Gift-Giving Etiquette

Hello Annabel,

I just recently found your blog and am always interested in learning about appropriate protocol! Recently I have come across some gift-giving dilemmas and was wondering what your advice would be. For example, I was invited to a friend’s wedding, attended, and gave them a nice wedding gift. They were subsequently invited to my wedding, attended, and did not give us a gift.

Now they are having a baby and I am anticipating being invited to a baby shower. My inclination would be to send a gift whether I attend the event or not, both because I think it’s the right thing to do since I was invited and also because I love giving gifts and celebrating!

Now, if this was my friend I would probably reconsider the relationship and whether it had become one-sided. However it’s tricky because this is my husband’s friend so it’s not up to me. I think we should just continue to send gifts when invited to things even if they never return the favor. Doesn’t seem fair but that’s just life, right?

Same question for a situation where a couple attended a wedding and did not give us a gift. Now they are engaged and we are attending their wedding. We still get them a gift, correct?


Hey B,

Your instincts are right on the mannerly money. Don’t think of gifts as quid pro quo transactions, think of them as acts of generosity: something you give without expecting anything in return.

Sure, sometimes you might feel like Grace Kelly in a room full of Kardashians. So what? You’re making polite, lovely choices because that’s just who you are. How fabulous! There’s no need to adjust your own standards in order to match hubby’s clodhopping friends.

Here’s the courtly rule: receiving a wedding invitation should have you scurrying for the registry no matter what. I always send a gift when I’m invited to a wedding — even if I know for sure I won’t be able to attend.

For showers (both bridal and baby), it’s OK to skip the present if you can’t make the bash. You can always send something to be opened in your absence if you’re especially close to the person or you just want to celebrate.

Here’s to keeping it classy like Anchorman. Take the high road and enjoy those parties!

Graciously yours,


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