A Change of Mind

by admin on January 15, 2013

I have a dilemma that I would appreciate your and the ehellions opinion of. First, a bit of back story:

In early December I was emailing a friend and she told me that she was going to have some significant surgery the following week. Ten days after the surgery she was going to her cousin’s wedding. I thought this was a little ambitious but didn’t say anything and wished her luck. After Christmas I was emailing again to see how she was recovering and did she get to the wedding. Recovery was slow and she was unable to make the wedding. Here is her dilemma.

She was intending to give her cousin a card with a gift of money. She didn’t go to the wedding and spent the money on some pampering for herself as she still felt lousy post surgery. I personally have no problem with this. Her money, her prerogative to use as she wishes. However, she is getting a hard time from her mother. She thinks her daughter is being very rude, should send a gift, I brought you up better than this, blah, blah. Friend asked me my opinion. I said that if she notified her cousin that she couldn’t make the wedding due to the surgery then a nice congratulatory card should be sufficient. If she rsvp’d yes and then no showed, then a card with the money would be better as her dinner would have already been paid for. She noted that she hardly sees her cousin, is not close to him and when she was married he was invited to the wedding, didn’t come or send any sort of acknowledgement let alone a gift.

So, have I unwittingly lead my friend into ehell or should her mother just pull her head in and let her daughter recuperate in peace? Also, I have no idea what amount of money we are talking about and I am not aware of my friends financial situation. But since this is no one’s business it shouldn’t be an issue in people’s advice.
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I notice your friend did not answer the question of whether she had rsvped to the wedding or not.  Perhaps she did and you did not convey this to Ehell readers.

I’m hard pressed to understand why your friend would make plans to attend a wedding of someone she hardly knows, is not close to and who has no reciprocal interest in her own life events.  But she apparently did and intended to give her cousin a monetary gift at the wedding.   Her explanation that she can no longer give him a wedding gift due to her hardly knowing him, is not close to him, etc. is just a convenient excuse to justify her decision.  In other words, her level of relationship and closeness to him only becomes important to her when it benefits her.

My thought is, if she intended to go to the wedding and intended to give him a gift, there is nothing that has changed in her relationship with him in that interim between intending to go to the wedding and deciding not to go to the wedding to justify her changing her mind to not give a gift.   This should prompt her to examine why she gives gifts in the first place to people she does not like or love.

And as an addendum to you, her friend, it’s stepping onto a slippery slope straight into Ehell when one equates the value of a wedding gift to the speculative cost of the reception meal.   Hosts provide refreshment for their guests with no expectation of reimbursement and guests give gifts because they love and want to bless the newlyweds.   There is no equitable exchange of goods, i.e. I give you dinner and you give me money, in the appropriately tasteful wedding.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Bint January 15, 2013 at 5:20 am

If the wedding was only 10 days after her surgery, your friend probably stuck the couple with the cost of her meal anyway. I actually think she was pretty off to RSVP when she knew she had surgery that close to it. Have a little common sense!

I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to give someone a wedding present whether they attend or not, but your friend’s reasons for changing her mind are unattractive, to say the least. I wonder if her mother is picking up on this attitude. First her daughter is going and giving a present. Then, with 10 days max to go, she pulls out and decides to give nothing with a load of excuses about barely knowing him, he didn’t come to my wedding, he never gave me anything etc. If that were my daughter I wouldn’t be pleased with her either.

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June First January 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

The “But he started it!” defense usually works about as well as the “But everyone else is doing it!” defense when it comes to mothers, regardless of age.

OP, you would have done your friend an etiquette favor by gently suggesting to her BEFORE the wedding (when you first heard of her plans) that even if she RSVPed that she would attend, the happy couple would probably understand if she let them know she could no longer make it. Caterers can make those adjustments with ten days to go. This would probably be best done in a reassuring tone, rather than a lecturing tone.

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Bint January 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I think the friend should have contacted the couple and said she’d love to come but was having surgery 10 days before and wouldn’t want to cancel on them. That way, the couple can decide what to do. Most would probably say fine and risk the unpaid meal, but it’s a simple courtesy to tell them the risk.

Caterers can adapt with 10 days to go but a lot of them will still charge for the numbers given at the cut-off. For us, that was 14 days, so the OP’s friend would have cost us quite a bit.

