Here's how to deal with the sticky situation.
wedding gift table
Credit: Austin Gros

Imagine this: You just got engaged, you're over the moon, and you return home one afternoon to find a congratulatory gift from one of your mother's friends. In addition to feeling grateful for the thoughtful gesture, you might also be worried. What if she doesn't make the final guest list for the wedding? Would that make you seem rude? Suddenly, it feels like your guest list is beginning to write itself. So, how should you handle the influx of well-wishes without feeling obligated to plan a wedding with a guest list that's larger than you wanted or can even afford? We asked Lizzie Post, etiquette expert with the Emily Post Institute, for her most thoughtful approach to handling this sticky situation in the moment and beyond.

In the moment...

If you get a gift out of nowhere, you're in the clear. "Because there's no party associated with this, you haven't done anything to indicate people are invited to the wedding," Post explains. "Accept the gift graciously and put a lot of focus on how grateful you are that they thought of you." Odds are, you won't be at a loss for small talk in this situation. People will likely want to know all the details of the proposal, how it went down, and any thoughts you have about your future wedding. You don't need to be afraid to mention the wedding-you can keep things general, Post explains. "You can talk about the fact that you're excited to see how everything turns out and that you're not exactly sure what kind of wedding it will be yet." But what if the gift came during an engagement party? Any guest that was invited to that event will also expect an invitation to the wedding. Regardless of the circumstances, you should always send a thoughtful (and personalized!) thank-you note to the well-wisher in a timely manner.

During planning...

Once you start planning the wedding, Post says couples should keep those gift-givers in mind-but not in the driver's seat-as you draft your guest list. "If you wind up planning something bigger, they might be one of the names you decide to consider once you've gotten through the people you have to invite," she explains. But to be clear, a present given is not an invitation bought, so if you can't squeeze them onto the list, you don't have to.

If they don't make the list...

First and foremost, don't feel bad. "This person got you a gift because they were really excited about your engagement and that's okay! They probably know that they aren't in your innermost circle," Post says. While there's a very low chance of someone confronting you over the decision, keep your cool and use this handy script if it does happen. Post suggests explaining how you were so thankful for their gift, but you ended up planning a smaller wedding and weren't able to extend invitations to everyone you would have wanted to. Then, leave it at that. "I don't think it's right for other people to make you feel bad about how you chose to plan your wedding," Post says. "There are times when potential guests or friends need to respect the fact that not every party is something you can be invited to and weddings are especially that way. You shouldn't have to apologize for the fact that you made the choices that you did."


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