Come Hither Dear Gifts, Be Gone Vile Guests!

by admin on October 29, 2012

Last year, I moved to a new city with my fiance, which allowed me to reconnect with an old friend. “Karen” and I were never particularly close, but we were connected through a treasured mutual friend, “Natalie”. That year, my fiance met Karen’s fiance, “Jake” at a dinner. Jake was the epitome of faux-paus-tiquette. During dinner, Jake continually flirted with another woman, made off-color jokes, and insisted on calling my fiance by a silly nickname. At one point, his wife-to-be tried to hold his hand and he immediately shooed her off. On the drive home, my fiance declared that he would not have dinner with Jake again.

I wish this were the end of the story, but it only gets worse. Later that year, I received an invitation from the MOG for a bridal shower honoring Karen. Natalie and I thought it odd that the groom’s family would host, but we brushed it off, looked at her (3!) registries, and bought Karen her presents. Since I traveled for work, I purchased my gift well before my next assignment. One day, 500 miles from home, I receive a phone call from Natalie. Mind you, Natalie, Karen, and I had discussed Karen’s wedding, who she planned to invite, and what she would like to do. However, Karen revealed to Natalie that the wedding itself would not include the majority of the guests invited for the shower. Jake and his mother planned the bridal shower, which included more than 50 guests, as a way to get all their marital wants without having to accommodate the guests at an actual reception!

I felt that my friendship with Karen was being used by Jake as a means to a material end. I discussed the situation with a fellow coworker, known for excellent etiquette, who assured me that showers are meant to be a way to wish a friend well in her marriage, regardless if invited to the reception (in my experience, you only invite those to a shower who are invited to the wedding). So I hitched up my big girl britches and attended the shower, which was lovely. But later on, Jake made the announcement that the wedding would only have close friends and family in attendance. (Natalie was invited, I was not). Karen seemed embarrassed and it looked like that this was not her idea. Afterwards, I overheard Jake explaining to a guest that they were going to return some of the gifts (for cash, if possible) and buy the things that they REALLY wanted. I’m positive my gift fell into that category.

Recently, my fiance and I married in a “Let’s go for it!” moment during one of my travel assignments. We received congratulations from friends in the know, which included Karen and Jake who knew about our nuptials but congratulated us months later. It seemed that Jake was upset that our marriage took place a few weeks before his and felt we overshadowed their special day. My husband and I continue to plan for a party for all of our friends and family to celebrate our marriage. Due to my (now!) husband’s distaste for Jake, I don’t know if we should invite Karen and Jake. Are we displaying faux-pas-tiquette by not inviting them? 1017-12

First, your allegedly etiquette smart co-worker is dead wrong about the nature of bridal showers and who is invited.  It is a MASSIVE faux pas to invite people to a shower that you have no intention whatsoever of inviting to the wedding.  It is unequivocally a declaration that the presence of gifts is infinitely more important than guests’ presence at the wedding.   It is prioritizing things over people.  The fact that Jake feels compelled to explain himself means there might be a hint of guilt he feels but must assuage with bravado and and an utter lack of grace.   Your husband is correct to run from such a person.

You appear to not have a close friendship with Karen and it is obvious that neither you nor your husband have one with Jake so why would you invite them to a marriage celebration?   There is not an etiquette rule that insists there be reciprocal wedding invitations and even if there were, you have found out that you are not invited to their wedding.  So, fear not about deciding to not extend an invitation to Jake and Karen.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Lo October 29, 2012 at 8:48 am

Don’t invite these people to anything ever again.

Seriously. These are the sort of people who are only looking to get whatever they feel is owed to them from any celebration. No doubt if you invite them to your post-wedding party they will find some way to make it about them or complain about it or offend your guests. Maybe that’s harsh but any person who would tell a guest at their shower that they were going to return gifts for things they really wanted is severely lacking in even the most basic of manners. I would be hestitant to expose friends to people like this in polite social settings. So for the sake of your guests, leave them at home.

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ferretrick October 29, 2012 at 8:55 am

The only possible reason I could see to invite these people is out of morbid curiosity to see what gift they give you-I wouldn’t be surprised if they regift you what you gave them.

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technobabble October 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

But why regift when you can just exchange it for something you can keep?

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LadyLelan October 30, 2012 at 6:00 am

Because there’s no limit to tackiness and lack of good manners?

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Shoegal October 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

I agree with admin – in the case of a shower – every person invited should expect a wedding invitation!! It is like saying, “you are a good enough guest to buy me a present but not an acceptable enough guest for our wedding.” I, for one, think the OP’s question is a no brainer – I would not have considered inviting Jake or Karen. Karen is not a close friend and your husband generally dislikes Jake – and based on this story – so do I. The fact that Jakes feels your wedding will overshadow their own is sickening. He should only want to wish you well – not worry about if his glory has been stolen. Stay away from this couple – I daresay – they will not become lasting friends.

