How Many Wedding Gifts is Enough?

BridesmaidsDear Uncommon Courtesy,

I know that the wedding gift question is always done to death but since it is such a quagmire I thought I would throw another one in the mix. I am a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding for which I will have to travel a few hours. I have also traveled for her bridal shower and her bachelorette evening. For both events, I helped pay for the events themselves and bought small gifts (lingerie and coffee mugs). The wedding websites tell me that I am also expected to buy a wedding present and I feel like my friend is expecting one. I am not married and not expecting to get married which is making this whole experience feel very unbalanced. I have already spent a ton of money on my friend. How do I politely get out of purchasing yet another thing for this wedding?

Broke Bridesmaid

Victoria: Okay, so first let’s talk about how ridic this all is

Jaya: Hahahah

Victoria: Like, bridesmaids shouldn’t have to plan and pay for BOTH a bachelorette and a shower.

Jaya: Yeah, like here’s a rundown of the average bridesmaid expenses now: dress, shoes, travel/accommodations to wedding, possible travel/accommodations to bachelorette party, AND gift? I know this is the “norm” now but let’s go on the record saying it shouldn’t be.

Victoria: It should not be! And if we get any questions from any brides asking how can they kindly ask their bridesmaids why they didn’t send a gift after doing all this stuff, we will very politely discuss how they are incredibly wrong and selfish and then mock them (just a heads up).

Jaya: Hahaha, of course.

Victoria: So my advice to this bridesmaid is to not send a wedding gift. Write a very nice and heartfelt card instead.

Jaya: Yes, that sounds good. Okay, so the tricky thing is that no, you are never obligated to give a gift at any point, no matter what your relationship to the wedding, but people have weird expectations now.

Victoria: That’s true, but I mean, honestly, the only way we are going to get past this is by just not doing it.

Jaya: Yeah

Victoria: If bridesmaids would just put their stylishly-clad-in-matching-shoes feet down and say, “I’m sorry, but attending both your wedding and your bachelorette in Vegas and your hometown shower is too much for me”…then people wouldn’t start getting all these expectations.

Jaya: That’s a good point! And it’s hard! Weddings are an emotional time, and nobody wants to be the one to hurt the bride’s feelings. So I think a lot of times the wedding party just becomes total pushovers.

Victoria: Yeah (and trust us, this is hard for us too!!!). I’d love to see more brides sitting down with their maids and being like, look. “My wedding is out of town for all of you, so I don’t want you to plan any kind of out of town bachelorette or shower or anything.”

And grooms, too, I guess.

Jaya: Right. I think half of this is people not even knowing that their expectations are out of line, just because they see what everyone else has. Like, blogs show you fun bachelorette parties in Vegas, and you assume a bachelorette party in Vegas is the standard. When that might not work for your circumstances.

Victoria: Yesss, like, maybe I should create some kind of spreadsheet? Like with formulas of: your friends estimated incomes, the estimated expense of the dress/shoes, estimated expense of travel/lodging for the wedding, and the total shouldn’t be more than like .25% of the bridesmaids estimated income?

Jaya: Victoria, why are your solutions always spreadsheets?

Victoria: Lol, because I am a neeeeerd.

Jaya: I think just better communication can help, and more understanding if your bridesmaids just aren’t the type to be able to afford/want to pay for a big trip or a designer dress.

Victoria: And really listen to what they are saying! If they seem less than enthusiastic, back down, way way down!

Jaya: Yes! If you’re the one getting married, they probably want to make you happy, but you don’t want that to make them go into debt.

Victoria: Or from the beginning, ask them what they think a reasonable price for the BM dress is (and stick to it!!)

And like, everyone’s always saying “oh tradition…”

But TRADITIONALLY, the brides family was supposed to either let the bridal party stay in their home or pay

for their lodging. And no one does that anymore. And yet now brides get showers AND bachelorette parties.

Jaya: Right, and TRADITIONALLY the bridesmaids planned the bachelorette party without the bride saying “hey let’s all go to the Bahamas”

Victoria: Haha yeah. Or the one super rich bridesmaid suggesting that.

Jaya: I always think of the movie Bridesmaids with that, where everyone else can afford Vegas and first class and Kristen Wiig is stuck in the back.

Victoria: Yeaaaaah, that’s no bueno.

Jaya: And I liked a lot of that movie, but also I just wanted to be like MAYA RUDOLPH, YOU KNOW YOUR FRIEND IS GOING THROUGH HARD TIMES, GET EVERYONE TO TONE IT DOWN.

Victoria: Seriously!

I mean, things should be toned down anyway, probably.

Like do you really need to spend an entire weekend?

Like, how about a nice dinner and some drinks?

Especially the older you are…its just not as fun to go clubbing and wear penis hats as when you were 23.

Jaya: So, back to the issue at hand. Let’s say the LW takes our advice and sends a nice card and then, worst case scenario, the couple is like “where is our gift?”

