We Were Really Expecting Your Gift, Not You

by admin on May 31, 2011

I consider myself to be pretty etiquette illiterate, but even I know this is inappropriate! I generally don’t attend family functions because it causes anxiety issues, but I always appreciate being invited and send a gift (when appropriate) with my regrets.

Recently, my uncle sent an invitation for a river cruise party celebrating the adoption of a little girl. She has lived with him for two years, and they are finally able to finalize the adoption. Because of my own history with adoption, I decided I would like to attend. I sent in the RSVP and looked into the registry. A few days later, I received an e-mail from my uncle saying, “This is awkward, but you have put me in an uncomfortable position. We didn’t expect you to actually want to attend when we invited you. We figured you would just send a gift like usual. Unfortunately, there really isn’t enough space on the boat for people we didn’t expect to come. I know you’ll understand. We can get together in a couple of days for you to give her present. Thanks.”

So not only was I un-invited, and BLAMED for the situation (“You put me in an uncomfortable position…”), but he still expected me to give a gift. 0527-11

Ooo ho!  Uncle got caught red-handed being a greedy gimme pig!   The invitation really wasn’t meant for YOU.  It was inviting your gift to come in your place.

Suck it up, Uncle.  When invitees accept the kind invitations to join you at the event you are hosting, you say nothing and find some way to squeeze them in without calling attention to the fact that they are inconveniencing your plan to reap only gifts from them.  Blameshifting your guilt at being a greedy, ungracious, guilt manipulative host-pig onto your unsuspecting guest is a serious faux pas qualifying you for an extended stay in Etiquette Hell in the far, deepest recesses where the flames are the hottest. Crispy, deep fried Uncle.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

badkitty May 31, 2011 at 9:07 am

“I’m terribly sorry that I misunderstood your invitation to be sincere, and for my assumption that our familial relationship was a close and happy one. You’ve put me in the uncomfortable position of informing you that my gifts are not sent where I am not welcome; I just can’t afford to be giving out gifts to people who don’t have time for me. I know you’ll understand, and we can just see each other at another family event sometime.”


princesscharming May 31, 2011 at 9:09 am

Are gifts really expected for a child that has lived with the parent already for a couple of years? I think that right there is fax paus number 1. Fax Paus number 2 would be having a party in a venue that isn’t big enough to accomodate the number you invited. Fax Paus number 3 would be having a river cruise, which I assume includes children since this is for a child? Doesn’t that sound a little risky and not very imaginative for a party for kids? Fax Paus number 4 – uninviting someone (I think I would go anyway just to be onery and make uncle feel even MORE uncomfortable than he already does) Fax Paus number 5 – using EMAIL to tell someone something tough, like being uninvited (I hate email and facebook because people can hide behind it without having to speak to your face about something)

That all being said, I think OP might want to reevaluate always declining family invites. Even though family brings tension, you might want to consider that they are your family, and one day you may regret not getting together with them during these important events. I guess I can kind of see why uncle didn’t think you would accept the invite and this time he got caught in his slip-up.


Jay May 31, 2011 at 9:12 am

I really, really hope you didn’t “just be polite about it” and send a gift anyway..


Just Laura May 31, 2011 at 9:17 am

The Unvitation strikes again.


AS May 31, 2011 at 9:23 am

It is unbelievable someone can actually say this – that too a grown up adult! I hope you (OP) didn’t bother to go or send a gift. Seriously, what was he thinking when he blamed OP for accepting the invitation and putting him in an uncomfortable situation? Even if he was greedy, he could have been less outright about it. Or does he not realise that he is being greedy. Maybe it is time to send him an etiquette book.


Aje May 31, 2011 at 9:24 am

Oooooo! The NERVE! Dios mio, I think I wouldn’t even respond at all to his e-mail. If he has the nerve to contact you again you have to plan a course of action. If you wish to give a gift to the girl, despite the fact her father belongs in e-hell, I would still encourage you to tell him what he did was RUDE.


