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Gift Giving and Invitation Etiquette

For some reason my family always comes to me with questions about proper etiquette for gift giving. It could be a high school graduation gift, wedding gift, baby shower present, or Christmas gift for a coworker, either way, I feel like I am always getting asked questions about what is the proper gift for the occasion and circumstance.  Not everyone’s gift is going to be the same amount of money, and not everyone likes the same things, but overall I guess I must be a pretty good gift giver and understand gift etiquette in 2016 than most of my friends and family if they keep coming to me with questions.

Just last week my mother in law sent me a text message that said “Questions, questions, questions. We’re invited to a high school graduation party and we don’t really know the daughter, but the parents think of us like family. The daughter may have gotten into a bit of trouble with friend so I’m thinking not my usual gift of money would be appropriate. The daughter plans to go to college, do you have any gift ideas?”  After asking my mother in law what kind of trouble the girl had gotten into (straight A student mixed up with the “wrong” kids and drugs) I realized that a gift of money or gift card would not be the right answer. I suggested going to the sports apparel store and purchasing a sweatshirt, bumper sticker, water bottle, and key chain for the university she will be attending this fall. It’s not a cheap gift, my mother in law doesn’t have to worry about her using the money or a gift card to buy drugs, and she get a great and thoughtful gift from people she doesn’t really know that well. No one said you have to give cash or write a check for a high school graduation, and given the circumstances this was the best and most thoughtful choice of presents.

A few months ago my friend at work asked for my advice on wedding gift etiquette. She said she looked online but couldn’t find the answer so she looked to me to help her with some advice. Her scenario was a long time dear friend’s daughter just got married. She was the first of six kids to get married, and she was not invited to the daughter’s destination wedding. She wanted to send a gift but also wasn’t invited to the girl’s bridal shower. On top of that, the second of the six kids just got engaged so she wanted to set precedence as to what each kid would get from her as a wedding gift. My friend’s choices were to mail a check to their mother to give to them, as she had given them each $100 for graduation, or send a gift. My advice was that she didn’t have buy anything for this girl, but if she felt very strongly about it she should look their registry up on Bed Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, or Macy’s and send them a gift from their registry directly to their house for under $100. My friend is very generous and ended up taking my advice to send the gift directly to their house. I know as a young married woman, I appreciated everything I got from my mother’s friends and even those who weren’t invited to the wedding still send cards with loving thoughts and well wishes.

In October my husband’s cousin is getting married a few miles away from our house. The couple sent us a save the date for their wedding about 10 months ago and I attended the bridal shower just last week. We aren’t close to his cousin, but she is very sweet and we like her a lot. We have a fairly big family going to the wedding, cousins, aunts, uncles, and little kids all in our family, but my husband doesn’t want to go. He finds family gathering to be annoying and would rather be with his friends doing something else. Our RSVP to the wedding is due in about 4 weeks and I am struggling with his decision to not want to attend the wedding. I told him that it is his family, and his first cousin, so he could make the decision as to whether or not we go. Well, as of yesterday he booked a trip with his friends to see he favorite college football team play that Saturday of their wedding out of state. I’m feeling ok with his decision, but I still haven’t RSVP’d no, and I haven’t told his mom or sister that we will not be coming (even though I just was them at the shower). It’s hard for both us to lie and we will tell his mother the truth as to why we aren’t going, but I can’t help to think that the family is going to judge us because “we have better things to do”. At the end of the day I remember being really stressed out before my wedding over money and finances, and I guess if my cousin’s sent me $150 check with “no” RSVP I wouldn’t have been mad. I just know that we will be missing a family memory and time with people we don’t see that often. I guess there really is no proper etiquette when it comes to an RSVP if you don’t really care about going, its just pill you have to swallow. We are going to send her a nice check with a card and tell them how much we love them and wish them well, I just hope they don’t care we aren’t there for their big day.

Aside from wedding RSVP’s and sending gift to weddings we aren’t invited to, I have seen a housewarming party invites make people feel left out or excluded just like a wedding invite would. A few years ago my husband and I had house warming party and invited a lot of our friends and family. We invited the people closest to us, the ones who knew about our home buy process, and the family that was there to help paint the walls and power wash the deck. The party was during the holidays and we were going to see everyone in the next weeks for Christmas and New Year’s so we wanted to keep it small. I didn’t invite my grandma or one of my aunts, and my husband didn’t invite one of his aunts or any of his cousins. Well apparently because we invited one aunt and uncle over the others that were the wrong thing to do. For the past three holiday seasons this one aunt has ignored us, given us the cold shoulder and at one point didn’t even give me a hug when I had my arms wrapped around her! I had no idea why she was so rude to me, so I asked someone and they told me “Oh it’s because you didn’t invite her to your house warming party years ago”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? So now my advice for a housewarming party is to invite everyone you “think” you should be invited and hope that they don’t come.

The most awkward gift etiquette in my life, was not receiving a card from one of my bridesmaids. I was one of the first girls in my group of friends to get married almost six years ago, and when my husband and I were opening are cards and reading all the notes and congratulations we noticed that two people in our wedding party never gave us a card. We didn’t know what to do, but we went through the cards again and still found nothing, Thankfully two hour went by and our friend Joe text us and said “I’m a dumbass you wedding card is still in my truck, so sorry, I will give it to you next time I see you.” We were so relieved that he hadn’t forgot proper wedding etiquette, but also that we didn’t’ have feel awkward around him or say something to another friend to ask him what happened to the card. I didn’t have such luck with my girlfriend, as she had never mentioned she forgot her card so I just let it go. I told one friend what had happened and we through it was strange but I wasn’t going to stress out about or lose a friend over a wedding gift. Well one month later our other friend got married, and this same girl didn’t’ give her a wedding card either. She asked me if I had gotten one and I said no. Then a few days later addressed it with our friend. Our friend was making us a video of the day and was going to include the money and card with the gift once she was done editing the video! Incidents like this just go to show you that you should never ask where your card is or why someone didn’t give you money.

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