime and spend accordingly. Especially now, having hosted a wedding where the meal and liquor tab alone was over $100 a person (ahh, those last extravagant days before the recession), I still have trouble considering not giving a gift.

Now comes the time to decide, however. Do we give a gift as we normally would, get a token gift, or is turnaround fair play?
posted by love is a murderer to Human Relations (65 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't get caught up in pettiness. Give the gift you want to and can afford to give.

If that turns out to be nothing, then no foul. If it turns out to be something pretty nice, yay everyone wins.
posted by hermitosis at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2010 [22 favorites]

Gifts are not about reciprocity. It doesn't matter what the couple in question did or did not give you. If you would normally give a gift for this occasion, you should do it.

Looking at this as a chance to indulge a grudge is really silly. If it bothers you that much that they didn't give you a gift, you should probably consider whether you really want to go to their wedding at all.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2010 [48 favorites]

Repeat this as many times as it takes to understand it:

Gifts at a wedding are optional. A wedding is not a free shopping bonanza for the couple. Your friendships are not defined by how much money your friends chose to spend on you.

You should give the gift you feel like giving. You sound like you are asking permission to not give a gift. I won't give you that permission. You have to choose that yourself.

For what it's worth, I consider a good friendship far more valuable than a $100 catered plate. However, you may value that as you wish.
posted by saeculorum at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2010 [20 favorites]

It strikes me as really petty to worry about who did and didn't give you a wedding gift and use that to determine who deserves one for their own wedding. Especially 2 years later. Give a gift if you want to, don't if you don't.
posted by chiababe at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

From my own perspective, I didn't think it was possible to go to a wedding without a gift in hand.

There you go, then! Problem solved. You go to the wedding, you get them a gift, and you stop holding a grudge about not getting a gift from them two years ago. Unless you hate them so much that you don't want to go, in which case you send your regrets and a nice card. Seriously, the resentment about who did and did not get you a wedding gift two years ago needs to go. You were able to afford throwing a wedding that was $100 a person. Perhaps they (rightfully) assumed that you didn't need anything.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2010 [11 favorites]

Personally, I would take the high road and give them a gift as you normally would. It's a perfect situation in which to apply the Golden Rule. Let go of the tit-for-tat tracking of gifts- that will get to be exhausting over time.
posted by ambrosia at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I understand your disappointment with them, but it seems like you believe wholeheartedly that weddings are gift-giving occasions. So do I. However, I don't think it's healthy to let their actions control yours, or try to remedy a past slight by not giving them a gift. If you two think weddings have gifts, bring a gift.

Re-evaluating the friendship is separate, to me. Sure, it can mean the difference between a $20 gift and a $200 gift, but hey, it's the thought that counts.
posted by rhizome at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you would normally bring a gift, give them a gift. My then-fiance and I didn't attend the wedding of one of his cousins, and I was only 24 and didn't know you were supposed to send a gift regardless. A couple of months later, she did attend our wedding and didn't bring a gift and I always thought that was sort of petty. Not that I needed any more gifts, but you know. It was very much a pointed thing. Anyway, yeah, don't do that. Just give them a present if you want to.
posted by something something at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2010

If you expect something in return, it's not a gift. It's a business arrangement.
posted by the jam at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2010 [18 favorites]

Now comes the time to decide, however. Do we give a gift as we normally would, get a token gift, or is turnaround fair play?

Weddings are not contests.

If you are actually thinking this way, perhaps you should not be attending this wedding at all.
posted by madajb at 11:22 AM on October 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

Friendship is not a zero-sum game.

Presumably you spent $100 a plate because that was the kind of party you wanted to throw for your friends and family, not because you calculated out that you would receive $100 in gifts in return, right? No reason to start making calculations now then.
posted by Joh at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Don't let the behavior of other people dictate your own behavior.

If you would normally give them a gift, give them one and spend as much on it as you normally would with no thought of what they've done or not done for you.

This is not directed towards you specifically but I sometimes get irritated with the whole gift giving culture these days. People should give gifts because they want to and the unspoken obligations that have become attached to what should be a gesture of kindness and/or generosity drives me nuts. It isn't and shouldn't be a scorekeeping thing. /soapbox
posted by triggerfinger at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you feel that giving a gift is a critical part of going to a wedding, then give the gift that you would give, or not go to the wedding if you can't bring yourself to get one.