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slappie jones October 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Jake sounds like a real winner….

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Akili October 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

My family has a history of holding the bridal shower in one state and the wedding in another. Of course we also don’t ask for gifts for the shower, and it’s a way to include the family in the state in the wedding without them having to travel.

My friend just got married, she could only have 50 guests at the wedding and party afterwords, so she invited all her friends to a shower which was just a celebration of the fact that she was getting married. Again, she didn’t ask for gifts even though some of us brought them. It was just a way for us to tell her how happy we were and her to not feel bad about not having room for us.

In this case, it was rude to demand a gift for the shower and then not invite you to the wedding. But I don’t believe that inviting someone to a shower but not the wedding is in and of itself rude so your co-worker may of had it right.

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Bint October 29, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Isn’t this one of those ‘don’t call it a shower’ occasions, because the word ‘shower’ *does* mean gifts are expected? Your friend invited people *herself* to a shower for herself? And surely all showers are to celebrate someone getting married?

If a friend threw the party on the bride’s behalf as a spontaneous show of how happy they were for her, that would be lovely. If the bride threw a party for all her friends to show how much she appreciates them, that’s lovely. The bride throwing herself a shower for uninvited guests (some brought presents! what a massive surprise!) = no.

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Kimstu October 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm

That’s right. It’s perfectly fine if a new bride wants to throw a party (NOT called a “shower”) to celebrate with the valued friends who couldn’t be included in the actual wedding. But what have we come to when the mere fact that a party hostess doesn’t actually ASK for gifts from her guests is considered some signal mark of graciousness?

You are NEVER supposed to ask for gifts from your guests. I don’t care if you’re getting married while having a baby on your birthday which happens to coincide simultaneously with Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah and Eid al-Fitr: a polite host NEVER indicates in any way that they are requesting or even remotely expecting anything more from their guests than the pleasure of their company.

And heck yes @Akili, inviting someone to a bridal shower (specified as such by name) but not to the wedding is indeed rude. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with your pleasant family tradition of having a separate reception/party (OF COURSE without asking for any gifts) for out-of-state relatives who can’t make it to the wedding itself. But for the love of Mike, please don’t call that separate party a “shower”: that word alone makes the whole thing rude.

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Angela October 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Don’t invite them if you don’t want to interact with them. I suspect you’ll be able to pick up the friendship with “Karen” after she and Jake split up.

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Cat October 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Agreed. Why invite someone you know will make your husband, to whom your first loyalty is owed, uncomfortable by someone who calls him silly nicknames, tells “blue” jokes, and who makes no bones about seeing you as a wallet dedicated to making him happy by buying presents he intends to return ?
I would not have attended the shake-down shower nor would I have given them anything more than a card and my best wishes for a happy life together-without me and my husband.

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Page October 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I understand why it’s considered bad etiquette to invite someone to the shower and not the wedding. Gift grabs are never pretty. What confuses me is that the bride and her family are not supposed to plan the shower. Often the shower is a surprise for the bride. If a well-meaning friend invites someone who is not invited to the wedding, it doesn’t seem fair to blame the bride. For example, when my best friend got married, she planned a small, family-only ceremony. Everyone knew these were her plans. Still, some women at church decided to get together and throw her a surprise shower where they each gave her a favorite recipe. Was she then obligated to invite them in order to avoid being rude? She did thank them profusely and write thank you notes.

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E October 29, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Yeah, this confused me too! I’m not in the US so not really familiar with the ins and outs of showers. Is the organiser supposed to check with the bride so it’s only people who are getting an invite that get asked to the shower (how does that work if it’s a surprise as I believe it is in some cases?)? And how do work showers (again, not really familiar – but I know some stories on here mention that workmates/classmates threw them a shower) fit? Do you have to invite the whole office?

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LovleAnjel October 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

They could check with the groom, or with the parents if they are hosting.

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Cat October 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm

No, with office parties you do not have to invite the entire staff and often there is only one group gift. Usually wedding invitations are limited to workers with whom you have a social friendship outside of the office.
With showers that are not work-related, the rule is that you don’t invite anyone who is not being invited to the wedding and to the reception. You can check with the bride’s family or fiance if you are trying to surprise her.
I don’t care for surprise showers. She is busy enough without being given no prior notice so she can set aside time and can be presentable.

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Page October 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm

E, I’m from the US and I still get confused. This is why I want to elope and send everyone a postcard that says, “Guess what I did this weekend!”

