Being in someone’s wedding is a special privilege. It’s also often a ton of work and includes paying more money than one expected for clothes, bachelorette parties, and other assorted wedding activities. And it’s also frequently time-consuming and an emotional commitment (especially if the bride becomes difficult) (and almost all brides do). So does a bridesmaid ever owe the bride a gift besides his/her time, love, and understanding?
A bride writing to A Practical Wedding is facing just such a question. In her letter, the woman writes that while her wedding was wonderful, she was hurt when a bridesmaid—who allegedly had enough money to purchase a gift—didn’t. The bride writes that she “knows she has to confront” this friend but doesn’t know how to do so. What’s a gift-less bride to do?
From the letter:
Since returning home from our wedding and honeymoon, my husband and I have been reliving our wedding day high from writing personal thank you notes to our guests. One issue has been killing my high… one of our guests did not give us a wedding card or gift. It wouldn’t bother me so much except that she is my best friend from growing up, a bridesmaid in our small wedding party, and she brought her boyfriend to our wedding. Maybe she thought that she didn’t have to give us a wedding gift because she was a bridesmaid?
I know I should confront her but I don’t know where to begin. Even a majority of friends who could not make the wedding sent us a congratulatory note and/or gift. If she were in dire financial circumstances, I would totally understand but she just returned from a European vacation. I don’t want to impose any societal etiquette on her. Maybe I just need to adjust my own expectations?
Before we get to A Practical Wedding’s response, there are two things here that seem immediately wrong: One, the bride feels that it is her right to confront someone about their lack of gift, which isn’t something I have ever heard of before; and two, in her hurt, she’s counting her friend’s money without actually knowing her friend’s situation. I’m not saying that she’s a bad person or anything (although commenters on the website do agree it’s a bit presumptuous to believe she can confront anyone about a wedding present), but the bride does seem short-sighted, ignoring both her friend’s contribution to the wedding and seeing a gift as some sort of wedding-attendance fee, as opposed to what it actually is: a nice gesture but not mandatory. Also, I’m calling bullshit on the “I wouldn’t mind if she were broke” line. If the bride can’t handle a lack of gift in a certain circumstance, I doubt she can handle it under any circumstance. It’s easy to imagine her writing the same letter while stating that it’s rude of her friend not to get her a present when she’s clearly got a home to go to at night as opposed to living on the mean streets of whatever city they live in.
Yeah, it’s great when the people you care about buy you some crystal, but it also feels kind of greedy to expect presents from anyone who’s had to ply you with champagne on your big day so that you don’t pull a Runaway Bride. And I’d extend the “never confront anyone about a gift rule” not only to the wedding party, but also to anyone who’s had to travel, and then extend it even further to apply to everyone else. Ever. Confronting anyone about not providing you with a blender is just really fucking rude and this bride sounds like she’s a little bit of a nightmare. Demanding a gift is never a good look; just ask these people who were blasted far and wide for doing just what the bride is proposing.
Fortunately, Liz Moorhead, the person taking emails at A Practical Wedding has the patience of a saint when it comes to the privileged and entitled (a quality that I would also like to possess, but my doctor continues to refuse refilling my Ativan). First Moorhead reminds the bride that there’s not one rule of etiquette that requires anyone to give you a gift for any reason, and then she drops this little bit of education on the clueless bride who’s still counting her presents:
...there could be any number of reasons she didn’t bring a gift. And trying to ascertain her financial state from the outside-in isn’t a great idea. Trips to Europe or no, she could be broke. Or not broke, and a wedding gift just didn’t factor into whatever financial decisions she was making this month. Or maybe she forgot. Or maybe she really sucks at gifts. There could be any number of reasons that your friend didn’t give you something.
But zero of those are reason to approach her about it. And it makes me really nervous that you use that word “confront.” People choose not to bring gifts to weddings for all sorts of reasons, and addressing her about that choice won’t do much more than make for an awkward situation. Besides, there are very very very few times when it’s a good idea to ask someone why they haven’t given you a gift (and most of those times, we’re talking strictly about your partner). That’s just not how gifts work.
Agreed. If the bride has an issue with the lack of a present that’s on her; it’s something to work out on her own. Even if her “love language,” as the commenters on Practical Wedding refer to it as, is expressed tangible goods that can be used or bartered, there’s nothing that says that anyone has to speak it. Especially after being in the wedding. And again, the bride didn’t ask how she could gently bring it up with her friend, but used the term “confront,” which isn’t accidental.
It’s important to remember that when you put an emphasis on presents it can not only alienate people, but make it seem like that’s the only reason they were invited. Having been in several weddings, I can safely tell you that if a bride rolled up to me and asked why I didn’t get her a present while overlooking the fact that I wrote a toast, planned a bachelorette party, and/or rented the purple vest that was required, I would probably not speak to that person again, because what they’re telling me is that what I’ve done isn’t good enough to justify my invitation or inclusion in the party.
Plus, some people may not come to the wedding if they’re worried that a gift is required. From a commenter on the site:
We had one person RSVP “no” to our wedding even though she lived in the same city and was not out of town that weekend. She later told other friends that should couldn’t come because of “financial reasons” which I assume means she couldn’t afford a gift. I wish she hadn’t felt that way but I didn’t know until after the fact.
And a comment from a woman who gives a little insight into what being a bridesmaid can sometimes be like:
I WAS THIS BRIDESMAID!!!!!! I was a BM in my very best friend’s wedding a couple of years ago. She was an extremely difficult bride, and I talked to her for hours (hours) every. single. day. about her wedding for a year and a half.
My fiancee and I were COMPLETELY broke at the time. We were both living on one person’s student loans. It cost us $2500 for me to be in/attend her (extremely extravagant) wedding...out of the $7500 that we had to live on for SIX months. I did not get her a gift. I do not feel bad about it. We could barely afford to eat.
If she ever “confronted” me about not giving her a gift, I would be devastated. A part of me wants the LW to confront her friend about this; I would definitely want to know if my best friend, for whom I had been a faithful and dedicated BM and on whom I had spent several thousand dollars, was writing to major wedding websites about me not getting her a gift.
That is a friend who is making the bride a priority. If not getting a gift makes it feel like you’re not important or that it cheapens your relationship, that’s not on the bridesmaid, it’s on the bride. And there are therapists who will be happy to help her work out those issues without ruining her relationship with a close friend.
I have loved every wedding I have been in, but let’s remember that while being asked to play an important role in someone’s special day is amazing, it isn’t always (or ever) just a cake-walk. And while I agree that one should feel all of their feelings and that the letter writer’s hurt is valid (for her), it’s one of those things she should work out on her own instead of with the bridesmaid or—and let’s hope she didn’t do this—by talking behind the bridesmaid’s back with others who were at the wedding.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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