Gifts From Poor College Students

by admin on October 2, 2012

Hi Ehell. My husband and I received a very interesting gift from some of our good friends for a wedding gift and I want your opinion on what exactly to do with it.

We had a very low-key wedding (we eloped!) and had a nice reception a couple months later. I made a registry (only under pressure from my mother and sister-in-law, neither of which ended up getting us anything off the registry anyway, but I digress) and this good friend of mine, we’ll call her Rynn, asked me about the registry and said she liked looking at registries only to get ideas because it’s boring to get someone exactly what they asked for. A few weeks later she asked, “Can we just get you guys a gift card [to registered store]?” I told her sure, do whatever she wanted! The day of our reception, she and her boyfriend told us that they didn’t want to just give us a gift, but rather do us an “act of service.” Great! They offered to pay for a date. Not like a double-date and they’d pay for the whole thing, but rather whenever my husband and I wanted to go out on a date, they would pay for it all.

What am I supposed to do with this information? To start with, Rynn and her boyfriend live separately, but on their own and they are college students with part-time jobs. Both are broker than a joke. Secondly, am I supposed to go out on a date and the next day call her up and say, “Hey! My husband and I went out on an expensive date last night, can you give me $134.00 the next time I see you, you know, for our wedding gift? Thanks!” ? Rynn can’t even go out with me for appetizers because she’s so broke. How am I supposed to receive their wedding gift? They haven’t asked about it since, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t put money aside for it, so should we just completely forget about it? Or is that rude? 1001-12

Until Rynn and her boyfriend hand you a gift certificate or cash, consider that you never received the gift.  That means you cannot ask or badger her about it.   Just let it go because I suspect it was an “intended gift” to assuage their guilt that they could not afford a proper wedding gift when guests often feel obligated to give a wedding gift.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise October 2, 2012 at 4:54 am

Ugh – I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘gifts’ like this before and I’m really not a fan. When I was about 9, one of my aunts told me on my birthday that she would take me shopping to choose a birthday present. Even at that age I was keenly aware of how expensive things are and that some people can’t afford as much as others, so I tied myself in knots of preparatory embarrassment for weeks wondering what to do on the trip, and how I would be able to tell what sort of present she was planning to buy, and what I would do if I asked for something more expensive than she had planned.

As it turned out, the shopping trip never happened – I assume she forgot about it – and I never managed to mention it to her (there just didn’t seem to be a polite way to say ‘So when are you taking me to choose my birthday present?’). I suspect that promises like this, made without any firm anchor or commitment whatsoever, are more ‘intended gifts’, as Admin remarked. It would probably be better if people who had this kind of idea just gave a card with their best wishes instead, rather than such a vague gesture which can’t be redeemed without much pussyfooting around the boundaries of good manners and friendship.

Congratulations on your wedding, may you have many happy years before you x


sv October 2, 2012 at 6:50 am

Agreed – say something like, ” What a wonderful idea, thanks so much!” And then never mention it again, until they bring it up & hand you either certificates or cash. This is one of those times where you say to yourself, ” It’s the thought that counts. “


jena rogers October 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

I really like this.


Shoegal October 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

People do give gifts like this and probably with the best of intentions – then life gets in the way. Unfortunately, once you’ve been on the receiving end of this gift you never really forget that so and so never made good on the promise. Trying to collect on these gifts would be extremely ackward – just isn’t worth it and I would forget about it.


ferretrick October 2, 2012 at 8:24 am

Yep, admin is right. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she’s only doing it semi-consciously, but she has no intention of actually carrying through on this gift. She’s just trying to assuage her guilt by making a promise to give something that she can then forget about and never have to follow through.

Admin is correct, until she gives you something concrete, forget about it and treat it as though the “gift” doesn’t exist, which it doesn’t.


Kathryn October 2, 2012 at 9:02 am

I agree with what’s been said.

However, IF they mention it again, maybe say you’d love to go on a picnic date and maybe they could prepare a picnic hamper. Picnics are romantic and inexpensive, could be a perfect solution 🙂


AS October 2, 2012 at 9:25 am

IMO, I’d they really wanted to give a gift, they could have gotten a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. It surely is awkward to ask them.
Though I should say that we have often given as well as gotten “promise gifts” to my husband’s family; but that is often because we couldn’t buy a gift on time, or promise for a movie/play, etc. And the gift giver always followed up on it. It is easier within families, I guess. And my in laws are awesome!


AS October 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I meant “if” they really wanted to give a gift, not “i’d”! Gosh – spell check!!!


Lo October 2, 2012 at 10:58 am

I’m glad this story was posted because it reminds me, to my embarrassment and shame, that I did this to my SIL for her birthday. I was blindside by it and in a pinch I offered that we as a couple would take her out for dinner. Never happened. I completely forgot.

Going to call up my husband and make sure we send her a gift card ASAP!


KiKi October 2, 2012 at 11:31 am

That’s a great idea Kathryn! If they do bring it up again, that would be a lovely (low cost) solution that would let them off the hook.


Catrunning October 2, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I’ve run into this before – it is usually when the person(s) giving the gift are so tapped out financially that they literaly can’t come up with the cash in time for the wedding. (And putting the gifts on credit often isn’t an option – many people have had their credit cards cancelled in this economy. Easy credit is a thing of the past, especially for those people who need it the most!)

I think for the most part those people have the best of intentions. But with so many people living hand to mouth these days, it never comes to fruition. And the cost of attending weddings is getting more & more expensive, what with shower gifts whose cost often equals the actual wedding gifts, bachelor/bachelorette weekends that easily cost 100’s of dollars, travel costs to the wedding, etc. The only alternative is not attending the wedding if you can’t afford a gift.


