I have been invited to a wedding that is two weeks away, from a former coworker, whom I have seen once in the past eight years. The invitation wasn't even mailed to me, it was scanned and emailed! Am I still required to send a gift? I feel like that may have been the only reason I was invited!
L.D., Charleston, SC
Wedding invitations and business connections can be tricky. Sometimes people end up getting invited to a wedding and wonder why on earth they were included. And that inevitably leads to the way you feel: Were you invited just to get a gift?
Perhaps, the best course for you is to give your former colleague the benefit of the doubt, both for the reasons for inviting you and in the way the invitation was delivered. Your perception of the relationship you had with this former colleague may be very different than the perception he or she has. In their eyes, you may have been a very important person and helped in ways you may not even realize. So it's better to think of them that way than as a gift-grubbing ex-colleague.
The scanned invitation sent as an email is a bit strange. But again don't read more into it than is there. The wedding is only two weeks away and for whatever reason the person sending it may have felt that time was of the essence and emailing would get it to you more quickly.
How do you handle the situation? Regardless of their motives, your response can and should be gracious. That means send a note - by email since it's so close to the wedding - saying how surprised and pleased you were to hear from them along with your regrets or acceptance. Thank them for thinking of you and wish them the best in their married life.
And the issue of a present? It's not necessary in this case (unless you attend the wedding). You've lost touch with this person, and it is highly unlikely that you will be renewing the friendship in the near future. Your situation is a reasonable "exception" to the rule of giving a gift when invited to a wedding. Instead, your gracious note with your best wishes is an acceptable substitute for a gift.
Should you invite business colleagues to your or your child's wedding? The litmus test for choosing whom to invite should be how well you know the colleague personally. A wedding shouldn't be a business event. You can always send an announcement to those business associates and personal friends whom you don't invite. That way you include them, but don't obligate them to a gift.