I am crabby today because of a discussion my mom had with one of her friends about weddings. The friend claimed that if you attend a wedding, you have to spend on a wedding gift AT LEAST the amount the couple spent on your food. That is, at a $50/plate reception, if you and your husband and two children attend, you have to spend a minimum of $200 on a wedding gift.
No. The couple plans their own wedding and pays for it in whatever way they have worked out, and those costs don't have to be reimbursed IN ANY WAY by the guests.
Wedding presents are in fact COMPLETELY SEPARATE from the issue of wedding expenses. The cost of the wedding present is determined by the guest's finances and by what the guest feels is the right amount to spend on a wedding present for this particular couple. That's IT. There is no requirement that the guest factor in how extravagant the catering was, or how much it cost to rent the reception location, or how big a mortgage the marrying couple has, or ANYTHING ELSE.
Otherwise, it would have to go the other way, too. The wedding guests would have to subtract from the gift budget the amount spent on travel expenses to get to the wedding, and also subtract how much it cost them to buy their wedding clothes, and also subtract any wages they lost by missing work to attend the wedding. And if the guest had expenses higher than what the marrying couple spent per guest, the marrying couple would have to rush out to purchase more expensive food for that guest. I don't think this is a road the wedding couple wants to start going down. And if they DO want to go down that road, I am WAITING. With a BASEBALL BAT! BRING IT ON!!!
I do have sympathy for both sides. My brother got married last summer, and the cost of a wedding is...well, it's appalling. If you want people to sit down and eat, holy crap you are SCREWED. My brother and his then-fiancee went out sampling various catering options, and they came home stunned and glassy-eyed, saying "You can get better food through a DRIVE-THRU than you can get catered for $40 a plate!" And of course there's also the flowers and the photography and the music and the favors and the liquor. But! All of these expenses are purely optional, and none of them belong to the guests.
Guests could stand to learn a lesson or two about "purely optional" and "not belonging to the guests" themselves. I have heard guests complaining that it is "tacky" not to have an open bar, or to have "only wine." I've also heard guests claim that the marrying couple should pay for their plane tickets, and I've even heard guests say "My presence is their present," which, oh my god.
Perhaps if the marrying couple agrees to stop whining about what guests "owe" them, guests will kindly stop acting as if the marrying couple is in any way obligated to do anything at the wedding other than get married. It is not, after all, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get smashed at someone else's expense." If the guests think the wedding should be about overpriced food and booze instead of about being there when a couple gets married, the guests can choose not to attend a wedding at which the focus is on the ceremony. Of course, the marrying couple MAY serve expensive food! And how very very nice of them to choose to do so, and the guests should be pleased. But must the guest then choose a more expensive present? No. ...Wait, I think we've been here before.
Let's review, shall we, now that we seem to be going in circles anyway? The wedding is not about the couple scoring lots of loot, or getting paid back for their wedding expenses. Nor is the wedding about free food and liquor and entertainment for the guests. The wedding is about GETTING MARRIED. Neither side is obligated to put out a lot of cash for the other side. And if either side chooses to do so, the other side is not obligated to balance the scales.