July 16, 2007

Crabby Ranting Re Weddings

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.


AndreAnna said...

Hear, hear!! I always give nice wedding gifts, but never because I felt obligated. I did it because I know how hard it is starting out and paying for ones own wedding. (I saved for 18 months for a killer wedding and it was worth every penny). The reality is though, I'm at an age where people are getting married left and right, I am a bridesmaid in two weddings, and I feel like it's hard enough to find extra cash to take my baby to B&N for a new book, and then I have to give HOW MUCH and the bridesmaid dress is HOW MUCH and the shower is HOW MUCH? Sigh. Being the first to get married and squirt out a kid makes it a lot harder to find the time, energy, and money to be all that I can be in these weddings...wow, I totally ranted. Sorry sugar!! ;)

Claire said...

I totally agree. My wedding had to go down on a shoestring budget because my father was unemployed at the time. I had a fabulous outdoor wedding with beautiful flowers and a reception in a Victorian house with lots of little finger foods and wine only. My parents spent about 3500 (way lower than the "average" wedding) but everyone had a great time and we didn't put any pressure on people to have to eat what we picked or to eat when we said and all that garbage. Some people are too wrapped up in the material things.

Sarah said...

My wedding cost a grand total of $40,000 (thanks to my mom and her ideas about what was "proper"...if I had it to do over again I would get married in a linen suit in the park).

We invited people from all over the country and the world and I was actually rather embarassed that I still got (so many!) gifts given the fact that these people had taken time off, paid for plane tickets and hotels and rental cars, bought clothes, etc. just to see me get married. I tried to defray many of the costs for my bridesmaids (because really, asking them to pay for a lot of stuff is just not fair, particularly when you're young and not yet established) by making their skirts, buying their tops, paying for hair and makeup and scoring great deals on travel costs or putting them up with in-town relatives and friends.

Especially if most of your guest list has to travel (and foot the bill) I feel like the bride and groom *should* be happy with just their presence!

Sara said...

WOOO HOOO!! You said it.

Our wedding goal was to have a kick-ass party to celebrate our marraige, and that's what we did. It cost us 10 grand, but was really worth it.

We still have people tell us that our weddind was the best wedding they'd even gone to.

We of course agree.

I was recently privy to someone being pissed off that the bride's family gave 2/3/400 bucks per family, but the groom's family only gave like $75/100 per family. WTF?

Selfish cheap people annoy me.

jonniker said...

Oh mah God, yes. To all of it. Another random wedding pet peeve of mine? Destination weddings. Dear Jesus. We've had several friends get married in a far-flung three years, and we priced it out, and it would have cost us $4,000 for both of us. Which, um: no. We couldn't have afforded it at the time, and if we could have, that $4K would have gone to many, many other things other than a wedding in Far-Flung Lands.

However, that being said, I was astonished at how utterly clueless the bride and groom were, in almost every case. They were genuinely confused as to why people wouldn't want to make their wedding "a vacation." I don't know, because maybe when I go on vacation, I like to be alone, and away from HUNDREDS OF OTHER PEOPLE I KNOW? In a few cases, they spoke derisively about the people who claimed they couldn't afford to go.

Further, when we gave one couple a really nice (read: expensive) gift to make up for our lack of presence, the attitude wasn't of gratitude, but rather, a sense of entitlement, because um, the wedding was expensive and also, we didn't go, how dare we?

They're divorced now. No one is surprised.

Devan said...

yes, yes, yes!!! I've been on both sides and you've said it all so well. Seems like there are always people on either side who think they deserve something. Wether it be a more expensive gift or an open bar.
Weddings are about love people!!

We spent $5,000 on our wedding, and not a penny more. we cut corners everywhere, but we were happy. Still married too. ;)

Tessie said...

Man, all of this even-steven stuff is giving me a headache! Haven't we all just accepted that life isn't fair by this point? Why all the scorekeeping?

When it comes to weddings (guest and couple) it seems like the old saying applies: "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit".

Also: Right on.

Michele said...

You said it!!

We had a really nice wedding. Fancy church wedding with nice catered reception. I was the last daughter to get married and my parents wanted to invite everyone and they were paying for it. It was great, but honestly in the months after (and now, 7 years later) I would have loved if we had just had a very small cermony and dinner with family and closest friends after.
I think the gift should come from the heart. People who set an expected price on their gifts are inviting people for the wrong reason.

MrsGrumpy said...

Ready for it because I can't help myself?

Cost of Dress: 29.99 (it was very Jackie O and very cool in my opinion)

Cost of license: I can't remember it's been 11 years

Cost of Brunch for the 12 family members who came to celebrate: $800

Total cost of marrying the man of my dreams: Priceless

It wasn't about the party, the booze, the gifts...for us it was about the day, and each other. I don't regret it a bit, although members of my family do. Too bad on them.

