“Do I Need to Give My Friend a Wedding Gift?”

I have a bridesmaid/wedding guest etiquette question for you. I live in Australia, a country where most people living in the larger cities stay in these cities. It isn’t common for people to move interstate as there’s no need. I, however, was given a great opportunity to move, so I did. And I’m at the time in life where I have many weddings to get to, most of which are back in my home state.

My question is two parts:

1. If I’m travelling for a wedding, the cost being a minimum $400 USD (travel costs only), should I still be giving a gift? Generally at weddings here only money is requested – there’s no registry with gift options at a lower price point.

2. I am a bridesmaid in a wedding of a good friend, where I am paying for a new dress (very relaxed rules on style, so could I wear it again), paying $400 USD for flights to the bachelorette party, paying around $100 USD for the bachelorette activities, and then paying $800 for myself and my partner to go to the wedding as well.
I don’t know if I’m being an asshole thinking I shouldn’t be expected to also give a monetary gift? A lot of people say well if it’s a good friend, then I should, but I’m struggling to agree.

Some real world, no bullshit advice is what I’m after. If it were I, I would tell anyone travelling to not even think about giving me a gift, but not everyone would have the same sentiment. — Going Broke Going to Weddings

It would be poor etiquette to give no gift to a wedding you attend, particularly when you’re close friends with the couple and you’re bringing a guest. It’s not like you’re going to destination weddings where your travel cost is a burden the couple has factored into their planning. YOU moved from your home town — travel costs are a burden you’re responsible for. That said, no one wants you to go broke attending weddings, so don’t spend more than you can comfortably afford. That may mean skipping the bachelorette party, not bringing your partner to the wedding with you, wearing something you already own (especially if “rules on style” are so relaxed) or borrowing something from a friend or shopping consignment. And it may mean that, instead of giving a gift of cash, you give something with less monetary value but more sentimental value: a framed photo of the couple that you took; something handmade; a favorite poem in a nice frame and dedicated to the couple. Get creative!

Showing up is the most important thing you can do as and for a friend, and your efforts should be appreciated. But a token gift also serves to symbolize your affection for the recipient and shouldn’t be overlooked.

I met this guy, “Greg,” at a conference. My friend actually noticed him first and had a slight crush on him (but she also had an interest in almost all the guys there). I had very little interaction with him over the weekend-long event. The one occurrence I remember was his getting up from the seat next to me and saying he would be back when, instead, he just moved a few seats down. I thought that was odd but didn’t look too much into it.

After the conference he found me on social media, and we began to write each other. We had been talking for no longer than a week and he confessed his love for me. I was not anticipating that. I promptly told him I was sorry but I didn’t feel the same, and he got very upset and was very rude to me. The next day he apologized and asked me to dinner, but I declined.

After that we didn’t talk for several months, but then I saw him at another conference. We were in a lot of the same places during the confetence and had very awkward and tense interactions. After the conference he wrote me and asked if I held any bitterness towards him. I, of course, said I did not. He then asked for my number. We were writing every single day for long periods of time, talking about secrets from our pasts and hopes for our futures. We also made several jokes. I began to develop feelings for him and turned down other guys who pursued me because the only person I cared to be with at that point was him.

We talked every day for about nine months, and then all of a sudden it started dwindling. I asked him what was going on, and he said he just needed some space. So I gave it to him. I waited two months and then shot him a message. He said, “I’m fine. I just don’t think we should talk anymore.” I had no idea why. Then I go to the same conference we originally met at and of course he is there. He doesn’t talk to me the entire time until the last day when I pull him aside and simply ask, “What happened?” He said a lot of people were telling him not to talk to a girl who lives a few hours away — that I was distracting him. I just said okay and walked away. Honestly, I couldn’t look at him anymore.

A week ago I saw him at another event and we were able to casually talk. It was really nice. It also made me wonder if he ever knew that I had begun to reciprocate his feelings towards me. I thought about asking him to coffee. Is that a wise decision? — What Happened?

No, it’s a really, really bad decision. Almost as bad as carrying on a nine-month long texting relationship with a guy who professed his love for you after a week of online communication and then was rude to you when you said you didn’t feel the same way. Have some self-respect, woman!

