Marriage lasts weeks; should wedding gifts go back?

By Tom Musbach

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Though your list of friends may not include Kim Kardashian or Dennis Rodman, you may know somebody whose marriage lasted for only a month or two. Would you expect your wedding gifts back?

This etiquette question is perfect for September, which happens to be National Courtesy Month. But the answer may not be very definitive, as these two etiquette experts on JustAnswer offer contrasting views.

The case for returning wedding gifts

Sheila K. offered this assessment:

"It is both good etiquette and common courtesy to return wedding gifts in a situation that a marriage lasts only 2-3 months. Many of those who sent the gifts won't expect them to be returned but it is good to offer to send them back. In cases where the gift has been used, then it is unlikely that the person will want the gift back. Cash gifts should certainly be returned."

When expecting a return may be bad form

Here's a different take from Rev Dr. August Abbott, another etiquette specialist on JustAnswer:

"The proper (traditional) etiquette with regard to gift giving, no matter what the occasion: a gift is a free-will action. Once given, it is improper for the giver to have any expectation of return or reimbursement.

"It is further considered in bad form to even bring it up. The gift givers would more likely express sorrow for your situation and be there for support.

"If you personally want to return something or feel it's the right thing to do for whatever reason, then by all means do so. Some gift givers, for example, may not have been in the best of positions financially to give what they did and having it back might be a relief for them."

What you can conclude

The viewpoint from Sheila K. may be more in line with modern expectations, especially as short-lived weddings have become more of cultural influence from reality TV. The more classical opinion, outlined by Rev Dr August Abbot, suggests that a gift given from the heart should not carry an expectation of return.

However, both experts agree that if the wedding never happened, gifts should be returned because the occasion for the giving was cancelled.