SelfishFilter: Is there a polite way to say "gifts ok"?
November 24, 2013 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Some friends are throwing us a wedding reception and have requested "no gifts" on the invitation. Can I somehow ask them to change that or is that just the done thing now?

So after 6+ years of dating, my boyfriend has become my husband. Woohoo! We eloped in the Caribbean, and no one was invited. Some good friends of ours offered to throw us a casual wedding reception (I estimate over 10 and under 30 people will be there) at their house, because they know we are tight on funds (the trip was even a gift, from my parents!) and don't want to have to do the clean-up involved with hosting people at our house. Plus, they make probably 2x-3x what we do, and their house is much nicer and larger than ours. They are about 10 years older than us, if that matters. We have known each other for probably 5+ years.

The friends asked us to get a list of email addresses together, and said they would send an Evite. The Evite went out last week, and at the end of the invitation it says, "Your presence is your gift."

I won't lie, y'all, part of the reason I wanted to do a reception and send out invitations was so that I would get some presents. I give wedding presents to my friends, and it would be cool to get some too. We didn't register, so maybe that was a more polite way of saying, "They are not registered anywhere"? I mean, I am stoked to celebrate with my family and friends and if no one brings us any presents it will be an awesome party still, but...I don't know, I'm greedy and selfish I guess. Also, I included email addresses of family and friends who I know cannot travel, but appreciate being invited. As we did a non-traditional wedding, these were basically our wedding announcements (aside from Facebook).

My question is: is it possible to say to my friends, "Hey is there any way we could change that?" Should we just go register somewhere and then say, "Oh actually here is a link, people have been asking?" Will people just bring presents anyway, because that's what you do for these occasions? I don't want some people to bring them to the party, and then for other people to feel like assholes for NOT bringing anything because the invitation said not to.

Anonymous because I realize this is very selfish and greedy and as embarrassing as that is, I still really want to know the answer but do not want my friends to find this. (Also yes, I understand my friends are being very generous and nice and I am very very very grateful and excited, and I obviously do not expect any additional gifts or anything at all from them!)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (59 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I would just let this one ride, as is (you may get somethings/checks regardless of their note). In the future when you can afford to throw your own party, your own way, on your own terms and at perhaps a larger scale, you can have a gift positive celebration of your marriage.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:57 AM on November 24, 2013 [14 favorites]

is it possible to say to my friends, "Hey is there any way we could change that?"

Nope. Some people will bring/send gifts anyway, but no, you can't amend an invitation to ask more of your guests.

I don't want some people to bring them to the party, and then for other people to feel like assholes for NOT bringing anything because the invitation said not to.

That may or may not happen but it's not your concern, and it's not a reason to tell everyone to bring gifts.
posted by headnsouth at 8:57 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

That's weird. Of them, I mean, to specify that without asking you first.

I don't think it's selfish to look forward to wedding gifts, though I don't know if there's any way to do a take-backsie on this. However, there's still time to register and maybe ask yet another friend to throw you a small wedding shower. I'm suggesting that you register specifically because, if you don't, most people will probably just get you cash.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [21 favorites]

I don't know what to say because I find it really bizarre that they included that information without asking you.

Probably half the guests will disregard and get you a present anyway. You could put together a small registry and tell your host that you have one and that they can share the details with everyone. Kind of awkward though.

I suggest having someone close to you spread the word that you dont want anyone to feel like youre not just really excited that they're coming, but that if anyone really wants to get you a gift, of course it will be warmly received. Probably most the guests are agonizing over whether they can bring you one because they want to despite the statement made.
posted by cacao at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [17 favorites]

People who are going to bring gifts will pretty much ignore the "your presence is our present" on an invitation. I wouldn't change the invitations, really.
posted by xingcat at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

They're throwing you a party -- you're not having a wedding. They are the hosts of the party. No.

Also, it's a fait accompli. There isn't even any way to do this.

I'm sure close friends who want to give you a gift will give you a gift, even without the party.
posted by kmennie at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [43 favorites]

is it possible to say to my friends, "Hey is there any way we could change that?"


Anonymous because I realize this is very selfish and greedy

I think you realize the answer to your question already. I'm not sure what more I can add.
posted by saeculorum at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

Oh, and you can also register and let your mother or some other relative leak the word that you've registered at place X and would really appreciate some help setting up your household, etc. That's the very traditional, Miss Manners way of asking for wedding gifts.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2013 [22 favorites]

That's the very traditional, Miss Manners way of asking for wedding gifts.

Miss Manners would say that this isn't a wedding. OP, let it go, people will get you gifts anyway.
posted by lalex at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2013 [16 favorites]

Your reception-throwing friends are correct in a by-the-etiquette-books sense, because the etiquette is that unless people have been invited to your actual wedding ceremony, they don't owe you a gift. Mere receptions (of any kind) don't require gifts.