You want to know why he suddenly disappeared after nine months of talking every day? He has a wife or girlfriend who found your texts. THAT is who told him to stop talking to you and that you were a “distraction.” This guy is a loser, a moron, and a cheater, and you only have yourself to blame for being caught in his web of dishonesty. You ignored so many giant waving red flags that I don’t know what I could say to make you see the light. The light was shining brightly in your face, and you turned a blind eye and then asked if it was a wise decision to ask him for coffee. A wise decision. As if I weren’t already weeping for humanity

Related: The Biggest Red Flags We Ignored and 19 Things a Man Might Say or Do that Are Serious Red Flags.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Ridgebacklover says:

    LW1 – Yes, of course you should give them a gift. As Wendy said, don’t go broke over it but you should give them something. We had a few people not give us gifts for our wedding, and I have to say that it was hurtful. Would never say anything about it, but I feel a little differently about those people now. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money – can even be just be a card and something sentimental (the picture is a great idea). But giving absolutely nothing is really not okay. If you can’t afford to give a gift of some kind, you shouldn’t go.

  2. Ele4phant says:

    LW1 you should give a gift – but I don’t think it has to be an opulent one. I think you can give less than you would of the wedding required no travel.

    Pick something on the lower end of their registry. Give them an amount of cash you feel comfortable with. In either case, write a heartfelt note.

    1. anonymousse says:

      There’s no registry-cash gifts only.

      1. Ele4phant says:

        Cash only gifts are always an option.

        You just write a check and put that in a card. Boom, done.

        I realize, formally for stuffy white people giving money is a no-go, but for most young couples they’ll happily take a check over stuff. Whether their grandma likes it, meh. She’s not the one getting married.

      2. Ele4phant says:

        Oh totally misread your comment.

        I think.

        Well if they didn’t register and cash is already the expectation, then great.

        Just write a check you feel you can afford that is maybe smaller than what you’d write if you weren’t traveling, and write a really sincere note.


      3. LisforLeslie says:

        So what if there is no registry? That doesn’t mean you have to give them cash, only that they haven’t demanded a specific object be purchased. Per Miss Manners, registries are gauche and tacky (not her words) because they are a plea for a gift.

        Buy them a nice 8X10 frame in which they can put a wedding photo. You can get a silver plated one for a reasonable price.

      4. ele4phant says:

        As a general rule, I err away from buying a couple things if they don’t have a registry.* To me, the no registry is an implicit “Please don’t give me more things”.

        I mean, we didn’t have a registry for that very reason. We really didn’t want or need anyone to give us anything, but if they did, we were in our late 20s and had already lived together for 5 years, the last thing we needed was more housewares. In retrospect, maybe we should’ve had one because some people (usually older more traditional relatives) just aren’t comfortable giving money, so they gave us odd things we never would’ve picked out on our own. Some guidance for them might’ve been good.

        That said, I do think LisforLeslie’s idea is more sentimental than thingy, and would be a good option if you don’t feel comfortable cutting a small check.

        *Actually even if the couple does have a registry I still prefer to write a check, but you know, I DEFINITELY won’t buy them things if they have no registry.

      5. anonymousse says:

        Hey, that’s not my opinion, that’s what she wrote.

      6. dinoceros says:

        I think it’s more of a cultural thing, them not having a registry. I don’t know if we should necessarily view it through a U.S. lens of “if you don’t have a registry, then you don’t deserve a gift” kind of thing.

  3. I had a destination wedding (I know, we’re such assholes!) and a lot of people didn’t give gifts, which was absolutely fine, did not care at all. But we were asking everybody to travel. Your situation is different, and you should do a modest gift within your means.

    1. I feel the same as you…I don’t hold it against people who didn’t get gifts because I was just happy they came. Then again we also had a destination wedding, so maybe that’s why I feel that way? I just generally don’t like the feeling to pressure people into giving gifts. I didn’t want a registry for that reason, but eventually put together a small one because people were bugging me about it so much!

      I also love the frame idea! A good family friend threw us a bridal shower. I asked her to do no gifts, but she said no to that idea. We settled on asking for people to bring frames for wedding and honeymoon photos. It worked out perfectly because people were able to get frames that fit their budget and it felt like the frames they gave fit their personality as well.

  4. anonymousse says:

    Don’t go broke for weddings. Give what you can afford, and if you can’t, don’t go. Be honest with them. It’s expensive.

  5. dinoceros says:

    LW1: I agree with Wendy. I don’t know how strict people are there about giving large amounts of money (you don’t say how much is expected, but you imply that the cash value is much higher than gifts on a registry). But giving something small should be enough. Going to a wedding totally empty-handed seems rude, but it’s understandable if you can’t afford more. I think it’s tough because weddings and other related parties ARE intended to celebrate the couple, but they ARE also events where you are presumably either being fed or having fun. I don’t mean that to say that you owe them (like how some people imply you have to gift the cost of your meal), but just that you’re not forced to go (and therefore spend hundreds of dollars) and presumably you’re getting something out of it too. I mean, if you couldn’t make it to the wedding and thus were not paying that much for it, I assume you’d feel more comfortable giving them a gift, right?

