Why Is It So Difficult To Accept “No Gifts”?

[Via Emily Orpin]

[Via Emily Orpin]

I’ve been invited to my first wedding where, in lieu of a registry, the couple has asked that anyone inclined donate to one of their favorite charities. It’s a wonderful gesture, and I’ll absolutely be donating, and yet somehow I’m plagued with anxiety over the thought of not giving the couple themselves a gift. Even though they asked that I not! Even though I’ll be giving money elsewhere!

This is, of course, ridiculous. But it’s something that I realize others might feel if presented with the same situation, or even further, if the couple specifies no gifts or spending at all. I think this reaction comes from a good place. We’ve been taught that giving is good, and for multiple reasons–it’s an opportunity to show we care, to show we know the recipient’s taste, and often a physical marker of our presence at an event. But notice that many of those reasons have to do with us more than the recipients. The entire concept of gift giving hinges on one thing: the recipient actually being thankful for the gift.

It’s also difficult to think of someone not being thankful for a gift, because most of us have been taught that money/stuff is good no matter what (yay capitalism). We chide that they must be being coy, and insist on giving small tokens or even large gifts anyway, under the assumption that they’ll be appreciated. Don’t do that! Not only is it disrespectful to the couple’s wishes, it’s disrespectful to their intelligence. It suggests that you know better than them what they actually want, and that they’re being dishonest about their desires.

Here’s another secret (that’s maybe not a secret, maybe I’m just a terrible person): The couple will likely not remember what you got them. Yes, immediately after the wedding I had a mental list of who bought what off the registry, who sent checks, and who gave cards. And I was very thankful for everything we received, and wrote thank you notes indicating so. However, almost two years later, it has all blended into my life. Aside from a few gifts that are distinctly tied to the giver, I can’t really recall who got us our plates or who gave us a check that allowed us to buy plates. I think that’s fine. There’s warmth in my heart for everyone who bought us gifts, and everyone who didn’t but who spent their time and money to celebrate with us.

Gifts are a symbol of love and consideration and joy, but they are not those things. If a couple asks you not to give them gifts, or to donate your money or time elsewhere, they are saying that they don’t need that middleman. But if you’re really freaking out, bring a card.

How Many Thank Yous for Baby Gifts?

Embed from Getty Images
Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
I am in the final weeks awaiting the arrival of my first child. My Aunt sent us gifts early in the pregnancy for our baby and we sent a thank you note promptly. She has since sent another round of gifts and I’m not sure if a second thank you note is required? Apparently, she also intends to send us a quilt, so should I wait for that? What’s the etiquette here for many gifts with months in between… ? 

Thanks, guys!

Victoria: So with the baby gifts, I think you should just go ahead and send a note for each gift that arrives, even if you know that there are more coming. Thank you notes take almost no time, I wrote one today in about two minutes.

Jaya: That’s true, though I think it’s kind of strange for the aunt to be sending “rounds” of gifts. My idea would be that the first ty note is nice, and for subsequent gifts close together, a phone call would do? Because maybe it was something like the Aunt bought a bunch of stuff on Amazon and they sent them out when they were in-stock, so they’re coming piecemeal.

Victoria: Oooh yeah, that’s a good idea. Although, people get even more zany about babies than they do about weddings, so she might just be going overboard.

Jaya: That’s true, but also I’d hope that, as stressed as married couples are, people know pregnant people are even more stressed, and maybe don’t feel like writing notes all the time. Though yeah, it doesn’t take long. I mean obviously if you want to handwrite a note for everything go ahead.

Victoria: It really doesn’t, and you probably aren’t getting that many gifts. I would def send a note for a handmade gift like a quilt though. My mom does a lot of beautifully crafted handmade gifts and she gets super annoyed when she doesn’t get properly thanked for them.

Jaya: Yeah. It certainly depends on the gift. But if you get a pack and play and send a note for that, and then two weeks later get some onesies, I think you can phone it. And just be thankful for how generous the person is being.

Victoria: Yessss, definitely. and like, again, when baby is born, maybe send a quick email with a photo of them using the gift. It is fairly low effort and you are probably taking a million pictures of baby anyway.

How to Buy a Wedding Gift

We’ve talked about this before, but I have some seen some startling things about wedding gifts on blogs lately, so I thought it would be good to do a refresher.

I was prompted in this by seeing several times over the last few weeks, wedding guests lamenting that the only things left on the wedding registry were super expensive so they were *forced* to spend so much more than they had been planning.



Um, no. My friends, a wedding registry is a suggestion of items that the happy couple would like to have. Granted, if you want to buy them a toaster and they have a specific toaster listed, you should PROBABLY get them that one since it probably has particular features that they like. But you are perfectly well within your rights as a guest to get them something that is NOT on the registry. If that seems too risky for you, EVERYONE likes checks! And honestly, people get all silly about a $25/30 check not being “enough.” But honestly, $25 is still $25 they didn’t have before and they know that their mixing bowl set is $25 so if you had gotten them that, they would still know what you spent. Don’t be embarrassed!

