Family or Marriage Finances & Money Frugality

Would you go to a wedding if you had to pay for your meal?


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

Wedding finger foods
Hot n tasty wedding finger foods
How to NOT to spend 30,000 on your wedding

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I think this question depends on whose wedding we are talking about. I would go to my Sisters wedding regardless of what she asked me to do. If some neighbor sent us an invite, asking us to pay for our meal and bring a gift, I would probably just send a gift and enjoy my Saturday outside.

    Interesting post

  • Ummmmmmm I know I’m super late but anyway the people that are cheap are actually you guys! Lol how dare u judge someone for doing that!? Only in America! That’s actually a Canadian Tradition! Lol y would u want to pay for a bunch of ppl to eat that are gonna complain about the food anyway! WTH? Stop playing yourselves its about being financially conscious! I will invite 125 guests and if anybody EXTRA wants to join the party then guess what? Pay for your plate! Have of you guys would pay a 100 $ to go to meteocre event just to be seen its the same principle! If u want to attend my wedding event then PAY$$$$$!

  • People are really cheap these days! If you really care about the couple pay for your meal! Help them out! How selfish is it that people expect the bride and groom to fork over a small fortune just so they can eat. Pay the measly $30.00 and help them celebrate their love. I say if people don’t want to show up because they have to pay then screw them, they don’t care enough for you anyway!

  • i got invited to a wedding in Vegas,I realize I had to pay or my staying,but then I was told that the wedding shower was pay your owm meal too,as well as the bachelorette party,every guest had to pay for everything!!!!!!!!after the wedding they had the balls to call and asked if I had brought a gift!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!

  • We just received our niece’s wedding invitation. Ceremony is for “close family” only. Okay, I can live with that – they didn’t even invite the grandparents. As a family we are supporting the bride and groom’s wishes/desires for their special day. They’ve invited 400+ people to a “Dessert Reception” located at a park. Okay, we’ll support that too. On their electronic invite (I’m okay with that too) they provide a link to their gift registries, ask for cash to pay off student loans and help them “get a good start in married life, as we’re sure everyone wishes for us” and then end the invite saying that coffee, water and lemonade will be provided and that the desserts are actually a pie contest and email my niece with how many pies each guest would like to bring. My mom (bride’s grandma) asked my niece to clarify: pie-eating contest or pie-baking. It’s a pie-baking contest. Part of me thinks this is a poor attempt at etiquette to sugar coat asking guests “bring your own dessert”. The other part of me thinks it is a clever way to plan a reception when the bride and groom have no money. Gift registries were shocking about 30 years ago – now is the norm. Asking for cash, IMO, is still tacky. Asking for cash and gifts is greedy. Asking for cash, gifts and bring your own dessert from 400+ guests is downright an attitude of entitlement. Especially when the groom barely completed one semester of “college”, and spends all of his money on his hobbies.

    I am hosting one of her bridal showers. He requested that I host a backyard BBQ where we invite his friends and “probably still include” her aunts and uncles. Thank goodness my niece nixed that one…she wants a traditional bridal shower with Grandma, the aunties and cousins only. It saved me the uncomfortable situation of saying no to her groom’s request. Not to be misunderstood, I am in favor of combined guys/gals wedding showers and creative, non-traditional ways of celebratory gatherings. Except in this case. Looking at their gift registry, you can identify which items my niece chose (all practical, reasonable gifts from two affordable and convenient (online and brick/mortar) retailers and which items he chose (video games, DVDs, go-cam, paintball, airsoft accessories to name just a few of his “toy” requests, etc.) If the groom had shown any semblance of fiscal financial responsibility during these past two years since I met him, I would gladly buy a gift, donate a bunch of pies or money towards purchase of pies AND gift money to pay off her student loans. Heck, I probably would’ve sprung for his boxed video set. But because of his regular, daily choices as it relates to money and his sense of entitlement, I will NOT be gifting any money, I will buy a small practical gift for the shower I am hosting (at my expense, of course), buy a small practical gift to the wedding and bring one pie to the reception. For my niece’s birthday, I will write a check to her student loan provider (already have that info from past gifts to her).

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