  6. CanadaGoose says:

    Actual etiquette dictates that gifts are neither required nor to be expected. However, the fact is that if you don’t give your friend a gift, she’ll remember it for decades to come. It’s not about the money so much as acknowledging that a wedding is such a big deal it simply must be celebrated with a gift.

    Your friend will be so wrapped up in her wedding, she won’t be thinking about your budget. If she is a good enough friend that you are a bridesmaid, then talk to her. Call her up and say that it’s awkward but you have to share that all the expenses associated with her wedding (and you can give her a total) have stretched your budget to the point where you are not sure you can either manage to come to the bachelorette or buy a gift. Then when you give her something small, she will understand and appreciate it.

  7. LisforLeslie says:

    LW #2 -telling someone you love them after 1 week is a huge red flag. Especially if you barely know them.

    He liked the chase. He liked the attention. He’s an immature fool. Move on. The only thing you did wrong was not seeing the red flags in front of you.

    1. OMG ya eww crazy train approaching. Stay far far away. I’d have a dang restraining order if a man told me that after a week.

  8. LW2: WWS, except…guys can be douchey without being married. Maybe he’s not a cheater. But still, RUN GIRL!

  9. I kinda sorta disagree with Wendy on LW1. Sure, etiquette dictates you give a gift, but I think that if you can’t afford a gift by making concessions in other areas, then a card and your presence should be enough.

    My cousin and his wife are on a tight budget, and approached my husband and I after they received our wedding invitation to tell us they would have loved to attend and wished us well, but could not afford a gift and did not want to come empty-handed, so were RSVPing no. We told them their presence was the only gift we wanted and asked them to please consider coming anyway. They did, had a lovely time, and gave us a heartfelt, handmade card which meant more to me than all the store-bought ones we received.

    I think if your friend is a true friend, your presence will be enough. I would tell her you’re sorry, but you’ve reviewed your budget and have found that you can’t afford to fly out for the bachelorette *and* get her a wedding gift, so you’re not going to be able to attend that event. I’m certain she’ll say she’d rather have you at the bachelorette. Don’t show up to the wedding empty-handed though – you definitely need to give a card.

    1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

      I don’t think your advice contradicts Wendy’s though. In your scenario, the gift WAS the hand-made card, and by calling it “heartfelt” it sounds like they took the time to put a sweet message in it. To me, that’s still a gift.

      Really, I don’t get the whole “buy something or give nothing” dichotomy that a lot of people subscribe to with weddings. One of my groomsmen had to travel to my wedding, and he gave me a beautiful 5 page handwritten letter talking about our friendship that to this day makes me tear up, and its one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten. If you can’t spend money, spend time and effort, and the couple will love it. And if they don’t, it speaks more about them than it does about you.

      1. I see what you mean. I think showing up empty-handed is rude, because then you put the couple in the awkward position of having to reach out to you to make sure your gift wasn’t lost or stolen. You have to give *something*, and I don’t think you necessarily have to tell the couple that finances are tight. My cousin and his wife could have just given us the card and we would have known that they couldn’t afford anything more. In this LW’s case, because she could change other things about her budget to afford a gift, like her dress or attendance at the bachelorette, I do think that a gift is either necessary or a conversation should be had about pulling out of the bachelorette.

  10. I preferred presence over presents for my wedding.

    1. So did I. I had one friend get all embarrassed – “I thought I had a year to give you a present!” – but really, who cares about a gift? Nearly everyone had to travel to our wedding, us included (our friends and families were/are scattered around the globe; no one is central to one part of the world, let alone a single part of the country), and I was just so happy to have people attend our wedding. Hopefully your friends are happier that you came to their wedding, LW1, than whether you brought a gift.

    2. anonymousse says:

      I always prefer that! Less things, more time spent together, is my vote.

  11. BakerBabe says:

    TBH LW2’s letter did NOT go at all as how I was expecting it to. Good god, woman! Get a grip!

  12. randomusername says:

    (RE: LW1) I’m flying home for a wedding and am a bridesmaid. My friend the bride told me explicitly to NOT bring a gift since I’m spending $$$ to fly home and I don’t have too much disposable income. Her lovely family bought my dress too which was a big surprise to me and they did it to lessen my financial burden. She’s an angel, did I mention that? Anyways, I don’t know how close y’all are but if I were you I’d probably ask her what kind of gift she wants because I personally don’t like surprises and would rather help my friends out by letting them know what I want (personally I’m a fan of anything in the form of poetry or chocolate). Also I’m a minimalist scrooge so I’m discouraging gift-giving of “things” at my wedding and instead am asking people to donate to our favorite charities.

