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Bastard Pals

Carey and I didn't invite very many people to our wedding reception and housewarming party. We wanted to keep things small - more an intimate gathering of close friends and family than an "invite anyone you've ever met" kind of deal. We sent snail mail invitations a month or so before-hand, though friends and family knew the date long before that.

Carey and I didn't register anywhere because we don't need anything big. Just little things like spatulas and a lamp or two (that we'd want to pick out). Just about everyone gave us checks or gift cards to places like Lowe's - even folks like my old high school chemistry teacher and golf buddy, from whom I expected nothing.

Five of my pals, however, didn't bother to get us anything. Not even a card.

I'm a pretty generous person, particularly with my friends. I've bought dinners, golf clubs, and paid for lots of things. My friends are one of my top priorities, and I've never been one to cheap out because a friend couldn't afford something. I pay and say "pay me back sometime." Then I never ask to be paid back. I simply don't keep track of how much I've spent on my friends. I spend money on friends gladly, willingly, and happily.

If I'm not mistaken, common courtesy calls for a gift or a present or at least a card when someone invites you to a wedding reception and a housewarming party (let alone a combination). Carey and I had basically done everyone a favor in condensing our reception and housewarming into a single party, thus allowing people to "get away with" only one gift. One party, dual purpose. Kill two birds with one stone.

Carey and I weren't looking for a ton of cash. We aren't dumb - we expected some people to give cash, family in particular. And I really don't care that my friends didn't bother to give Carey and I any cash or gift certificates. I simply don't care - some of my friends are poor (some, of course, are not).

But is it too much to ask that friends give us a card? I realize that they don't make "wedding/housewarming" cards, but couldn't my friends have picked one, paid two bucks, and signed it? Is that asking too much? Am I wrong to seriously question how "good" these friends are when they can't show me the common courtesy of saying "hey, congratulations, man" with a card?

Two of the five friends we invited showed up. One asked me what we'd like, since we weren't registered, and suggested a gift card. I said "that's cool, to Lowe's or Bed, Bath, & Beyond - whatever." Three of the five friends didn't show up, and I had to track every one of them down before they'd even tell me their regrets at not being able to attend despite the fact that the card requested that regrets be phoned in or emailed.

I'm constantly disappointed by my friends. I have high standards for them - and for myself as a friend. I don't know whether this is a case of setting my bar too high again or if I'm justified in thinking that it's not asking a whole lot to get a card for your buddy's housewarming/wedding reception.

What do you think?

P.S. This is nothing that's going to end any friendships. However, it does put a little damper on them and my willingness to go the extra mile for some friends. I don't ask much of people, and it's not often you get married and buy a house. I don't think that asking for a card is asking too much. I'm disappointed, I say again, not mad. But I'm pretty frickin' disappointed.

P.P.S. Extra-special thanks to folks like my friend Aaron, whom I've not even seen in a few years, for the gifts they gave. Aaron is the kind of person I was simply hoping would be able to show up, let alone bring a card or a gift.

19 Responses to "Bastard Pals"

  1. I am a real stickler for manners. I would say this is entirely inappropriate. If you are ever sent an invitation to anything you are expected to send a gift. In return, the person sending the invitations should be thoughtful enough to only invite people he/she actually wants to be there and not just lots of people because you want gifts. It seems to me that you and Carey did just that. Being asked to be a part of someone's special day is an honor and should always be treated as such.

    Emily Post says Send a gift.

    If you are invited to the ceremony and/or reception, you should send a gift, whether you are attending or not. Generally, gifts are sent to the bride in advance of the wedding. In some localities, gifts are brought to the reception and placed on a special table. If you hear from family that the couple would prefer a charitable donation—as in the case of an older couple or a remarriage—please respect their wishes. If you receive an announcement after the wedding has taken place, you have no obligation to send a gift. However, it is nice to acknowledge the announcement with a card or a note expressing your best wishes.

  2. The official book of all things etiquette says that the guest has up to a year to send you a gift (or card) from the date of the wedding. Give 'em time 🙂

    I always have trouble remembering these things. Its not because I am a "bad person" or anything like that. Its because I am not very organized! I always do my best to send something, though I often end up being a month or two late.

    Don't throw your "pals" under the bus just yet!

  3. I would have to seriously disagree. 1 year?!?! You might as well send an anniversary gift! Three months. Tops! And for the people who showed up - I think they are already too late.

  4. BTW, the "bastard" comes from one of the pals who failed to respond until I tracked him down the day before the event. He called himself a bastard. It seems appropriate here.

    S, R, J, J, and A: wtf, guys?

  5. This entry is a joke, right?

    You're not really chastising people for not giving you a present for a wedding to which they weren't invited, are you?

