The gifts that keep on taking

As autumn arrives, with it come all the lovely fall weddings. Here’s a short list of rules to remember as both hosts and guests.

When I read the New York Times article about some individuals who still remember, years later, who did and (more importantly, it seems) did not give a gift to them at their wedding, I immediately had a trillion things to say piling up in my mind. The nerve!

Of the happy couples, that is. Not the “stingy” guests.

The article explains:

[Etiquette expert Jodi R. R. Smith] understands why the oversight is considered such a slap in the face. “Gifts are symbols of the relationship,” she said. “It’s hurtful if this is someone I really cared about, who I thought was a great friend, who made the cut to come to my wedding, and she doesn’t do the right thing. For them to be so blasé about their relationship with me makes me think that maybe they’re not as good a friend as I thought.”

I’m going to be frank. What this sounds like to me is the whittling down of a friendship to nothing more than a transactional agreement. Congratulations, you made the cut to come to my wedding, you cool cat you! But your friendship is dead to me if I don’t get that Crate and Barrel platter. To say that the very friendship itself becomes something to question simply because of a lack of a gift seems incredibly sad to me.

As autumn arrives, with it comes all the lovely fall weddings. So, I’ve come up with a short list of rules to remember as both hosts and guests this fall, in the hope that we can all be considered decent human beings once the last bottle is emptied and the last handful of birdseed is tossed.

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1. Don’t be passive-aggressive

The article offers up this gem of advice:

The way Ms. Smith sees it, it’s acceptable to confront those guests who have failed to send even a token. The best way to do so is with a delicate, in-person conversation.”You tell them that you’ve been writing your thank-you notes and realized that you haven’t written one to them: it’s an ‘I’ statement,” she said. “Then you let the other person talk. Either they’ll say: ‘What are you talking about? I gave you the serving platter off your registry.’ Computer glitches happen. You can then say, ‘I’m happy to follow up.’ If they look at you like deer in the headlights, count to the beat of three and move the conversation along to a totally different topic. Then you wait and see if the gift card shows up.”

Don’t follow that passive-aggressive piece of tripe. You didn’t get a present. Boo-fucking-hoo. Try this instead: Consider the friendship outside of the perceived slight. Is it a friendship you want to keep? Then keep it and move on. If it isn’t, then it’s probably time to part ways, and make sure it’s for reasons other than I didn’t get a present. Because this type of conversational choreography is just mind-boggling absurd.

2. Send your thank-you notes quickly

I’ve heard tell of a rule saying you have a year to send out those notes, but I call hogwash. We all grew up (I hope) learning to say please and thank you, and the thank you really shouldn’t wait a year. Growing up, when my brothers and I opened Christmas gifts from relatives, we would have to stop opening gifts and immediately go write our thank-you note for the present before we could continue opening gifts that morning. It got the task done, and we were still caught up in the initial excitement over the gift for the card to be full of genuine excitement and immediate gratitude (coupled, perhaps, with an eagerness to continue opening gifts).

While this may be a little impractical if you’re opening wedding gifts up in a crowd of family, you may want to consider this other method: use the gift once, and then you must send the note before you use it a second time. KitchenAid? Make a cake then write a note, maybe while sitting at the table with a slice of said cake! Receive a much-desired set of dishes? Serve a lovely meal, then use the chipped Ikea plates until you send that note. It’s just good manners to be prompt about these things.

3. The pen is still mighty

If you can’t give a gift, a sweet and heartfelt card congratulating the couple is a simple way to express your joy, and the bride and groom would do well to graciously accept it. Sometimes the cards people give end up being the most lasting gifts you have. My husband and I inexplicably lost1 a large box of kitchen items during one move, but we still have the little sketch of us that the friend who gifted us a now-lost item doodled in our card; it sits framed on one of our bookshelves.

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Remember, a wedding isn’t about the gifts you’re receiving. A wedding isn’t all about who wrote you the biggest check, or who did or did not remember to RVSP. It isn’t about memorizing the perfect slow-dance-turned-fast-choreographed-fake-out first-dance, or wearing the perfect dress, or having blog-worthy pictures, or having just the right flowers.2

I would argue that a wedding isn’t all about you and it being only your special day at all, really–it’s about you entering into your larger community as a couple, about entering into a new part of life, about joining your families, about all of you, together, and you two. It is special. It will hopefully always be special to you.

But so should your friendships. Friendship is, after all, a gift in itself. And, just like most weddings, a friendship isn’t always going to be perfect either. Friendships are messy because we humans are messy. Your marriage is going to need those friendships to help it along the way, and when you need a shoulder to cry on in the middle of the night when your partner simply doesn’t get it, whether or not that friend gave you a duvet isn’t going to matter if you don’t let it.

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  1. Read: we think someone stole it from the curb when the truck was left unmanned for a moment. 
  2. I turned out to be mildly allergic to my perfect flowers! 

Photo by alvanman

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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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