There are all sorts of times in my life when I have not have been able to spring for a wedding gift, but I couldn't fathom not attending a friend's wedding.
posted by Zophi at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2010

It's not really a gift if you're expecting something in return.
posted by mhoye at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm surprised that after two years you even remember who didn't give you gifts. Is there a tally going somewhere in your homes?

I mean, except for some really special gifts, I couldn't begin to tell you who gave me what as wedding gift and I have no idea, again aside from really special gifts, who gave me what for Toddler Zizzle's baby showers.

My own thoughts are, give a gift if you like, and don't if you don't want to. But is it really worth your time to go all tit-for-tat about happy occasions?
posted by zizzle at 11:24 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Assume they had their own reasons for not giving a gift and that they were good ones, even if there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to believe this. From there, it follows that there is no polite way to find out what that reason was, so you'll never know one way or the other.

Turnabout is never fair play to someone with whom you're on good terms; it then becomes simple scorekeeping, which is rarely among those traits which distinguish a person as admirable.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:25 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

saeculorum: Gifts at a wedding are optional. A wedding is not a free shopping bonanza for the couple. Your friendships are not defined by how much money your friends chose to spend on you.

I cannot repeat this enough times. I don't even have anything to add, really, because it's so accurate. Gifts are 100% completely and totally optional on the part of the guests, though a card/note is always good etiquette, whether the guests attends the wedding or not. The fact that you think otherwise is on you, not them. If you are a gift-getter, get a gift, it should have nothing to do with what these people did.

[In related news, this is one of the reasons I absolutely refuse to have any sort of engagement party/bridal shower or a wedding with more than immediate family present, and I'm currently pushing hard against formal announcements, though I haven't won that one yet. Wedding gifts are ridiculous, and while it's great if people feel like it would be nice to get you one, you absolutely are not entitled to one]
posted by brainmouse at 11:31 AM on October 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

It's a celebration, not the opportunity to teach someone a lesson.

You'd be surprised how often people don't give gifts, and it doesn't make the non-givers bad people. Things happen. People have financial problems you don't know about. They thought they sent a gift, but it was to the other wedding they attended that month. They were there to celebrate your happy occasion with you, which is what matters in the end, no?
posted by *s at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

If nothing else I would give a gift because it would make me feel like a good person.

I KNOW! that's not why you give gifts, but hey, I'm flawed.
posted by gaspode at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The answer, as always, is to take the high road. Get them something. It doesn't have to be expensive.

Do you not want to be friends with these people? If you don't want to, then don't go, and don't get anything.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a celebration, not the opportunity to teach someone a lesson.

Or a hostage exchange.
posted by brozek at 11:37 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You give a gift because you want to, not because you have to. At least that is what conventional etiquette says. I was truly amazed how few gifts I got for my wedding! But conventional etiquette says I should not have expected gifts. This is why thank you notes are so important. To not send a thank you note indicates that the gift was required and no thanks is necessary.

So give a gift if you want. If you don't, then the couple should not be expecting one. In the real world, etiquette aside, you should give a gift if you can, to not give one is petty.
posted by fifilaru at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

These things are unrelated. It makes only slightly less sense to say "I had food poisoning on my honeymoon, does this mean I don't have to buy my kid brother a birthday present?"

I'm also a believer that guests bring gifts, but I further hold to a strict "hosts don't get back at guests, ever" policy. I in any case hope that your reasons for devaluing friendships aren't entirely based on who gave you what during the Bush administration.
posted by SMPA at 11:42 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Why don't you just ask these friends whether you should get them a gift, a cheap gift, or none, considering that they didn't get you one years ago?

Of course, I wouldn't ask them such a thing because it's bizarrely impertinent and unfriendly, but maybe you don't feel that way.
posted by General Tonic at 11:48 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Gifts are important to me and I too would be annoyed/upset if I didn't receive a wedding gift. It would probably prompt me to re-evaluate friendships - not in a melodramatic way, just that I would start to consider (based on other actions) whether we were as close as I thought.

Having said all that, it remains true that gift giving is also important to me. In my head, if you go to a wedding, you give a gift. Frankly, if you get an invite you have to send at least a card. There is no going to weddings and not giving (if money is an issue, the gift is inexpensive).

If you have re-evaluated and they are genuinely your friends, go to the wedding and bring/send a gift. You don't need to spend a fortune - just your standard wedding gift amount (my personal minimum is a good bottle of wine - costs about £10).