AKatC May 31, 2011 at 9:40 am

Wow! This one has my jaw on the floor! OP I am dying to know what you said to your uncle, if anything. The first thing that got me was the registry…why is there a registry when the party is to celebrate the adoption being finalized and the little girl has lived with him for 2 years. Seems to me that she isn’t new to the family at this point but that they are celebrating because it is finally official. If it were me I would have attended anyway (someone else is bound to not attend and therefore leaving an opening) and only brought a card (does Hallmark make cards for adoption finalization?!).
Of course if I were feeling particularly snarky I might have forwarded his email to several other relatives…


DGS May 31, 2011 at 9:41 am

Wow…just wow. Outrageous.

I would reply to the Uncle and say something along the lines of, “Since my invitation appears to be rescinded, and since my presence is obviously not welcome, my gift and my best wishes will not be forthcoming either”. The Uncle is a very greedy gimme-pig of the worst sort and should be ashamed of himself.


Wendy May 31, 2011 at 9:42 am

OUCH! I think at that point I would send back whatever you purchased set up a savings account or purchase a savings bond in the child’s name and forgo the gift. The savings can be used later by the child and her greedy parents won’t be able to touch it immediately.

That wasn’t just rude, it was downright mean. Bad uncle! Bad!


Elizabeth May 31, 2011 at 9:49 am

Would it be bad to respond with, “I didn’t put you in an uncomfortable position, you did by inviting someone that you didn’t actually want to attend. It is a shame that you feel whatever gift I might have brought is more important than your relationship with me. Please remove me from any lists for future events as I plan to sever ties with you.”?


spyderboyy May 31, 2011 at 9:49 am

I love how he still assumes the OP wants to give a present at the end.


lkb May 31, 2011 at 9:53 am

My flabber has done been gasted!
I do wonder about one thing though: Does the OP live a considerable distance from the uncle’s family? The reason I ask is perhaps the invitation was sent more as an announcement then as an actual invitation.
When I got married and also when my sons graduated from high school, we sent the announcements/invitations to physically distant relatives, knowing full well they could not attend but more of a courtesy to let them know that a loved one has achieved a major milestone. (For example, we had just seen a great-grandma from another state who came to our state for another graduation but she could not be in town for our son’s.) However, we still wanted her to have a memento of our son’s big day. We expected no gifts and I don’t believe they thought we did.
Yes, in that case, I suppose it’s more etiquettely correct to have sent an announcement instead of the actual invitation, but that seems to be how it’s done in these parts, partly to save money. (It’s obscenely expensive to have invitations made. When you have more than you need of the standard one and just one or two that would be better as an announcement, it’s a tough call to make.)

Maybe that’s what the uncle had in mind. (Though, if these distant relatives had decided to attend, we’d have welcomed them with open arms — grateful that they made the effort.) He was a clod for sending the email and I hope someone calls him on it.


Typo Tat May 31, 2011 at 10:00 am

My first gut reaction was that this is simply unbelievable, and I wouldn’t have imagined such a horrid rudeness in a million years…

On a second thought, it occurred to me that in my surroundings it’s simply not customary to give gifts when you didn’t attend the event, so the temptation to “gamble” for gifts is absent. It’s still unbelievably rude, though.


Louise May 31, 2011 at 10:04 am

Unbelievable. I really, really hope the OP did not send a gift. Don’t reward the gimmie pig! (Or the crispy deep-friend uncle … hehehe, that made me giggle.)

I can understand a party to celebrate the finalization of the adoption of a child, even if she’s lived with uncle for two years now. I don’t understand the registry though.

I agree with Wendy: Uncle wasn’t just rude, he was mean. And I love badkitty’s rebuttal. I bet that would make uncle squirm.


A May 31, 2011 at 10:17 am

Well, that really insures a person will want to attend future family functions.


HonorH May 31, 2011 at 10:28 am

Just when I think there’s nothing that can shock me anymore . . .



josie May 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

I’d respond with “tell aunt Bertha to scoot over, I’m coming anyway!”


Emorie's Mommy May 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I am. A grown-up pulled this kind of stunt?

I think it’s best if you don’t send a gift, or send a card (with nothing in it, of course). If the family doesn’t want you there, you owe them nothing.