    Here's the rule that I always heard:

    You are supposed to give a gift of comparable value to the amount spent on you. Either a) you were quite humble in your description of the event or b) you're giving people a lot of grief over a small little thing.

    What am I missing here?

  6. Number of people at the wedding, total: 6. It was a small ceremony.

    Stephen, people don't go to weddings to go to the wedding itself. Nobody goes to the wedding and then leaves. They attend so that they can go to the reception. The only way you can attend a "housewarming" is to attend the party - there's no "ceremony" involved there.

    So yes, I think it's kinda crappy that my pals didn't even bother to bring a card to my wedding reception and housewarming party.

    If you believe that people are supposed to give a gift of comparable value, then I'm not out of line in asking for a card - $2. Given the expense of the food, tables, chairs, and decorations, the total would come to around $25/person, all told. So two bucks is well under that.

    The cost of sending a graduation announcement? $0.37 + a buck or two for the formal little envelope and notice.

    Be real. I'm not asking for money - I've made that clear. I am, however, asking for a small amount of decency - the decency to send regrets without being tracked down and the decency to buy a card and write something nice in it.

  7. Wow! It's seems pretty harsh to criticize your friends for not giving you a gift like this.

    First of all, it's a gift. And there's never an obligastion to give one. (Yes, etiquette may say we should in certain circumstances, but etiquette is just guidelines for playing nicely with others, not rules set in stone, especially in this day & age. ) A gift, by definition, is something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation. It is something that is offered as a gesture of goodwill. When giving become mandatory, it loses it's significance.

    Secondly, while not giving a gift may be poor etiquette, pointing it out is even worse (especially in this format). Your friends can probably claim they didn't realize how important it was. You, obviously, know better. If anything, you should have talked to each of them privately and let them know how important this was to you, and refrained from public humiliation.

    Just my $.02

    P.S. As for the RSVP-most people think (mistakenly) that it only applies to an affirmative response. It's a problem that brides & grooms 'round the world have to deal with.

  8. I think Erik is right.

    In his position, I'm not sure that I would have been peeved about the card. Okay, I would have but what would have pissed me off even more is the lack of effort on the part of these friends to respond with regrets.

    Hell saying, "Congratulations. That's awesome man. I'm sorry, but I can't make it. I've got things to do on that day", would have killed both problems. It's expressing the good wishes (which I think is what Erik is asking for) along with a message saying, "Hey, I'm glad you thought of inviting me to this. Sorry, unfortunately I can't make it".

    To me, the lack of response, sends a clear message saying, "Even though you took the time to invite me, I don't have the time to respond to you. You're not that important."

    Granted, there could have been some utterly devastating reason that you were unable to respond. But for a month? Kind of odd. Maybe you were out of town? I tell my friends when I'm out of town, to let them know.

    Yeah, rambled on for a bit there, I'll stop now.

  9. A gift, by definition, is something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation. It is something that is offered as a gesture of goodwill. When giving become mandatory, it loses it's significance.

    And when your friends demonstrate so little regard for you as to not even send a card, it takes on an entirely different signifcance, wouldn't you say? It's flipping a big ol' middle finger at your friend… except flipping a finger would require actual effort. Not sending a card - not even an e-card or a short email - requires none.

    I want to make very clear that I couldn't care less about the dollar amount. Two bucks is pocket change. "It's the thought that counts" applies here, or in the case of my pals, the lack of thought that says something.

    Secondly, while not giving a gift may be poor etiquette, pointing it out is even worse (especially in this format). Your friends can probably claim they didn't realize how important it was. You, obviously, know better. If anything, you should have talked to each of them privately and let them know how important this was to you, and refrained from public humiliation.

    I considered not publishing this entry, but it's my blog and I publish what I think here. My friends know this. Some of my friends are quite difficult to get ahold of, and this is part of my way of telling them I think they screwed up. If you're my friend, you know you're gonna hear from me when you screw up - and I expect to hear from them when I screw up. Brutal honesty is a big part of being my friend.

    I don't buy the "didn't know how important it was to me" excuse. Everyone in the world knows how important getting married and buying a house are to people, particularly those who have never done it before and especially when they're rolled into one event. They knew it was important to me.

    P.S. As for the RSVP-most people think (mistakenly) that it only applies to an affirmative response. It's a problem that brides & grooms 'round the world have to deal with.

    The card explicitly stated "Regrets to [phone] or [email]." There's no way they could assume it meant an affirmative response.

    This isn't a rebuttal (not entirely), but a clarification of a few facts.

  10. yeah, I actually felt pretty bad about it. I was gonna stop on the way but the woman had me running late.


  11. Erik-

    I told Ron to get a card but he didn't- then he said he'd take care of it next time he saw you. And I wasn't the one running late.


    P.S. Please email me your address so I can send you a card, it was a very nice party and I'd like to thank you for having me.

