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Have Wedding Gifts (and Expectations) Gotten Out of Hand?

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Call it a faux-pas, call it cattiness, call it what you want. I'll call it Giftgate.

In case you missed it, Amy Kenny of the Hamilton Spectator wrote a fantastic piece about an embarrassing turn of events. In a classic case of two wrongs not making a right (but making for great journalism and lively water cooler banter), a local couple lambasted their wedding guest for giving them a gift they felt to be of inadequate value. The scorned wedding guest made the private discussion extremely public, the local paper caught on and the story went like wildfire. Giftgate, if you will.

Once I could pick my jaw up off the ground, I was thrilled to chat about the subject. It struck a nerve. The CBC, the National Post, radio stations, even the Vancouver Sun, covered it.

I write this on an evening, my own week bookended by bridal showers on either weekend. I'm lucky that the brides I'm celebrating with are lovely, kind, diplomatic women, but reading and talking about Giftgate fires me up. And I'm not alone. The subject of wedding gifts, from the lead up events, to the expectations on guests, to the cost of all the rigmarole, is a loaded one.

To set the record straight, it's nice to bring a gift to a wedding, it's a norm some might say, but couples are never to expect or demand a gift. That reeks of entitlement, and does greed have a place at your wedding?

  • Weddings are life occasions, not profit-and-loss forecasts. Wedding guests are not on the hook to cover the cost of a wedding. For those planning a wedding, if that's the thinking behind your budget, consider scaling back your guest list or your expenses.
  • It's never OK to ask a gift giver for a receipt, or to substantiate a gift they got you. If this is asked of you, however, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for new friends.
  • Weddings can be complicated. However, the rules of giving and receiving gifts are refreshingly simple. Couple gets gift, couple writes thank you note communicating gratitude for said gift, couple and wedding guests live happily ever after.
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