Is It Ever Okay to Attend a Wedding Without Giving a Gift?

Guests, this one is for you.

jamie jon wedding guests with cocktails
Photo: Rachel Havel Photography

If there's one universal truth about big life events, it's that they're typically acknowledged with gifts. This is especially true in the case of weddings. It's a cultural thing, whether you live in Alabama or Alaska, but it's also the polite thing to do. Two people fall in love, get engaged, plan a wedding, invite family and friends to celebrate, and, finally, say thanks for the gifts. Extremely straightforward, nothing greedy about it.

Unless you're a guest who likes to break the rules. "Buy a wedding present? Never!" You may be surprised, but it happens more often than you'd think. Most couples will have at least one or two attendees who never give a present. If you're thinking about attending a wedding without bringing or sending a gift, here's what you need to know.

Is giving a wedding gift even mandatory?

Yes and no. Whether it's a 30th birthday or a wedding, if you're invited to a celebratory party, it's customary for a guest to bring a gift. But if you don't bring one, you aren't breaking any laws. More than likely, you won't be called out for your social faux pas, but it will probably be noticed.

What if I'm broke?

Sticking to your personal budget is important, and no bride or groom would ever want you to over extend yourself for their wedding. But that doesn't mean you can't put away a little something for a small present. From the time you receive the invitation to the wedding day, you should have about six to eight weeks to set money aside. Just skipping a few coffee runs will help you save enough for a $20 bottle of champagne and a nice card with a heartfelt message. It's the thought that counts-not the price tag.

Will the couple even notice?

Yes, they'll definitely notice. Since the couple is too polite to ask whether or not you sent a gift, they'll always wonder if you just didn't give them one or if it was lost in the mail.

What if I'm not going to the wedding?

If you're not present, there's no need to send one. You can write a nice message expressing your congratulations to the couple on the RSVP, or even send a card in the mail, but there's no obligation to get a gift.

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