Cat October 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm

They may not be able to afford to get you anything and this was a way to avoid the, “We are sorry we can’t afford to give you a gift” speech.
If they do mention it again, you might ease things by saying that every day as a newly wed is a date. I too thought of a picnic at a local park, but I’d suggest asking for peanut and jelly sandwiches and potato chips if their budgets are very tight.


Drawberry October 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Having been in a similar position of having very little spending money during the time of a wedding I understand entirely the nervousness of scrambling to figure out what to do.

What my boyfriend (who is a close friend of the bride, the sister of a friend he’s been very close with since childhood and thus has known since he was a wee wibble Boyfriend) and I ended up doing a joint craft project together. We’re both artists and one of our craft projects is wood-burning, in which you use a light pencil to sketch an image on the wooden surface of your choice (Boxes, plaques, table-tops, etc) ,then using a specific metal ‘pen’ with different interchangeable nibs burn the image into the wood. It’s a long process of sanding, burning, sketches, more sanding, and finishing the wood to prevent water damage. He and I worked on the piece together and completed a portrait of the two of them on a large wooden plaque and gave that to them along with a congratulatory card.

He and I where honored to hear how much they enjoyed this personal gift and appreciated our efforts, without anyone questioning why we didn’t do a traditional registry style gift.

She and her husband where very gracious and I was glad to be part of making something they enjoyed and appreciated.

I understand what this couple was trying to do, a lot of importance is placed on receiving expensive gifts and this couple was very likely scrambling to figure out what to do. Some people would not have appreciated a personal gift or crafts like Boyfriend and I did for the very lovely sister and as such they may have been simply fearful to show up empty handed. While I certainly don’t approve of or appreciate someone’s empty promises, I can relate to and understand the intent of the couple to show up with ‘something, rather than nothing’.

Perhaps if the scenario of a ‘proper’ (whatever proper is to you and them) wedding gift arises telling your friends that having them over for lunch and a movie is the perfect gift? Or if she insists on an ‘object’ gift maybe let her in on how much you love her cookies can lend her a hand?


confused October 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

So, what should the OP do in terms of thank you cards, if she has not already sent them? Should she mention it at all?
Congratulations by the way OP, may you both have a long and happy life together!


Kathryn October 3, 2012 at 5:13 am

So, what should the OP do in terms of thank you cards, if she has not already sent them?
Don’t send one to them. There’s no gift to thank them for.

Should she mention it at all?
Nope. 🙂


Kimstu October 3, 2012 at 8:34 am

Nope, the Admin and the other posters are right. No gift has been given as yet and therefore no thank-you is required.

And since it’s rude to beg or hint for gifts (even when the potential giver has held out promises of providing one), the OP and her husband should be completely silent about this idea unless and until the friend spontaneously brings it up again. If she merely reiterates the same indefinite promise, just say “wow, that would be lovely, thanks!” every time she mentions it and then just keep letting it alone.

When and if she actually gets her act together to the extent of handing over some cash or gift cards, or sitting the bridal couple down and saying “Now, you two are going to tell us RIGHT NOW when and where you would like to go out for your wedding-present date and we are IMMEDIATELY going to call the restaurant and make the reservation and arrange for us to receive the bill”, then and not until then should the bridal couple consider that they’re actually being given a gift and step up to carry out the appropriate etiquette of showing their gratitude for it.

By the way, the OP and her husband sound like pretty nice people, don’t they? They chose the style of wedding festivities that they could afford and would enjoy without demanding lots of service or adulation from others, and are being gracious and appreciative about whatever they receive to celebrate it. Good work OP, and I hope your friends do come through to provide a wonderful and memorable date for you, even if it’s no more costly than karaoke night at the pizza parlor!


Stacey Frith-Smith October 2, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I sympathize with being in tight circumstances financially. Whether it’s temporary due to a little budget blooper or seasonal due to school, job and health issues- it’s a stressful experience. But there are ways to compensate. A pretty card with a poem, an unusual condiment or container for the kitchen (garage sale!), a CD of music you made, a sweet treat (even from a box mix, wrap it pretty!), a few bags of single serve tea, a sketch, a painting, a song, a jar of sprouted herbs…. In this case, though, you could let your friend off the hook by remarking “it’s so sweet of you to want to treat us to a date but we’ve decided to wait for our sixty fifth anniversary to have THAT date”. Pressure’s off.


acr October 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

OP, perhaps if you sense any awkwardness about this issue, you could say something like, “As our date, DH and I would like to come to your place and have (some yummy thing that Rynn makes) and play Pictionary. We’d love to have an nice evening out with friends!”


Margaret October 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm

That is a really great idea. If you don’t do games, then watch a movie. If Rynn really is that broke, she might be stressed out wondering how she is going to actually pull off paying for the date, which might be why she hasn’t mentioned it again.


Enna October 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Admin and the other posters are right: it would be rude to ask for the gift but it is also tactless for Rynn to say she’ll do something and then not do it. Unless you can deliver something don’t say you’ll do it. If Rynn brings it up that she can’t afford a present then say you accept that but warn her not to do so in future – if she does it to someone else that individual may not be so understanding and could lead to stress.


Gleaner Girl October 20, 2012 at 2:36 am

Go to the park for a picnic of peanut butter sandwiches and a thermos-full of Kool-aid. Then tell your friend about the WONDERFUL low-key date you and your husband enjoyed. “And the whole thing only cost $5!”

Do NOT ask her for the $5, but if she remembers it, then gives you a fiver, the gift is given, and you all get to feel warm and fuzzy.

Anyway, the important thing about dates is not to spend a bunch of money, but to make it a point to take time for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Your date could be completely free, but that does not give your friend the opportunity to make good on her offer.

For fun dating ideas, read “The Last of the Big-time Spenders” by Jack Weyland. I think the myriad of dates in that book generally totaled about $1 each, or less.


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