It's not hard to go out and rather than give a $20 note buy a thoughtful gift with it. If they came to my wedding, made an effort and gave gifts, there is no way I'd go with nothing in return. It's rude.
Wedding etiquette means if you can't afford to give a reasonable amount in cash, you buy a gift instead, that way you can spend less and the sentiment is still there.
Don't go to a wedding with a $20 note or nothing. People don't have to agree, we obviously have different lives and were brought up differently. In my culture it's offensive.
If someone invites me to their wedding I feel honored and give whatever I can afford. Once that meant I spent $15 on a set of whiskey glasses - because any more than that and it meant my children didn't eat!! 'It doesn't take much to spend a decent amount of money on a gift to start them on their married life' smacks of a life of luxury and indulgence IMO. Not everyone has the luxury of surplus cash.
Ftr - not everyone 'only gets married once'. Sure when you do it, you HOPE it's gonna be the only time but that's not always the case.
I always give thoughtful gifts when I attend a wedding, or any other celebration, but sometimes I have to get these gifts from the clearance table. I'm sorry if that idea offends your sensibilities but for my situation, that is still a considerable expense (ftr, a gift from me will always be the best wrapped gift on the table ). If I have to travel to attend a wedding, I will probably go on the cheapest flight I could find, stay in the cheapest accommodation, wear an outfit that I already have, but I will be a gracious guest, give the best gift I can afford and the people who know me and love me enough to invite me to share their day would apprecitate that, as I did for those who attended my wedding.
BTW, The most generous wedding gift I got came from a person who scarcely talks to me and when she does, looks at me as though I am an idiot (she is a friend of my MIL). I appreciated the gift, but would prefer to be acknowledged.
I won't be getting married again so there won't be a next time, and I have family and friends with the same views on etiquette at weddings so I never had to deal with someone coming empty handed and I would never go empty handed. I think if you do it's just being lazy, rude and shows you don't care enough. Most people can fins a few dollars to spare to go out and buy something. If they can't cause they'll starve fine, if it was a close friend I would know their situation and wouldn't care. But if you drive a fancy car, I know you have money and chose to come with nothing or just put a small note in an envelope, yeah I'd find that rude and uncaring.
If that's what you do fine, we just obviously have different lives, opinions and our understanding of etiquette is different.
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