I just hope the child doesn’t inherit these tacky ways, but unfortunately, he/she probably will.


Tracey May 31, 2011 at 10:51 am

Whoa. I can’t believe he sent that to you and actually thought it was okay and you’d understand! I LOVE what badkitty suggested. PLEASE consider using that (if the timing is still current) and let us know how it goes!


Chocobo May 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

Holy moly, persona non grata indeed! OP, *please* say you didn’t acquiesce to this shamelessness!


Chocobo May 31, 2011 at 11:05 am

AKatC: Good point, I was so blindsided by Uncle’s unabashed abuse of the OP’s generosity that I didn’t even notice how ridiculous a shower for an adoptive child *WHO ALREADY LIVES WITH THEM FOR YEARS* is. A nice “hooray, it’s official!” adoption party just to celebrate the new family member without the expectation of gifts would have been lovely… but alas, Uncle has made it crystal clear this is not the case.

One thing I lament about the rise of registries for every occasion under the sun is not just the rude expectation of gifts, but also takes away the thoughtfulness of someone who chooses to bring a gift unexpectedly. If this were just a normal celebration and someone brought a small toy for the adopted child, it would have been regarded as a gracious and thoughtful gesture. But because gifts are requested/demanded, the thoughtfulness becomes mandatory and guests are reduced from solicitousness to sponsors.


LBC May 31, 2011 at 11:20 am

Typo Tat: It’s generally not customary anywhere in the U.S. to send a gift if you cannot attend, but many of us do if we would have liked to attend, but were unavailable. I can’t go to my cousin’s wedding this summer but I’m still sending a gift because I still want to give them one and I would have attended had my schedule permitted.

I confess that I might still have sent a gift in this instance to, but I would have made sure it was something nobody but the little girl could possibly use (My Little Pony nightshirt or something), because it’s not the kid’s fault the uncle is a clod, and I kind of do think that finalizing an adoption, even if she’s lived with them for two years, is a big deal.


Kinsey May 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

Hi, this was my story.

Thanks to everyone who commented. It makes me feel better to see that many people agree that I was treated inappropriately. To answer some of the questions from the comments: I am in the same are as my uncle, less than 3 miles from his house, and within walking distance of the place where the river-boat is docked. In our family, there have been many, many adoptions and it’s sort of a family tradition to treat the day that the adoption is finalized as an event similar to a baby shower. It may not be technically appropriate, but it’s the tradition in our family to make a huge deal out of that day.

My reply to him was as follows: “No, I don’t particularly understand, but it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it. I realize I generally only attend small gatherings, and not the parties that include the whole extended family, but in the future, please don’t invite me to anything I’m not welcome to attend.”

My intention for a ‘gift’ is to bring my new cousin to the lake for an afternoon of swimming, picnicking, and flying kites. So my gift will be a great time spent playing together and having a great fun. . .assuming I get permission from my uncle to do it.


Shoebox May 31, 2011 at 11:34 am

Thirding badkitty’s suggestion… that’s wonderful.

Although giving Uncle a firm smacking across the face with a clue-by-four (or possibly a damp trout) would also earn my wholehearted approval.


--E May 31, 2011 at 11:40 am


The problem here is that his new daughter may suffer for his idiocy. He obviously expects OP will send a gift because it’s for the girl, not for him. If OP is close with her (his?) new young cousin, she may still want to send a gift.

If OP wants to send something to the girl, OP needs to simultaneously inform Uncle that he’s been unspeakably rude. I like a combination of various ideas above: give badkitty’s response, and then follow Wendy’s advice and put some money into a savings fund of some sort.


Lizajane May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am

Ooo ooo, I like badkitty’s idea, too.


Lizza May 31, 2011 at 11:51 am

Wow! “You put me in an uncomfortable position by assuming your invitation actually meant you were invited.” How crass and rude! OP, please tell us you didn’t give a gift, or at the very least (not wanting to punish the little girl) if you did give a gift, you explained to your uncle how thoughtless he was.