However, people will give you a gift if they want to regardless of what the invitation says and without being asked. Do not mention gifts to anyone unasked, but if anyone asks you if you'd like a gift, of course you can say, "Oh, that would be so sweet of you! Thank you!" and you can set up a gift registry in order to be prepared if anyone asks you if you're registered anywhere (again, don't tell anyone about it unless they specifically ask about it).

You eloped. You didn't have the expense of a wedding, and you've had a trip and a reception given to you for free. Most bridal couples don't have it anything like that good. Count your blessings.
posted by orange swan at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2013 [62 favorites]

Mod note: Answer question. Don't argue.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:10 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some (most?) of your guests will probably give you gifts or cash anyway. The only way I wouldn't is if the invitation was more like "please don't give us anything, we already have way too much stuff and plenty of money" rather than just "no gifts necessary"/"your presence is your gift".

So it might not be even be an entirely bad thing, in that it lets any people who can't afford to or don't want to avoid it, and everyone else probably will.
posted by treese at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ummmm whaaaaaat?

Granted someone else is hosting this wedding reception on your behalf, but it's really not their place to decide that nobody should get you wedding gifts.

That is way out of line.

All of that said, ugh, wedding etiquette. It doesn't strike me as super polite for you to say to them, "actually we were specifically hoping for gifts." It would be beyond belief rude for them to issue some kind of retraction on the gifts thing. It would be double rude for you to send out another message with links to registries specifically requesting gifts.

So now you're kind of SOL, thanks to them and their shitty presumption.

I think traditionally the way word is supposed to go around about registries and the like is via word of mouth from the couple's family and friends. So you can definitely register, and make sure your parents, immediate family, and close friends are armed with the details to hand out to folks who ask.

But with invitations that say "no gifts", will folks ask?

There is one option for skirting the etiquette on this without being openly rude. You say it's going to be a small party. Can you get in touch with most of the guests -- or a few folks who tend to act as the social leaders of your circle -- and tell them about this misunderstanding? You could just say, "Oh, man, we are so excited and grateful that Terri and Jim are throwing us this reception in their home. But would you believe it, there was a huge misunderstanding about the gift thing, and 'no gifts' somehow made it onto the invitations. It's so silly, I know. But just in case you were concerned, of course gifts are welcome." Or something like that, which doesn't exactly grub around for a gift, but makes it clear that there's been a mistake?
posted by Sara C. at 9:14 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

Oh, and yeah, I think it would fine to register somewhere. And, actually, very helpful to those guests who do want to give you something.
posted by treese at 9:17 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Miss Manners would say that this isn't a wedding. OP, let it go, people will get you gifts anyway.

A separate wedding reception for a private wedding is seen as a distinct endeavor from the more unacceptable forms of separate well-attended weddings and receptions, according to Judith Martin. One can only assume that standard gifting protocol (no registry card but registry information communicated via word-of-mouth through close friends and relatives) would be likewise acceptable.

And again, another, separate wedding or bridal shower is also a possibility, but in terms of excruciatingly correct etiquette, someone else has to throw you one (and you're not supposed to ask for one, though most people I know who had them did, all on the DL, of course) and registry information should likewise be communicated via word-of-mouth/smoke signals.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 AM on November 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

If this were me, I'd probably set up a registry somewhere and then mention to the hosts "By the way, in case you get questions from people who aren't sure who they should ask, we are registered at [place]. I don't expect you'll get any questions about it from people coming to the party, but since there are a few extended relatives on the invite list who might not be able to make it, I'm guessing they may reach out to you to ask where we're registered and I just want to make sure it's not more difficult than necessary for them to chase down if they're trying to find the information. Thanks."

I think that approach lets them change the wording if they suddenly realize they've been a bit presumptuous in telling people not to get you a gift at your wedding reception, OR if they feel strongly that they don't want to be hosting a wedding reception where gifts are expected, they can continue on that course without having to explicitly refuse you. On your side, if they get weird or judgmental about "you can't ask people to get you a gift if they weren't invited to the wedding!", you have the cover of saying "Of course I'm not asking or expecting you to host a party for us that feels like a gift shake-down, we're fine with specifying no gifts, I just don't want any extended family members who ask to be told that we WANT people to avoid gifts or that we don't have a registry when that's not accurate."
posted by iminurmefi at 9:20 AM on November 24, 2013 [13 favorites]

Sadly there's no good way to correct this.

Having done the unusual: wedding for immediate family in morning followed by BBQ in the afternoon for anyone who wanted to attend. Invitations were by email and FB and were sent two weeks ahead of the event, we didn't ask for gifts and still got a reasonable number of them. Mainly cash/checks/giftcards.

I think that registering would be an intermediate and acceptable way to encourage the outcome you desire. Choose a close friend who is attending and let him/her know and there's probably a way for him/her to promulgate this information through the evite mechanism.

I also sharply narrow my eyes at your friends for refusing wedding gifts for you. That is really weird to me.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:22 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:25 AM on November 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

Putting "no gifts" without asking the guests of honor is astonishingly, hilariously presumptuous -- even though I don't think you're as entitled to gifts in this scenario as you would be if you had actually, you know, paid for and invited people to your wedding celebration.

If you do want to try for some, I think the only way this can be amended is if you casually tell them something like "so we registered at Macy's since people have been asking... what's the best way to message that so people know?" and pretend like you didn't even see the no gifts thing that they (bizarrely!) put down.

And then if people ask you or them, at least you can say "oh yes, we're registered at Macy's" and just pretend the "no gifts" thing didn't happen; and hopefully they will tell people too.

But don't feel like you got cheated here. You didn't invite people to your wedding. Come on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:33 AM on November 24, 2013 [9 favorites]

I strongly disagree that it's impossible to correct this. I believe this was an error of judgment of sufficient gravity that it actually must be corrected.

The way to do it is to have your friends (1) amend the Evite invitation and (2) reach out to guests and say something like this: "a number of people have approached us wanting to bring gifts for the couple, and we learned that they are registered at X, Y, and Z. We inadvertently included text in our invite that said 'no gifts.' Thanks and see you there!"

And yes, I agree that your friends were unbelievably rude to unilaterally foreclose your receiving gifts from people who care about you. It's especially a big deal because wedding gifts are really not just a token of affection, they are a big part of the wedding and they are counted on to help you get your lives started together. Which is why it is incumbent on your friends to correct this.
posted by jayder at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would be asking myself which would you rather have? Friends or trinkets? Uh ... because without appearing appalling rude in the hosts eyes there isn't a way around this to get what you expect. They offered to host a party in your honour and thus, you are their guests.

And I'm not sure you should try to use a back door to the request on the invitation, since I struggle with the idea that someone would try to skirt the original party because of an expectation the guests to give you a gift and, how to appear less rude to achieve that than the host of my wedding reception.

I'd leave it up to the other guests to decide if they want to commit a much smaller faux pas by bringing you a gift, which I'm sure they will.
posted by redindiaink at 9:44 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

The gift horse, it has bolted.

Decide on a registry and don't tell anyone. If people at the party say "we really wanted to give you a present", then you can say "oh, that's very kind, we'll need to put together a registry", and then you can circulate the registry details afterwards. If somebody discovers your registry, then you can say "oh, that's been sitting around for ages, we'll need to check whether we still need that stuff." Trying to alter the terms of the party itself heads into mooch territory. That's not ideal.
posted by holgate at 9:45 AM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the "your presence is present enough" stuff is just a polite nod.

I would be careful about assuming this. I, for one, would take them at their word if I saw language like this.
posted by jayder at 9:46 AM on November 24, 2013 [12 favorites]

Yes, I would think "phew!" and not give the couple anything. I also don't give cash -- which isn't to say that it's wrong, just that it's a regional and cultural difference. From the OP's question, it sounds like people in her circles don't bring gifts when they see that line in an invitation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:10 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would guess that the "Your presence is your gift" was just one of those "this is customary in my family" type situations and likely not anything deliberately presumptuous or an etiquette faux pas. Is it possible that it's some automatic wording on a template by Evite? I wouldn't necessarily assume it's the "polite nod" that rainydayfilms mentions but that does seem like a plausible explanation - like maybe in their family, the couple modestly says "oh, we don't need gifts" but everyone gives them anyway.

I would feel a little weird going to a wedding function without a gift (especially since it doesn't specifically read "the couple requests no gifts") and would probably double check with the host or a close family member.

I don't think there is a polite way to send out another email saying, "wait, bring a gift after all" but I'd go with the plan that others have suggested of registering and telling trusted family members. Someone who will answer if asked about gifts but not actively go around to everyone promoting it (if that makes sense).

And also, try not to worry too much about some people bringing gifts and others feeling bad because they didn't. Some people (my sister, for example) will always give a present no matter what. Some people will go strictly by the invitation instructions. So it seems to me that there are so many different standards for what should be done with regard to weddings that you'd go crazy trying to make sure everyone else's needs are met.

And congratulations! (My husband and I had a private wedding, too, it was great!)
posted by Beti at 10:16 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I included email addresses of family and friends who I know cannot travel, but appreciate being invited.

I think you should set up a small registry: for those who cannot come to the party, but would like to mark the occasion. (My relatives in the UK who couldn't make it to my brother's wedding in Canada were thrilled to have an online registry to choose from). Maybe get your mum to send the out-of-towners a link to it, and if anyone attending the party asks about gifts, let them know that this is an option? Don't announce it or anything.

Otherwise, I agree with most of the other posters here that reversing the "no gifts" rule for attendees is just not on.
posted by LynnDee at 10:18 AM on November 24, 2013

The inclusion of that sentence on the invitation might just mean, "Have you bought them a wedding present? That's cool, whatever. Please don't bring it with you." That's how I'd interpret it if I received that invitation.
posted by emelenjr at 10:41 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, I'm kind of in the 'you had a private wedding, someone else is hosting a party for you' so no big deal re gifts camp.

Any manners/ethicist person would say that gifts shouldn't be expected or basically requested.

