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Couples around the world are drastically rewriting their wedding plans amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

The question

We were surprised to get an invitation to the wedding of a friends’ daughter because we have only met her a handful of times. We accepted and were looking forward to attending, but because of COVID-19 the event has been cancelled. They plan on having a civil ceremony after the pandemic. Are we still obligated to buy a gift?

The answer

I don’t know about “obligated,” but I certainly think you should.

It’s a little embarrassing to quote Miss Manners (Judith Martin), but she’s right about this. I paraphrase: “The essence of good manners is the ability to imagine the feelings of others.”

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Try to imagine how this couple must feel. A wedding is something many dream of their whole lives.

After swimming through the shark waters of the singles’ scene, many disappointments and heartbreaks, you finally find your soulmate – or at least someone you figure you could handle over the long haul. So you draw up a guest list, book a venue, hire musicians and maybe a wedding planner, order flowers, buy invitations, hire caterers, find an officiant and in general just dream about the big day – the day you and your betrothed, in joy and special outfits, proclaim your love and commitment to one another and give speeches in front of friends and family, many of whom are quietly dabbing away tears. Then you all dance the night away.

But this couple had to cancel the whole shebang because of some vile, villainous virus. You don’t think that’s heartbreaking for them? You don’t think they’ve shed tears over that?

And that’s not even mentioning the money they’ve probably spent. That’s where my tears would kick in. Depending what source you consult, the average wedding in Canada clocks in at around $30,000 to $40,000.

If you received your invitations, you can bet a lot of that money has already been spent. Maybe there are a few entities that will offer refunds in the wake of this disaster, but some of those dollars are likely gone for good.

And now they have to cobble together some sort of tiny, makeshift ceremony. Like one guest each – or maybe one guest total if you want to include an officiant – all standing at least two metres apart.

I’ve read many heartwarming tales of couples making do/making the best of things. For example, one couple who had to cancel their wedding went ahead with Plan B: Just the two of them, on the waterfront, proclaiming their vows. Because jewellery stores are closed, they made rings out of rope and exchanged those.

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It’s cute and charming and touching. Still, no doubt your friends’ daughter dreamt of a much more many-splendoured affair. Here’s hoping their dream comes true and, when this pernicious pandemic is finally over, they’ll be able to revisit the whole matter and say their vows in front of friends and family – even friends of their parents (i.e. you).

But regardless of what happens, send a gift. If for no other reasons, do it for selfish ones. When I got married, I slipped up and failed to invite someone I really liked. He gave us a present anyway – a beautiful pewter bowl that to this day occupies a place of honour on my dresser. Every time I look at it I think: a) “What a gentleman” and b) “What a great guy.”

So, yes. For so many reasons – to buoy their spirits under difficult circumstances, good karma for you, good relations with them and by extension their parents, your friends – absolutely get them a present.

They were kind enough to invite you. It’s the least you can do.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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