If they are not your friends, don't go and don't send a gift.
posted by plonkee at 11:51 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I've attended the wedding of someone who gave my husband and me something especially nice, I've often made a special effort to give that person a nice wedding gift. However, I don't think that the reverse is appropriate at all. You don't know what their personal finances were like at the time of your wedding (even if you think you do), you don't know whether each thought the other had taken care of the gift, you don't know what life events or busy schedules or who knows what might have taken precedence over choosing a wedding gift to purchase for you.

A couple hosts the wedding they (or their families) choose, whether it's extravagant or low-budget. It's not a party thrown for the guests. The guests don't need to show gratitude by forking over money or gifts. Guests should give the gift they choose, based on their personal feelings and budgets--whether that's something off the registry or the pleasure of their company. Imagine you couldn't remember what, if anything, these friends had given you. What would you choose to do? If you'd give a gift, give a gift. If not, don't.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:52 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

This question upsets me because I have on occasion been in a position where gift-giving was difficult or impossible. Those situations were nobody else's business and I didn't broadcast them. But apparently there are people out there, like the OP, who are counting up what I did and didn't give them and valuing our friendship accordingly, even though, in one case, the scrimping that went into going to the wedding meant that was the only trip we took for the entire year, including holidays and whatnot, and meant that we couldn't afford to send a gift.

The message I'm getting from you, OP, is that your wedding invitations were actually gift demands (what with the easy-to-use, clearly-communicated registries, even!) and that if I were your friend, I would be incorrect to attend when in fact what you want is my gift. If I had to choose between one or the other, it is my money and not my friendship that interests you.

To be honest, if you were my friend, I'd kind-of prefer you just up and tell me that you no longer valued my friendship because I hadn't gotten you a gift. I'd prefer to end the relationship than have you sit there thinking so little of me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:53 AM on October 19, 2010 [36 favorites]

I am trying to understand the thought processes (and organization) required to know who didn't give you gifts at your wedding two years ago.

Consult your own advice: I didn't think it was possible to go to a wedding without a gift in hand.
If you want to continue being friends with these people, which is unclear from your question, then go to the wedding and bring the gift that you would normally bring to your friends. Otherwise, don't go.
Please don't be petty and go without a gift for the mere purpose of snidely knowing that "turn about is fair play."

Not to say that that I think it's tacky to not bring a gift to a wedding; just that you seem to think that, and you should act accordingly.
posted by purpletangerine at 11:56 AM on October 19, 2010

Don't be petty. This is not worth your emotional energy. Friends are friends. Maybe they made a mistake, but you don't have to. Give them a gift.
posted by anniecat at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2010

For what it's worth, I prefer not to give or receive gifts and maybe these people are the same. Most of my closer family and friends know this and accept it (though not too easily in some cases, mostly with wanting to give me things that I don't want/need, but that's another story). The thing I feel worst about is when situations like this come up and people who I am not as close to expect to give/get a gift. I just usually fold and give/accept whatever I can at the time but I'm never without a feeling of wastefulness when it comes right down to it.

Try a letter or a note or something handmade as a compromise... works for me, but still crappy situation nine times out of ten.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:03 PM on October 19, 2010

BTW, I will be attending a wedding a few states over for a former coworker and bought my own plane ticket. The bride and groom have repeatedly told us that our coming there was gift enough. I'm giving them a gift card for a small amount that I'm sure is not comparing to what they're going to be given (and I'm a little embarrassed, but money is tight) by everyone else who is local or in better financial circumstances, but I think it's okay because I am paying for my own plane ticket to be there. If I wasn't going, I'd give them a gift card for a larger amount, which they might prefer if they were greedy, but I believe they are the kind of people who appreciate someone making the effort to attend.

So to reiterate, being petty is not good and they could have probably done something else that would have been more fun with the time they spent attending your wedding. But you should be glad that they attended and that they like you enough to have attended.
posted by anniecat at 12:05 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, people keep track of that? And remember it, for years?! And reevaluate friendships based on whether they got a gift or not?

You've got to be kidding me.

If it makes you feel better, go ahead and don't bring a gift to their wedding (make sure to eat and drink more than your fair share, too) – thankfully, most people don't give a damn.
posted by halogen at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

The thing about weddings is that no matter what you do, someone will think it's wrong/tacky/insulting.
posted by shiny blue object at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take the high road. Not giving a gift (if you can afford it) is petty and mean. Since you received an engagement party invite, I'd be inclined to assume this couple was invited to your engagement party. What about a bridal shower/bachelorette party/bachelor party? All of those events cost substantial amounts of money. Maybe by the time the actual wedding got there they were tapped out or (mistakenly) assumed that after since gifts are not a requirement, but a token of their regard for you, they had already spent enough to prove that they cared.