Ashley May 31, 2011 at 11:56 am

As wonderful as it may be that the Uncle and his wife now get to adopt this child, one can only hope his rude manners are not passed on to the child. Because yeah, there is so much faux pas in this story, I can’t even wrap my head around it.


Shannon May 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I’d give a gift…that is, a gift certificate for etiquette school for the child.


Lisa May 31, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Now we know why you don’t usually attend family functions.

Please, please, please tell me you didn’t still send the gift.


Justine May 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Ouch! I guess she will have to take all future “invitations” with a grain of salt. I really, really, really hope she did not send a gift.


Pam B May 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I recieved a very sweet phone call from a relative who was going to be unable to invite me to function because of space and cost (and since we lived 2000 miles away we weren’t planning on going anyway) but she did NOT send an invite expecting us to be unable to go!!

HOWEVER, she went out of her way to tell us how much we are loved and appreciated and that she valued our relationship. I then told her to send me an invite, because I WANTED to send a gift…. I think she handled it well.


ferretrick May 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I suppose it WOULDN’T be etiquette approved to send an etiquette book for the child instead, with a note that said she obviously won’t be learning it from you…?


Wink-n-Smile May 31, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Oh, my gosh!
That really takes the cake!

Unfortunately, punishing the uncle may mean punishing the innocent little girl. She’s your cousin. Love and support her, and teach her the manners she won’t get from her new father.

I think you should invite *her* to *your* place (leave the uncle out), and give her the best gift a new cousin can get – a friend. She doesn’t need the physical stuff, but she does need the love, support, and wise counsel an older cousin can give. Push yourself to become her friend, and she won’t miss the presents.


Wink-n-Smile May 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Also, send the uncle a link to this website. Specifically, this post!


Pam B May 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I wanted to add a bit to my comment. I WOULD send the gift, iit demonstrates the highest character , preserves a relationship with your relative and their child and no one can ever accuse you of anything but attaining the highest level of classiness!! You will be a family legend of kindness : )


essie May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm

How about getting a refund on THAT gift and sending the whole family a book on etiquette? Leave out the snarky “I understand that, as parents, you have to try to teach your children the important lessons of lie, such as that needs come before wants. I am so happy to be able to help you in this matter. Since you don’t want my presence, but need my present, I hope you will allow me, in this small way, to assist you as you teach your new daughter some of the other important lessons in life.”


Teapot May 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Just exactly where does one register their child for a “Finalization of Adoption” gift registery? Is there a new store I haven’t heard of before? Gimme Pigs R Us?


Xtina May 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Crispy, deep-fried uncle–love it!

This is truly awful–how presumptuous, how rude, how–whatever, it’s just WRONG. One should never send an invitation to someone unless one is willing to accommodate them at one’s event. Obviously, only presents (for a formalized child adoption–really?? That’s probably clue number one that this was just a gimmee event, that there was/is a registry for such a thing) were wanted.

OP, I would simply tell the uncle “congratulations on your adoption” and let it go at that. Don’t bother with a card and certainly not with a gift; it only encourages the bad behavior. Although I love badkitty’s suggestion of “my gifts aren’t sent where I am not welcome”–that’s certainly a consideration!

P.S. since someone had mentioned the problems with sending an invitation for event to those far out of town–announcement cards could be a consideration if it’s possible to do so. That way, the far-out-of-towners or otherwise sure-no-show folks will still feel included with good news, but an expectation to travel (or send a gift, that’s another nice thing about a simple announcement) is not really presumed. But then again, my mother always used to tell me not to decide for someone else whether or not they might attend your event, so I leave that up to the discretion of the e-hell court……


Hemi Halliwell May 31, 2011 at 12:54 pm

That is one of the worst examples of gimme-pig behavior I have every heard of! I hope the OP did not reward his behavior by giving a gift anyway!
Badkitty’s rebuttal was spot-on. 🙂


QueenofAllThings May 31, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I like the Dame’s wording –
“Dear Uncle,
Oh, dear. I do apologize. I thought the invitation was for me, but it is clear from your email that the invitation was for my gift. Thank you for clearing it up for me and I am sorry for the misunderstanding. Obviously, I will not be attending as the invitation wasn’t meant for me – please give (little girl’s name) my best.

