It's impossible to know what to expect during your wedding. You can plan every detail down to the millisecond and things are still going to surprise you. The pasta's going to have a different sauce than you agreed on with your caterer, your Aunt Millie is going to show up in a wheelchair out of nowhere and suddenly need a ramp (didn't she run a 5K last week?), and the DJ's going to play songs that you know for a fact were on your do-not-play list. It's a fact of wedding life. You'll roll with the punches, but the surprises truly add up. One thing we were completely surprised by at our wedding was the number of guests that didn't give us a gift.
It led to a perplexing post-wedding dilemma: what do you do when there's no wedding gift received?
First of all, it's important to note that a gift is obviously not a requirement of attending a wedding. Our guests spent their time and money to come celebrate with us and we were grateful for their effort, even if there was no wedding gift received. That said, it's pretty standard for guests to buy a present when they attend a wedding, especially when they know the hosts are spending a lot of money per person to throw the event in the first place.
Conventional wisdom says that guests have a year after the wedding to give you a gift, but do people really remember to send something months after the big day? We were shocked to discover that when our wedding weekend was over, there was no wedding gift received from almost 20 percent of our guests. That felt like a really big number, but when I asked around to friends who have gotten married recently, they said they had a similar experience. When did people stop giving wedding gifts by default and what can you do about it?
The real answer is nothing. It's fairly petty to even be thinking about (although it definitely stings) and there's no situation where you look good asking one of your guests if they plan to give you a gift after the fact, even if they did go crazy on the open bar. A fairly classy way around the situation is to send a thank-you note anyway, just for coming. If they forgot to get you a gift in the first place, it serves as a reminder. If they were never planning on sending you one, it's a nice gesture of appreciation for a friend or family member who chose to celebrate your love. With no wedding gift received, it's a lose-lose situation for both parties. The no-gifter looks pretty bad and the newlyweds are left wondering if their friendship means less (tangibly, at least) than they thought.
There's another situation to consider when there's no wedding gift received at or before your wedding. The gift may have simply gotten lost. Weddings are chaotic. It's impossible to keep everything straight because there are a million things happening at once. No matter how organized your wedding coordinator may be, there's always a chance that an envelope got lost in the shuffle – or worse, snatched by a less-than-scrupulous attendee. If the present got lost or stolen, not only do you as the recently married couple think your friends or family stiffed you, but the gift-giver is left wondering why you never thanked them for the gift. That's truly the most unfortunate situation in the no-gifting universe.
My best advice is to forget about the whole thing. If somebody didn't give you a gift, so what? There's a natural human tendency to want to retaliate, i.e. respond by not giving the no-gifter a gift at their own wedding. That's not going to make you feel better. Weddings are aren't about getting even. They're about celebrating love and that means you should bring a gift, even if you weren't given one on your own wedding day.