I've been to several weddings where I paid for an engagement gift, bridal shower gift, bachelorette party gift/party and bridesmaid dress and then seriously considered not giving a wedding gift because I was so broke from all the other things. Cut your friends some slack and move on.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:16 PM on October 19, 2010

Some background, we're in our 30s, at the time fully employed and living together with all the basic necessities for our home.

With this in mind, I think it would be petty to refuse to give your friends a gift simply because they didn't get you anything.

In my opinion if you're old enough to have a real job and set up house for yourself, any wedding gifts you receive are gravy.

If your friends are in the same situation (self-sufficient adults who already have a home), you may give or not give, whatever works for you. But if you choose not to give, don't do it out of spite.

If you really dislike these people so much, maybe you shouldn't attend their wedding?
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 PM on October 19, 2010

Best answer: Everyone is suggesting that you take the high road and give the gift. I agree. However, you could also take the low road and give them a gift. You might enjoy spitefully thinking of how they'll feel when they see you got them a gift and remember they gave you nothing.

I recently gave a spite gift at a wedding (the circumstances were a bit different). I felt good because it was a nice gesture. I felt good because it had a bit of spite in it. They got something. I received a timely thank you card. I'm happy. They're happy. No cross words were ever exchanged.
posted by oreofuchi at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

we couldn't help but re-evaluate the friendships a little bit

If you were my friend and I learned that you were "re-evaluating the friendship" because I hadn't gotten you a wedding gift, I would be strongly inclined to pre-emptively break off the friendship with you.

Friendship is not quid pro quo or tit for tat. If you like these people well enough to give them a gift, give a gift. If you don't like them that much, don't give a gift. But this pettiness of "they didn't give us a gift, so we won't give them one either" seems ridiculous coming from a grown, self-supporting adult — to the extent that I almost expect it to be followed by "so there nyeah!"
posted by Lexica at 12:38 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not the OP, but I think that "re-evaluating the friendship" means that the OP and his wife have to wonder how strong their friendship is with this couple. Like many couples, we have "couple friends", and if a couple friend that I hung out with a lot didn't get me a gift or mention it, I have to say it would feel weird. So, maybe it has made him feel that maybe they are not as close with the couple as they had previously thought.

I don't think it makes OP a bad person to say or feel that. Give them a gift. It can make you feel good and smug at the same time. It's not like you'lll sign it, "Full of revenge, mr and mrs. love is a murderer."
posted by alice ayres at 12:53 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

You do what you would do for any couple starting their life together. Look to the future, not to the past.
posted by davejay at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2010

I completely understand your ambivalence. It may be "best" not to judge gifts (or lack of gifts), but the fact is that most people do. In my Italian family, my mother and aunts kept lists of who gave what for birthdays, christenings, weddings, etc. I'm not sure if they wanted to be sure to give generously to those who had given generously, or to stiff the ones who didn't give at all.

But now, here you are with a decision to make. If you go to the wedding, give a gift that you think is appropriate without regard to the couple's earlier omission. You'll be doing the right thing according to your own gift-giving standards. And you'll be taking the edge off your own slightly bitter feelings at their slight at the time of your wedding.

By the way, those people remember that they didn't give a gift, and are now wishing they had. Your graciousness might even make them feel worse about it >:-)
posted by wryly at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

It is 100% okay to go to a wedding and not bring a gift.

If this were not the case, people who have low incomes and who had to spend a lot of money flying/driving to the wedding would not be able to attend.

That said, thinking about the weddings that I've attended:

Wedding 1:
Wedding for my uncle and aunt. I was 11 or 12. No gift from me. My parents may have given one, but I'm not sure, money was very tight for them at the time and we all had to drive across the country to attend the wedding, which cost a lot.

Wedding 2:
Social-obligation wedding for someone I had been friends with between 3 and 13, but had drifted apart at highschool. No gift from me, I was a poor university student.

Wedding 3:
Wedding for my boyfriend's friends. No gift from me, I was a poor university student.

Wedding 4:
Wedding for my boyfriend's friends. No gift from me, I was a poor university student.