What do you say?

Besides “fuck off”

Victoria: You could passive aggressively send them an uncommon courtesy link!

But also I would say “Sally, I went to considerable time and effort and spent a very large amount of money

being in your wedding, planning and attending your bachelorette and shower, and buying gifts for those parties. I would have hoped that you realized that that WAS my gift to you and frankly, I am a little hurt that you don’t consider it to be enough.”

Jaya: Just to wrap it up, you’re not obligated to get a gift, especially if you’ve spent your money/time on doing other wedding stuff, and anyone who tries to make you feel guilty for that can shove it.

Are Funding Sites Inherently Rude?

If everyone gave just $1…[Via Wikimedia Commons]

Sites like Kickstarter, Indigogo, GoFundMe, Patreon have exploded over the last couple of years, and honestly, it’s great. I love that people can come up with a great idea or regularly create content and make it really easy for people to help them out/pay for content without having to go through traditional industry. However, like anything, these types of sites can also be abused.

We talk about the conundrum of wedding registries a lot…how strange it is to ask for people to give you things, and yet there’s this expectation that if people are going to give you gifts anyway, they might as well give you something you want. And then there’s the whole asking for cash thing, and honeymoon registries and it’s complicated enough that people are CONSTANTLY writing about it on wedding and etiquette sites. But I think that the growth of asking for gifts through wedding registries has led people to believe that it’s always okay to ask for things. And I don’t know if it is? The whole crowdfunding thing is so recent that there isn’t really any etiquette surrounding it. I think that what rubs me the wrong way the most is that so often, people are setting up crowdfunding for themselves. I’m absolutely not talking about the Kickstarter/Patreon things because in my mind, if you are creating a product that people are paying for, that’s not really fundraising in the same sense as just asking for straight up cash.

Historically, when there was a disaster, like a house burned down and the family needed help, someone in the community would organize the help for them- through a church or a school or a civic organization. People would give money or food or clothes or whatever they could and everyone rallied and it was great. But now, you see people asking for help to pay their medical bills or help pay their tuition. Which…is still something a lot of people want to help with and that’s great! But to a certain extent, only a few people are going to be able to do that with any kind of success. You either have to be the first one to do it or have a really good story because most people have some kind of medical bill or school debt or something and aren’t going to be able to spread their money around to everyone who needs help. And then there’s the fact that you asked for it for yourself, which still seems like “greed” to many people (not that I’m saying it is, that’s just a perception that many may have.) I realize that many people don’t have churches and social clubs anymore, but surely everyone has a circle of friends, co-workers, kickball team members, bookclubbers, or SOMEONE who can take the lead? And maybe this is a good time to point out that if someone close to you IS going through a particular rough patch, maybe reach out to them and to others and see if you can pull together some help.

Another thing I see crowdfunding for is “voluntourism.” Voluntourism is when you go on a vacation and spend part of the time “volunteering.” Now to begin with, voluntourism is a really murky area with a lot being written about whether it does any good at all (unlikely). But if that’s how you want to spend your vacation, take some bug spray and have a great time. The problem comes when you send out a crowdfunding message to all your friends and family telling them that you need $2000 for airfare and room and board so that you can be a volunteer. If you are not making a major, serious impact then you are taking a vacation and generally speaking, people should pay for their own vacations. You would be much better off if you asked for that money to be sent directly to the people who need it or at least only ask for money to buy supplies to bring (something like mosquito nets comes to mind).

And then you get the truly superficial. There’s the girl who raised $1500 to throw her own birthday party or people who fund their totally elective, cosmetic plastic surgery, bachelorette parties, vacations, there are hundreds. But for every one of those awful ones, there is someone raising money for someone to take a once in a lifetime trip after like, I don’t know, adopting 50 orphans or to raise money for a gift for a respected member of the community, which seem okay?

So if I was going to write some etiquette rules about crowdfunding they would be:

  • If you are actually creating something that people want, you are totally in the clear. Podcasts, blogs, art, music, movies, all that. Just keep the number of requests for support down to a minimum and deliver on your promises.
  • Always keep your requests to a minimum. Post it publicly a couple of times and then again right before it ends.
  • Don’t harass people to donate. ie don’t send out individual emails more than once. If people are ignoring you it’s because they aren’t interested and if you persist you will only annoy them.
  • If you are raising money for a cause, make sure it is helping the cause more than it is helping you.
  • Ask yourself if people will really want to give money to you. Are you the kind of person who is always ready to help everyone else out and is well regarded in your community? Likewise if you are crowdfunding on someone else’s behalf- have a talk with a bunch of people and ask them if they would be interested in donating before setting it up.
  • Consider your audience- if everyone you know has a pile of student debt, don’t ask them to help raise money to alleviate YOUR student debt or send you on vacation, etc.
  • Always graciously accept declines and be thankful to the people who do donate. Consider sending individual thank you notes or messages if you know who the contributors are.
  • If your request somehow goes viral and you receive way more money than you ever imagined, consider giving a big chunk of it to charity.
  • If you are the one who needs money, strongly, strongly consider asking a VERY close friend if they might set up the site on your behalf. It looks so so so much better.
  • Ultimately though, you can probably try to crowdfund anything and hey, you might get lucky and get some money. The worst that can happen is that all your friends and family hate you!

