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? 

-R.

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 three years, 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.

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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].


[email protected] (Robin Hartill, CFP®)

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