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Friday, May 9, 2008

Wedding Gift Etiquette

In the advice columns that I read obsessively, one topic that shows up constantly is weddings. The issue usually has to do with (1) bridezillas, (2) overbearing family members, or (3) gifts.

The advice for the first two is usually the same: (1) you don't have to cave in to the unreasonable demands of Bridezillas, and (2) overbearing family members ought to be reminded that the day is not about their desires. But there are mixed feelings on the issue of gifts.

Many people write in to ask whether there is a tactful way to request monetary gifts instead of announcing a gift registry, because in this day and age, it's not uncommon for couples to live together before getting married, and in that case they already have all the appliances and silverware they need. Most advice columnists say that it is never ok to request money in the invitation, and some of them even say that it is tacky to announce a gift registry at all. They say it is presumptuous to assume that people will give you a gift.

Personally, I think it should be totally kosher to tell your guests that monetary gifts are preferred. After all, I'd rather give you money that you will need than give you a $50 toaster that will end up in your post-wedding yard sale. And if you'd rather have gifts, I'd like to know about your gift registry so I don't give you something that 5 other people also give you and that you don't want anyway. And furthermore, it's tradition to give people gifts when they marry, so it's not as if you are being presumptuous in announcing what you would prefer. The advice columnists just can't come up with a tactful way to do it, cause let's face it, asking for presents can't be done tactfully. Unless you're a kid writing a list for Santa. Santa doesn't get offended by requests for gifts, because he's in the business of gift-giving. Well, weddings are big gift business too, so maybe if people would lighten up about the matter, we could get on with our lives and I could read about something else in the advice columns.

But I suppose that's simplifying matters too much. There are definitely some concerns about proper etiquette that deserve attention. For instance, some people view wedding invitations as invoices. I think that can be true, but only when the invitation goes to someone with whom the bride and groom aren't really close. So first rule of etiquette, only invite people you are close enough to that you wouldn't mind giving them a present if they were the one getting married. (Incidentally, I think the real invoice invitations are graduation invitations -- cause you aren't really invited to the graduation, you are just invited to send money. Next time I get one of those, I'll send $100 in gold pirate coins, shipped COD.)

And then there are wedding showers. I've always wondered what the point of a wedding shower is. After all, people are expected to give gifts at the wedding, right? So why should we have to give additional gifts at showers? And then there are the brides who have multiple showers. (Note to brides: if you insist upon having multiple shakedowns showers, do not invite someone to more than one of them. It's bad etiquette, and makes you look mighty greedy.) But seriously, can't we just do away with showers? Especially the ones where I'm good enough to be invited to your shower, but, oh, you don't have room for me at your wedding. Now that IS an invoice. Second rule of etiquette: don't have a wedding shower, or if you must, only have one, or if you must have more than one, make sure each guest list is different, and finally, make sure each guest on any one of the guest lists of your multiple showers (you greedy little Bridezilla) are also invited to the wedding. And there better be good food at the wedding too. And booze.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to celebrate the occasion with people that I really love. And if I do really love you, then I am generous when I give you a wedding gift. I'm even generous when I am invited to give you both a wedding and a shower gift. And I don't even feel too bad knowing that the favor will never be returned, since I'm not planning on getting married. After all, people ought to give not because they want to receive, but because they want to give. Third rule of etiquette (this one applies to gift givers): Keep perspective in mind when you give a gift; don't feel like you have to give more than you are willing or able, and give because you really want to. Finally, don't plan on getting your gift back if the wedding is called off or if the couple divorce in a year. A gift is a gift, my friend.

So those are my basic feelings on the wedding gift matter. Anyone have anything to add?

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Sovknight said...

This post seems to be geared toward your female readership it seems, but I have some thoughts. As a guy, I'm quite clueless about the ritual of weddings and the traditions thereof, but I can say I've been on the invited list to my share, and I've always taken the "guy" approach to gift giving, namely, quick and cheap and useful. Things like plates or silverware or a crock pot or whatever. Last gift I gave at a wedding was, I believe, a gift certificate to Crate & Barrel or some such place like that. I found out later the GC was simply cashed in for the money. The happy couple divorced a couple of years later.

I don't understand the whole registry thing and I don't pretend to have any interest in it. Guys leave it for their wives or girlfriends to care about the gift-giving part of the tradition. Most of the time, we aren't involved anyway. We don't go to bridal showers, obviously, since they're for women to gossip and share "feelings" and ohh and ahh over how the new bride-to-be is "glowing" and give her stuff she doesn't need and all that. We're content to sit at home or have a guys night involving pizza and beer and televised sports. That's surely more fun anyway. If a guy had his way, wedding gifts would be things like a poker table or tickets to a game. Things that you would get actual use from.

At least that's my perspective.

Sra said...

