Dear Miss Manners: My husband’s niece was engaged to be married in the summer, but the wedding was moved up because she and her fiance decided they couldn’t wait. Their ages are 19 and 18, respectively.
She announced on her Facebook page that they were getting married that day. This was the only announcement; no formal communication was sent out, even to family members.
My husband insists that a generic announcement to the entire Facebook world does not warrant a wedding gift, and I am inclined to agree with him. The rest of his family has been sending gifts. We don’t feel we should be required to add to the general decline in manners, but we’re also afraid that making conditional terms for gift-giving may be a breach of etiquette in itself.
How does one handle the unfortunate new etiquette of the Facebook age?
Gentle Reader: And how does Miss Manners handle the unfortunate misconceptions about the etiquette of giving wedding presents?
There is no such thing as an invoice for a wedding present. Neither a wedding invitation nor a formal announcement constitutes that. You give a wedding present because you want to indicate symbolically that you care about the couple.
Yes, there is a catch. That is that you should not be attending a wedding if you do not care about the couple (either truly, or because they are relatives and you are supposed to care), and therefore wedding guests give wedding presents. If you decline the invitation, or if you are not invited but receive an announcement, all that is required is that you send the couple good wishes.
So even if you had received a formal announcement of this marriage, you might have skipped the present. But remember that word “required.” That means the decent minimum, which many people rudely skip, because they consider that an invitation is an invoice, but an announcement can be entirely ignored.
Your quibble is that not only were you not invited to a wedding, but you didn’t even get a formal announcement. But look at the circumstances. An elopement is the least formal wedding, which is fine, and the couple chose the least formal way of letting people know about it.
So – what is required of you? Nothing, if you want to pretend that you didn’t see their posting, until you are told directly. However, an expression of good wishes is necessary if you admit that you do know of the marriage. Adding a present over this minimum would show that you care. Or that you want, for the family’s sake, to seem to care.