What is the protocol on returning presents?

So, this might be a touchy subject for some people however I feel it’s a topic that needs to be discussed. An acquaintance recently mentioned to me how they bought a friend a going away present for a recent bon voyage party however, not more than 3 short weeks later, that said person was in fact returning to their old faithful destination.  Things just didn’t work out. Too cold or something?

My acquaintance was really cranky about the whole situation because they had invested quite a bit of money in the going away gift and purchased a GPS device for the leaving person to navigate with in their new home town; quite a thoughtful gift I thought. And then it got me thinking; I too had a similar situation happen to me a while back.  Apparently, this was quite a common occurrence.  So it got me wondering…should people return gifts given for celebratory events?

In my situation,  I attended the engagement party for a friend of mine.  I purchased a really nice tea set.  It was limited edition. It took me hours to pick out the set that I thought would be perfect for the couple.  2 months later the couple ended their 4 year relationship and expected nuptials.

I was devastated for my friend and organised to visit her to lend a crying shoulder if needed.  A crying shoulder was not needed.  In fact, my friend was so elated when I saw her that I assumed she must have been on really good anti-depressants and wanted to know which ones? But in all seriousness, she was completely different from the girl I spoke with months ago who was eagerly anticipating her engagement  to long time boyfriend.  This girl was so relieved it was over and organising an overseas holiday?!

I was a little confused to say the least? Then I too become frustrated.  After getting over the shock and concern for my friend…being that I was probably the most concerned and shocked party out of the both of us….a niggling little question started to surface within my mind.  What was happening with all the gifts? All the well wishes and gifts friends and family just bestowed upon the couple….what was happening to them?  More importantly, where was my limited edition tea set?

If the couple decided to part ways and separate assets and belongings, I couldn’t imagine the bf putting his hand up for the tea set.  So did she have it? And if she did…I couldn’t see what use a limited edition tea set would be to my friend who would be gallivanting around the world? Can you? And surely…if it was only several short months since the engagement, wouldn’t sending gifts back to the gift givers be the right thing to do?

What is the protocol on keeping gifts once received for celebratory events that fail to come realisation? All those photo frames….that will no longer house the images of the happy couple? What about those? Or the mountain of vases to nestle the flowers my friend would have received from her loved one…and those? Or the plethora of crockery and tea sets that were given to them to eat their meals with and sip on tea in the twilight together…huh??? What about the tea set??

So I am again brought back to my initial question, should gifts be returned in the above examples? I think yes.  I understand perhaps that it would be impossible to return every gift.  For example, perhaps money would be challenging to return, especially if any ‘wishing well’ funds were used to pay off the event in question? Or perhaps, gift vouchers or even entertainment vouchers as such.  But what about physical, tangible products?

Think of the gifts!!!!! Really, after hearing about the bon voyage incident and then reminiscing about my similar situation, it just got me thinking how the meaning of these events have become lost and clouded in a bunch of red tape and gift registries.  I have always seen these occasions as an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family, remember the good times and bless the upcoming ones.  The gifts…they just took over the limelight and have now devalued these precious moments I believe.