– Ask Cheryl – Put an End to Gift Shaming

The holidays are upon us, and there’s a lot of focus on gift giving. I wanted to take a moment to talk about gifts and what to do if you don’t receive the gift you want or expected, or if you don’t receive a gift at all. Today’s Ask Cheryl question is from a reader that felt attacked when she couldn’t afford to give a timely wedding gift to her niece. Read on for my thoughts on this and putting an end to gift shaming…

(Received in late October)
Dear Cheryl,

My niece was married in London in July. She and her husband then had the reception here in the States in August. I was strapped for money at the time of the reception and didn’t give a gift on the day of the reception. I was planning on sending the gift (money) shortly afterwards. When they were going over their gifts and realized there wasn’t anything from me, her mother (my sister) sent me a 3-page email at work ripping me apart and even going back as far as 14 years of things that bothered her and which had nothing to do with my niece. This has caused anger and a very awkward situation. I still want to make good. Should I send the gift in a Thanksgiving or Christmas card along with a note?


Gift Receiving Etiquette

Hi Deborah,

I am so sorry to hear about this experience. From an etiquette point of view, you did nothing wrong. When only invited to the reception and not the wedding, a gift is not required and should not be expected. It is fine to give a gift if you choose to; and it’s also fine to wait to send a gift until you can afford to do so. However, since it was your niece, you probably should have mentioned to your sister or niece that you intended to give a gift, but that it would be delayed.

First, I would send a short email back to your sister — but take the high road. Simply explain that you planned to send a gift as soon as you could afford to. You might say something like, “I’m sorry you were upset. I should have let you or (name of your niece) know that I would be sending a gift late.”

Also, I think your idea is perfectly fine. Send a note or letter to your niece explaining your situation and wishing her all the happiness in the world.

As it appears your sister’s anger is about more than the wedding gift, you might want to find some time to talk to your sister about the other issues.

The Bigger Picture: Gift Shaming versus Gratitude

Wedding gifts are a tradition in our country. They are a token of affection and support for the couple getting married. But no one is entitled to them and no one should be upset or offended when an “expected” gift is not received. There can be all sorts of reasons. Have a little compassion folks.

I’m disgusted by all the things I read where couples are angry or complaining because someone didn’t spend enough or get them a nice enough gift. Oh the entitlement! What happened to gratitude? Be thankful for what you receive and forget about what you don’t. Most people want to give a gift that a couple will love and cherish, but not everyone will do a great job. Some may even forget or just choose not to. Forgive them. I shouldn’t even have to say this, but if you invited someone to your wedding for the gift, then that’s the wrong reason.

Gifts are a nice bonus, but a wedding is about bringing friends and family together to celebrate your love. It’s about celebrating with those you care about and those that care about you.

If you have questions or comments about this post, or about gift giving, bridal shower, baby shower, or wedding etiquette, please comment below or email [email protected].

Questions in this column are received from readers. They may be edited for spelling, length and grammar, or to remove sensitive information. However, we are careful not to alter the intent or content of the question.

Cheryl Seidel is the founder and President of RegistryFinder.com, an intuitive search engine that helps gift givers quickly and easily find online registries for weddings, baby showers, graduations and more.

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