Q. I have been invited to a wedding that is two weeks away by a former co-worker whom I have seen once in the past eight years. The invitation wasn’t even mailed to me, it was scanned and e-mailed. Am I still required to send a gift? I feel like that may have been the only reason I was invited.
A. Wedding invitations and business connections can be tricky. Sometimes people end up getting invited to a wedding and wonder why. And that leads to the way you feel: Were you invited just to get a gift?
Perhaps the best course is to give your former colleague the benefit of the doubt, both on the reasons for inviting you and in the way the invitation was delivered. Your perception of the relationship may be very different than his or her perception. In their eyes, you may have been very important, and helped in ways you don’t even realize. So it’s better to think of them that way than as a gift-grubbing ex-colleague.
The scanned invitation sent as an e-mail is a bit strange. But again don’t read more into it. The wedding is only two weeks away, and the person sending it may have felt that time was of the essence.
How do you handle it? Regardless of their motives, your response should be gracious. That means e-mailing a note, since it’s so close to the date, saying how surprised and pleased you were to hear from them, along with your regrets or acceptance. Thank them for thinking of you and wish them the best.
And the issue of a present? It’s not necessary in this case (unless you attend the wedding). You’ve lost touch with this person, and it is highly unlikely you will be renewing the friendship in the near future. Your situation is a reasonable exception to the rule of giving a gift when invited to a wedding; your gracious note with best wishes is an acceptable substitute.
Should you invite business colleagues to your or your child’s wedding? The litmus test should be how well you know the colleagues personally. A wedding shouldn’t be a business event. You can always send an announcement instead of an invitation: That way you include them, but don’t obligate them to a gift.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org.