    P.S., didn’t know in America/Australia gifts are the norm. In my culture, cash gifts are the ONLY thing you’d expect to get at your wedding and in the amount of an odd number (so it can’t split in two is the superstition). Elders and young people alike would be livid if people showed up with toasters and fine china to their wedding! Hope they like giving cash donations to not/hubby for mine though!

  13. randomusername says:

    not me/hubby* ahhh I can’t type

  14. Sad tales here-but hilarious in retrospect-everyone seems to have learned, albeit the “hard way”. My ex husband told me early on that “he did not believe in compromise”-try to work problems out with that attitude…not going to happen.
    Another guy I dated after my divorce lived in a sketchy part of town and would not let me go to his place-he always came to mine. When I broke it off as he couldn’t keep a job,let his car insurance lapse etc.,trash talked his ex wife ( said he popped out 3 babies before he was finished university-as if he had nothing to do with it!)-I saw his place in a real estate listing and it was a total hoarder house!
    Another guy was totally controlling with/to his little doggy. Just no to that-when I broke it off shortly after for many reasons,he asked if it was because of how he treated “Brandy”. yikes-he knew how he was and kept doing it.

  15. Said SHE popped out 3 babies,I meant!

    1. Well it does feel like your pooping so not far off.

  16. For our wedding we told people that were traveling not to bother getting a gift as they’d spent enough to get there. Some still did and that was lovely but it wasn’t expected. If your friends haven’t put the word out like that then yeah, I’d try and rummage up some cash. Even $50 is fine in my books. If a couple complains about that then you know to not bother attending any of their events in the future.

    1. I posted this somewhere else today but it’s a low budget cute gift idea for a couple. My mom came up with it many years ago. Men’s pajamas, cute/nice ones, wrap the top for her and the pants for him. Just thought I’d throw our a cute and always hit gift idea that’s affordable.

      1. That is a cute idea. Thankfully in Aus the trend is definitely towards cash now, I love it. Otherwise I’m a photo frame giver from way back.

  17. dinoceros says:

    I didn’t get to respond to LW2 yet. The first mistake was that when this guy was in love with you after a week, you didn’t see it as a red flag and you chose to continue talking with him. People who say that typically have emotional issues in regard to how they relate to relationships. They either are in love with being in love or they are desperate or something. They don’t ACTUALLY love YOU. You can’t be in love with someone you barely know. On top of that, he was rude and then ignored your rejection. Also bad signs.

    You got a bunch of red flags, ignored them, and now you’re seeing the results of that. He eventually realized that, no, he wasn’t in love with someone he barely knew. Or maybe he just likes people who are unavailable and likes them less when they like him back. Either way, you need to move on. Find someone who doesn’t try to rush things and isn’t rude.

  18. Like many things, I think LW1 comes down to “know your people.” She’s a close enough friend that you’re a bridesmaid in her wedding. Surely you know if she would be the type to be understanding that you have the extra expense of travel and can’t afford a gift. And probably you know of something inexpensive but personal that you could gift her instead of a wad of cash. So, what’s she like?

    I definitely think a card with a sweet note (something a little more than just “congrats, enjoy the honeymoon”) and maybe an inexpensive but personal gift would be sufficient, but… know your people.

  19. OP1 / LW1 says:

    I’m a little late to the party – thanks everyone for their responses. I probably left some information out like she has complained about people who give actual gifts when there’s no registry. These days they aren’t as relevant but sometimes can give people an option to spend less money depending on circumstances.
    My question was probably more can I give a sentimental gift as Wendy and others have said and if that would be acceptable enough OR if the expectation is and if I should give a cash gift (because that’s what I feel like she expects).
    There has been opportunity for her to say not to give a gift, and it wasn’t taken so the expectation is there – I’m just unsure of the level of it.

    I guess I’ll see how I’m feeling in 2 months’ time when the wedding is on, and go from there. I would never and have never go to a wedding empty handed!!

    1. I think if you’re good enough friends none of this should be out of bounds to discuss with her. I was in a tight financial situation with a friend’s wedding, I talked about it with her and there were no hard feelings when she got a bit less cash than she might have expected. If she doesn’t want gifts to haul home as I said upthread $50 is more than reasonable considering you’re spending a heap to get there and be a bridesmaid for one etc. But again you have to talk to her. It doesn’t need to be a big fraught discussion intended to stress her out but if you think there might be hurt feelings because of miscommunicated expectations that should be cleared up.

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