A disgruntled woman (I think) wrote in to Marcie and Kathy Sugar of Annie's Mailbox, "irritated" that her cousin, whose wedding she recently attended, had commented to her parents (Disgruntled's aunt and uncle) that she (bride) and hubby had not received gifts from Disgruntled (alias assigned by me) or Disgruntled's sister. (Her letter here).
Disgruntled hadn't sent/brought a gift, because she "couldn't afford it," and wants to know, "should I have just stayed home because I couldn't afford a gift?"
Marcie and Kathy suggest that while of course, a gift can never be "mandatory," and that often young adults in transition expect to be included in their parents' "family" gift, bringing a gift to a wedding is "customary and appropriate," and if Disgruntled truly couldn't manage it, perhaps she ought to have sent a card instead.
I think it's unfortunate that all the wedding brouhaha that's been brewing the last couple of decades has put everything and everyone so off-kilter that no one can seem to find the right path through a situation that doesn't need to be that difficult.
First of all, it wasn't great form of the bride to mention to her parents that she hadn't received a gift. Unless it was truly under the guise of wondering if it got lost or disconnected from the card, etc., which I doubt.
But it wasn't great form of the cousin to just show up empty-handed, either. I agree with Kathy and Marcie on the "custom" of bringing gifts to a wedding...I'd compare it to Christmas (if, in your family, gifts are traditional at Christmas). At both occasions, gifts are not and can't be technically required, but if you don't give them, there will likely be hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
I think the real problem here is the cousin's perception that she can't "afford" a gift. And that's where the wedding industry, the above mentioned "brouhaha" comes into play. When things get tight at Christmas, we knit scarves, we make scrapbooks, we frame pictures, we provide services for each other, etc. The problem here is that wedding gifts have been portrayed as needing to be so expensive that this woman actually thought it would be better to bring NOTHING than something as a token of goodwill and good wishes.
With some thought and effort, Digruntled could have brought something perfectly lovely and meaningful without spending much money (a throw embroidered with the names of the couple and date of the wedding? ingredients for a relaxing night in? a photo album in the wedding color and style and a promise--with follow-through--to fill with with pictures snapped on the big day?).
And then we have to keep our fingers crossed that the cousin bride would see it that way--though given her raising the gift issue with her parents, perhaps we shouldn't be too optimistic.
If the cousin truly truly truly could afford NOTHING, perhaps she should have talked it over with her parents or sister, planning to go in together, or at least "signing the card" on her parents gift (if they sympathized with her situation and were cool with it) so there would be a some indication of her thought and participation.
And the wedding was only 4 months ago, so while it would have been ideal to handle this before, it's not too late to send a gift with a card wishing them the best.
"I can't afford it" is reasonable justification for many, many things....but in some cases, where part of the event is sharing a spirit of love and generosity for the new couple it really sa cop-out.
Of course, this doesn't apply if the couple has already run any generosity family and friends were feeling into the ground months before the wedding. If the bride has temporarily lost her mind or is actually crazy, evil, and tallying up material and cash gifts at the wedding door, Disgruntled would have been better off not going at all, and not just because she couldn't afford it.