Dear Penny: Do I Have to Send a Gift if I Was Uninvited From a Wedding?

A bride and groom walk down a street. The bride is carrying flowers.
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Dear Penny,

I need some insight into today's wedding protocol. My sister’s stepdaughter is getting married. I received a non-personalized notecard saying that the wedding is downsizing, and essentially, my family didn't make the official invitation list. 

I’m not offended that I didn't make the cut, as we are not close and have no direct communication. The note included their wedding website registry info. The only item on their registry is a donation to their house-buying fund. Am I still required to send a contribution/gift? 


Dear R.,

Wedding etiquette is among the most divisive topics that exist in the world of advice columns. And as someone who’s never been married and who hasn’t attended a wedding in a while, I’m a bit rusty on the topic.

Fortunately, though, all corners of the internet — from etiquette experts to wedding forums to Reddit — seem united on this one: You do not have to send a gift to a wedding you’re not invited to, especially since you’re not close to the couple.

The fact that the couple is asking for donations to their homebuying fund doesn’t change things. If you want to chip in a few bucks, fine, but you certainly shouldn’t feel obliged to do so. I should note that even for wedding guests, presents technically are considered optional.

I’m glad there are no hard feelings here. In traditional wedding etiquette land, disinviting anyone who had received a save-the-date notice or an invite was frowned upon.

Though it’s awkward for everyone when a couple has to trim their wedding list, sometimes it’s necessary. Often, it boils down to cost, given that the average wedding in 2021 rang in at $28,000 and wedding budgets are notorious for spiraling out of control. If it’s a choice between starting a marriage saddled with wedding debt versus the uncomfortable work of trimming the guest list, I’d vote for the latter. And of course, COVID-19 still has many couples erring on the side of a smaller guest list.

That said, the couple did commit a couple of faux pas. The consensus among the etiquette experts seems to be that you never include registry info on a wedding invite (though including a card with the wedding website that includes the registry is fine). So it seems especially tacky to include registry info on a wedding disinvite. And when faced with the delicate task of disinviting guests, it’s best to include a personal note explaining the situation.

I think all this is forgivable, though. Wedding etiquette can be a minefield for couples to navigate.

In this situation, I’d probably send a card and a short handwritten note expressing well wishes to the couple. But consider yourself absolved of any gift-giving requirement.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].

Dear Penny

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