I Think a Guest Stole Our Wedding Gifts

A Practical Wedding

Q:I am writing to you after our intimate, hundred-person wedding—a time I thought I would be spending on cloud nine. Our wedding was fantastic; it came together so nicely, and many attendees have reached out saying it was the best wedding they had ever been to, hands down. Our staff, DJ, food, live music, and overall atmosphere was unbelievable—we could not be happier.

Until we opened our gifts to realize cards had been stolen from our card basket. While opening gifts, there were a few key people who were missing. I found it odd, but I wasn’t going to bring it up (it’s reasonable to think not everyone gave gifts or that a card was left at home accidentally). Then, I found four loose checks from important family members: his father, my grandparents, and aunts and uncles. My husband told me he thought that was strange when he emptied the basket to take gifts home at the end of the night but, other than being weird, it never registered with either of us that something was amiss. We only invited people we are close to and intentionally limited the guest list, so it’s no wonder we never expected something like this to occur.

It didn’t hit me until I remembered that on the night of the wedding, my two very close cousins mentioned that they gave my husband and me two funny and slightly inappropriate cards. When I only received one, I took the opportunity to ask one cousin about her sister’s missing card, and this finally set off alarms. Not only did she inform me that she saw her sister put the card in, with a cash gift enclosed, but that her parents, did not, and would never, give a loose check, but in fact, had it enclosed in a sealed card.

After realizing this, I did some delicate and roundabout questioning of guests whose cards we were missing and found that some gave cash, others made up the folded bundle of loose checks, and all had put in their cards around the same time, immediately after dinner. It appears that the card thief swiped about ten cards off the top of the pile, opened them discreetly in a private location like a bathroom, kept the cash, and weirdly enough, folded up a wad of checks and somehow returned them, unnoticed by a hundred people. I assume this individual kept the cards on their person until after the reception, since it doesn’t appear as if opened cards were found in any garbage on site.

I give you all this background to emphasize the incredible strangeness of the event. My first thought was that a staff member had stolen from us, but after calling the police and being told there had never been a complaint of theft among the long-standing establishment; talking to the maître d’, who hasn’t hired new staff in years; and recognizing that a staffer would most likely have disposed of the check, rather than exhibiting the apparent guilt of returning loose checks (not to mention the risk of being caught at the card basket twice), I realized, the person who did this was most likely a guest.

It’s so devastating to know that on the happiest day of our lives, we were taken advantage of. And to realize how stealthy this person must have been, considering he or she swiped the top cards off the basket, that was sitting right next to the sweetheart table, during our reception while we were literally RIGHT THERE, is a solid punch to the gut on many levels.

Not only did we get robbed from either a trusted vendor or a loved guest, but it happened right under our noses and makes us question our ability to judge the characters of those around us. The likeliness of someone we associate with regularly and love enough to invite to our wedding having done this makes me feel like a fool. It’s not even about the money; for someone to do this means they were desperate. They can keep the money. My heartbreak comes in knowing we will never see the kind sentiments my grandparents or my husband’s father wrote to us in their cards, and that at least four of our guests’ generous cash gifts went to someone who they did not intend to give money to.

We thought we knew our guests well; of course there’s always the possibility that a loved one is struggling with debt or addiction and we are unaware, but each time we come up with a list of suspects, we can’t even believe that person would be capable of such a thing.

I need some advice; I don’t know what to do or how to handle the betrayal I feel. I have no intention of accusing people, however, I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to our guests and ask if they saw any odd behavior at the wedding, either by other guests or staff. Those I have reached out to are incredibly sympathetic, but they have not seen anything.

My husband does not agree that we should do this. He feels we will never find out who did this, and that we shouldn’t bother our guests in this way. While I agree with him, that we may never find out what happened, I am sick to my stomach knowing the person responsible will receive a heartfelt thank you from us, and will most likely have a relationship with us after the wedding, considering we only invited the family and friends we truly care about and see regularly.

I am having a hard time letting go, even though it’s only been three days. What do we do? Respect my husband’s wishes and not tell any other guests? Tell our guests and possibly get to the bottom of this? File a police report against a venue I am pretty sure had nothing to do with this? Is there another option I’m missing?

—Betrayed Bride

A: Dear BB,

Oh man, what a punch to the gut. I can’t imagine the hurt you’re feeling. It’d probably make me want to do everything in my power to figure out this mystery. And while I get that, I’m with your husband on this one. You admit that it’s unlikely you’ll find out what happened, so what’s the point? There’s no use looping in family and getting everyone all upset.

You will move beyond this. Eventually the happy memories of your wedding will outweigh this churning feeling in your guts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way for your guests, who won’t have the same emotional ties to all the bits and pieces of the milestone. One big splashy, dramatic thing happens (like, say, a theft of a stack of cash gifts), and that’s forever what folks talk about when your wedding comes up. It’s easier to just leave them out of it.

The thing to focus on instead is how to handle your feelings, which are all completely fair right now, but probably hard to swallow. Start by quitting the speculation over whodunit. You’re creating secret fractures in all of these (potentially innocent!) relationships with your loved ones. I know it’s hard to resist, but it’s doing you no good.

So how do you do that? You tell yourself sweet, sweet little lies. Well, not really lies, but how about some good fact-based conjectures? We don’t know for sure, but we can pretty much assume that whoever stole this couldn’t help themselves in some way. Whether because of addiction or debt or whatever else, it was beyond their control. It feels very personal (of course it does), but imagine that they weren’t trying to single you out, to take advantage of you, to hurt you personally. But instead, because of whatever life circumstances, were incapable of controlling an impulse. They stole from you. There is no “benefit of the doubt” here, no way to assume that it was somehow a mistake. The best you can do is tell yourself that it’s not personal, and that maybe they really just needed it more than you. Not for any other reason than to let yourself sleep at night.

Also, frankly, your rationale for dismissing the possibility that it was staff or a stranger just doesn’t cut it for me. I think it’s still likely that it was someone at the venue who just hasn’t been caught before, or someone who shouldn’t have been there at all and managed to sidle in at just the right time. You don’t really know for sure, right? So I’d take the easy road and decide that it was some Snidely Whiplash waiter that you don’t know and will never see again. Either your venue doesn’t know their staff as well as they think they do, or you don’t know your loved ones as well as you assume. Which is easier to swallow?

Grieve and process and come around to your own sense of peace with it however you can. It probably won’t involve figuring anything out, so give up that part of it. But at least take comfort in the fact that if it was someone you know and love and trust, that heartfelt thanks that you’re reluctant to bestow on them? That’s just going to eat them alive.

—Liz Moorhead

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