– Ask Cheryl – How to Handle a Giftless Guest

When a guest doesn’t bring a gift, are brides obligated to write a note thanking her attending? Cheryl gives two options for how to handle a gifteless guest.

Dear Cheryl,

My daughter is writing thank you cards for gifts received at her bridal shower. She informed me that she did not receive a gift from my aunt and cousin. It was a display shower and she checked through all of the display cards, along with bridal shower cards.

What should she write in the thank you card?


Dear Anonymous,

First I need to ask if your aunt and cousin attended the bridal shower? If they did not, then it should not be expected that they would send a gift for the shower. However, I’m going to assume that they did attend the shower or you probably wouldn’t have inquired.

You have two of options here:

  1. Don’t write a thank you note. Since they attended with no gift, it’s not necessary to write. I recommend that you let it go and assume that they will give a lovely wedding gift, if they are able. Although uncommon, it’s possible that your relatives decided to attend the shower without a gift because they didn’t have time to get one or decided not to for some unknown reason. They might have even objected to the notion of a “display shower.” I know I’m not a fan. I feel that the whole purpose of a bridal shower is to open gifts, see the excitement and pleasure on the face of the bride-to-be, and hear her sincere thanks in person. If there are too many gifts to open, then you’ve invited too many people. Call me old-fashioned!

Anyway…(slight pause as I try to climb down from my soapbox).

  1. If you are concerned their gift was somehow misplaced, inquire about the gift. You will need to ask in person or over the phone. This can be tricky, but if you feel that this is the more likely scenario, then it’s best to ask. It does seem odd that someone would attend a wedding shower without a gift since the entire purpose of the event is to “shower” the bride or couple with gifts, but sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. If you decide to inquire, be prepared for any response. Whatever the reply, be kind and say, “thank you for clearing that up. Looking forward to seeing you at the wedding.”

To answer your question more succinctly, if there is no gift, a thank-you note is not sent. It’s not necessary to send a thank-you note for their attendance.

I hope this was helpful. Wishing you and your daughter all the best as you navigate this exciting wedding journey!

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.

2 thoughts on “Ask Cheryl: How to Handle a Giftless Guest

  1. Dear Cheryl:

    I attended a cousin’s “display” shower in April and have not received a thank you. My gift (a gift card to a store where the couple is registered) was in a small, unsealed box, thinking it would be displayed. I checked with another cousin, and she hadn’t received a thank you either. Have the rules changed about acknowledging gifts? Or should I be worried that the bride-to-be didn’t get the gift? Thank you.


  2. Hi Anonymous,

    No, the rules have not changed about writing thank you notes. The bride-to-be should have acknowledged the shower gifts by now. When is/was the wedding? It is possible that wedding planning tied up your cousin’s time.

    My suggestion is that you ask your aunt if your cousin received the gift and let her know that you are worried that the gift card was misplaced (and that does happen). You can say that you are “sure that your sweet cousin would have gotten around to her thank you notes by now.”

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