Wedding 5:
A close friend's wedding that I had to travel across the country for. Money was tight, but I spent hundreds on the airfare, and then another $100 or so on a gift. I got several small items from the registry, rather than one big item, and wrapped them beautifully in the bride's favourite colours with a gorgeous Japanese washi-paper greeting card and very carefully thought out well-wishes for their marriage and happiness. I think I spent about an hour composing everything good that I wished for them to go in the card.

Wedding 6:
A close friend's wedding that I had to travel across the country for. Money was very tight (it was touch and go as to whether I could afford the airfare to attend at all), but I spent hundreds on the airfare, and then another $60 or so on a gift that was very carefully chosen (one of the favourite activities that the bride and groom had was cooking together as a couple, so I bought them $60 of artisanal alcohol, jam, olive oil, tea etc from my local farmer's markets) and meticulously wrapped and decorated.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2010

You know, I'm a bridesmaid in a close friend's wedding this weekend. I dropped $600 on her bachelorette weekend, $175 on a dress and shoes, and about $350 in travel/hotel expenses for this weekend -- I should also mention that from the wedding I immediately leave for 2.5 weeks of intense work-related travel and I'm running around nuts trying to get logistics to work out, since I am single with a demanding job and not a lot of time to do things like run business-hours errands or pack or shop. And until I read this AskMe I had completely forgotten about the fact that I hadn't bought her a gift yet, and would have shown up to the wedding "empty-handed".

Yes, it is possible to show up to a wedding empty-handed. It is not because I don't dearly love my friend or that I'm not thrilled for her. It's not because I don't want to be involved in the wedding. It's not because I feel like I deserve a free expensive party. It's because even though she's very focused on her wedding, I'm very focused on the 800 other things going on RIGHT NOW in my life, and gift shopping hasn't made it to the top of the list yet. If she somehow thought less of me because I arranged my work travel around her wedding, dropped about $1000 on it, but failed to bring some fancy Crate and Barrel spoons to drop off on a table at her wedding, trust me, from my perspective, I'd be re-evaluating the friendship.

On that note, I suppose it's time to go check out her registry.
posted by olinerd at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd give a gift because I like giving wedding gifts. Having said that I'd like to posit the possibility that they have been fuming these last two years because you never sent a thank you for the gift they sent you which got lost somewhere along the way (courier, post office, hotel staff, misadventure, whatever).
posted by Mitheral at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Is it possible your guests were having financial issues? A lot of people have been having financial problems in the last few years.

The last wedding I went to, I had to spend money on a dress and shoes ($70), gas for a 850 mile round trip ($100) , take an unpaid day off of work (around $120 at the time) and also pay for a night at a b&b ($140).
So, my gift was coming to the wedding - since I was broke after paying to get dressed and appear.

My friend expressed in her wedding invitations that our presence was more than enough and that gifts would not be necessary... but if anyone felt they "must" give a gift, then it was to go to their honeymoon fund or a charity that they listed.
This made me feel more comfortable and I did not give a gift other than a card and my appearance. I did take a photo of them, frame it and gave it to them about a month or two afterward, though.
posted by KogeLiz at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take the high road. If you feel it is the right and responsible thing to do to get a gift then you give a gift. End of story.

Also, perhaps not getting them a gift won't send the message you think. They may just assume that you had similar circumstances to what they had the last time (which could be any of: broke, disorganized, inconsiderate, moral misgivings on the role of gifts, not properly socialized, meant to and forgot, etc.) and totally and completely forgive you.

* * *
I still feel guilty about not giving a gift to a couple that my husband and I were friends with years ago. However, they were really his friends first and foremost and I suggested that this time around, he should be responsible for the gift. Guess what? He never bought them a gift and I refused to cave. Guys? I know that a lot of your mothers didn't teach you good manners but just because you get married to a woman doesn't mean that you have no social responsibilities -- look up the registry on your own time. Buy a gift. Wrap it and bring it to the event.

posted by amanda at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's no surprise that everyone is getting on your case about this. Worrying so much about material things is, well, materialistic, and everybody knows that materialism is wrong. However, this doesn't seem to me like it's just about wanting more stuff for yourselves. It seems more like you wonder if people's gift-giving habits towards you are some kind of reflection of their deeper feelings, some measure of how much they like you and how important you are to them. And no matter what anybody says to you, this is really not a wrong or unusual thing to wonder. People do generally get their friends wedding presents, because giving is one of those things that love and friendship tend to inspire. So if you're wondering whether your friends' decision not to give a you wedding present was a sign of something, the answer is... maybe. Only they can tell you that, and you can't really ask them. So you can't know what they meant by that... but you have to recognise the important possibility that they didn't mean anything at all, because not everybody thinks of presents as a medium for sending caring messages. If this is a red flag for you, that's fine, go ahead and re-evaluate your relationships with some people. Just don't let this whole wedding presents thing carry a lot of weight that it doesn't deserve, because there's much more to a friendship. And when you've done all that, and you feel better, give your friends the gift that you want to give them, not that they earned, or didn't earn, two years ago.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:43 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

As everyone else is suggesting, get a gift rather than engage in tit-for-tat.

