image I’ve been to my fair share of weddings. In the past year alone I’ve been a regular guest, a maid of honor, an honored guest and a bridesmaid. The summer before that I flew to two weddings my boyfriend, Ike, was in within two months of each other. We’ve got another ceremony in September and are flying to the Caribbean next spring to listen to the sweet sweet sound of more wedding bells.

By now I’ve got my routine down. There are no less than four dresses I can choose from which swing from super fancy pants throw down to the low key affair in a converted warehouse. There are an array of satin shoes in the back of my closet just waiting for the Wobble and hairspray under my sink that only gets used for my “I do” updo — a French twist with just the slightest bouffant.

Send me an invite and I can be in a pew that night with a tear at the ready. But what I won’t have is a gift. Ever. I am strictly a no-wedding-gift guest. This is a controversial stance for some people. So let me explain.

Firstly, I’ve never been to a wedding I can walk, bike ride, hop scotch, jump rope or swim to. Every wedding I’ve attended since my friends and family have started getting married has been miles upon miles upon miles away. A few have even earned me new passport stamps.

Let’s break down the numbers. On average, I spend $300 dollars for a round trip plane ticket. On top of that, I’m staying at least two nights (and sometimes three) in a hotel room, which, even with the nuptial discount, will run you anywhere from $100 to $200 dollars per night. According to those calculations, thus far I’ve spent a minimum of $500 dollars and we haven’t even Wobbled yet.

Add to all of that local transportation to and from airports, eating anything besides the reception dinner, and whatever non-wedding-related fun you might want to have in New York, Puerto Rico, Long Beach or the host of other cities I’ve witnessed the state of holy matrimony in and we’re talking a cool G conservatively. Basically your fancy invitation in the mail is like a bill written in Monotype Corsiva.

But I’ll pay it gladly in order to play a small role at the starting line of the marathon folks call marriage. I want to ring the starting bell with you and maybe jog a little bit of the way with a water jug and sign that says “Keep Going!”. Because that’s the real point of having more than one witness there. You’re establishing a community of people that will hopefully hold you to the vows you made. And I take that unwritten and unofficial role quite seriously. So serious in fact that I’m paying for the privilege. So if any of my friends tried to come at me on some old “Where’s our $100 gift to pay for all that dry chicken we fed you?” foolishness like these folks, then I’d have to bust out a fistful receipts and dust off my TI-80.

Recently a HuffPo reader got this email from a bride:

“Hi Tanya, how are you? I just want to know is there any reason or dissatisfaction of Mike’s and I wedding that both you and Phil gave 50$ each? In terms of the amount we got from you both was very unexpected as a result we were very much short on paying off the reception because just for the cocktail + reception alone the plate per person is 200$ (as per a normal wedding range with open bar is about) and Mike and I both have already paid for everything else including decor, photography, attire etc and didn’t expect we had to cover that huge amount for reception as well.”

I have no idea where this trend of not only expecting more than a toaster but also emailing guests to express dissatisfaction over the gift received started but it needs to stop. Blame it on wedding reality TV all you want but brides be trippin’!

A good friend of mine who just got married, and whose gift is not in the mail, told me recently, “If you can’t pay in cash, elope.” Or better yet, just tone it down a few notches. Thing is, I’m planning on contributing big to her honeymoon fund because I’m much more inclined to give the gift of memories rather than buy you a $379 dollar duvet cover when I’m still on my Target steez.

Don’t get me wrong I love weddings. What I don’t love are self-important dumb dumbs. People who think that the rest of us owe them a gold star (and cold had cash) for getting hitched.

Any true etiquette expert will tell you that gifts, though lovely and thoughtful and appreciated, are not required entrance fees to the chapel. You are not hosting a rent partyyou’re getting married on your dime. And this new line of faux classy reasoning stating that wedding gifts should cover the cost of the reception is so very bootleg I can’t even deal. If you’d like me to pay for your wedding, then I will. The guy who cleans my yard, Kenny, can officiate in my living room then we can have sugar cookies and Shasta on my stoop. Congratulations or whatever.

What’s your stance on wedding gift giving? Is it ever enough?



This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Helena on XOJane!

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  • Ash

    Man, that huffpost article made me so mad the first time I read it! The whole wedding industry is a joke. People are spending all this money on weddings that don’t even last.

    I don’t think your stance on wedding gifts is wrong, especially if you’re spending so much money in attending the wedding.