Let it go. Your wedding didn't bankrupt you, your parents helped you have an exotic trip, you have have nice friends who want to throw a party for you, you are newlyweds...what difference will a few new sushi-sets make in the long run? Or were you hoping to profit from the wedding in some way financially? I don't think it works like that.

Ironically coming from cynical and somewhat bitter me, I think you should be grateful for what you have already and not be peeved that you aren't getting more!

Or you can try to put out requests for gifts but be prepared for some awkwardness.
posted by bquarters at 11:20 AM on November 24, 2013 [18 favorites]

Not only did you not invite these people to your wedding, the reception was planned by other people. Alas, you are out of luck. While it's never gauche to give a gift to the happy couple, it certainly would be gauche to expect them in this scenario, much less ask for them.

Congratulations, though.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

As we did a non-traditional wedding, these were basically our wedding announcements (aside from Facebook).

If you want to do a subtle gift grab, nothing stops you from printing out copies of a wedding photo and sending them with your holiday cards as a sort of wedding announcement piggybacking on the holidays. Some people may be inclined to send a gift in response, but it isn't as obvious as an engraved, standalone announcement. I think there is no way to get around the no gifts request on the evite without alienating your hosts and looking greedy to everyone else.
posted by payoto at 12:17 PM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've had the exact opposite of your situation, where I really didn't want presents, and the person organising the wedding (my ex-mother-in-law) really wanted people to be able to bring gifts. I finally relented (she convinced me that what I was after - people coming for the sheer joy of it, no pressure - was more easily achieved if people were allowed to bring gifts), but we had already told most people not to bring anything. I think my ex-MIL actually intervened after getting complaints from people, cause some of them had already gotten stuff, those who couldn't come wanted to send some sort of token of their well-wishes etc. Anyway, what happened is that everyone was told something along the lines of "if you want to bring presents, that is fine and they will be gladly and gratefully received" and that was fine.

I realise that it would be strictly speaking fibbing if you were to tell your host-friends "Hey, there are people who are actually a bit disappointed/ confused about the 'no presents' policy, so we decided to register with xyz and let people know", but I can assure you that there are going to be people who are either going to bring presents anyway, or are going to be disappointed that they cannot go for a sanctioned shopping-spree.
posted by miorita at 12:22 PM on November 24, 2013

You know when it says on obituaries "in lieu of flowers send donation to x" ? People ignore that all the time and send flowers anyway.

You'll get some pressies.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:24 PM on November 24, 2013

I think you should send out a formal wedding announcement to people, with no mention of registries. Some people will just be pleased to hear the news and have a memento, while those people who are just dying to give you a present will now have your address and can send you a present. If you do want to register, the most polite thing to do is mention your registry to one close friend and one of your parents, that way if someone inquires about your registry, they can find out what it is, without you emailing everyone in a gimme way.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:25 PM on November 24, 2013

perhaps you can ask a close friend to quietly spread the word (pretending it's their initiative ) that people are buying gifts for you anyway (which is probably true anyway) and you will happily accept them.

(this reminds me of that Curb Your Enthusiasm episode with Ben Stiller's birthday party)
posted by Bwithh at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're necessarily an awful selfish person for wanting gifts (part of it is that for some people, that's just Part of What Makes a Wedding, or a way to have some physical connection to your friends'/family's involvement in the wedding), but I do think you have to accept that it may not go the way you perfectly envisioned. That just happens with weddings, and if you can just shrug it off, I urge you to do so.

Something that hasn't come up, that I think makes doing a roundabout "but here is how you can give gifts" thing a bad idea: your host/planning friends might have reasons for putting down the "No Gifts" missive that you aren't aware of--financial hardships that other friends are having, or a larger pitch-in gift that's being organized as a surprise to you. Since you aren't the one organizing the party, I think you need to defer to the people who are--they may know something important that you don't.
posted by kagredon at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Plus, they make probably 2x-3x what we do, and their house is much nicer and larger than ours. They are about 10 years older than us, if that matters. We have known each other for probably 5+ years.

Miss Manners would note that you are very obviously looking upon this party not as a celebration out of the goodness of your friends' hearts, but rather as a commercial endeavor. "They make more money than we do, have a larger house, so it's only appropriate that they host the party rather than us. But - despite the fact that they're paying for the refreshments and cluttering their home - how dare they not consult us about our gift preferences!"

No, there is no tactful way to amend their invitation. The time for receiving actual household gifts - the blender, the crock pot, etc - is traditionally at the bridal shower. Some wedding guests bring such gifts to the reception, but in my experience the most common gift at a reception is a card with cash enclosed. So it's fairly likely that the guests attending this event will still enclose some cash or a gift card inside a greeting card.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:53 PM on November 24, 2013 [32 favorites]

Do you have pictures of the service/event/vacation? Put together some photobooklets as party favors to give out at the party. Inside the booklets, include a little note about how happy you are that the guest came to the party, how honored you are that Older Couple graciously agreed to host, and then maybe a no-pressure mention of where you registered. You can also send these things out to those friends and family who could not make the party.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:58 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is what the hosts send out--
An update from the happy couple: "A lot of you have been asking if we're registered anywhere. We've set one up here, but we're really looking forward to just seeing you. Thanks!"
But really, don't even do that. You'll get presents regardless, your friends who are hosting are doing you a huge favor and giving you a really nice present themselves, and certainly didn't include the "no presents" language out of malice.

