Question: My elderly parents have been invited to their neighbors' renewal of wedding vows ceremony. Is this an occasion where a gift is required? If so, what price range would be appropriate? My parents are in their late eighties and are on a fixed income.
Answer: Generally, a renewal of wedding vows isn't a gift-giving occasion. So your parents are under no obligation to give a gift. This is an occasion where a card is perfectly appropriate.
In the past, any reference to gifts on invitations was considered in poor taste because guests were assumed to know the occasions when gifts were obligatory. Even today it's incorrect to mention gifts on wedding invitations. But today things aren't quite so clear-cut, so for non-wedding occasions it's a courtesy to inform guests when presents are not expected. The etiquette is to write "No gifts, please" at the bottom of the invitation—or to tell guests when inviting them in person or by phone.
An invitation with a "No gifts, please" request should be taken seriously. Showing up with a present when asked not to embarrasses the hosts, the honoree, and other guests who, correctly, didn't bring anything.
When giving gifts, it's important to consider budget. Too often people overspend on gifts. It really is the thought that counts, along with your affection for the person.
Thankfully, not every gathering and celebration is a gift-giving occasion. When in doubt, check in with a good friend.
Got a tricky etiquette dilemma? Send your questions to Peggy Post