    It’s tacky to use gift money to cover your wedding expenses. I don’t understand people that do that. My future wedding is going to be the courthouse followed by a cookout with tons good food , friends, and alcohol. That’s all that matters.

    • Guest1234

      That’s cool. But I’d caution against hating on people’s weddings. My wedding was fairly large (big families), and my hubby and I did it up. I ain’t gon’ lie. The reason for the blowout wedding was this. It was a party, not for us, but for our friends and family. The people I love most deserve a huge party and a damn fun one, too. It was all about doing what we could to show how much we appreciate and how grateful we are for our loved ones. We were honored that these wonderful people would come to celebrate and support our love and our union. It was deeply personal, touching, and humbling for me to look out and see the incredible people in my life. And for that, those amazing people deserve one HELL of a party. And we gave them one. I don’t regret ONE CENT spent on an affair fitting of the most glorious people God put on this earth. They deserve hundreds of times more than I could give them, but I was glad to do what I could to make that occasion special for my loved ones.

      It ain’t always about David Tutera. Your POV is a-okay. But that doesn’t make every body else’s stupid.

    • Ash

      To clarify, my problem is with weddings where people can’t afford them (like the lady in the huffpost article). To each their own. The wedding industry as a whole is a joke but I wouldn’t dare judge individual brides who choose large events.

    • Guest1234


      How do you know whether somebody can afford their own wedding? And is it really any of your business? I’m quite fortunate to come from a large loving family who all wanted to celebrate my nuptials with us. Think what you want, but spending a bit more to accommodate all that love is a-okay with me. For me, it’s better to have lotsa love than to be at the courthouse all by our lonesome. (Note: I’ve been to a couple of courthouse weddings, and they were lovely – but that wasn’t quite right for us.)

      I get saying “a big wedding isn’t for me.” I just don’t get concerning onesself with someone ELSE’S wedding, their budget, their personal finances, their family relations, etc. What makes even less sense is having a strong opinion about hypothetical “people who can’t afford them”. Who are these people everybody seems to be intimately involved with? I’ve certainly never met one. That always sounded like some made-up stuff to me. No offense, but this sounds like a whole buncha hateration to me. To each bride, her own style. What business is it of yours how much money somebody else has to spend on their own wedding?

    • Ash


      I think you’re inferring things beyond the scope of my posts. Disliking the wedding industry doesn’t equal being a “hater”. Calm down. You have some misplaced emotions. You liked your wedding. Great. Why are you explaining your choice to me? I really don’t care enough to “hate”.

      My stance is: To each their own. I think as a whole the wedding industry is a joke but that doesn’t mean I’m in a corner scuffing at brides with big weddings. The article is about people who expect gifts to pay for a “dream wedding” that they can’t afford. Which I think is tacky.

    • Guest1234


      Make no mistake. I’m not justifying my choices to you. I’m using them as an illustration of why some people may make different choices than you. I figured you were bright enough to catch on to that one.

      And BTW, Not everybody who disagrees with you has some “misplaced emotions.” That’s a pretty lame counter. I thought I was interacting with another person in good faith who would take the argument and illustration into account, and was trying to offer an example – which is a good way to conceptualize someone else’s point of view. Just thought I was engaged in a reasonable discussion – a mild entertainment.

    • Ash


      Perhaps you should use some reading comprehension when someone says “I wouldn’t dare judge individual brides who choose large events” yet you continue to go on and on on the assumption that I’m judgmental. I’m not saying that to be snarky.

      I’m done. Best wishes. Have a good day.

    • Hailey

      That’s nice of you, as long as you didn’t expect your family and friends to foot the bill in the end. Did you?

  • PinkStuff

    I think gifts are nice to give IF you can. The bride and groom should realize the financial burden that destination weddings can put on their guests, and understand that showing up may be their gift.
    As far as emailing your guests to ask why you didn’t receive a larger gift, that’s tacky and ridiculous. When you invite people to a wedding, it isn’t required that they bring a gift, much less a specified amount. Tacky.

  • While a gift is expected (I wouldn’t want someone coming to my wedding empty handed ESPECIALLY if I wasn’t empty handed at theirs), the only thing ruder than not bringing a gift is following up with your guest to see why they didn’t give you one.

    • ImJustSaying

      “I wouldn’t want someone coming to my wedding empty handed ESPECIALLY if I wasn’t empty handed at theirs”

      Give and let it be forgotten Receive and never forget.

