Can I Attend a Wedding if I Cannot Afford a Gift?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

In general, it is customary to buy a wedding gift for a wedding you plan to attend. The gift can either be mailed before the wedding or it can be brought to the reception. However, some find themselves in an ethical bind if they cannot afford a gift but would still like to attend the wedding.

Someone who cannot afford a gift might make something for the couple instead.
Someone who cannot afford a gift might make something for the couple instead.

A dip in your finances may simply mean that you're unable to afford a wedding gift on the bridal couple’s wedding registry. A registry is usually a means to provide guests with ideas on potential gifts; it should never be a demand for certain gifts. In fact, strict etiquette demands that the bridal couple not expect gifts, even if they would very much like to receive them.

Gift cards to the couple's favorite shops can be an inexpensive gift.
Gift cards to the couple's favorite shops can be an inexpensive gift.

A wedding gift is not payment for the pleasure of attending a wedding or compensation for how much the bride and groom are paying for the wedding reception meal. Rather, it's an expression of regard for the couple. Therefore, if you can't purchase a wedding gift on a bridal registry, you might want to get creative and provide a gift within your means.

At some weddings, the couple open gifts at the reception.
At some weddings, the couple open gifts at the reception.

If you don't have the means to provide even a small gift, then you should analyze how failing to receive a gift might be received by the bridal couple. A very close friend or close relative may realize that some of the “dearly beloved” are in tight financial circumstances. Simply providing a card may satisfy the demands of etiquette, especially if the card includes a special note or poem about how dear the couple is to your heart.

Some couples put an emphasis on friends and family sharing in their wedding rather than receiving gifts.
Some couples put an emphasis on friends and family sharing in their wedding rather than receiving gifts.

Unfortunately, some bridal couples are less concerned with etiquette and fully expect a gift of some value or of a specific value. Sometimes the best option in these cases is to not attend a wedding where the lack of a wedding gift will be perceived as a deliberate snub. Especially if you want to keep the more materialistic of friends, then not attending the wedding due to lack of funds for a gift is an acceptable means of getting out of this etiquette mess.

Offering to help the couple with chores or other tasks can make up for not having a gift.
Offering to help the couple with chores or other tasks can make up for not having a gift.

However, some brides and grooms expect a gift regardless of whether or not a invitee actually attends the wedding. You should not feel guilty if you cannot provide a gift. The bride and groom are acting against etiquette by expecting a gift from anyone. Therefore, failing to provide a gift for a couple whose wedding you won't attend does not violate etiquette. A greedy bride or groom may still take this personally. When this is the case, you might want to consider shopping not for a gift, but for friends with greater empathy.

Helping prepare food for the wedding reception can make up for not having a gift.
Helping prepare food for the wedding reception can make up for not having a gift.
Friends who cannot afford a wedding gift may offer to take the couple out to celebrate later.
Friends who cannot afford a wedding gift may offer to take the couple out to celebrate later.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

anon311296

For our wedding, I understand people have tight budget, so our registry has items that cost only $10. However, a close friend of mine attended our wedding without even sending a card. That upsets me. A card would show that she had thought about us enough to write something nice for us even though her financial situation is bad. At our wedding, she just talked about how broke she is, and how many hours of work her boyfriend lost to attend to our wedding. And guess what? They went out the night before, and the night after our wedding, spending money. She talks on facebook about her expensive stuff. So yeah, I know who I should choose as a friend. This called selfish, not broke.

anon90520

I'll never understand those crazy brides who demand to know where their gifts are or are so obsessed with their gift lists. It's so obnoxious! I've been a bridesmaid plenty of times to know!

However, it's helped because now as a bride, I know that gifts are not the point of a wedding and if someone gives me a gift then I am appreciative, and even if they don't, I am appreciative of their well wishes and attending my special day.

I created a tasteful and lovely gift list online since many relatives and friends have called me up to ask where I was registered but I definitely did not include these in my gift list.

I totally support your statements on etiquette! Hope brides take a chill pill.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: