Q. My male cousin just graduated from college and got his first job. He has been invited to one of his bosses’ weddings and does not know what an acceptable gift (or amount to spend) would be because he is paid off of commission and has not yet received much of that. Any suggestions?
R. G., Gulf Shores, AL
A. Let’s take a quick look at wedding gift etiquette.
Since your cousin received an invitation to his boss’s wedding, he is on the hook for a gift whether he attends or not. As with any gift, he’ll want to apply some general gift-giving guidelines.
He should choose something he thinks the couple will like, but equally as important, a gift should never exceed the capacity of the giver to afford it. In your cousin’s case he has just started a job, and he’s a on a tight budget. He should stick to his budget, even if that means all he can afford is twenty to twenty-five dollars.
Since he doesn’t really know his boss or the bride-to-be, he should check with the maid of honor or on the couple’s website to find out where the couple has registered. The couple’s registry will give him a general idea of their taste and style and have items at a variety of price points. He should be able to find a gift that fits his budget, and because it is on their registry, he can rest assured they will appreciate it.
If he can’t find out about the registry, or if he doesn’t wish to choose a gift from those suggestions, “safe” items could be a silver-plated picture frame, or a nice salt and pepper set for use when entertaining, or a pair of candlesticks. He could do some sleuthing to find out what hobbies, sports or travel interests the couple has and find an affordable coffee table book on the subject.
Your cousin’s situation causes a lot of angst because not only does he want to make sure he gives a gift he thinks is “appropriate,” he also has the added pressure that the gift is to his boss. The one solace: He’s not alone. Many employees and coworkers face the same dilemma. Bosses and coworkers issue these invitations in the mistaken belief that “We have to invite all the office staff.” No, they don’t.
Your cousin is a perfect example. He is relatively new to the company and doesn’t have a social relationship with the boss that would merit an invitation. A wedding is a time for family and friends to celebrate the nuptials. Unless a potential invitee is a friend in addition to being a work colleague, brides and grooms should resist the temptation to invite everyone at the office. They’ll end up not only doing themselves a favor, they’ll help those work colleagues like your cousin avoid the predicament he now finds himself in.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
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