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AS January 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Our catering cut-off date was 1 week before the wedding. So, Op’s friend’s cousin still had the chance to take a person off the head count if that was the case.

I agree with you on the things you said, Bint.

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sv January 15, 2013 at 7:18 am

Although many people feel otherwise, attending a wedding does not equal a gift ( much less a gift that covers the cost of a meal.) They are two separate issues. If your cousin wished to attend the wedding and simply gave a congratulatory card then that would be perfectly acceptable ettiquette. Likewise, if she did not attend the wedding and decided to send a gift that would be okay too, even though a card would suffice. She is under no obligation to send a gift whether she attends or not. However, I suspect she did RSVP ( given the timeline) and then failed to show up. She had good reason, but she still failed to show. If that is the case then that is a MAJOR faux pas that requires an explaination and apology.

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Mary January 15, 2013 at 8:15 am

I do realize that one should never base their gift to a newly married couple on speculation as to what the reception meal cost. However it should be based on what you can afford and your relationship with the couple. That being said, I think the OP was just trying to make the point that it is possible that a meal had been paid for at the reception and had never been eaten.
This brought me back to my own wedding. Out of 225 guests who had RSVP’d and stated they would be attending, 30 did not show. With a sit down dinner and a state law stating no uneaten food could leave the facility (I did know that ahead of time), that was a lot of money and food down the drain. I pray that the facility staff ate it. Fifteen years later, I have still not mentioned it to those no show guests because I don’t want to point out their rudeness, especially because none of them ever mentioned to me why they did not show.
Some were halves of couples where one half did show, some were teenage cousins of my hubby where the rest of the family showed up and others just never came and never apologized. Those people I will admit I am no longer friends with. My only excuse for their way of thinking is that most of them were young and never thought about the consequences. Also most were from an area of the country where buffet dinners were the norm and the couple is not charged for the final count a few days before the wedding, but how many people actually go through the buffet line.

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Wendy B. January 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I suspect the friend RSVP-ed in the first place because her mother insisted. “Oh, you’ll be fine! You should go, you’re family.” Etc. etc. ad nauseum

Then she wasn’t able to go and mom is berating her about it.

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PO January 21, 2013 at 6:53 pm

OP here. Yep, that’s pretty much my take on the situation. I’ll respond further when I hear back from my friend.

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Cat January 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

It really depends upon whether she told the cousin she’d attend. Significant surgery sounds as if she may have had internal stitches and it takes more than ten days to be ready to travel. Her doctor should have given her a time-line for resuming ordinary life events.
If she is an adult, mother should stop trying to control her behavior and realize her daughter is raised and her job is done. At some point, a parent has to step back and say, “There’s the world, Kiddo, go and live in it!”
If she had planned to give them a gift, I would think it would be proper to send something now with a note explaining she was sorry to have missed their wedding and she wished them every happiness. It does not have to be something expensive. The fact that they did not give her a wedding gift is neither here nor there in this case.

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WildIrishRose January 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

It makes me crazy when people compare gifts with the cost of a meal. It’s a big reason why I didn’t have a gift registry and why I didn’t serve a meal at my reception. The one-upmanship of the whole situation just grates on me. If you want to serve dinner to your wedding guests, then do so with a smile on your face and a song in your heart, not because the $50 plate is going to garner you a $50 gift. Another thing that really works my nerves is the expectation on the part of wedding guests that alcohol MUST be served at the reception. There wasn’t any at mine, and my guests had a great time. The cake and punch were delicious, and no one expected anything more. And I never once heard that my reception wasn’t somehow “good enough” for the lack of food and booze. And P.S., I got some wonderful gifts that I’m still using 27 years later!

That said, the friend should have conveyed to someone in her cousin’s family that she was scheduled for surgery and would thus be unable to attend the wedding. That is, assuming she RSVP’d before she knew she was having surgery. If she had the surgery scheduled before she sent the RSVP, then it was silly of her to RSVP yes to the wedding. You just never know how surgery is going to affect you or how you’ll feel ten days later.

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Ginger January 16, 2013 at 5:37 am

You know, I have a bit of a different opinion. If you tell someone you are going to a wedding and they pay for your meal and you don’t show up, I think you SHOULD pay your way if you don’t show up. At the very least, you should offer.

