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An unexpected wedding invitation: Do we need to send a gift?

Published: May 17, 2016 | By | 20 Replies Continue Reading
When a couple gets an unexpected wedding invitation from friends who are only casual acquaintances, they wonder whether they are obliged to send a wedding gift.



I was shocked and floored to open a wedding invitation for the daughter of a couple (I’ll call them Bill and Wendy) that we met six years ago at our timeshare vacation property. We know them only casually through our timeshare condo, which we visit just 4 weeks out of the year. Even at that, Bill and Wendy are not always on our same vacation schedule as we are, so we rarely bump into them.

In the past, we’ve had dinner with them and another couple from the timeshare — maybe three times — and have had a few friendly conversations around the community pool. We definitely consider them casual acquaintances.

We cannot even recall meeting the daughter who is getting married, and don’t know WHY we’ve been invited to this wedding. Bill and Wendy live out of state, and the wedding and reception are to be held at a golf course near the vacation timeshare property. We are not scheduled to be there that same week — but even if we were, we would not feel comfortable traveling five hours to attend this wedding. We plan to decline the invitation.

My question: Are we obligated to send a wedding gift to a virtual stranger, especially if we’re not attending the event?  Over the years, I have struggled with similar situations — such as receiving graduation party invitations for the children of former colleagues and distant friends. I enjoy buying wedding and graduation gifts for the children of close friends, of course, but where do I draw the line? Does an invitation automatically mean you’re expected to send a gift?

Signed, Vikki


Hi Vikki,

Of course it can be awkward to receive an invitation when you feel like you barely know the people who sent it. My guess is that either Bill and Wendy grew very fond of you and your husband quite quickly, or they had a short guest list and were eager to have more people at the party.

While the invitation was a friendly gesture, a destination wedding entails a major commitment of time and money so I’m sure they’ll understand if you choose to send your regrets.

In terms of your question about the gift, the choice is yours and depends on how you feel. Wedding etiquette seems to be in such a state of flux that I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules. Either you can send a nice congratulatory note and thank them for thinking of you, or you could also send a small wedding gift if that’s within your budget.

Since you will probably see this couple at the timeshare in the future, you actually may grow closer with them over time. In that case, you might feel good if you responded with a nominal gift.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (20)

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  1. Maddie says:

    This couple likes you and enjoys your company. I’d send a nice card with a modest gift card.

  2. Liz says:

    Well, look at it this way – what if you were scheduled to be there that week? What if everyone else was invited and were attending but you weren’t even invited? Are they supposed to know your schedule?

    I think that it was nice of them to include you, and fine for you to say no. There is not a gift requirement for anyone, even if you attend – it is still a choice (of course most would give a gift if they attend – but there is not a rule that you must).

  3. Nancy says:

    I can shed some light from a parental view: Last year when my daughter was getting married, I invited a few friends who either didn’t know my daughter or had not seen her since childhood. I invited them to be my guests and celebrate with me. They were people who I felt a special closeness to and I enjoyed having them there.

    No one was invited with the thought of gifts or money or filling seats, just having people I cared about with me on a special day. I also don’t know what gifts or money were received as it’s not my business to ask.

    I agree with another poster who stated that the parents apparently feel more of a friendship with the two of you, even if it’s limited. It’s up to you whether to send a gift, but be sure to reply with your regrets if they included a reply card.

    • Vikki says:

      Thanks for your response. I agree with you — and should add that my husband and I invited several of our close couple friends to our own son’s wedding. These people were indeed close to us, and even though they didn’t know our son well, we also wanted them there to celebrate with us.

      In the case of Bill and Wendy — we hardly know them. We cannot count more than 4 visits over dinner with them while on vacation, and we never hear from them or get together with them otherwise. They are what I would call casual acquaintances. We are not remotely “close” in terms of friendship.

  4. lua says:

    To me, if someone I barely know or don’t hear from often sends a wedding, baby shower invite, it’s a gift grab. You are not obligated to attend a wedding or to send anything if you don’t have much contact. Spend that money on someone whom makes the effort. Or better yet, spend it on yourself☺ If you are not friends, you are not obligated. If you still feel the need, send a card or a 25 dollar gift card. Or you can regift something. Otherwise, don’t waste your time and money.

  5. lottie says:

    Forgot to add we sent two bottles of good wine,which I doubt was appreciated.Never heard a word since not even a piece of cake.

    • IBikeNYC says:

      As I get older, I find more and more of what I would consider lovely gestures, exactly like your gift of wine, COMPLETELY ignored.