  12. I would tend to think a housewarming party is a housewarming party, and a wedding and reception are a wedding and reception. At a wedding and reception, gifts would be expected, and guests might expect to oblige. At a housewarming party, that particular idea doesn't necessarily cross ones mind.

    I would suspect some friends merely thought they were seeing the new home you have made for yourself. and the possible relative informality of the 'event' did not prod them into gift giving mode. Even if the term Housewarming was mentioned, I would expect nothing more than a bottle of wine. Wedding gifts are for weddings.

  13. I've got friends like this-- or I did. After years of dealing with them always trying to one-up each other, being extremely negative about everything someone else was doing and often not showing up for something one of us had planned in advance because something else better came up. These "friends" make the Seinfeld gang look like oh, I dunno, some public TV kid-show syrupy happy friend group. I finally walked away quietly, a few months ago, without saying a word.

    I'm no longer living in the same town, but we did have a mailing list that I was in charge of. In April I gave someone else admin rights, put another in the moderator group and removed myself from the list completely. Has anyone noticed? Probably. But no one has bothered to contact me. Oh, wait, no... I received an e-mail yesterday from one of them asking if I had any contacts that might be able to help her out now that she is graduating.

  14. Strikes me as being a bit petty, man.

  15. Bud, a housewarming party is a housewarming party, and a wedding reception is a wedding reception. The invitations specifically stated that this was both, allowing guests to kill two birds with one stone if they so desired.

    My friends knew the stakes. They knew why Carey and I got married when and how we did (largely so that my stepdaughter Little Bug could live in the same house as me), and so on.

    I find it interesting that so many people are simply willing to say "maybe they didn't know" or to in some way find an excuse for shitty behavior by two friends and fairly rude behavior by three others. What's so wrong with me saying "my friends screwed up" and those friends accepting it, correcting it, and everyone moving on with their lives? Nearly everyone who's responded in the negative here is simply making excuses. Guess what? None of my friends had any excuses. It takes 30 seconds to send an email or make a phone call to let someone know you're not going to attend their party.

    Confrontation isn't always bad, people, and if you live in some kind of self-protected bubble where nobody ever criticizes you for anything, then more power to you. But don't kid yourself into thinking that you're not actually pissing anyone off in the process.

    I'm with Geoff. If this is the way some of these friends are going to behave, then it's high time I took a good hard look at whether they're true friends or not.

  16. are they geeks?

    'cause if they are, then you can't get that offended at geeks not being real thoughtful in the real world.

  17. Thanks for the clarification.

    I think many people have been tring to find an excuse for your friends because you initial post makes it sound like you are more upset about the lack of gifts (which is petty) rather than the lack of acknowledgement (which is understandable).

    For further clarification - Since there were several weeks between your actual marriage/home purchase and the celebration of those events, did any of these people offer a verbal congratulations in the days immediately following the big events? If so, maybe they felt that was enough.

    You also mention being constantly disappointed by your friends. So, I assume things like this happen frequently. If so, it sounds like this is just part of who these people are. When it comes to people, like everything else in the world, you have to take the good with the bad. You have to decide if their good qualities override the bad.

    And as for the RSVP/regrets - well, that just makes them goobers. Some people just never realize (I'm not saying they didn't know - there's a difference between knowing something & realizing it's impact) the necessity.

  18. I was married roughly a month before you (I think,) and I had similar situations. In fact, I also ended up paying bank fees because some people wrote checks for their gifts that later bounced.

    We actually had a fairly large ceremony and sit-down dinner reception that cost over $10K. Still, people come and don't bring gifts. I don't really care about this and neither does my wife. After all, we had the wedding we wanted and we wanted certain people to be there even if they couldn't really afford to bring a gift. (Though I know that some people are naturally gift givers so I registered scores of $5 and $10 gifts for my less affluent friends.)

    I don't really feel the same way that you do about not getting gifts from people, but I understand where you are coming from. I have a large family, and a few of those people have feelings similar to yours. I began to realize that a) I'd never really, really wow them with an awesome gift because all stuff is just stuff to them b) I should always get some kind of gift for them at gifting times c) it doesn't matter what the gift is because the gift is really a symbol -- a nod really. It's kinda like, "Hey, I know you. I care about you. Here's stuff! (because it is all just stuff to these types of people -- probably you too)"

  19. I agree with Jonathan. I've heard through many people about the "you have one year". I actually am going to a wedding tomorrow of a good friend and don't plan on bringing a gift because the last few weeks have been super hectic. I do plan on getting them one though. I think it's extra hard in getting them something since they have lived together for a while so they have most things. It's hard to figure out what to get a couple who probably has everything. That's the biggest reason why the gift will be delayed actually. But yah, you could just have some lame friends too... Everyone has some of those :-\