I agree with you completely, Swistle.

and, we didn't have a proverbial pot to pee in, so that made the decision all the more easy.

Erica said...

I spent about $10k on my wedding, too. Mostly, on the reception. Which turned out HORRIBLY. I still have nightmares about it. Honest-to-gosh nightmares. I was really disappointed because, second only to marrying my soul mate, I wanted to throw one helluva party. It wasn't anything about the gifts. It was about getting married and partying with friends and family. The amount of money I spent of it was entirely my choice and is of no concern to the guests. They were exactly that: guests.

If i had it to do all over again, I'd elope and save the money for a kick-ass honeymoon and a down-payment on a house.

Kathi said...

My question about this "gift=cost of food" rule (which I have never heard of before) is.....how would you know how much to spend on a gift unless you asked how much each plate of food cost? That would seem kind of rude to me. Also since I generally buy wedding gifts far in advance so as to get the best pick from the registry, I would have no idea at that point how much the couple is spending on their reception. For wedding presents I generally spend according to how close I am to the couple, i.e my sister will get an expensive gift but my co-worker may just get a toaster or a couple of towels. I also don't feel obligated to send gifts to weddings I can't attend unless I am close to the couple--someone told me that was rude.

Mrs. M said...

I've heard that before too and I think it's appalling! If I'm invited to a wedding and I choose to drive/fly, take time off of work, buy a new outfit, fine, that's my choice.

I also feel that giving any gift I can afford or feel appropriate is my choice and I do shop from the registry and the bride and groom should just be happy about that.

Here's a dilemma:If you're invited to 2 or 3 showers and take gifts, do you still have to take a wedding gift? The year I was married (2006)I was invited to TWELEVE weddings and was in SIX of them. Talk about expensive! I did shower gifts and usually didn't take a wedding gift. Go ahead and call me tacky. I call it "poor out of college kid couldnt find a job for 2 years and was a nanny who finally got a job and now wants to get married and GOODGREIF everyone else wants to get married too!"

LoriD said...

Go Swistle! I totally agree with you. I've heard the "cover the cost of your meal" benchmark as well and it's stupid. The wedding gifts I cherish most aren't the most expensive, but the ones that were thoughtful and showed that my guest really knew us well. I almost dread a wedding invitation these days... with the cost of travel, hotel rooms and a babysitter, I think twice before accepting just any invitation.

Erica said...

mrs m - I'm totally with you on the shower vs wedding gifts. I either get two less expensive gifts from the registry and one is designated for the wedding and the other for shower. However, in the event that I get one of the more expensive gifts, I don't feel obligated to get another. I usually give the gift at the shower so that I have the opportunity to see their faces when they open the gift.

I'm glad the couple is getting married and wanted to include me in the celebration, but I'm not about to go broke over it.

laughing mommy said...

Well said! Agree!

Misty said...

Dude. Who makes up these rules?

MeganZ said...

Amen! Great great post. I hope it gets linked into perpetuity and every wedding-thrower and wedding-attender has to read it -- forever. :)

Jana said...

Very well said! I think you should become the new, more modern Emily Post/Miss Manners. You could make a fortune.

Shannon said...

I would have preferred it if people hadn't of brought gifts because it was a semi-destination wedding and people already had extra costs involved than if we had gone local.

That being said, we made it semi-destination to cut down on the number of people who would be coming. Otherwise, we would have had to do the $20,000+ wedding to pay for all of our guests.

I rather liked our low-key wedding. We did upset A LOT of people though because we could only invite 30 people.

bubandpie said...

Anyway, the logistics would be difficult, since people usually bring gifts to the reception. You would really have to go out to the mall BETWEEN the dinner and the dance (but only after you'd checked out the status of the bar) in order to factor the quality of the catering into your gift-giving decisions.

(And I'm still giggling about you waiting for the naysayers with your baseball bat.)

jen said...

how am I supposed to know ahead of time how much it cost? I give what I can. I always give cash. I will give you $50 if I don't like you or even socialize with you. We have no money, all our money goes to our house and kids. People tell us if we can afford X, we can afford to give more than that as a gift, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I think our money should go to us first when there is so little of it. But that makes me a big fat greedy digressing pig.

I will also NOT show up at your wedding if I don't want to! omg! If it's not an immediate family member, and I can't find a babysitter or I have plans that weekend I will just send an extra nice gift and be done with it. I appreciate that you put together this party but it's for you,not me.

