I was disinvited from a friend’s wedding — do I have to send a gift?

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Hi, Group Chat,

Recently one of my friends had to downsize her wedding from 150 guests to just 30 of her closest friends and family members. As a result, I was told that I was no longer invited — which is understandable!

What I don’t understand, however, is why my friend included her registry in the email informing me that I would no longer be attending the wedding. In my opinion, it’s a little tacky to ask people for gifts after you’ve told them they’re no longer going to your wedding. I understand that COVID has ruined a lot of people’s special days, but it seems insane to me to ask people to spend money on you, then uninvite them to your wedding in the same breath. Will I look like a bad person if I don’t send a gift or just send a card? Help!

Sincerely, Dishonored Guest

Credit: Getty

Dear DG,

Katie Mather, whose lowest-ranked love language is gifts, says… I find it very brave that you are so chill about not making the cut! But listen, one of the best parts of getting married is the gifts (I am not married), and it is not tacky at all for her to attach her wedding registry.

What is the big deal in buying the newlyweds an avocado cuber or a ficus (again, I am not married, I am not sure what married people need?). Your friend had to downsize the number of people who get to see her at peak hotness walking down the aisle, and you want to “just send a card!?” Nuh-uh.

Moriba Cummings, who firmly believes in thinking things through before you act, says… Your outrage — or hurt, as it seems to be — is totally understandable and justified in this scenario. You were planning on celebrating someone you cherish and, as a result of today’s tradition-shifting new normal, you’ve been forced to sit this one out. On top of that, you believe it’s unfair that you should be “rewarding” this “treatment” with a gift. I get it — but, before you possibly question your friendship with your bride-to-be friend, take a moment and think this through.

Firstly, put yourself in her shoes and think about how taxing it must have been to sacrifice how she envisioned her big day, then at the last minute revamp it completely for the safety of herself, her soon-to-be life partner and their loved ones.

Secondly, ask yourself if your friendship can be reduced to something as tangible and disposable as a gift. If you truly treasure her friendship, you’d understand that this isn’t a stab to your bond, but just a requirement that had to be made for the greater good of everyone involved. So, my advice: Send a thoughtful gift, be there for her when this pandemic subsides and, over time, continue to show that your friendship is priceless.

Lisa Azcona, who prefers to celebrate friends’ milestones in ways other than gift-giving, says… I totally understand where you’re coming from — it feels like your friendship has been reduced to a gift, but that’s probably not the case here. First and foremost, acknowledge that your friend did want you to be present on her big day. The decision to uninvite you was probably just as difficult for her to make as it was for you to receive.

She’s had to uproot her wedding, which she probably envisioned would include the people she loves the most (like you!), and now is trying to navigate how to make people feel connected to the event. That is probably where the registry came into play. 

Now, when it comes to whether or not you’d need to select a gift from the registry, I’ve always believed that gift-giving is always done right when you have genuine intentions. What I mean by this is: You shouldn’t feel like you need to pick a gift out of guilt or feeling like a “bad person.” If there is even the slightest chance that sending a gift feels off, I’d follow your gut. I’d suggest doing something different, something with sentimental value that is more representative of your friendship. Perhaps coordinate a FaceTime date or communicate what she means to you in a card. What is most important here is that the bride-to-be knows you’re happy for her, that you love her and that you are sending her good vibes on her big day. The rest is extra!

Dillon Thompson, who never throws away a good Hallmark card, says Allow me to be incredibly boring for a second, and talk about Dunbar’s Number. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s a theory that we can only maintain a certain number of “real” relationships at one time. Basically, it means no one has “like a million friends,” no matter how popular they think they are. Ironically, Dunbar’s Number for how many “real” friends we can fit in our brains … is 150.

The point here: Your friend obviously cares about you enough to include you in her big day, and you obviously cared enough to attend. That said, the pandemic has changed everything, and for many weddings, 30 attendees is barely more than the bride and groom’s immediate family. 

A lot of people missing the ceremony are probably looking for a way to participate, and to them, the registry is a way to do so. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to buy a massively expensive gift for a wedding you’re not attending. Maybe you could order a small item from the registry — just enough to show you wish you could be there. If that still feels like too much, there’s nothing wrong with a good card, especially if it plays music.

Phoebe Zaslav, someone who has been fantasizing about her wedding day since she was six, says… I’m sorry to hear about this sticky situation, but I’m sure the bride-to-be is just as bummed as you are. For a lot of people, weddings are one of the most memorable days of their lives, where they wish to have everyone they care about by their side. But unfortunately, there is no rulebook for pandemic wedding etiquette — we’re all just trying to do what we think is best. 

Since it’s not the bride’s fault that her special day is compromised and since she is someone you consider a friend, I understand how it may be hard to judge what the “appropriate” thing to do here is. I’m sure your friend wants you to be there on her big day and is most likely sadder than you know about the change in party size. With that said, I don’t think it’s that bad for her to be asking for a celebratory gift under these circumstances.

Now, I understand that everyone’s financial situation is different, but if you have the means, I think participating in the registry may be the most “friend” thing to do. I’m not saying you have to get her the largest and most extravagant gift on the list, but one of the smaller, knick-knack items can’t hurt. And, to your friend, I’m sure that gesture will go a long way. You may not be the only disinvited attendee who is feeling uncertain about the registry, but if you choose to gift her something, at least you won’t look back and wish you did it differently, especially if and when down the line, it’s your turn to be sending out a registry.

TL;DR… This is a sucky situation all around. But, unlike your friend — with her pandemic-slashed wedding party — you have power in your hands to make things better. Send her a gift (your personal finances permitting, of course) and brighten her day! Pick the third-cheapest item on the registry to be classy.

Think of it as being paid for by the money you’d have spent on a cab to and from the affair, or the cash you’d be spending on a hotel room after. Maybe you’re getting to return a dress or the shoes you were planning to wear to the party. Of course, it’s not the same thing — you wanted to get dolled up and have fun celebrating your friend. But, you can’t right now, because miss ‘rona said, “no.” So you might as well turn a bad situation around with a $30 set of monogrammed marble coasters.

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