You can mentally file your grudge, and if the couple turns out to be chronic social parasites, ditch them at a later date. Different people are generous in different ways.
posted by benzenedream at 4:59 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

In that case since I don't plan on ever having a wedding (and receiving such gifts), I want all of those damn gifts I gave my friends at their weddings back!

I mean that's what happens when I follow your logic.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:11 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to give them a gift, don't go to the wedding. Going to the wedding and purposely deciding to not give them something because they didn't give anything to you is spiteful and petty. You think giving presents at weddings is the appropriate thing to do, so either bring a gift and go or don't go.
posted by that girl at 5:13 PM on October 19, 2010

The times that I have not bought a present it has been because I was pinched, usually by unexpected medical expenses (on top of travel expenses, usually) that I didn't feel like bringing up at someone else's wedding celebration. I figured a nice card and not making it about me by backing out or explaining my financial troubles and illness during a time designated for a couple's happiness was the more polite way to go. If you can come up with a good way to put 'I apologize for not buying you that Williams & Sonoma X off the registry, but not all of my medications and testing were covered by insurance, and I didn't want to make it public knowledge in front of all of our mutual friends,' let me know and if the situation ever arises again, I'll use it.

Seriously, if you were one of my friends, and I found out you felt this way, I'd cut you off and never miss you. I mean, I'd grieve, but only for the friends I thought I'd had.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:57 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OP here. Thanks everyone for contributing. This is my first question, and I was just so happy to have one that I thought hadn't really been addressed before by the hive mind. This has been fascinating to follow.

First off, I just want to say that we never lost sleep over this, but that it stings a little on reflection, nothing more. Based on the thread, maybe we've always been extravagant gift givers individually and together, but weddings are special, hopefully once in a lifetime kind of things. Maybe you need to plan and host a wedding to understand fully. And for those who wonder how you can keep track of who gave what, well simply, you have to in order to send thank you cards.

Let me assure everyone that this couple is in our circle of friends, we're aware of their lifestyle and spending habits and know a gift of any size would not have been a hardship for them. They did not travel and had no other costs in attending our wedding. We didn't have a bridal party for just this reason.

Also, I might have caused a slight dis-rail on two counts. By gift, I mean anything to mark the occasion, a card, a bottle of wine, anything at all. The registry mention was just to address if they simply felt overwhelmed and didn't know what we might need, they had options. And by "re-evaluating the friendship," alice ayres has it, in that we weren't considering dropping these or any other friends that didn't give gifts, but after the fact, we were left wondering just how strong the friendship was. Again, I've never gone to a wedding without something even when i was a broke student.

I've marked oreofuchi's as the best answer, because I really like the idea of a "spite gift." I think I'd be disappointed in the Mefi community if the option of no gift was really supported. I could never do that, but I will scale it back and feel no guilt. Thanks again.
posted by love is a murderer at 6:22 PM on October 19, 2010

"Let me assure everyone that this couple is in our circle of friends, we're aware of their lifestyle and spending habits and know a gift of any size would not have been a hardship for them."

Are you sure? You're SURE they're not living above their means and in danger of drowning? Paying off credit card debt? House poor? Supporting a sibling or parent? You're SURE they didn't have any unexpected major expenses? You're SURE they're not, oh, pursuing IVF or adoption or plastic surgery or something else expensive?

We just had TWO ER visits in the same month that drastically cut into our discretionary spending because we haven't hit our deductible yet, which led me to re-evaluate my budget for several baby showers coming up all at once. It's hardly a crisis and won't impact our lifestyle long term, but I certainly hope our friends aren't sitting there going, "I KNOW they buy wine at the good store and they spent a bunch on that basement renovation and all they got us was this crappy sleeper. I KNOW they can afford better than that."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:19 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Maybe you need to plan and host a wedding to understand fully. And for those who wonder how you can keep track of who gave what, well simply, you have to in order to send thank you cards.

