Should You Buy a Wedding Gift for Your Assistant if You’re Not Invited?

wedding gift for coworker

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on  buying a wedding gift for your assistant, even if you’re not invited— links have also been updated below.

If one of your coworkers is getting married and you’re not invited to the wedding, should you give her a gift? What if it’s someone really important — for example, should you get a wedding gift for your assistant anyway? Reader L wonders…

My secretary is getting married very soon, and I’m wondering whether I should get her a wedding gift and, if so, what I should get her. She’s in her 40s and this is her second marriage (she has adult children). She’s just having a small wedding at home, so I didn’t get an invite or anything, I was just thinking it would be nice to get her something but I have no idea what. It’s not like she’s in her 20s and just starting out, so I’m kind of at a loss. Hoping you and/or your readers can help.

Interesting. I see a lot of questions from commenters about what to gift, when to gift, and so forth, so here are my $.02… (Note that my advice is the same if your admin is a man, as well; but because Reader L has a female secretary, let’s use the feminine…)

If you’re not invited to your colleague’s wedding, technically you don’t have to get anything. That said, you want to keep your assistant happy. So for my $.02, I would suggest getting her a “token” gift — you’re acknowledging this important day in her life. A small gift card, something small off her registry — it’s a gesture to show you are happy for her and wish her well; nothing more. I would guess, though, that a gift of extra leeway around the wedding would be more appreciated than a token gift — it isn’t a months-long pass to plan her wedding at the office, but just a bit of extra understanding on your part that she has Other Stuff Going On in the days before the wedding, as well as the day or two after she returns.

Ladies, what gift (if any) would you give your secretary if you weren’t invited to the wedding? What in general are your thoughts on weddings and colleagues?  

Psst: we’ve also talked about what to wear to a colleague’s weddinginviting coworkers to your wedding, what to wear to officiate a wedding, and wedding and baby showers at the office.

(Pictured: Gifts, originally uploaded to Flickr by Adam Gerard.)


N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

Picture below via Stencil.

Is your secretary or assistant getting married? We had a great discussion with the readers on what to get your assistant for her wedding -- even if you're not invited.


  1. I agree with Cat on this. If you’re not invited then a gift is not expected but it’s just a nice gesture. I would get something small like a gift card or whatever she would like. Perhaps taking her out to lunch/happy hour/drinks/dinner as a very mini-shower between you and her…..just something to acknowledge her special day.

  2. Anonymous :

    For a colleague, no. For your assistant absolutely.

  3. It’s the little things that go a long way. I’d get her a small gift, rather than taking her out. (Unless you normally eat out together, it may feel like “work” to her, rather than fun, and she’s probably using every spare minute to plan her wedding.) Maybe a gift certificate for a mani/pedi or massage, scented candles or other pampering type of gift?

  4. I would get her something, only because being kind and recognising events in someone’s life seldom comes off as anything but good.

    If she drinks, probably a nice bottle of champagne; perhaps a lovely box of chocolates; and definitely a card. What’s the worst to happen – you’re out $40 and she and her new hubby pop open a bottle of bubbly as newlyweds?

  5. Anonymous :

    I normally feel very strongly “no invite, no gift” but I would get something (small) for my assistant if she were getting married.

  6. At my federal agency, we do small in-office celebrations to mark life events like a marriage or a baby. No gifts, but usually managers will bring in cake and beverages and some snacks.

  7. For a valued assistant, if you know her taste in restaurants, a great gift would be $100-$150 gift card for a dinner out (assuming of course that it’s not a restaurant that requires you to spend $300 to have a typical meal…)

    For a colleague, a sincere congratulations and not sending them emails on their honeymoon!

  8. Interesting – to me, it’s a no-brainer to get her a gift, but I get gifts for people whose weddings I’m not attending all the time. It just wouldn’t occur to me, if I independently was inclined to do so, not to give a gift because I wasn’t invited. I actually wouldn’t give something off the registry, because that seems a bit odd given that I wouldn’t have been provided the registry information, but whether or not to give a gift at all isn’t something I would think twice about.

    • +1. I get wedding gifts for people because I am happy for them, not because I am invited to the wedding.

