We saw two articles recently that got us thinking about gratitude from newlyweds. Is selling gifts on eBay ungrateful? If not, what is ungrateful? Where do we draw the line?
Gift culture is awkward. It always has been and always will be. Giving gifts is a way of showing how well you know and understand a person. So you’re not likely to get an awesome gift from an obscure friend or relative you’ve never shared anything beyond small talk with. But still, you have to show gratitude. But how much?
Let’s look at two ends of the scale and then have a think about where to draw the line.
Is it ungrateful to sell gifts on eBay?
Wedding gift culture is about as awkward as gift culture gets. There’s loads of people, all of whom know you to wildly varying degrees. So you’re going to get some naff gifts, some duplicated gifts and some that are lovely, but just not your cup of tea.
So what happens to these gifts?
According to this article, 82 percent of newlyweds admit to selling some of their wedding gifts on eBay. It was the first bit of the headline that piqued our interest – “that’s ungrateful!”
Is it, though? Really? Does etiquette really dictate that these gifts you have no use for must sit in your garage, gathering dust forever? Surely there’s a level of practicality that excuses you from the charge of ungratefulness.
What if you give them away to a charity? Does the fact that you’re not making money on them neutralise the supposed lack of gratitude?
What we reckon
We don’t think it’s ungrateful to sell wedding gifts on eBay. Or to give them away. Remember that whole thing about it being the thought that counts? Well, with weddings, it’s more the etiquette that counts.
Everyone knows some wedding gifts aren’t going to be of use to the happy couple. So no one’s really going to be that surprised to learn they’ve sold them or given them away.
Like with anything though, there’s always an extreme that’s not cool. For example, if one of your very close friends or family gave you a gift that involved a lot of time and thought, only to see you cashing it in on eBay, we’d understand them being pretty miffed.
Is it ungrateful to ask someone for a more valuable gift?
The obvious answer is “what horrendous human being would do this?”
But it happens. We learned from this story about a woman whose cash gift of £100 apparently left her newlywed friends feeling short changed. In their thank you note, they said: “‘We were surprised that your contribution didn’t seem to match the warmth of your good wishes on our big day. In view of your own position, if you wanted to send any adjustment it would be thankfully received.'”
Apparently, ‘in view of your position’ translates to ‘you know that whacking great inheritance you just got?’. It’s worth noting she was an ex work colleague, not a close friend or family member.
So, I think we’re all in agreement that the couple in this story qualify as ungrateful newlyweds, right?
But what if we scale it down a bit? Is it ever acceptable to voice disappointment with a person’s gift? What if you genuinely feel that one of your guests has given you a really miserly, borderline insulting gift? (This is being written, by the way, by a guy who went gift less to the wedding of his best mate from university. Having never been to a friend’s wedding before, I just didn’t know gift-giving was a thing. I didn’t realise it until about a year later, and neither he nor I have ever said a word about it.)
What we reckon
Obviously the newlyweds in this story are just the worst kind of people. Exploiting gift culture for financial gain is pretty much one of the most loathsome things you can do. That’s My Super Sweet Sixteen levels of spoiled brat behaviour. If your disappointment with a guest’s gift is based on you thinking they owe you something of a certain monetary value, then we’re not on your side, I’m afraid.
But let’s not forget that gifts are a gesture. We don’t think it’s ungrateful to feel disappointed if someone you care about gives you a gift they’ve invested very little time, money or effort into. Or something that exposes how little they really know and understand you.
Separating the physical and symbolic aspects of gift giving
We think both these articles miss the point, to an extent.
We think this messy question becomes clearer when you stop worrying about the thing itself – the toaster, the smoothie maker, the £100 cheque or whatever. What’s far more important is the gesture. The ‘thought’, if you will.
Gratitude is the practice of giving appropriate acknowledgement of something a person has done for you. The practical side of that is easy – just say thank you. If the gift was cheap and nasty, with no effort put into it at all, still just say thank you – it’s easier for all involved. And if you’ve been given a gift that represents a remarkably high investment of time, money or effort, show your appreciation by explaining how much it means to you.
So that’s the practical side sorted. As for the symbolic side, well, the reason gift giving is so awkward is that it can expose just how much or how little someone cares about you. And its perfectly okay to feel disappointed when that happens. It’s not ungrateful.
Let’s say you have a close friend who’s super rich. Like, multi-millionaire rich. And for a wedding gift, she (or he) gives you a gold watch, worth more money than you earn in a year. But all the jewellery you wear is silver. And the old watch you already wear was given to you by your grandmother, and means the world to you. If your friend listened to you, and truly knew you, she’d know that.
Obviously you should still gush with thanks for such a (financially) generous gift. But you can still feel hugely disappointed to learn how little your friend really cares. That’s not ungrateful. That’s just the difference between what a gift is and what it symbolises.
Have you ever been annoyed by a newlywed’s lack of gratitude? Have you ever been given a gift you were really disappointed with? Let us know in the comments.
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