      You should keep score on gift giving. If you have the money to do it great but to give a gift “with reciprocal strings” is unfair to the couple who simply asked for your PRESENCE at their wedding. You aren’t allowed to spend other peoples money because you decided to spend your own.

    • Part of the point of a lavish wedding is expecting gifts. If you really just wanted people’s presence as a gift you’d have a low maintenance backyard wedding. If you’re really humble about weddings to the point you don’t bring gifts, don’t accept them at yours either.

    • ImJustSaying

      Nope weddings big and small are to share a special moment with family and friends.
      If it were about gifts then there would be a bouncer at the door turning away those who come empty handed.
      Also if you’re spending a bunch of money on a one day wedding I think you probably have a budget to get your own home/life items. With your logic people with large weddings are essentially saying
      “Look I spent $70,000 today I am soooo hard up so give me presents!!!”

      I will say again as you might have missed the meaning the first time
      Give and let it be FORGOTTEN Receive and NEVER FORGET
      Be appreciative when someone does something nice for you. I get the feeling that you think it is your right to receive presents and look down on people who can’t give you something.
      You have a nice day. Be blessed

  • Wow. I always give a bridal shower gift for the bride and put about $100 in my card at the wedding. These are family members and friends, not some fair-weather friend of a friend whose wedding i’m crashing for free drinks and dinner.

    I’m not saying that everyone needs to give in the same way, but even an inexpensive gift that shows thought or your love for the couple would suffice. Marriage is a pretty big deal and I am happy for all my friends and family that have found someone they want to spend their lives with. I don’t see dollar signs when I open invitations, like the author. There is usually a variety of gifts on wedding registries that range in price so why not pick up the $20 gift and a nice card an call it a day. I could see if the author’s stance was staying within her budget… but it seems more like she’s just hell bent on NOT giving a gift to anyone no matter the circumstance. Seems pretty selfish to me.

    As for that bride that was not satisfied with receiving $50 each from the couple, after reading that email I would have cut her off immediately. How tacky of her to EXPECT her guests to pay for their reception. If you can’t afford an extravagant wedding then scale it down to what you’re comfortable paying on your own. Your guests are not venture capitalists looking to invest.

    • Mademoiselle

      I have a few questions after reading your comment. Would you take the same stance if you had a friend who announced he or she decided to never get married? Why is it selfish to not give a gift to people who made this decision without you? If the gift is to show your love for the couple, does that mean you’d been giving them couple-gifts prior to the wedding, or that you’ll continue to give them gifts after the wedding?

    • What?

      No, I would not give a gift to a person who decides he/she will never getting married.

      The tradition of giving a gift to newlyweds has absolutely nothing to do with single people and their decision to never get married.

      The gift is for 2 people that are starting a new chapter of their lives together and possibly starting a family. That is a huge step and should be celebrated. A wedding is a celebratory event.

      Even though, here in the states the wedding industry has gone mad and have people brainwashed into thinking they need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to have a wedding, all around the world, no matter the tradition, culture or religion, people celebrate marriages and give gifts of some sort. Maybe not off of a Macy’s registry but gifts are given.

      As for continuing to give them gifts… I give anniversary cards and occasionally anniversary gifts.

  • Ladybug

    Even if gifts are not expected or required, you should have the decency to give a gift. Something. $50 to a spa. Something. It is a way to honor this new journey the couple is going on. Otherwise, why don’t you just stay home with that attitude? Seriously.

    • SayWhat

      why don’t you just stay home with that attitude?…because the same person who would have a problem with her not bringing a gift, is the same egomaniac who wants to be able to say they had 200 people at their wedding after ‘trimming’ the list, so they would most likely tell her ‘come, you attending is my gift’ knowing they will dog her out afterwards for coming empty handed.

    • Charlie

      I totally agree with you, Ladybug.

      I equate giving a gift at a wedding with giving a tip at a restaurant. If you can’t/won’t give a gift, then don’t RSVP for the wedding. It’s that simple.

    • Hailey


      I hope for the sake of the people you invite to your wedding that THEY DON’T SHOW UP.

      Your wedding day is in no way the same as someone’s JOB as a waitress. A waiter is working. You planned a party. Big difference.

    • Steve Joseph

      Hailey, that’s a good point but seriously you’re showing up and eating the food, maybe there’s an open bar, maybe you’r dancing and enjoying the DJ..why should that be completely free for you? I agree that you don’t necessarily have to pay for your plate, because you had no input in the price of the venue they booked, but for shouldn’t expect it to be free either. Give something…