We all know the saying, “tis better to give than to receive.” But both givers and receivers have run into the awkward situation of what I call “the missing gift:” for brides, that means not receiving a gift, and for givers, not receiving an acknowledgement of a gift they’ve given, leaving them wondering if the gift has gone missing.
So what is one to do about wedding gift mysteries? Is it ever acceptable to track it down? And from the giver’s perspective: what can be done if a gift is never acknowledged? When a thank you note never comes, should the giver make sure the gift didn’t fall into the wrong hands?
I took these burning questions (and more) to my Instagram followers, who over the years have helped answer brides’ questions on everything from bridesmaids to B-lists. Read on for their opinions and ideas on what to do when gifts go missing!
Let’s start with advice for those who are on the receiving end.
Reality Check #1: Not Every Guest Will Give You a Gift
Everyone you invite to your wedding is going to give you a gift, right? Wrong. While traditionally each guest should come bearing gifts (or send you one in the months leading up to the wedding), this doesn’t always happen. In fact, 93% of respondents report that some of the people on their guest list remained gift-less.
And, much to my surprise, quite a few of our Instagram followers confessed that at least once, they attended a wedding without giving a gift!
Though I’m not attempting to normalize this behavior, these statistics tell me that a missing gift shouldn’t come as a shock or a mystery you need to solve: there’s no need to start an investigation surrounding the whereabouts of your wedding gift.
Reality Check #2: Tracking Down a Gift is not a Good Look
In the time I’ve spent writing about weddings and gift giving, I’ve been asked a few times about how to track down a wedding gift, or if it’s ever appropriate. I’m happy to report that the couples I surveyed have spoken clearly on this issue, once and for all:
A vast majority agree: you really shouldn’t reach out and ask about the lack of a gift. While we often use the word “obligation” in regards to a wedding gift, no one “owes” you a gift.
Wondering why you didn’t get something? Put down the spyglass, Sherlock. I polled my followers on the reasons why guests don’t give wedding gifts, and the most common answers were:
The responses were evenly split among A, B, and C, which tells me that reaching out can only backfire.
Some guests simply forget to send a gift (though it’s never too late!), don’t feel they need to if they don’t attend, or feel “spent out” by the time they travel to your wedding destination. Though you may feel hurt or disappointed by the lack of a gift, you run the risk of appearing ungrateful or entitled if you inquire.
A concerned bride once emailed me to ask, “What if the check got lost? What if they left their gift in the car?” I can appreciate these questions, but think it through: they will notice that the check was not cashed or that they have a KitchenAid mixer in their trunk: let it go!
Cash could, in fact, go missing. But there is no gracious way to say, “Dear Uncle Hank, did you and Aunt Margaret by chance try to give us cold, hard cash and could it perhaps have been lost in the mail or at our reception?”
Chalk it up to time, tight budgets, or forgetfulness, and move on!
The Exception to the Rule:
The one and only time our real brides recommend reaching out is if (and only if) the giver starts the conversation about the gift in question.
“Only if they tell you they sent you something and you don’t get it” –Jess W.
“If someone says, ‘Did you start enjoying your ____ yet?’ Then if you really never got it, say so.” –Jenny D.
Another scenario where investigating might be appropriate is when the registry indicates a gift was given, but you haven’t received it.
“If your registry tells you that they purchased the item but you never received it, then I think it’s appropriate to check in case it got lost in the mail.” –Tiffany P.
Rather than involving the giver, I would recommend first reaching out to the store or website to see if you can track the gift down that way.
Now, let’s turn to the givers.
After thoughtful consideration of the couple’s registry and your budget, you’ve selected the perfect gift for the couple, mailed it ahead of time, or attended the wedding with a gift in hand. Weeks and months pass, yet you receive no acknowledgement that your gift was received. What’s a giver to do?
Reality Check #1: You Might Not Get a Thank-You Note
Though I am a passionate advocate for thank-you notes, I have come to accept that many couples just don’t get around to sending them. If you’re waiting on a thank-you note to confirm that your gift was, in fact, received, you might be left wanting.
Brides and grooms, take note: the majority of givers are bothered by the lack of a thank-you note not because we are holding onto antiquated rules of etiquette, but because this assures us that you received your gift!
Reality Check #2: Shop Online and Mail Directly to the Couple
Because you can’t rely on the thank-you note to confirm receipt, I recommend shopping online to ensure you can track the gift yourself.
If it says the gift was delivered, rest assured that the couple is enjoying their new toaster oven, and forgive them for failing to express gratitude. Keep in mind that their thank-you might just be belated, but if it never arrives, let it go!
Another important note: always send a check rather than giving cash, and don’t bring the gift to the reception: this is where cards can be misplaced or stolen!
The Exception to the Rule:
If you can see that your gift was delivered, yet you are still concerned about delivery mistakes, could you reach out to the recipient?
28% of our respondents say that you could, but you should make it gentle. Wait two to three months, and then ask something along the lines of, “Are you enjoying the tea kettle we sent? I love the bright color you chose!” This could put your mind at ease and will most likely be met with profuse thanks.
If you brought a gift or an envelope of cash to the reception, months have passed, and you have not been thanked, you are now in a sticky situation. You should present your inquiry with concern over loss, not the couple’s ingratitude: “I’m worried that my gift may have been lost: did you receive a gift/envelope from us after the wedding?”
The Bottom Line: Give and Receive with Minimal Expectations
Brides and grooms, instead of focusing on the gifts you didn’t receive, be grateful for the ones you did! Treasure the presence of your loved ones on your special day, and try to let it go if their presence didn’t also come with presents. Though their reasons may remain a mystery, resist the temptation to uncover the whereabouts of your missing gifts!
Givers, remember that a wedding gift is an expression of your love and support for the couple. As long as the couple is happily enjoying your gift to them, try to release any feelings of resentment over not being thanked. Chalk it up to newlywed bliss and wish them the best!
Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, be sure to refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all of your registries in one place!