On the other hand, I find your attitude to be pretty entitled, and seriously distasteful. It doesn't matter if someone makes more money than you, it doesn't matter if you've given them gifts for their wedding. You give gifts because you care about someone, not because you think they are owed, or that you're exchanging them for future gifts the recipients will send to you. I would suggest adopting this attitude, because it'll make you a lot happier in the long run.
posted by danny the boy at 1:18 PM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]

so I haven't used evite much at all, so I could be totally wrong here, but would it be possible to just quietly remove that phrase from the invite? you can't change the notification that already went out, but people will sometimes go back later and check the invitation that lives online for details, and to see who else is going. If you can get them to just delete that phrase without making a big deal of it, at least some people will see the updated invitation?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:18 PM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

As you can see from the mix of answers here, some people will probably think it's OK and some will think it's not.

For this reason alone, I wouldn't risk it.
posted by M. at 1:21 PM on November 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

And personally - I really, really wouldn't do it.
You mention having given wedding presents to other people in the past. I think this situation is different, in that in this case you are not giving your guests anything in exchange for the gifts (I realize it sounds cynical, yes). You are not providing food or entertainment and you admit that part of the reason you prefer to have it at your friends' house is that you do not want to clean up afterwards.

Even if you alienate just one person (and unless we were really close and affectionate friends, it would alienate me in this case), I don't think a toaster is worth it.
posted by M. at 1:26 PM on November 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

The easy thing to do is register on an obvious website or two, such as Macy's and Crate and Barrel. Make gift giving easy and folks are more likely to do it. Send the links to the hosts in case others ask them.
posted by barnone at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Short answer: No.

I totally appreciate that you're broke, homie, but: your folks paid for your wedding; people who aren't even related to you are paying for your reception - you've had a pretty sweet ride already, and no it doesn't really matter if they are earning a hundred times what you do. Being rich does not require spending of funds on friends that earn less, and $1000 of whatever can still be a lot for people who are wealthy.

As they have seemingly organised and hosted the 'reception' - it's basically their call, in my opinion. If I was going out of my way for friends like this, and then they made it clear that one of the major reasons for having the event was so they could get even more free stuff, I would be... disappointed to disgusted.

I'm sure you've been to other weddings much more lavish than yours, with tables groaning under the weight of fancy presents - but honestly don't compare yourself to that; everyone is different (and those people probably spent >30k of their own money on their weddings).

I can't help feeling you might have lost sight of why people get married and what weddings are actually ultimately for in all of this. It's a celebration of love and union; you will always have that and it truly is much more important than gifts.
posted by smoke at 2:11 PM on November 24, 2013 [21 favorites]

As someone pointed out above, maybe your friends know something you don't about a big group gift that's being planned. Or maybe they feel like since you didn't invite people to the actual wedding or pay for a reception/party of your own, there's no reason for people to feel obligated to give you a gift. I agree that it's weird that they put that on the invite without consulting you, but I also feel like it's their home and resources that they're opening up to you and it would be seriously undermining them to start a campaign to let people know that presents are encouraged, or more euphemistically, "welcomed."

You've already gotten two big gifts: a free trip to the Caribbean and a party thrown in your honor where you have to do none of the planning and clean-up but get to "host" your friends and family. Your community has done these things for you, but you haven't offered very much to your community in terms of including them in the celebration and being generous with your own resources.

It's ok if you can't afford a big wedding and a sit-down dinner or just plain wanted to elope rather than pick out envelope liners. But in these days when most couples already have everything they need for their household when they get married, I think wedding gifts should mostly be given in the spirit of reciprocity and celebration, e.g. "You are throwing a big party where I get to spend time with friends and family and enjoy myself and celebrate your happy day with you, and I'm giving this gift as a token of my appreciation for that and in support of this union that you've made me a part of by inviting me to be here." I disagree with the idea that someone is owed gifts just for getting married and I think that might be what is rubbing some people the wrong way.

All that is to say that you're not an enormous, selfish monster for being excited about the possibility of gifts. But I would maybe reevaluate the expectation that you should be receiving gifts against what you've already been given and what you've given to others in terms of opportunities to celebrate with you.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 2:17 PM on November 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

It's OK that you wanted gifts. Don't beat yourself up about it. In any case, it's probably not going to make you feel good if you ask for gifts at this point, because - like others have said - it's such a tricky social maneuver, and I don't know how one could even pull it off.

Traditionally I think that the gifts sort of symbolically offset the cost of the party, which is probably why your friends said "no gifts". If you'd like, I imagine you could throw an additional "formal" reception after the one your friends are hosting, but that would probably be out of your budget at this time.

