What, You’re Getting Married AGAIN?!?

Steven PetrowQuestion for Steven: I have some very close friends who LOVE getting domestic partnered, civil union-ed, and married. I think they’ve had four ceremonies in the past decade and I’m sure they’re going to get married in New York now that they can. My question: How many gifts do they deserve?

Steven Answers: Wow, this sounds very complicated, when it’s really not. First off, no one ever “deserves” a gift – giving is always voluntary. Next, I can’t help but feel that there’s some snarkiness in your question (or is it jealousy)? Have these friends celebrated each legal relationship as it became available to them? That doesn’t sound wrong to me. If we had true marriage equality in this country, as they do in Canada, life would be easy (and fair): one ceremony, one gift.

Now, let’s take a step back. Gifts are expressions of our love and support for the couple. When straight friends remarry (or when a longtime couple decides to renew their vows), the “right” thing to do is, in fact, to give another present. It needn’t be expensive – especially if you went all out the first time – but it’s a symbolic expression of your good wishes.

As for same-sex couples who have been discriminated against and marginalized for all time in this country, how can we not be joyous of their right to have a state-sanctioned wedding and show our joy and respect with a gift – whether it’s another toaster (include the gift receipt), a bottle of sparkling wine, or a charitable contribution to Freedom to Marry or any of the other excellent non-profits seeking marriage equality?

And don’t forget to write a note, which may be the most memorable part of your “gift.” Something along these lines goes a long way:

Dear Suzanna and Marcie,

I know how much it means to you to finally have your relationship recognized by the state you live in. Let’s hope that it won’t be long before the feds also acknowledge you as a legal couple!

With much love,


By the way, I asked a friend of mine about this whole question and she said: “What’s all this hemming and hawing about a gift? Think about how long we’ve been left out, how many weddings we’ve been to, and how much money we’ve spent on wedding gifts. F*ck that!” I wouldn’t put it that way myself, but I don’t disagree. Don’t begrudge your friends a wedding gift if they decide to marry – they’ve been waiting a long time for this, and they probably want your love and support a lot more than they want or need another candy dish.


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Steven Petrow is the go-to source on contemporary etiquette, as cited by The New York Times, People, Time, and NPR. His sometimes gentle, sometimes snarky, always insightful advice has made him a nationally recognized expert on modern manners. In addition to his three prize-winning etiquette books, Steven writes the “Civil Behavior” column for The New York Times and is a sought-after speaker on all matters of civilized living in the 21st century.