My mother-in-law did it again – gave my four- and five-year-olds each a card with $20 in it as a Christmas gift. Is there a way to tell her that this means nothing to them and a small present would be so much more meaningful? I’d love for them all to have a more personal relationship and cash, at my children’s ages, doesn’t seem to help this happen.

Since she at least is making an effort to give them a gift, it wouldn’t be presumptuous of you to talk to her ahead of a birthday or Christmas and ask her if she wants any “great present” ideas. If so, tell her something in the $20 range your children would love to have. If she’s not interested, take her monetary gift and your children to a toy department or store, or shop online or in a catalog, and let them choose something that they then understand is a gift from Grandma.

We are planning our baby’s baptism and are anxious about a party afterward because we can’t afford to have one. It is tradition in our very large families that everyone is invited to a formal lunch or brunch following a baptism. What do we do?

While it may be tradition that baptisms are big events in your family, keep in mind that they don’t have to be. You don’t have to invite everyone to whom you are related to the ceremony, or even let them know that it is occurring. It is likely that this is a gift-giving event in your family, as well as a party, and you would understand that there would not be gifts for your baby, but you also would not be inviting a large group to an event you aren’t able to host. If anyone asks, you simply say you had a quiet baptism as part of your regular church service. It is likely that everyone is busy and won’t even notice the absence of an invitation, or if they do, that they are not going to be offended that the baptism didn’t involve a big get-together.

My wife and I have been invited to the wedding of the daughter of a couple we have neither seen nor spoken to in over two years, and we have never even met their daughter. We aren’t attending, but my wife says the protocol is we must send a wedding gift anyway. Is this true?

The guideline is that one does send a wedding gift in response to a wedding invitation, whether one attends or not, but the situation you describe is the exception to the rule. You don’t know the bride or the groom, you are not close to the parents, and you probably can’t even imagine why you were invited. You do not need to send a gift. You can, if you wish, send a wedding card with your best wishes, but even that is not required.

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