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Kimstu October 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Absolutely, anybody throwing a shower is supposed to clear the guest list with the bride. Because as Admin and others pointed out, inviting somebody to anything called a “bridal shower” (which by its very name and nature implies an expectation of gifts) and then not inviting them to that bride’s wedding is a MAJOR faux pas.

This is why showers are traditionally ONLY for the bride’s intimate circle: relatives and close friends and the like, who would naturally be on the guest list for the wedding itself.

And this is also one of the many reasons why the current trend of non-traditional “shower inflation” sucks rat feces, if you’ll pardon my bluntness. More and more brides and/or their relatives and/or their friends or colleagues are turning showers into a sort of “wedding-lite” free-for-all where the guests aren’t expected to be in the bride’s immediate circle, or even to like her or even know her particularly well, or even to be invited to her wedding. Any warm body in the bride’s general orbit is considered fair game to shake down for a handsome present and several hours of party festivities.

The trouble is that the trend of “shower inflation” has been accompanied (and partly motivated) by the trend of “shower gift inflation”. Back when a bridal shower gift was something on the order of a couple of pairs of stockings or a pretty set of potholders, there wasn’t a lot of incentive to make a big deal out of showers. Now that shower hosts routinely give out information about the bride’s actual wedding gift registry, having more shower guests has suddenly become a lot more lucrative.

More brides need to find their polite spines and tell well-meaning co-workers that no, they really don’t want an office shower although they’re very grateful for the kind thought. And some workplace party hounds or “cruise ship social director” wannabes need to remember that not everybody they work with gives a flying hoot whether that nice Miss Nuptialina in HR is getting married or not, nor do they particularly want to spend their money or time to shower Miss Nuptialina with gifts.

Return the bridal shower to its traditional status as a small intimate party featuring small casual gifts, and the guest-list problem will vanish of its own accord.

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E October 30, 2012 at 5:25 am

Thanks – think I get it now, guess part of my problem is I’ve only ever seen them on tv with hoards of extras so wasn’t really sure what they were supposed to look like!

Seems a little bit redundant in the modern world anyway – I’m sure the number of couples who are moving from their parents home into a new marital one is diminishing, not to mention it does seem a tiny bit sexist/old-fashioned that it’s the bride who’s the one getting all the kitchenware/dusters etc. Why not just stick to one wedding present and cut back on the fuss!

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Athena October 29, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I’ve wondered about this, too. One of my old supervisors at work was getting married at a destination wedding, so she didn’t invite us (naturally, she hadn’t been our supe very long). However, we as a team got together and held a small shower for her at work. We weren’t planning on being invited to the wedding, but what if the wedding had been held where we could go? The shower was a surprise to her, and it only consisted of our team, so should she have invited us? I say no, because it was just something for us.

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Cass October 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

My opinion, and I don’t know the specific etiquette, is that if it’s something like that, it’s perfectly acceptable for you and your coworkers to honour your supervisor in that way. It’s not compulsory, and, as you and your coworkers are the ones putting the event together, it truly is to honour her rather than a gift-grab.

I’ve been to both kinds of showers in the workplace. I have learned that if I’m not close to the bride, I’m not going to the shower … since apparently other people haven’t learned that they should only invite the bride’s close coworkers if you expect gifts to be given.

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Miss Raven October 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This is a couple who felt it appropriate to invite your gift to their shower, but exclude you from their wedding. It seems that neither you or your husband like them much, and I wouldn’t, either. Why even concern yourself? Don’t invite them, and don’t lose a minute of sleep.

This party should be one of the best and most memorable times of your life. IMHO, there is no place for toxic, unpleasant people unless they are family and you absolutely cannot get out of inviting them.

If you are concerned about what they (or others?) may say about you, your reply is simple and polite. “We apologize, but the reception was for family and close friends.” Then beandip if you have to, but my guess is that the discussion will end there. If you are not close enough to be invited to their wedding, why should they expect an invitation to yours?

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June First November 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

“This is a couple who felt it appropriate to invite your gift to their shower, but exclude you from their wedding.”

Well put!

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PM October 29, 2012 at 3:19 pm

It’s awfully difficult to “overshadow” a gathering you weren’t even invited to. Jake sounds an immature, petulant loon. I think you should put your husband’s feelings ahead of your distant (at best) friend who didn’t think you were close enough to invite to her wedding. Easing out of this one-sided beneficiary relationship will probably ease a lot of stress.

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Cousin October 29, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I would definitely not feel obligated to invite them to the wedding if you’re not that close and they didn’t invite you to theirs.

A couple of years ago my sister and I were invited to a shower for our cousin’s fiancee, hosted by the sister of the groom. The sister had told us previously that it would be a very small wedding, with only immediate family and close friends invited, therefore no cousins. It was presented to us as an opportunity to wish the couple well since most of us wouldn’t be at the wedding. I bought an inexpensive gift and went with the flow.

