Confronting a No-Gift Bridesmaid

The website A Practical Wedding received a letter for their advice column “Ask APW” in which a bride wants to know what to do about a bridesmaid who didn’t give a wedding gift.

Q: Since returning home from our wedding and honeymoon, my husband and I have been reliving our wedding day high from writing personal thank you notes to our guests. One issue has been killing my high… one of our guests did not give us a wedding card or gift. It wouldn’t bother me so much except that she is my best friend from growing up, a bridesmaid in our small wedding party, and she brought her boyfriend to our wedding. Maybe she thought that she didn’t have to give us a wedding gift because she was a bridesmaid?

I know I should confront her but I don’t know where to begin. Even a majority of friends who could not make the wedding sent us a congratulatory note and/or gift. If she were in dire financial circumstances, I would totally understand but she just returned from a European vacation. I don’t want to impose any societal etiquette on her. Maybe I just need to adjust my own expectations?

-Newlywed

The answer at the column covers several bases. First, “I don’t want to impose any societal etiquette on her.” It turns out that old-fashioned society etiquette does not require members of the wedding party to give a gift. And “…there could be any number of reasons she didn’t bring a gift.” True, and you have no business speculating on those reasons. But worst of all is the word “confront.” Don’t do it.

It was a good answer, but they went pretty easy on the bride. Not so at I Thee Dread, an offshoot of Jezebel. Or at Metafilter, although that discussion is somewhat sympathetic to brides who have trouble balancing their wishes against family expectations.  

I was a bridesmaid only once, when I was 17. I threw a wedding shower for the bride, gave a shower gift, and made my own dress. I don’t even recall if I gave an additional wedding gift, but I think I did enough. My duties then were simple compared to the duties of a bridesmaid at the bigger weddings you hear about today. But that is all beside the point. The meaning of the word “gift” for this usage is "2:  something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation." Gift-giving is completely voluntary, and is not a tradeoff for a wedding invitation. Or even a birthday party. If it is an obligation, then it is not a gift.

But all that pales beside the idea of confronting anyone about not giving a gift. Where does anyone get the notion that that would ever be okay?

(Image credit: Flickr user Lindley Ashline)


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We were 'hippies' when we got married. My husband and I both refused to let people give us gifts for our wedding. We both felt that weddings were in a large part just a way for some people to get lots of free stuff. We had been to enough weddings (and showers) to have had first hand experience with this mindset of people doing their utmost to get as much loot (money and/or presents) as possible and wanted no part of it.
We had no list of wedding gifts that we wanted. We had no 'showers'. We had a simple wedding in my parents home with a Scottish piper, a wedding cake and a Bar-B-Q in the backyard and invited our family and friends to just come and celebrate our wedding and enjoy our hospitality, too.
So, we started out with 'nothing' and chose to make our way in our new life together knowing that what we accumulated over time were things that mattered to us. Nearly 44 years later, still married, we have never regretted doing this.
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Good grief, how spoiled are some people. She's your best friend - surely that's enough. Why the obsession with giving gifts?
Quite a few people at our wedding didn't give us "gifts", but they helped by decorating the hall, or running the music, or running errands or making dresses etc. We were happier with that than a gift - some of the "official gifts" only get used once a year or so.
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