Also, we didn't have "booze" at our wedding because we don't drink. We had beer. In a cooler. And a couple bottles of wine and enough champagne for a toast. All probably bought at the supermarket by MIL. We also had lots of bottled water and cans of soda. The only reason I hate a cash bar is because I have to pay $3 for a thimbleful of coke. I'm not really above paying for what I consume but that is a TAD excessive! That's like, two gulps.

I really honestly don't care about those things, and neither should anyone else. I like giving gifts from the heart, like home made stuff, but apparently that's cheap and tacky. Yes well you have no idea how long it took my pregnant self to sew that stupid queen sized bed quilt, and how hard it was to sit there so long, or lay on the floor to lay it out, and wrestle it through the sewing machine when there was no room for it to fall nicely between my belly and the sewing table! so there!

jen said...

Oh, and I'm not yelling at anyone in particular :)

velocibadgergirl said...

Well said!

willikat said...

we're having a destination wedding, and just to be clear, we don't expect anyone to come to the Far Flung Land. However, people spending the cash would get a vacation out of the deal and wouldn't have to spend it with our families the whole time, besides that one day. that said, we understand people don't want to fork over the cash for a destination wedding, and we made peace with that, and we'll get married in front of whoever comes, and we'll be happy with that. and we're having a backyard party at home for those people , so we can all still celebrate together in the end. and presents are welcome, but also optional, asi n any wedding. i believe that's the etiquette. no one's even realy required to give a gift. also, part of the reason that i'm not having a big wedding here and a small one away: i can't afford to throw something like that--it'd be super expensive because the list would be bigger, the venue would have to be rented, etc. i agree, weddings are a huge racket and expensive and brides mostly do the best hey can to make it reasonable for guests. but we should also be happy for brides and not complain too much--wouldn't it hurt to find out people were doing that about YOUR wedding? swistle, i think what you said was right on the target.

Sleepynita said...

We haven't got married yet and do not intend to for some time. When we do though it will be a "we are going to vegas you can come if you want to and we will buy you dinner at the Mesa Grill" type thing. We both detest big weddings and will not have one because we do not see the point of inviting relatives that do not even know our phone number to a party. When we get married it is for us and our son and thats it, everyone else who ca make it is just a bonus. Cost tops with airfare, hotels and dinner for the pople who choose to be there, maybe 4000.00

Jodi said...

Amen! We are going through this now. I am trying to plan our renewal ceremony but with five kids finances are limited. I suggested that since neither my husband drink alcohol of any kind that we have a bar, but it won't be an open one. If you want to get sloshed you can pay for it at our wedding. That is making some heads spin in our family but I am determined to do it our way this time and focus on the vows. That is the best part anyway.

Diane said...

Aha! The reason I almost chose elopement. If all is about equal monetary usage, then let's just not do it at all. Then we are all very financially even! Good post.

CakeHead said...

Uh, I never take into account the expense of the wedding when choosing a gift. First of all, I spend what *I* can afford to spend. Second of all, I have never heard the happy couple announce to the world how much money they spent on their wedding. THAT would be tacky.

So yeah, I completely agree with you!

JMC said...

Great post!!

Mommy Brain said...

Go, Swistle!

I had someone tell me that they give more for people who have fancier weddings because the wedding costs more, cover the cost of their food, blah, blah, blah. My reply was that I give more to people who have less expensive weddings because obviously they need the money more. Ha-hah.

Actually, I really just give the same amount (based on our budget for the year) at each wedding. I do the same at baby showers. (Because no matter how much the parents do or do not have the baby arrives here with nothing.) Great topic!

Anonymous said...

We have an aquaintance who actually had a spreadsheet telling her what gifts she got and how much per invited guest that was. She did have a threshhold amount that each gues was "supposed" to spend on their gift. I thought it was apallingly rude.

Personally I love destination weddings. One of the best weddings we went to was in Mexico-but it needs to be the right time, the right people, the right price, etc.

Pickles & Dimes said...

I'm getting married in about two months and since my fiance is an incredibly picky eater, I felt it was ridiculous to spend $30 a plate on food he wouldn't even touch. So we're having a local cafe cater our wedding for $6.50 a person.

I find that rule about spending the same on a gift as the food tacky, especially when some couples seem to treat getting married as some kind of financial get-rich scheme.

Michele said...

I know in New York and Jersey metro areas, at least in my best friends family and their social set, they do go by the "pay for your plate" rule and would never give anything but money as a wedding gift. They even sometimes go so far as to wait until they get to the reception and see how lavish it is before they write out their check and put it in the wedding card. Not because they want to give less if it isnt fancy, but because they will definietly give more than they intended if it is fancier. No one wants to be seen as cheap.

I know, its crazy, but they all do it so I guess in some ways for them what is going around will come around when their kid gets married.