A friend recently told me that she was invited to a school colleague’s wedding where she was asked to pay for her meal AND bring a gift.
In these tough economic times, an engaged couple could rightly be tempted to ask their guests to pitch in more than normally expected. Heck, I even thought of it when planning our wedding 6 years ago (before the “Great Recession”), but there’s one major fault in that reasoning: Tradition.
Throughout a person’s lifetime, they’ll be invited to a minimum of 11,431 weddings, each requiring its own gift. Some weddings might be at an exotic beach resort in the Mediterranean, while others might be in the couple’s own backyard (or courthouse). But one thing stays constant:
1. The wedding is for YOU (bride and groom)
2. The reception is for US (friends and family)
Some people like to skip out on the big fancy wedding and just do a Justice of the Peace deal. I’m all for that, because it’s the ceremony about and for the two of you. Whether you have family there or not is your own decision.
But then there’s the reception. Even if you never leave your house, or communicate to another living soul, you’re bound to be invited to a wedding, usually on the hottest day of August in the middle of a swamp. You have to get all dressed up to go see people you only faintly know, just so you can drop off a gift and get a free meal. That’s right, I said it. The only reason people go to weddings is for the prospect of a free meal, and the hopes of an open bar!
If I’m going to plop down $50-$150 on a present, the least I should expect in return is a decent meal. Sure, the couple might stress for a year about the menu, the caterer, the location, the DJ, and pay thousands of dollars for all of it, but hey, it’s a thing called tradition. I give you a gift for your wedding and you give me a free meal and some drinks, while I’ll do the same for you. No copping out when it’s your time to fork out the same money. Even if I didn’t know you during my wedding, I should expect the same because it’s just the circle of life or something.
But to invite someone to your wedding and expect a gift AND ask them to pitch in money for the meal (or some other expense) is just outright rude. I’m not a traditionalist; I just like to be fair. Even if it’s a catered meal from McDonald’s, I want a free meal! Otherwise, I could just go visit you at your house some other time, give you a gift and not have to get dressed up for it. Be frugal, don’t be cheap.
We spent about $10-12 per meal at our wedding, and I think the food was pretty good (we were in rural PA, not downtown Manhattan). But it was actually hard for us to find more expensive caterers in the area, so we went with one of the few options. Relatives offered their services to make cookies, and we decorated the church hall ourselves (with a number of friends). We did it frugally, but not cheaply, and we left the whole thing with very little debt afterwards.
When I go to someone’s wedding and I know they’re spending a lot for the reception, I give more to the bride and groom. It’s a hit-or-miss tactic since I really don’t know how well they’ve negotiated the prices, but I know my gift is going towards defraying some of the cost of the reception.
I’ll cut myself short and ask what do you think? Is it right to ask for more than a gift? What do you think about the tradition of the wedding ceremony and reception? How many of you wish you would have just done a JOP or beach wedding rather than the whole formal affair?
Finally, if you are reading this posting and you are interested in planning a wedding yourself, check out these articles from newlyweds on a budget