When You Must Return Wedding Gifts

quickie divorce

The Chicago Tribune's syndicated advice-ionista, Amy Dickinson, got hit with one dilly of a pickle this week regarding early withdrawal (from a marriage) and the pesky question of gift rights.

A couple realizes weeks before the wedding that marriage (or even togetherness of any kind) is not right for them. However, they've ponied up the dough for the nuptials and some service providers (caterers, florists, seamstresses, hairdressers, furniture renters, country clubs, priests, et cetera) are real hard-ons about getting a deposit back. So, as the say at strip clubs, the show must go on. Unfortunately, in an effort not to harsh anyone's mellow, the couple neglected to inform the guests that the wedding was phony baloney (put a feather in your cap and call it macaroni).

So the wedding went off with nary a hitch and the couple got that jam annulled a short time later. Some of the guests (including one with an avuncular relationship) were not pleased ("mad as rattlesnakes" one might say) about getting hoodwinked and demanded satisfaction… in the form of having gifts returned and possibly an apology. Read: Grand Opening, Grand Closing: A 1-Day Marriage

Actually, the question isn't a sour cucumber at all. It's pretty cut and dried. Conventional wisdom says that if you get divorced in under a year, you're supposed to return all of the gifts. Sure, it's probably in bad taste to return a used fondue set but you get the point. I'm not sure what Ask Amy thought of this case, she sort of lost me at "selfishness," "cowardice" and "mockery," but the bottom line is that the gifts have to be returned. Read: Marriage: Sacred or Smashed Institution?

The couple could have bailed on the whole thing and been out some money, chalk it up to a learning experience and find a creative accountant who can turn that into a tax advantage and be done with it. OR throw a kick-ass party and let the guests know it just wasn't going to work. Nowhere in that scenario does getting actually married, quickly annulled and keeping the gifts fit.

Back in the old Daily Dish days, we mentioned that a couple in some ritzy Florida locale had their legal teams working day and night to hammer out a prenup. They failed to do so by the time the vows were to be exchanged and the whole thing turned into a party. A bittersweet party in which the groom was mysteriously absent and one false move may have started a family feud* the likes we haven't seen since the Capulets and Montagues warred over fair Verona, but at least it was honest. And honesty is a pretty OK policy. Read: Prenup Dust Up Cancels Wedding 2 Hours Before Start Time

In summary, the gifts have go back but you don't have to say you're sorry.

Thoughts on returning gifts?

*Note: I'm talking about the Richard Dawson Family Feud, not that John O'Hurley crap.