The thing that gets me about "cultural" traditions in this sense... this did not take place in Italy or Croatia. This happened in Canada. I wonder if either bride has even spent more then at most a few months - if even a single day - in Italy or Croatia, or if they planned to live there, or follow all the other details of those cultures? Because it seems to me when you invite a Canadian, to a wedding in Canada, where you live and work, its pretty reasonable to expect to get a gift that follows Canadian gift giving culture.
This is my thinking, as well, and applies to the USA, too.
I'm half Italian and have been to my share of Italian weddings.
There is a small contingent, especially in a certain area of the country, where "cover your plate" is the expected norm, but I have never heard of anyone confronted about not doing so. It's not just tacky and rude to belittle a gift given; it's also mean and hurtful. The bride was completely out of line.
We received a food basket, (a nice one from Hickory Farms), as a wedding gift, and it was among our favorite gifts received.