Yes, the gift giving thing really is for the women. Isn't it always? I mean, how many gifts given to you by a woman have you ever actually liked? And I bet you haven't even been given a gift from a man. That's cause women buy men what they would want for themselves, and men don't see the point in giving gifts just so they can have gifts given back to them.

And you're right, bridal showers are the most boring thing ever.

Loralee Choate said...

Having done this whole rigamaroll twice, I feel experienced enough to chime in.

I agree with a lot of what you say, but have to point out that you are not taking something very important into consideration here:

Other people.

With the whole shower and gift thing, I think you may be assuming that the bride and groom have everything run the way that they WANT during their wedding.

SOOOOOOOO not the case.

True, you could elope, or alienate and piss a lot of people you love off, but if your wedding is at all traditional and you have close friends and family? You usually end up compromising the crap out of your wedding day.

I.did.not.want.a.line. Nor nut cups. Nor a shower (Nor the multiple showers I had to attend). Nor my sister singing at my reception. Nor a reception the second time around. I could have (And probably should have a bit more) put my foot down about all of the above, but I did all those things to keep the peace.

Sra said...

I understand. That all falls more under issue number 2: overbearing family (and, indeed, friends) need to be reminded that the wedding is not about them.

Easier said than done? Of course.

Anyway, I'm just writing about gifts. And no, I didn't bring up the fact that showers are thrown for brides by other people -- the bride doesn't arrange them herself. (Some advice columnists even say it's bad etiquette for family members to throw showers, and only friends can do it. I think that's off-base, personally.) But I also think the bride COULD say things like, "thanks, friend, but cousin Sue has already planned a shower for me, and I don't need more than one." I don't see anything wrong with putting your foot down when it's done graciously.

Anyway, I don't actually think that showers are going anywhere. Cause, I do live in reality and all.

Feed the World with PEZ said...

So I have to agree with everyones comments about this issue. What everyone needs to remember however is that ultimately the decisions need to be made by all involved in the wedding.

The modern wedding to me is a ridiculous pop-culture ritual that doesn't have much relevance in todays changing society. Which I understand about as much as purchasing a $50000 Hummer. Wedding items are ridiculously overpriced for no reason and basically cater to childhood fairytale ideals.

Now with that said. I do however understand that a wedding is an initiation for a bride and groom. The presentation is more for the people around the bride and groom.

When I foolishly got married what I found amusing was that everyone was gung-ho about having some traditional wedding. Right up to the point of the traditional rule that the parents pay for wedding, then of course no one wanted to help out. None-the-less the wedding was more for the family and friends than it was for me and the ex-wife. The only thing that was made close to the way that I wanted was the actual wedding ceremony and the cake. Everything else, the showers, the parties, the reception, the food, the music, the line etc. was all designed around family and friends.

It is really more of an opportunity for everyone else to celebrate your initiation. So as for the proper etiquette I would say that people should do whatever they feel comfortable with. No matter what you do someone is going to be disappointed or offended. Its inevitable.

I received a cross stitch picture from my aunt in England. Even though it would have been nice to get money. She spent hours on it. And I appreciated the thought and effort that went into it. It was the best present that I received.
I also received a cheesy candle set from someone that still had a piece of Christmas paper attached to it. I was a bit offended but may be thats all they could afford.

Etiquette to me is just a set of cultural rules that people are expected to follow not to offend anyone. That doesn't mean that you have to follow them. The world is changing and people need to become thicker skinned.

If you are offended that someone asks for money in a wedding invitation then go by them a toaster. If ask for something and you expect people to give you what you want then you are greedy plain and simple. Do what you and everyone else wants to do. In the end no matter what happens you should appreciate it for what it is, beautiful chaos.

Hopefully in generations to come weddings will change into something better. Who knows until then people will have to continue to buy $600 wedding cakes that are actually worth about $20 that no one will eat...

Sra said...

It's kind of funny to me how seriously everyone is taking this post when I was trying so hard to be funny.

Sterkworks said...

I hate weddings. I just pray that someone else I know has been invited and that I can just give them some money to go in on a gift. And that they buy it.

The Over-Thinker said...

So I laughed out loud--it was funny to me :-)

I personally felt like the multitude of showers that were thrown for me made me feel like a shitty gimme-gimme, even though I REALLY AND TRULY DIDN'T WANT ANYTHING (but hellsyes to the kick-ass espresso maker I got from my co-workers...)

But, like Loralee alluded to: Unless you elope or do the true, no-messing-around, INTIMATE ceremony-- the wedding has very little to do with you and your partner and everything to do with everyone else (and their 2nd, 3rd, 11th cousin... and my personal favorite: Who the hell are you? are we related?)

Here's cheers to being original, being true to yourself and being happy. And getting a kick-ass espresso maker.

Sra said...

Yay for espresso makers!

And yay for people who take control of their own weddings.

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