Wedding Gifts: The Etiquette Paradox

One of the things I learned recently is that the inclusion of wedding registry information on or with a wedding invitation is considered a violation of etiquette. It seems we humans like to make life difficult for each other at times in the name of social grace. The lack of directness surrounding wedding gift etiquette is one of those times. As someone getting married I see two guiding principles:

Principle 1: It is rude for me to assume you will give a gift, and it is also rude to even mention gifts.
Principle 2: It is rude for you to fail to bring a gift.

The workaround is the wedding registry. I can build a registry and leave clues how to find it somewhere (thank goodness for websites and the internet). You can then purchase things off of that list.

But this is not a perfect system. What if I wanted to say a few things directly about what would be most helpful as a gift? What if I wanted to request that things should be shipped to my address instead of brought to the wedding? What if cash gifts are really what we want? What if I wanted to write a statement about realizing that traveling to a wedding is an expensive venture and could be thought of as a gift in itself? These things are only done by tactless (at least that’s what I read).

So here is my tactless statement regarding my upcoming wedding:

I am very happy to be marrying Pamela this summer. If you are attending the wedding I am glad you will be there. Please do not feel obligated to bring a gift. Traveling is expensive, and we realize that your presence is a gift of both symbolic and tangible value. Pam and I already have two places furnished, so we’re downsizing to one as we start life together. We really don’t need very much right now. We made a small registry of things that would be helpful. Since we’re getting married in Pennsylvania and living in California, it would be great if gifts that don’t fit in a pocket were shipped directly to our address. If we are given cash gifts we will likely use them to purchase a new couch, bed, and other miscellaneous furniture (woohoo!). If you are not able to come to the wedding please don’t feel obligated to give us a gift if you received an invitation.

My general conclusion is that if a giving a gift makes you happy, then go for it. If giving a gift makes you stressed or unhappy, then don’t do it. We invited you to the wedding because we like you–not because we thought you’d bring cool stuff. We look forward to celebrating with you, and we hope you have a good time.

Yes, I much prefer a world where you can say things directly. . .


1 Comment

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One response to “Wedding Gifts: The Etiquette Paradox

  1. Nancy & Charlie

    Great post. Yes, we do tend to make life a bit more complicated than necessary. Thanks for saying it directly and with heart.

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