Finances & Money

Before Buying That Wedding Gift, Ask Yourself This One Question

wedding gift tips, wedding gift advice, buying a wedding gift

While visiting my parents for Father’s Day, my mom stated to both my brother and I that we would likely be seeing each other later in September. When asked why, she told us we would be getting an invitation to Linda’s (name changed) wedding in the near future.


Turns out Linda is the youngest daughter of a cousin of ours. This cousin was our babysitter when we were kids, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen her. My brother and I looked at each other knowing neither of us would be traveling across the state to attend the wedding of a young woman we’ve never even met.

I know exactly why we were invited, and celebrating the nuptials of a close friend or family member has nothing to do with it. The aunts and uncles in our family keep track of who was invited to the last wedding, and sends out what I like to call “obligation invitations” in return. My mother likely invited someone to our wedding almost 20 years ago, and this invitation is being sent in return.


Image courtesy of xtremelife /

Weddings are a huge financial undertaking. While I certainly appreciate the invitation, I don’t know why anyone would want to pay for my family of four to eat an expensive wedding meal when I don’t know the bride or groom. Similarly, why would I spend money for gas, hotel room, food and a wedding gift to celebrate two people starting their lives together that I don’t even know.

I’m happy for my cousin’s daughter and her future husband, but if we were to attend, it would probably be the only time we’d ever see each other. Weddings are a joyous occasion where newlyweds should be surrounded by the people close to them in life, celebrating and supporting them as they transition into the next phase of their lives. If I were to attend, I would feel completely out of place.

There’s a rule of thumb that I apply whenever I decide whether to attend a wedding. I ask myself one simple question, “Will the bride or groom wonder why I didn’t show up?” In this case, the answer is a resounding, “No.”  Thus, I will respectfully decline the invitation and save us both a little money.

Have you ever been invited to a wedding for someone you didn’t know? Did you go?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Many people want to go to as many weddings as possible. It makes them feel popular or “in”. Then on Monday after the wedding they can tell all their co–workers all about it.

  • I have a worse example. A friend who is Congolese, grew up in the states and had recently returned to Congo, was asked to pay for several cases of beer for the wedding. Then he didn’t even get an invite.

    I agree with your rule of thumb for the wedding though!

  • I agree as well.
    My MIL is one of those “Aunts.” I didn’t know 1/2 the people who we were “obligated” to invite to our wedding. Didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem though, since many of those people couldn’t make it, and sent a nice check. Silly family politics. On the OTHER hand, friends of ours who I have known for over 30 years who have 6 (mostly grown) children responded that yes, they would attend. With everyone’s significant other, and some grandchildren thrown in the mix. 16 of them in all. So, even though I hate thinking like this, what it boiled down to was that we paid $800 to feed their family (this is not even counting what portion of our bar bill they consumed – a large portion) in exchange for their gift of $140 to us. I was a little bitter. I think I’m over it, but as you can see, I haven’t exactly forgotten.
    I haven’t ever really gone to a wedding where neither of us knew the couple.

  • I believe people come to wedding receptions by invitation only. Have a wedding that you can afford and don’t expect to reimbursed by your guests’ monetary gifts. Your guests are not obligated to reimburse you for their meals. You have choices. Weddings have gotten so out of hand. You can spend $100,000 on a wedding or $25 at the local Justice of the Peace. When you wake up the next morning you’re marriages are equal. Your pocketbooks are not.

  • This is a huge tradition in our family, down to tracking the exact dollar amt of gifts so you can “return” them. It’s ridiculous. I will say that even the wedding crashers bring checks though because the expectation in our culture is that you bring cash as a gift so that makes it even more interesting. I can happily decline invitations to weddings for people I don’t know (someone who once wanted to date my husband but never did invited us to her wedding. WHY.), and for friends who I’m not close with, because each wedding we do attend costs us hundreds of dollars. We now have to be quite selective.

  • @Kathy – Wow, I never thought of it that way….that’s definitely not me. I personally don’t enjoy weddings that much…unless I know the Bride or Groom really well – then I have a BLAST because I’m celebrating and supporting people I know. I can’t imagine using going to a wedding as a status symbol! Thanks for sharing!!

  • @Cathie- I can see some instances where people you may not know are at a wedding…for example, my coworker has invited us to his daughter’s wedding. I don’t know his daughter, but I know him. I AM going to that wedding because I’m there to celebrate with my coworker. BUT the obligation invitation just because someone got invited to a wedding 10 or 20 years ago is just insane. thanks for sharing your story!

  • @Betty – LOVE your last two sentences. If I had to do my wedding all over, I’d find somewhere where I could just have a pool party and a BBQ. It’s SO much more my style. I doubt my wife would go for it though… 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • @Revanche – Oh, the gift giving tracking..yeah my family is all about that, too. I couldn’t remember the source of 98% of the gifts we got for our wedding….but my mother certainly does. She has to, so she can give a similar gift whenever someone from that family gets married!!!

  • I haven been invited to weddings where I have only met the person a few times, but have gone only because my partner knew the person.

    Then there was an occasion where I was invited to a wedding of a family friend who I haven’t spoke to or seen in YEARS. Probably the last time I saw them was when I was in high school and we weren’t even close, so I’m guessing that was a “we need to get more seats filled invite because people declined”. I did end up going because the rest of my family went so at least I would have someone to sit with and talk during the reception, but if that happened again, I would definitely decline.

    My rule would be, if you’re not family and I haven’t spoken to you/seen you in the last 3 years, you’re not invited. Simple as that.

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