And if they have a honeymoon fund but only set it up to accept certain denominations (ahem, couples, do not do this. Do not start your honeyfund contributions at $75. Start them at like $10 and go up from there.), send a check with the amount you would prefer to give anyway. Honeyfunds are a total racket that deduct a percentage of the gift anyway.

So please, go forth and be joyous without destroying your budget. And honestly, if you are paying for airfare and accommodations for the wedding, your presence is definitely a present and a very sweet card or token gift should be fine. And couples who bitch about it should get over themselves.

Deal With It Devil Wears Prada

How to Graciously Accept a Gift You Do Not Want

Always an option

Always an option

There was a video going around recently (that turned out to be fake) showing a husband surprising his wife with a $60,000 kitchen remodel. And when she walks in she is not impressed and walks out. Now, if it were me, I would be FURIOUS that my (hypothetical) husband spent $60,000 of our money without consulting me on a change in our house that I would have to look at and cook in for at least the next 10 years. And the fake kitchen in this particular video was not even that nice, so adding in that anyone who had spent $60k on it was an idiot who got wildly ripped off. It was baffling to me, then, that so many of the comments on the video were about the wife being ungrateful and horrible. Now this is an incredibly extreme example of being ungracious about a gift, but highlights this visceral reaction that people have to their gifts being rejected.

Thus it is important to learn how to receive gifts gracefully and with tact.

Obviously, it is important not to scowl, say “this isn’t what I wanted,” call the thing ugly, throw it across the room, or otherwise make the giver aware that you hate their gift.

You should at least act like you are pleased- say something like “this is great! I always wanted a purse shaped like a cat!”

If it’s someone close to you like your grandma who you see frequently, it’s a nice gesture to keep the offending item around and pull it out when they come over, but this is completely optional.

Say thank you in person or write a thank you note if you are not with them.

If you are able to figure out where they bought it and return it, that’s fine and great. If not, give it away to someone who can use it more.

Avoid regifting if it is likely that the original giver will find out.

If you do run into a problem where someone is consistently giving you tons of stuff that you don’t want and don’t have room for (like bringing you random junk every week) then you can have a gentle conversation about appreciating the thought but you are trying to get clutter out of your life and you would love to see just them, no presents.

If a repetitive poor gift giver is someone VERY close to you like your parents or your spouse, you can also have a gentle conversation to try to steer them in the right direction.

So tell me, what are the worst gifts you were ever given?

Does No Thank You Note Mean My Gift Was Lost?

A high toned burglar steals wedding presents [By H.C. Miner Litho Co, New York [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I cannot remember if you have tackled this question before, but it stands as the flip-side of the “did my friends not get me a wedding gift” post.
I have now had it happen on two separate occasions that I have sent a wedding gift via online registry and have not received a thank you note. At this point, I am mainly curious as to whether or not they actually got what I sent them. Is there any way to inquire about this without sounding snippy?  (My parents were invited to the second wedding as well, have not received a note, and my mom keeps bugging me about it. Please help!)

No note or no gift?

Official Etiquette:
Miss Manners says that it’s totally fine to inquire whether a gift was received.

Our Take:

Victoria: Okay, so I really love this question because it has happened to me TWICE! And I have handled it differently both times.

The first was like hers, I sent a gift from the registry and never heard a thing. And I basically…did nothing. Because I didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t THAT close to the couple. And it was a long time ago so I had not yet matured into the etiquette person I am now.

And the second was with YOU! And it was kind of silly because I gave you guys the gift in person so I knew you had it. But also I knew you were being prompt with your TY notes, and when I didn’t receive one I was like, hmm that’s weird. So I very boldly mentioned it to you and we determined that it had been lost in the mail.

Jaya: And then it was the USPS that cursed me!

Victoria: Hahah yesss.

Jaya: So yes, I think both of those highlight a great benefit of the tradition of thank you notes. Not only is it a thanks, but it’s a flat out acknowledgement that you got something. And since most everyone does online registries, there are just more chances that something will get messed up.

Victoria: Yeah, and that packages will get stolen from your apartment building or front porch.

Jaya: Yes! So for her, I think approaching it in just this way is great. You can email the couple something like “Hey, I just wanted to check that you received the gift I sent. I ordered it through the registry but I wanted to confirm it actually got to you”

Victoria : Yes, exactly. Maybe add something about UPS/USPS getting more unreliable these days.

Jaya: I don’t think that sounds snippy

Victoria: Did that happen to you at all? Although, I guess since you did simple registry it probably wasn’t an issue.

Jaya: Yeah, I can’t remember any instances where we didn’t get a gift and someone checked in on that. Though a couple people actually didn’t get their invitations in the mail, which we found out when we called for RSVPs.

Victoria: Hahah yeah, I feel like every bride has a story about that. There’s also the flip side to this- where you really thought a certain guest would get you a gift but didn’t and you wonder if maybe it got lost. I read a really great suggestion recently that, a couple weeks after the last TY note goes out, post on your social media pages something like “all the thank you notes have gone out, please let us know if you don’t get one, we had several invitations get lost in the mail so we want to know if our thank yous went missing too”

That way anyone who was too shy to mention that they didn’t get a note will be able to speak up and you can find out if any gifts went missing.

Jaya: Oooh that’s a great idea!