I'm sorry about the gifts, but you know what? You're still going to get a few presents in spite of the line on the invitation, and I think that after the party is over you'll just feel nothing but good and warm and happy and loved, the memory and reality of which is going to last a lot longer than a blender. ;) Have a fun party!
posted by k8lin at 2:24 PM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

My guess is that they want to be clear that they are throwing you a celebration and not a fundraiser.

I can really respect that. As hosts, they can choose what kind of hospitality to provide and providing hospitality without expectation of return is really beautiful. It reflects well on them and also on you.

Being invited to a party but not the wedding can in itself rub people the wrong way, but man, especially if someone else is throwing the party it risks looking like 'oh so we're not important enough to celebrate the wedding with but they'll take our money."

My understanding is that a lot of traditional gift giving is sort of premised on the community feeling a stake in the wedding and the relationship, and conversely, the couple (or their parents) valuing their community's approval and participation in the wedding. You've kind of skipped that step.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

Along the lines of Salamandrous' thoughts: I think your party-hosting friends actually did you a favor with the no-presents thing. They spared you from being the object of resentment from some attendees who might not like the fact that they are expected to bring a gift to an 'after-party' for a wedding they were not invited to. I'm not saying that attitude is right or wrong, but I think it exists.

So, by adding that no-gifts line, your hosts are preventing any possible resentment on the part of your invitees, and making you look gracious.

Hosting a party like that is a lot of work, and is not cheap. All you and your husband have to do is rock up to the party, all smiles, and have a blast with your friends. That's a huge gift in itself. Enjoy!
posted by nacho fries at 3:36 PM on November 24, 2013 [16 favorites]

Depending on how close you are to your friends you may be able to ask them why they put you down as "no gifts" in a polite fashion, which combined with the registry and white lie idea, should make things work out better.

Wedding etiquette is wildly complicated, as evinced by the people arguing in this thread about how it should have been. I think your friends probably jumped on the bandwagon hush is talking about, with a certain degree of face saving related hemming and hawing about how a gift is not required. Think of it as guess culture on steroids.

I don't think you're being greedy because it sounds not so much like you want everyone to give you a prezzie as much as if a friend set you up on a blind date by saying (s)he doesn't like flowers, ever. It's not so much that you feel entitled to the loot as the loot would be nice and you don't want to create any barriers because you like the easy flow of loot that's part of the gifting culture you've participated in.

As or whether something is or isn't a wedding- weddings are a public declaration of coupledom, so in effect even though you're not re-vowing, I can see how you're not making a fine distinction here since you are effectively using this party to debut your marriage. Isn't the modern era complicated, with so many traditions meshing together?

So I would broach the topic by asking your friends, not angry like, but with tactful curiosity about the "no gifts" tagline, how they intended it to be taken. You'll probably get a jolly response about how people bring gifts anyway, at which point you can nudge them to share your registry.
posted by Phalene at 5:58 PM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not reading all the responses, but. It's actually pretty hard to get people *not* to bring you gifts-- at least gift cards to somewhere useful. I was VERY emphatic, when I got married, that people should not no seriously NOT bring gifts. We still got some. "Your presence is your gift" is a lot less emphatic than answering "But I want to give you something!" with "No no no please don't that would feel seriously weird". But I would agree with the responses that I did read that you should probably register somewhere and then have it leaked by someone who will be understanding of the situation.

It's not entirely selfish and greedy to want gifts, by the way. For one, it sounds like you can't exactly go out and buy a diamond-encrusted bread maker should the whim strike. But for, well, two, people genuinely like giving gifts to their friends on happy occasions. As I said, sometimes it's impossible to get them to not do so. I think leaking the registry subtly is probably the best way to go. And even if you don't get much (and you *will* get something), those who love you showing it in a celebration of your happiness is pretty nice too.
posted by Because at 7:15 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sadly, no. There is no way to amend at this point without it being tacky.

Also: Best not to mention it to the party hosts at all. Yes, it's a bit weird that they put that on the bottom of the invite, but on the other hand, they're throwing you a party at their house. It's awfully sweet of them and you don't want them to feel awkward about it.

Enjoy the party! And your new spouse (congratulations!)
posted by eleyna at 10:42 PM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

No way to do it without people seriously resenting you. But instead of just piling on (sorry), here's a though:

Register in all of the places that people would commonly check (for me, I check at Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, The Bay). Many people may choose to ignore the no-gifts thing and check for registries anyway -- if you have some, they'll buy from them.

Don't expect to get lots of things, and don't be angry at your friends who don't bother, but you may get something this way.
posted by AmandaA at 6:41 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all, congratulations on your recent nuptials!

My guess is that they want to be clear that they are throwing you a celebration and not a fundraiser...Being invited to a party but not the wedding can in itself rub people the wrong way, but man, especially if someone else is throwing the party it risks looking like 'oh so we're not important enough to celebrate the wedding with but they'll take our money."

posted by Salamandrous at 5:28 PM on November 24

What Salamandrous said.