So imagine our surprise when we found out through Facebook that not only were cousins invited to the wedding, my sister and I were the only cousins NOT invited. That meant everyone else at the shower was going to be at the wedding except for me and my sister.

To be fair, I don’t know if the sister of the groom knew ahead of time that other cousins were going to be invited and not us, so I don’t know if it was really a faux pas on her part, but my sister and I were still kind of hurt.

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Mary October 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Page, the friend could check with the mother of the bride or groom. One of my friends threw a surprise shower for me. She worked out the invitation list with my mom and with my now hubby to get the names and addresses.

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Library Diva October 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm

OP is under no obligation whatsoever to invite these two to this or any other celebration. But if OP still feels warmly towards Karen, I think she should make an effort to socialize with her, just the two of them. Jake sounds like a class-a social clod. He may possess many fine qualities behind closed doors but was just raised without any manners and is just very socially awkward, I don’t know. But it sounds like he might end up alienating a lot of Karen’s circle, and Karen could probably use a friend.

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Fizzychip October 30, 2012 at 6:18 am

Arugh! the “invite because I feel obliged”. We have enough of those to deal with, without adding to the list. “Jake” in particular sounds dreadful, I’d not do this to myself and leave them both off the list!

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Angel October 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm

No, I wouldn’t invite this couple. It sounds like you are not all that close! Frankly, from reading your post, I am not sure why you went to Karen’s bridal shower in the first place! IMO people who invite everybody they have ever met to what is supposed to be an intimate party, for closer friends and family only, don’t care about anything but the gifts. Maybe not all people but the good majority. And certainly, inviting people to pre wedding festivities without inviting to the wedding itself–there is just no excuse for rudeness like this. It all comes down to: have the party you can afford. For heaven’s sake, if you are not going to have a big wedding, you have no business having a big bridal shower. The couple needs to live their lives beyond the wedding date. Alienating everyone they ever met is not a good start to a life together.

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Lauren October 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm

i’m not sure if I agree that you should ALWAYS invite people to both the the shower and wedding. My brother and his wife married in Italy in a small affair that was only close friends and immediate family (about 30-35 people). She had two showers, one hosted by my mother in NY and one hosted by the bride’s mother in LA. My mother invited her friends but made sure they knew ahead of time that they would not be invited to the wedding. They had a choice to attend the shower and most did because they knew they would be unable to celebrate the happy occasion any other time and because the cost of going to a wedding in Italy was prohibitive anyways. My mother threw a really lovely shower at an upscale restaurant so that the experience was enjoyable. Was this wrong etiquette-wise?

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Angel October 31, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I think it’s kind of odd that the groom’s side of the family hosts any sort of event at all. I don’t know if it’s wrong or not etiquette wise, it just isn’t done very often. I guess if the bride and groom are from opposite sides of the country that is a good enough reason. But personally, I think that any time you invite guests to pre wedding festivities (an engagement party, a shower) and not to the wedding itself, you run the risk of offending someone. I wonder how many guests were offended enough not to be invited to the wedding, that they opted to not attend the shower? No matter how nice it was. You would hope most people would be understanding, but you never know if it will be taken the wrong way.

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Cousin November 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm

I wouldn’t be offended in a situation like that, where it’s both a destination wedding and a very small one. But see my comment above where my sister and I attended a shower under the impression that none of the attendees would be at the wedding other than immediate family, only to find out later that in fact we were the only ones there who were not invited to the wedding. If things are hidden like that, that’s when the hurt feelings kick in.

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Enna November 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Expecting to use a shower to grab gifts is piggie.

However depending on pratical circumstances sometimes getting everyone to the wedding who came to the shower or reception might be impratical. One of my firends is VERY shy, so when she said she was getting married but it would only be close family I understood that, I’ve know her for years – she was planning on having a party for firends and family after. I didn’t expect to be asked to be a bridesmaid but when she did ask I said yes.

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White Lotus November 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I love the idea of a recipe shower! That would be good for work showers, because it is so easy and inexpensive for the co-workers, and yet it gives a fun party and good memories. If someone wanted to go all out, it is possible to buy albums or old-fashioned recipe boxes for recipes so collected. This is a delightful idea and the absolute opposite of gimme pig. Showers are always given by friends, everyone invited to the shower must be invited to the wedding and gifts should be small, since wedding presents will follow. Those are the rules. There seems to be an exception for work showers, where it is really more about a celebratory party than the classic shower — it is just called a shower, and the presents are fun. Themes, like a bar shower, a wine shower, a spice shower, or a gadget shower, help keep things under control. But, really, wouldn’t you rather have an excellent recipe than another garlic press?

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