Take the high road.


Angie May 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm

OK, I can understand having a gathering to celebrate the finalization of the adoption because that is a momentous occasion. I’ve known people who have adopted children, and before it’s final there’s always that period when you’re on pins and needles because the biological parents could still change their mind.

But to set up a registry, thus indicating that you expect gifts? That’s tacky, even beyond the inviting and un-inviting.


Walden May 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm

“I know you’ll understand.” *jawdrop*

Not “I hope,” but “I KNOW” as if he were attempting some jedi mind trick through email. It’s so sad it’s funny. Does he happen to be a politician?


SHOEGAL May 31, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Why is there a registry?? I have never heard of such a thing – if you wanted to celebrate the adoption – fabulous – but did you need to get gifts for it???? Uninviting someone through email???? Is this guy for real?? Already it is highly uncomfortable but you couldn’t soften all of this by calling and being overly apologetic??? But I shouldn’t put anything past a man that would uninvite someone in the first place and blame the invited for the situation and still think the OP would want to give a gift??!?!??! Yes – that sound is my jaw hitting the floor. I doubt I could find it in my heart to ever speak to the man again.


Lynne May 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

princesscharming — I have to disagree with you on two counts.

A river cruise could be a lovely environment for a family/mixed generation celebration, and I don’t think that it would be inappropriate for children, so the type of party is not a faux pas in and of itself.

Secondly, in the OP’s defense, I want to address the advice to “reevaluate always declining family invites.” The OP mentions that family gatherings cause anxiety, and anxiety is a very real and serious issue for many people. It does sound to me like the OP cares about spending time with his/her family, and is already evaluating which events s/he feels able to attend– a shame that this particular decision was responded to so ungraciously!

And then, to everyone who thinks that the adopted girl should not be receiving gifts, because she has already been living there for years — OF COURSE the rudeness lies in the blatant expectation of gifts, and the accompanying registry. BUT being finally, legally recognized as family is an enormous milestone that is deserving of celebration, and gifts are not at all out of place. If I were far-extended family who didn’t know her, I’d probably go with flowers and a card for the girl, but if I already knew her well, perhaps I would purchase something personal and special, that would last and be valued for years.


Orwellian May 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm

badkitty nailed it on the head with a perfect response. After some family faux pas this weekend, I’m glad to see that my family isn’t the worst.


sirhcton May 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Let me guess that the dear, considerate, caring uncle would turn the failure to give a present into the OP’s being rude or mean to the child.


SV May 31, 2011 at 2:28 pm

If the OP has a fond relationship with the little girl ( and the little girl is old enough to understand) she should send a gift directly to her, with congratulatory card. It is not the girl’s fault that the uncle is a gimme pig, after all, and it may hurt her feelings if the OP does not send one. I am in complete agreement that gifts are entirely unnecessary but if the child is old enough to know and comprehend that this is a party to celebrate the fact that she has officially, legally become part of the family then she may also have been told by the uncle to expect gifts from happy relations. Adoption can be a sensitive issue and I am sure the OP would not want to inadvertantly cause a rift with the child by having more read into the lack of a gift than just the uncle’s incredible lack of manners. As for dealing with the uncle, I would simple not respond in any way and decline any olive branches that may come her way. It was a thoughtless, rude, and offensive email and he should be ashamed. Especially for trying to turn the blame to the OP!!!


LilyG May 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


Abby May 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I imagine Elizabeth’s post from above would be considered by etiquette experts as too forward, but that is exactly the wording I would use. I just can’t believe Uncle felt that was an appropriate email to send. Not just uninviting, not just making it obvious he only wanted a present, but blaming the OP for his own mistake? Since when is a timely RSVP to an invitation ‘putting someone in an awkward position’??

Honestly, I wouldn’t be the bigger person here. That email would get forwarded to everyone in my family. My cousins are two of the biggest gimme pigs I know and even THEY would consider that horrifically tacky.


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