Wedding Gift Etiquette Addressed

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Dear Miriam,

I have two questions about wedding gifts. 1) If someone has two wedding ceremonies/receptions, either in two different locations or recognizing two different religious traditions, should I buy two gifts? Should I decline an invitation to one of the events if I can’t afford two gifts? 2) Should I buy a gift for a bachelorette or bachelor party, or should gifts be reserved for bridal showers and engagement parties?

Signed,

Giving and Giving

Dear Giving,

First, let me establish a foundation: People invite you to their celebrations because they want you to be part of their lives and they value your presence. If they are inviting you solely because they want you to buy them gifts, they’re wrong, you shouldn’t go to their events and you might need to reevaluate your relationships. Wow, it felt good to say that.

But second, and perhaps more charitably, weddings are complicated and often mired in generational etiquette differences, outdated expectations and difficult family questions. Still, unless it’s your wedding, you are not responsible for any of the internal complications. You are a guest, and you get to decide what you attend and how much time and money you invest.

If you are invited to multiple ceremonies, it’s easy and clear cut to get one gift. Being interfaith or from different geographical regions from your spouse may come with a set of specific challenges, but it doesn’t entitle you to multiple gifts from the same guests. If you’re buying something from a registry, chances are it’s being shipped directly to their house anyway, so it doesn’t even matter whether you attend one ceremony or two. One couple, one gift.

I’ll admit to being slightly past the age where weddings are a regular part of my social calendar. But even a decade ago, when I was definitely in the wedding circuit, I recall getting one shower gift and one wedding gift for people and from people, with a couple notable exceptions for bachelorette gifts exchanged with my closest friends. If a couple wants many events to encompass their engagement and wedding, that’s absolutely their decision, but you are not obligated to acknowledge each one with a separate gift.

Also, for the record, 10 years later, I’m realizing that lots of the things I asked for as wedding gifts (and all the things I didn’t ask for but received anyway) are taking up valuable real estate in my Center City row house, when really the space is just begging to be filled with stuffed Pikachus and those little plastic ninjas that always come home with us from the dentist’s office. Shifting priorities and all that.

Give your friends one gift and, if you must, an additional one pre-wedding gift, plus, potentially, a bunch of humorous cards about the multitude of opportunities to share their joy. Show up to the events if they sound fun. Reward their celebrations with your unending happiness on their behalf. Please, please don’t make yourself crazy (or broke) bringing a separate gift to each party.

Be well,

Miriam

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