When you choose to elope, you're basically saying to everyone else "It's more important to us to be married than to have a wedding; we're willing to forego all of the traditional trappings of a wedding--including showers and gifts--in order to get married." Which is a complete fine and legitimate choice. But like all choices, it comes with consequences. Once you've made the decision to elope, you can't come back and say "I still want you guys to give us gifts." I think your host-friends were taking pre-emptive steps to make sure you and your husband didn't look mercenary.

That said, according to wedding etiquette expert Peggy Post, these days couples who choose to elope can still have a traditional wedding reception at home. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear your dress again, have a wedding cake, and even create a bridal registry. Just understand that once you elope, wedding gifts become completely optional. They aren't even socially obligatory at that point, and there's no way to ask for them without looking like Mr. and Mrs. Grabby McGreedy.

The registry is actually a good idea, because it's also acceptable to give a wedding gift up to one year after the wedding (although three months is pretty much considered the accepted limit--after that, it just looks strange). There are folks who understand you situation and will still want to give you two a gift because they're happy for you, so a registry will help them out.

Here's what I would suggest:

(1) Register to give your friends who want to give you gifts the option.
(2) Quietly spread the word that you've registered via your social circle. Don't be crass and announce it on Facebook or via text or whatever.
(3) Go to the reception, have a blast (presents or no presents)
(4) The next day, immediately compose and mail out thank-you notes to those people who brought presents for you to the reception. Also compose a heartfelt thank-you note to the people who gave you your reception. If your budget can stand it, deliver that note with a small gift.
(5) The day after that, compose and take to a printer wedding announcements that you will mail to everyone you would've invited to your wedding if you could have. To wit:

With great joy we announce that
we were married on
Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
in Lovely Island, Caribbean

Our painfully small [guest list/budget/venue/whatever]
meant there were many loved ones
we were not able to invite.

We deeply missed having you there,
but you were in our hearts
and we hope to see you again soon!

We're beginning our new life together
in our residence:
Our Names
12345 Our Street
Our Town, Our State 67890

(maybe include a photo or two, or a link to an online compilation of wedding photos/videos)

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL YOU INCLUDE INFORMATION ABOUT A REGISTRY IN THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. Let family and friends pass on registry info to those asking for it.

Wedding announcements going out will likely trigger another round of wedding gifts being delivered to your home, from friends who wouldn't have been able to attend your wedding regardless but want to show that they're happy for you and that they understand your situation. Again, none of this gift-giving is socially obligatory, and you should prepare yourself for the fact that you won't get as many gifts as you might have had you not eloped.

Whatever gifts you do receive, you will write and mail thank-you notes to the givers as soon as humanly possible. This is not optional.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:52 AM on November 25, 2013 [11 favorites]

I would register somewhere really mainstream so people can easily find it and not worry about the invite. When friends have babies, I check Babies R Us and Target for their registries before I ask. For weddings, I would check Target and some other places. If I got an invite that said that but I still wanted to give a gift, I'd check around for a registry and then give cash if I did not find one. If people do bring gifts, don't open them at the party or it could be awkward for those who did not bring gifts.

I am of the opinion that setting up a registry is not selfish, no matter how you did the ceremony/party. It helps people who want to give you something and prevents duplicate gifts. I've been to several post-elopement parties and brought gifts each time.
posted by soelo at 9:20 AM on November 25, 2013

You know what? I think it is a bit greedy to ask for presents in a situation like this. As an invitee I would probably reconsider attending your reception were I to recieve a second notice saying, "no wait, that was a mistake, please DO bring gifts." If I was a close friend I would probably be getting you a gift anyway, but I would be uncomfortable feeling like you were telling me to get you one when you hadn't invited me to your wedding or even had the reception yourselves.
My husband and I had a tiny, informal wedding. We asked for no gifts. Our celebration was in no way dimished nor are we short of any pots or pans or blenders. Its OK not to think of the start of your relationship as a big giant gift grab. In fact, I would say its better, sweeter and more sincere sans gifts.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:14 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I also think it's pretty impossible to ask for gifts at this point. You're already married; the ship has sailed. Also, you're not hosting/footing the bill for the party. Your friends are.

I fall into the camp that your friends were looking out for you, so that no one might gossip that you're having a party as a gift-grab.
posted by Windigo at 1:12 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The simple answer is that you are not supposed to mention gifts ANYWHERE on the invitation. Not even to say "no gifts, please".

Extended explanation: Saying "no gifts" is a recipreversexcluson - a statement that can only be interpreted as meaning anything other than itself. And, you are NOT inviting people to your wedding BECAUSE you want presents, therefore you do not mention presents in the same breath as you invite them.

But, the invitations have already gone out so there's nothing to be done about that now. If they hadn't, you could have mentioned this to the friends who are kindly organizing this for you. What you could have said is, "I really don't want to mention gifts on the invitation at all, could we please take that off? Thanks." Too late now.

Next answer: another reason why you don't want to say "no gifts" is because you do want gifts. If you hadn't eloped, I would be telling you about the pros and cons of registries. However...