I've done both of these things, just 3 years ago, and I sure couldn't tell you right now who got me the popcorn maker and who gave me nothing because, really? I was just glad to have them there to celebrate our wedding with us.
posted by chiababe at 9:18 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

The only things guests are required to bring to any gathering, including weddings, are good will and good wishes, regardless of what their lifestyles and spending habits are, or yours were when throwing your wedding.

When guests choose to bring gifts, guests should be delighted and grateful. That is the only transaction that should be going on when it comes to gift-giving. In fact, that is what makes it a gift.

There are plenty of reasons to demur on gift-giving, and scarcity of resources is only one. A guest could, for example, not think of or find anything that made them think "Yes, that is a gift want to give! That's an object that embodies my good wishes for these friends," regardless of what is on the registry. In such a case, a reasonable person might--and textbook etiquette permits a person to--simply offer their good wishes in words or in deeds. A deed such as showing up at your wedding, for example.
posted by celilo at 9:26 PM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, correction:
When guests choose to bring gifts, hosts should be delighted and grateful.
posted by celilo at 9:28 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm curious as to what's happened in the two years since your wedding. Has anything else made you re-evaluate the relationship, or was the gift thing a blip? (Some people have argued that you are wrong to see the lack of a gift as a problem at all, but clearly you do, so that's what you're working with.)

If you're seeing these people even once in a while-- and your posts make it sound like you're fairly close-- I'd have thought enough water would have gone under the bridge by now to give you a pretty good idea of where the friendship was headed. Either it's headed in a bad direction-- in which case why go to the wedding at all-- or it's not, in which case why give a "spite gift"? What kind of a relationship is that, where stuff like that goes on?

Honestly, I think it's kind of a myth that gift-giving practices don't affect relationships. A lot of people use, and interpret, gift-giving or its absence as a negative message. It goes on a lot with in-laws, unwelcome step-relations and other people you can't get away from. With these friends, you have the option to cut loose rather than engage in that kind of tit for tat.
posted by BibiRose at 5:36 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe you need to plan and host a wedding to understand fully.

Just did, dude, and I still don't understand or condone your entitlement.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

Are you sure? You're SURE they're not living above their means and in danger of drowning? Paying off credit card debt? House poor? Supporting a sibling or parent? You're SURE they didn't have any unexpected major expenses? You're SURE they're not, oh, pursuing IVF or adoption or plastic surgery or something else expensive?

Ignoring whether or not it's right that the OP feels the way they do - at least how about having some perspective? You can buy a wedding card here in the UK for as little as 59p ($1).
posted by mr_silver at 7:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

If the OP is the sort of person who monitors what his/her friends should be able to afford, and who enjoys the idea of 'spite gifts' to his or her friends, the OP is the sort of person who will figure out how much a card costs.

Welcome to my father's father and his family. My mother's parents--who don't believe in keeping score or playing spite games--may have missed out on the occasional present or chance to get some of their own back, but in their nineties lack for nothing when it comes to having love, support, family and friendship. In fact, it's from them that I learned it would be all right not to wreck my budget for gifts, because I definitely used to do so: my grandparents and mother told me that people who care enough to invite you are people who care enough to believe you are doing the best you can with what you have at the time--financially, organizationally, whatever--and any missteps they might perceive aren't intentional or were the product of circumstance or miscommunication.

As I said, these are extraordinarily generous, loyal and kind people, and they were also wrong.

I was angry before, OP, but really it comes down to the kind of people you want to be: do you want to be the people who think in terms of spite and score, or the people who are known for kindness? It's easy to be gracious to people who never violate our personal codes of etiquette. I don't think any of my father's family sat down and deliberately chose to be known as insincere and unkind. It's just that every time most of them were confronted with a choice between 'in the absence of outright abuse, assume the people around you don't try to hurt you on purpose' or 'send a pointed message,' they chose 'send a pointed message.' And eventually, everyone around them got it.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:52 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

Maybe you need to plan and host a wedding to understand fully.

Been there, done that with my sisters. My sisters who were both more upset that some people in our family could not come than they were that a few people who showed didn't bring a gift.

(Oh, and I planned my own wedding in less than two weeks.)

And for those who wonder how you can keep track of who gave what, well simply, you have to in order to send thank you cards.

Yes. But then shortly after the event, that list makes its way into the recycling bin. (And if it doesn't, it damn well should! Why on earth would anyone keep something like that for two years?)

