Can you truly calculate the cost of a gift to a beloved couple celebrating their marriage? For wedding guests, the rules of buying wedding gifts are complex and ever-changing. Should they go with something personal, like an heirloom or a handmade gem? Or should guests simply pick something off the registry?
If a guest does pick something off the registry, is it okay to buy one small gift—or do they need to buy a few small gifts? Or is better to buy one large gift from the registry? What do couples want—and what should guests be prepared to give them? And where can they draw the line if couples become too demanding in their bid for wedding day gimme-gimmes?
A 2013 survey by American Express compared the amount spent on wedding gifts by guests and bridal party members. In 2012, wedding guests spent $339 each year on gifts, but that number increased to $539 by 2013. As for bridesmaids and groomsmen, they spent an average of $377 in 2012 and $577 in 2013.
That’s a lot of money to spend on a social event—and sometimes, it’s not always worth the expense. Here are five instances in which you can skip the gift.
1. Any bride who questions why you didn't come to her bridal shower
Let's say you get an invitation to a bridal shower, but the timing conflicts with another event. Or maybe the location for the shower is a long drive from where you live — and you already spend way too much of your working week in your car. Or maybe you don't even have a car and it would require a lot of coordination and favor-begging to make arrangements to attend what is essential a Present Party. So you graciously decline. But the bride? She won't hear it. You should have rearranged your schedule to attend her bridal shower. You should have moved heaven and earth to play outdated party games, eat tasteless finger foods and watch her open gifts.
2. Any couple who invites you to a destination wedding
A destination wedding means a mandatory "vacation" for wedding guests who RSVP "yes" to a wedding ceremony held in a far-off locale. The price for each guest is often an incredibly expensive proposition. Costs include (but are certainly not limited to): transportation to and from the location of the destination wedding, transportation for the guest once they've arrived at the destination, lodging, meals, and time off from work. The idea of sacrificing personal leave hours can often burn guests the hardest — I mean, do couples who plan these destination weddings expect for their friends or family to dictate the terms of their time off from work? I didn't think so. Not everyone has access to paid leave — and for those who do have the privilege of paid time-off, those precious, hard-earned hours are salted away for plans that often have nothing to do with traveling to the dream-vacation spot of someone else.
Given the high cost and personal sacrifices required to attend a destination wedding, your presence alone should be enough of a gift.
3. Any couple who includes a message about their gift registry along with the wedding invitation
Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of legendary writer Emily Post, says only bridal shower invitations and wedding websites should share information about a couple's registry — but it should not be part of the wedding invitation itself. Post argues that "in order to keep the focus on your guests rather than the gifts, registry information should never be included with the wedding invitation... Without a wedding website, word of mouth is your best and only option that isn’t on the tacky side. Tell your close friends, family and your wedding party where you’re registered. This isn’t grasping for gifts — it’s how registry information has always been shared."
4. Any couple who asks for cash instead of presents
Why bother with the registry middle-man when you can cut straight to the request for an actual handout of your money? In an article for The Washington Post, Miss Manners declared:
"Now that the ancient and charming custom of exchanging presents is deteriorating into simply paying people by the milestone, Miss Manners supposed that she would not have to become involved. After all, the idea was to eliminate thoughtfulness. People anxious to be spared the thoughtful efforts of others to please them have long been selecting their own presents by means of the gift registry. Many now want to skip even that blatant bit of laundering to get their hands directly on the cash."
You should never feel under any obligation to give money to someone because they sent you a social invitation.
5. Any couple that tries to charge their guests money to attend the wedding
Believe it or not, there are couples who've tried to trick their guests into PAYING for the "privilege" of attending their wedding. It doesn't sound like much of a privilege to me — it sounds a lot more like a con. According to a feature last year in the Daily Mail, "The new trend is to ask guests to cover the costs of their meal and a share of the entertainment. Bank details are often printed at the bottom of the invitation so you can pay for the meal in advance... Some couples are going even further and asking guests to bring their own food." As Marie Antoinette would say, let them eat cake... the kind of cake they can afford to pay for themselves.
Images: Sodahead (1), Giphy (2, 4-5), Tumblr (4)