      Maybe this is me, but I feel more and more like a chump every time it happens.

      (In your case, did they even GET the wine?)

  6. lottie says:


    Exactly,dot on. It happened to us last year. A friend whose daughter was getting married sent us an invite. We didn’t know her. Then we were asked to contribute to the honeymoon and not to send a gift. We didnt go politely declining the invite.

    • IBikeNYC says:

      I heard recently (wish I could remember from whom) about a wedding where the couple ASKED FOR “DONATIONS” for their honeymoon.

      It takes a LOT to render me speechless.

      My mouth was moving, I just KNOW it was, but no words came to the fore.

    • lua says:

      A gift grab. I know a couple whom had a honey moon donation, kitchen remodel, and two wedding registries. The groom males six figure digits and the bride makes a decent living wage, especially for SF. They pay 4000 grand a month for their mortgage and have lots of other debt. Perhaps they should not ask for so much then. Smh. Both of them want to maintain the lifestyle. It’s mind boggling. We had to attend since it’s a family friend, but got them a 25 gift card.

      • IBikeNYC says:

        Speechless again.

        I remember when everybody knew that the point of a registry was to get enough matching china and silver to set up your household.

      • IBikeNYC says:

        PS: Unfortunately, I am more than half prepared to get a gift-grab wedding invitation from someone I know and have decided that I will get her a $25 one of those wedding checks from my bank.

        • lua says:

          If you can get out of attending, politely decline. Declining does not mean you are obligated to send a gift.

          • IBikeNYC says:

            My understanding was / is that receipt of an invitation to specifically a wedding IS an obligation to send a gift whether one attends or not.

            It is incumbent upon those creating guest lists to bear this in mind.

            In a similar vein, I’ve always thought destination weddings were a huge imposition, unless (and sometimes even IF) your guests really ARE guests and not simply attendees.

  7. Tanja says:

    This has happened to me a few times. I was invited to a wedding in California by an ex boyfriend’s new girlfriend. Of course it was awkward, I did not respond, nor send a gift. Another time, I was invited by someone that I knew in high school and we did not talk for years. Suddenly, I got an invitation to his wedding. I politely declined by phone call but that was it, no gift. It also happened, where I had a friend who barely knew my parents and invited even my parents to the wedding. That was strange and a lot of people from high school that she barely talked to was there. I figured at that point that she just wanted a big wedding and had a short guest list. I worried when I got married because there is a part of me that would have liked a big wedding myself and I always get jealous of people who have that. But, for me, I had such a short guest list. I would have not known who to invite. I made it a friends and family wedding, so I only had 20 people in total at mine, including my me and my husband. So, I would not feel obligated to send a gift at all.

  8. Patricia says:

    I feel badly that you seem so angry for being invited to such a special event. I understand that you do not know the people very well (or know the bride), but look at it from a positive perspective and be grateful that you have people in you life that are fond of you, respect you and clearly want to share this special occasion with you.

    Perhaps they are using this event as a way to become closer to you and your partner. Or, they where being considerate to you and thought that if you where not invited that you would be offended. Either case, this should not be a burden to you. Feel blessed.

    You do not have to send a gift, well wishes are appropriate and as some one has already commented, like pictures and comment on social media. The next time you seem them, ask about the wedding and indicate regret that you could not attend (even if you don’t mean it, a little white lie doesn’t hurt anyone, but something small like this will make them feel good).

  9. IBikeNYC says:

    “We cannot even recall meeting the daughter who is getting married, and don’t know WHY we’ve been invited to this wedding.”

    I do (get it? LOL):

    Invitation to a Wedding, even if declined = $ for Couple.

  10. Amy F says:

    I’d probably feel bad for couple and daughter and assume they didn’t have a lot of people to invite however that wouldn’t make me feel obligated to attend the wedding or send a gift. I like Jaqueline’s idea of sending a note wishing the couple the best. If I was interested in staying in contact with the couple, I’d follow up on social media and like the wedding photos and say something friendly like “looks like a great time” or “your daughter looks beautiful” if those are true statements.

  11. Lisa says:

    I don’t think you need to send a gift. These people aren’t close friends and never having met the daughter, I would not send a gift. I would send them a wedding card and wish them much happiness. I believe they are trying to just fill up the guest list. I have been to several weddings where this was the reason people were invited. During the wedding people talk, and you find things out by conversing with the other wedding guests. Do not feel obligated to send a gift.

  12. Jacqueline says:

    I would feel uncomfortable too. I do think it would be a nice gesture to send a note, wishing the happy couple all the best. I would not feel obligated to buy a gift.

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