And choosing the best answer you did does not reflect well upon you as a friend. Being friends is not about keeping score. If you're keeping score, you're doing it wrong. We had some very, very good friends give us extremely generous gifts when Baby Zizzle was born --- gifts that I could not even begin to return in financial means. So when one set of those friends invited me to their baby shower, I made their little girl my first knit blanket. It wasn't very good as it was my first blanket, and the yarn didn't cost very much. The needles even less. But I put 12 hours of work into that blanket, unraveling so many rows when I made a glaring error. And I bought the baby a book that Toddler Zizzle loved.

If those friends of mine were to turn around and say that my gift was not good enough compared to the gift they gave me, I'd probably cry. Honestly. Because I don't think I could have put any more of my heart into that blanket if I tried.

Keeping score is not a part of friendship. Giving a gift out of spite is not giving. In light of this information, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do not attend this wedding and do not send a gift, considering how poorly you understand giving.
posted by zizzle at 12:11 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

By gift, I mean anything to mark the occasion

How is attending your wedding not marking the occasion?

I planned my wedding last year, and I understand that when you're in the thick of wedding planning, it's easy to get caught up in thinking about how much each guest's meal is costing you and how much money you're spending on a lovely venue and wonderful music for them to enjoy. But the truth is, your guests attended your wedding to mark the occasion of your marriage, not to party. I didn't have a 1-to-1 guest-to-gift ratio, and I got even fewer cards, but I had a hundred people who gave up their weekend to come see me get married. I think a lot of them had a good time, but it wasn't such an amazing party that they'd have paid travel costs and committed the time if the event were just a party, not my wedding. They did it for me, and that's a pretty cool gift in itself.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:48 PM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just ask yourself how much you would pay for a night out with your SO, an excuse to dress up, two dinners (or whatever), dessert, and champagne. Oh, and a free show plus dancing.
If you would pay $30 a person, for example, get them a $60 gift and consider that it is not wedding-for-wedding reciprocity, but the price of a special date night for you. Never mind how they viewed yours.
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:02 PM on October 20, 2010

I think my previous point was lost on people. For many people (including, I suspect the OP) it's not about the monetary value of a present - but the thought.

Doesn't matter if it cost €1 or €100.
posted by mr_silver at 1:17 AM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

As the recipients, you had no grounds for expecting any gifts at all.

The fact that you were extending hospitality does not change this. If anything, expecting that your guests should repay you for the hospitality negates the hospitality and turns the thing into a business transaction.

Also, a wedding is a social obligation, often an expensive one. You go to honour your friends, and you may or may not have a good time as a result. In most cases, you have to dig deep into your pockets and take chunks out of your schedule just to get there. If you really begrudge the guests the $100 or whatever you spent on them, you could just make it easier for everyone by calling off the wedding and letting them stay home spending their time and money on themselves.

Now as the boot is on the other foot and you are the guests, you have - surprise! a nonreciprocal obligation to stump up a gift. This is because, if you care enough to attend, it is odd and jarring that you wouldn't give a gift. You might give a $5 gift. You might give a perfectly-chosen gift a few months after the ceremony and in the meantime give a card of congratulations and a "p.s. your gift is in the works, it's just taking a little time to get hold of it".

You don't get to give a tit for tat.

I agree that there is a personal aspect to gift-giving and that it is odd and jarring that someone wouldn't give you a gift even though they attended, so in some circumstances one might be left wondering whether the absence of a gift signified something, and if so, what. (I personally would be wondering if they'd sent a gift and it had been lost, but it was their responsibility to chase that up if so.) But two years have elapsed. If this were part of a pattern, rather than a blip, you'd probably have explained that by now. Unfortunately, an attitude shines through your question that I don't much like.
posted by tel3path at 3:49 AM on October 21, 2010

It's definitely about the thought. We recently went to a wedding of a childhood friend of my husband's - they explicitly said "NO GIFTS PLEASE" and we traveled 1,000 miles to be there. They didn't expect anything and were so happy to have us there - but we didn't want to come empty handed. My husband ended up slipping some comic books into the card box that had been given to him by the groom when they were kids....which I know touched him, and we heard about it in the thank you note. You could do something similar and personal, and not necessarily monetary.

I don't think it's about the gift, it's about the thought. If they attended your wedding and were kind and gave you some nice words and weren't pills or problem guests - then that was a gift enough. Anything else is gravy.
posted by agregoli at 6:02 PM on October 25, 2010

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