If a couple of days or the day before the wedding, you realise you are not going to be up to attending, let the couple know so that they can offer your place to someone else they may have liked to invite but couldn’t afford to. I find it to be an extremely rude practice to RSVP attendance and not show up and leave the bride and groom to foot the bill. The reality is, many people at a wedding are invited so as not to cause offense about not being invited. I don’t think the gift needs to match the dollar value spent on the meal. What the happy couple decide to spend on a meal is up to them, but if you commit them to paying for you, you SHOULD turn up or offer to pay for that meal if you don’t show up. That’s just plain manners to me.

For the record, I don’t think you need to provide a gift if you are invited to a wedding and decline to attend. And whilst I don’t think you should expect a gift from your guests, I think if you are a guest at someone’s celebration, the polite thing to do is to give a gift. The dollar value doesn’t matter.

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Shoegal January 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

I truly agree that the friend is trying to justify not giving a gift or acknowledgement based on what her cousin did years ago. Bottom line – it doesn’t matter. It sounds to me that she had RSVP’d that she would attend and then when she didn’t feel up to it – bailed out without an apology. If that is the case – it is rude and she should right her wrong. She should send a nice handwritten note offering an explanation and an apology. If it were me – I’d sent a small gift to wish them well but I wouldn’t break the bank and I wouldn’t estimate the cost of the meal I didn’t eat. But seriously, I really have to wonder why she had decided to go to this wedding to begin with espeically with her surgery so close to the date.. In evaluating my relationship to my own cousins, I realize that I do have cousins that live out of town – and have for years so I am not close with them and don’t speak or see them with any regularity. For myself I still would still want to wish them well, however, even though we aren’t particularly close. If their wedding were close I would probably still attend. I didn’t see in original post that she disliked this cousin in any way even if he didn’t attend her wedding. It just sounded like she was trying desperately to justify her actions for not giving them a gift since the money was already gone.

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Jay January 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

As has been said, the gift and dinner are separate things. However, this works both ways.. if you were planning to give a gift, the fact that you didn’t attend the event doesn’t mean you don’t have to send it. If she was worth a gift in the first place, you should still send it.

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Rinny January 17, 2013 at 12:51 am

I thought I read somewhere in the archives that no-show guests don’t own a gift? Please correct me if I’m wrong on this… Or does it depend on whether one has RSVPed?

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LovleAnjel January 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm

No one “owes” a gift. However, planning to give a gift, then deciding not to with multiple weak excuses is super-tacky.

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Jenn50 January 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Nobody is owed a gift, but it IS the norm if you attend the wedding. If you put the bride and groom out by RSVP-ing in the affirmative and then bail without sufficient notice to avoid them incurring the cost of your meal, favours, etc, (especially if it was a pretty predictable outcome, because of the recent surgery) the happy couple is owed an apology. Personally, I would send that apology with a lovely card and a thoughtful, within my budget gift.

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LonelyHound January 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

In response to people tsking her about RSVPing and then being a no-show: First, we do not know if the friend called and sent her regrets about not being able to come before the event or not. Second, just because one is having surgery does not mean there was a timeline planned out. I had a friend go in a week after she found out she was having gall bladder trouble because the infection was getting severe. So, if she replaces the friend in the story she would have known of surgery about 17 days before the event. Also, on a personal note, I had a cousin RSVP for my wedding but had to back out less than a month before the date because she had been unaware that the new program she entered into in college would expell her from the program if she missed any days for anything other than illness.

As to “weak” excuses for not giving the gift. It is entirely possible that the friend’s attendance and thus subsequent gift was due to her mother harassing her into it. If this is ture then the friend would have never gone on her own and the gift would not be in dispute. I have a feeling these excuses are more for the mother’s benfit than to be salve for the friend’s mind.

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Enna February 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I think the OP was right to say that if the firend hadn’t turned up she should have sent somethingm not because of the cost of the meal but to show that she thought of them and wasn’t being rude by standing them up. If I was going to have an operation, depending what it was I would seriously consider not going to a wedding ten days afterwards.

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Angel February 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Whatever the friend’s relationship is with her cousin or her reasoning behind it, it’s a pretty crappy thing to do to someone, rsvp yes and then not show up. The money is not the point, although it’s a part of it, it’s just plain rude, pure and simple.

The very least she should have done is send a gift.

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