The trouble is that you have eloped. The point of eloping is that you are not having a wedding. You have none of the hassles associated with a wedding, but the flip side of it is that you have none of the shiny bits either. This is obviously where your friends are coming from when they say "no gifts please". I think they're coming from the right place here, but they're also in the wrong for calling it a "wedding" invitation because you forfeited your wedding when you eloped. I think they should have pitched this as a party and let the grapevine and inference take care of the rest, but... again, that horse has bolted.

Normally I'm dismissive of people who are suspicious of weddings as gift-grabs; I think it's a very mean-spirited assumption which should not be your problem to worry about. However in this case I do think it is something to think about. A gift is a de facto obligation for a wedding so a lot of people are going to feel like they're being hit up for something expensive after you eloped already. You are not being cynical, but you have to mind the risk of giving the impression that you are.

And yet at the same time, it's not okay to mention gifts in the same breath as an invitation, and furthermore you really wouldn't say no to gifts if they were offered. So what you do is, do NOT register. Just don't. NO registries NO NO.

If anyone asks you or your friends what you want for a gift, you say "oh my goodness you are so so kind but really! honestly! all we want is to see you there. That's present enough for anyone!"

If they press you, you say, "no no really."

If they grab you by the throat and scream, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!? JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT!!!" you then have my permission to go "eep" and point at their hands. When they let you go, you have a surreptitious peek at the list you are hiding under your desk, and you look at what is not crossed off the list, and you say "well we really, as I said, don't want anything but the pleasure of your company but if you absolutely insist, maybe, oh, off the top of my head a Kenwood Compact FP120 1.4 Litre Food Processor in White? You know, hypothetically." And you surreptitiously write their name next to that item as you cross it off your top secret list that you don't actually have.

Will some people take you at your word that you don't want gifts? Probably. Will some people guess at what you want and give you stuff you wouldn't have chosen? Probably, but that's the nature of gifts, you can't control 'em.

Normally, wedding gifts are sent to the bride's home in advance of the wedding, and people will have to figure that out for themselves. People who are giving you gifts will probably bring them to the wedding. It is common practice to have a "gift table" on display, but as you rightly point out, this is done at risk of making non-gift-bringers feel like assholes, and it's not really polite to display gifts like that, so what you want to do is designate somebody to babysit the gifts on your behalf and put them out of sight. If it is at a venue I recommend asking reception or security to keep watch over them.

The very next day, you must take some good quality writing paper - 100gsm or heavier - in white or cream. If it is not easy to find in post quarto size, guillotine it down. Then take a cartridge pen with black ink (as soon as you start writing you will understand why I have asked you to do these detailed fusspot things) and you must write "Dear Aunt Gertrude, We just wanted to let you know how delighted we were to see you yesterday and how glad we are that you were able to be there with us! We are thrilled with the banana straightener you so generously gave us. It is a perfect match for our kitchen decor and we look forward to never having to endure a curved banana again! Please scratch Tiddles' ears for us, and give our love to Tweetie. Sincerely, anonymous."

And then you must go ahead and write similar thanks to all the people who organized the party for you. In the future, you must invite them over to be seriously entertained in some way such as dinner.
posted by tel3path at 5:29 AM on November 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

And to clarify, you say you "eloped" - that is, married without warning - and no-one was invited. Elopement is not the same as having a private ceremony and a well-attended reception, sorry about that.
posted by tel3path at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

is it possible to say to my friends, "Hey is there any way we could change that?"

Absolutely not. Their actions say they think you are not entitled to any presents at this party, and they believe it to such an extent that it is already a fait accompli, thus not even a debatable point.

Should we just go register somewhere and then say, "Oh actually here is a link, people have been asking?"

No. Unless it is the truth that "people have been asking" (doubtful). This is no occasion for a self-serving little white lie. Your hosts will see right though it.

Will people just bring presents anyway, because that's what you do for these occasions?

Maybe. But as @tel3path said above, you eloped and this is not a wedding, so the usual expectation to bring a gift to a wedding does not apply at all here (hence why your hosts decided you definitely do not need to be getting any gifts at their house.)

I don't want some people to bring them to the party, and then for other people to feel like assholes for NOT bringing anything because the invitation said not to.

If "people not feeling like a-holes" is what you truly want, then at this point you should put the word out that folks should follow the hosts' instructions not to bring any gifts. You should also arrange with the hosts to have an out-of-sight place in their house for any gifts that do show up to be taken away to, so that nobody who shows up gift-less is embarrassed by the sight of a table full of gifts.
posted by hush at 2:23 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

As said above, there is not really any way to go back on this.

However, you also mentioned how this is the only announcement of your wedding most people have had so far, aside from Facebook. I'm assuming that these are just local people coming to the post-wedding reception. You could create a wedding announcement, like a baby announcement or graduation announcement, send it to all the people you're angling to get gifts from including distant relatives, and include a registry card. The timing of this should be independent of the reception.

This will be seen as gift-grubbing by the snooty set. Then again, even the snootiest of peeps will see a couple thats been living together for 5+ years as not really needing traditional wedding gifts, as you've already built a household together.
posted by fontophilic at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2013

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