    • +2 – I don’t think you can go wrong doing something nice for someone regardless of whether it’s “required”.

  9. Anonymous :

    A cash gift card like VISA would enable her to maybe purchase something extra nice for the wedding and be very thoughtful and not too intrusive

    • At that point, just give cash! Those Visa cards are a pain to use (they don’t work everywhere that takes Visa, despite claiming they do), have terrible customer service, and take fees off the top.

  10. One of my bosses got me a nice bottle of champagne a few days before my wedding. I thought it was lovely, and would definitely do the same for someone who worked for me.

  11. Moon Moon :

    I would get her a nice silver frame, engraved with her wedding date or something similar, for her to keep at her desk at work. Maybe with a card that you hope that you will frame a photo of you and your husband to remind the entire office of your love and happiness or something. I think something like that strikes the balance of it not being a gift entirely related to the wedding, and it also reflects your relationship.

    • Please reconsider. We received four or five of these “nice silver frames, engraved with wedding date” and they just aren’t that useful. We know when we got married, we don’t need the date on the frames, and the engraving prevented us from returning or exchanging them for anything else we did need.

    • Anonymous :

      Yeah, that’s a terrible gift.

    • Ok the gift is not great, but the card is horrible. What if she doesnt want to show a picture in the office?? Good lord I actually shuddered thinking about getting that card

    • This is a spectacularly bad idea on every level.

    • I agree, this is a terrible idea. I can’t imagine displaying a wedding picture on my desk at work!!

  12. Of course you should get your assistant a wedding gift.

    Not everyone who has a secretary makes big bucks. Plenty of recent law grads are getting by on $50k a year and paying half that in student loan payments. If it’s a budget issue, I’d get a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne in the $30 range and a nice card.

    If you share your secretary with others in the office, I would ask others if they’ve thought about doing something and propose a joint gift.

    • babyweight :

      Ditto on all counts.

    • Wow, ‘getting by’ on $50k a year? I don’t make anywhere near that and I have a science Masters degree. I could do a lot more than get by on $50k a year! However, I knew what I was getting into by picking a major that does not pay all that well. Then too, I live in a semi-rural area where no one has a high salary.

      Well sorry folks. I don’t belong in this group and should leave. I was just curious about what it is like in your universe.

      I do enjoy the fashion advice even though suggested garments are more than I can pay.

      • Don’t take that comment as a sign you don’t belong here! The “getting by” on 50k really can be getting by when you have law school loans at about 1k or more due rack month! Sadly, just one year of law school can cost 50k now, and that’s just tuition.

      • Why the anger? If you live in a high COLA, yes, $50,000 is definitely “getting by.” Especially with student loans.

      • If you are paying $15,000 a year on student loans and live in a high cost-of-living area, and are supposed to wear suits to work every day, I can guarantee you that $50k a year leaves you with very little to spare.

        Do the math. You end up with about $35k after taxes, and $20k after loans, miscellaneous lawyer expenses (bar fees, CLEs, suits, dry-cleaning, etc.). Then you’re in a high COA area on… $1,800 a month. I know people who spend that on a studio apartment in the ‘burbs.

      • Anonymama :

        Why would you take a comment that was being sympathetic to the difficulties of people with lower salaries as an indicator that people with lower salaries are unwelcome or don’t belong? She was saying that even lawyers, who many people assume are making tons of money, may have money concerns, and thus we shouldn’t expect them to always give extravagant gifts. especially on the Internet, it helps to assume good intentions.

  13. It is definetly not necessary. Maybe she could get her some flowers for the office with a nice card. That I find is a nice gesture of acknolwedgement. Or a nice bottle of sparkling wine… something like that.

  14. Anonymous :

    …the hell?

  15. When I was in BIGLAW, I bought my secretary 2 place settings off her registry when she got married (they were 50% off at the time). She was an absolutely awesome secretary. A $50 gift will go a long way with assistants. Even if it’s not biglaw, still buy something. Off her registry is great because she either wants it, or she can return it.

    Don’t be cheap with support staff unless you’re trying to make them hate you.

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