Do I Really Have to Buy This Bride All These Gifts?

What you don’t realize is that all these gifts are from one person. [Via Flickr user frostnova]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

I am in this girl’s wedding in May. I assume I get her a wedding gift. I’ve also been invited to her bridal shower, that says bring a gift, and her bachelorette party, that says bring a gift. I assume that the bachelorette gift is suppose to be a gag gift, but I’m not sure. How many freaking gifts am I actually expected to get this girl? I cannot afford to get her 3 gifts.


Gift Fatigued


Official Etiquette:

Technically, yes, you should give a gift for both the wedding and the shower. But they can be small gifts! Bachelorette parties should not have a gift element unless they take the place of a shower. Guests should not be invited to more than one shower and if they are, they don’t have to give a gift the second time.


Our Take:

Jaya: How rude to demand gifts!!!!

Victoria Hahahahahahahahaha, this is a crazy situation and exactly what is meant when people talk about gift fatigue. Though, I assume no one is really demanding gifts so much as inviting her to parties that often have gifts. Except the bachelorette, omg, bachelor/ette parties should not be gift giving occasions.

Jaya: Yeah, seriously.

Victoria I wonder who is organizing the shower/bachelorette. If they are the same person, you could maybe talk to them.

Jaya:  Shower is bride’s sister, bachelorette is MOH (ED: maid of honor, fyi). The letter writer thinks the bride would understand if she was just like, hey, I’m broke and already spending money on hotels and dresses and stuff, which is definitely what I think they should do. Apparently the bachelorette is in another town so she had to pay for hotels for that weekend too.

Victoria Omg, I would just not go. I mean seriously, wtf kind of wedding is this?

Jaya:  Ridiculous, apparently the bride is totally normal and understanding, but her family is a little more difficult.

Victoria Hmm, yeah, I would talk to the bride. I mean, I would be MORTIFIED if I was getting married and found out these people were planning these kinds of things and demanding gifts from people.

Jaya:  Seriously.

Victoria So the bride could theoretically talk to the MOH and get rid of gifts for the bachelorette entirely and then I would get something small for the shower. And something small again for the wedding.

Jaya:  Or maybe split a gift with some other people, like we have done.

Victoria Yeah, although, then you run into the problem of the organizer being like, let’s buy them a $500 vacuum and that will come out to $100 each- hope that’s okay with everyone, xoxoxox!

Jaya:  Hahahahaha, oh god, just a Hey Ladies email.

Victoria Yep, like, just buy them a muffin pan and call it day. Write a nice note. The bride will understand.

Jaya:  I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of invitations specifying to bring gifts. I’ve heard of them saying “no gifts,” but not “yes mandatory gifts.”

Victoria Yeah, well, I assume here that with the shower, gifts are implied and the invitation included registry information. Which is allowed because the whole point of the shower is to shower the bride with gifts, so its really “not done” to come without one.

Jaya:  True.

Victoria:  And then I’m betting for the bachelorette, they were like, we’re doing blah blah in blah city staying at blah hotel and please bring a fun lingerie gift for the bride!

Jaya:  I don’t know, the way she said it it sounded a lot more explicit on the invitation. The bachelorette one just says bring a gift, not specifying like, a gag or sexy gift, just a gift. You could probably infer not to bring a toaster to a bachelorette party though.

Victoria Ahh well some showers are specific kinds of showers? Like they will be like please bring a bottle of wine to stock the happy couples bar. But yeah, that is not really okay for the bachelorette. Omg, trying so hard to believe that people aren’t being so outrageously rude!

Jaya:  In general it just seems like a lot

Victoria I think that people planning these things really need to keep the big picture in mind. Like, if you are having a big blowout out of town bachelorette, maybe no showers? Definitely no presents. If you are keeping everything small and local its fine to do a shower and a bachelorette. If you have out of town bridesmaids, please be extremely aware that they probably won’t be able to make it to anything except the wedding and you can’t guilt them about it. And for showers- you don’t invite the same person to multiple showers!! And if you do because they are a bridesmaid or the sister of the bride- they only have to bring a gift to one shower. And a very nice bride will mention that while she is opening gifts so people don’t wonder why sally didn’t get her anything

Jaya:  Yes! Yeah, I think people forget that sometimes one person will be going to four parties not to mention traveling to the wedding and buying a bridesmaids dress. It’s a lot to ask of a person and people need to be more sensitive to that.