Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Case for the Wedding Gift

Here's what I had to write last summer when I wrote about wedding gifts for the first time:

About the wedding gifts: Remember what I just said about obligation? Just because you're eating and drinking on someone else's tab doesn't mean you can totally get away with being chintzy. My big sister always tells me that the retail value of the gift should be equal or more to how much the host is paying per plate on their tab. You don't want to, say, spend $7 - the current cash value of a regular sized plate lunch at Zippy's- on a wedding gift for a couple who will be having their reception at the Halekulani, where the same amount of money will get you a glass of water and a dinner roll at the lobby bar. You could try and cheat by 1) getting your gift on sale at the original store (et tu, Borders?); 2) raiding a garage sale; or 3) using your craft-making skills to spruce up a purchase from Ross, but you still have to remember to get something that you know will be useful for the couple in question. There is, after all, a reason why the wedding registry was invented in the first place.

I was talking from the perspective of the guest, mind you. Here's a gem of a response from Rebecca Black (and I don't mean this with irony) on the Top Wedding Questions forum (link provided by Never Teh Bride on Manolo for the Brides):

...I don't know where that illogical belief came from that guest should give as much as the couple has spent on them. That couldn't be farther from the truth. You are correct that guests should give what they can. Bravo.

These people chose to marry. They chose to spend as much as they did. They chose to invite guests. They are responsible for their guests costs. The guests are only responsible to congratulate them.

A wedding is supposed to be about the joining of two people and we as guests are invited to share in this joy. A wedding is not supposed to be about draining the guests' wallets.

On the one hand, I do agree with the advice given here; weddings have already become such an orgy of conspicuous consumption these days that sometimes people do forget the whole point about why people get married in the first place. On the other hand... well, I myself have been guilty of buying the underpriced gift for a fancy wedding (in this case for a reception held at a Waikiki hotel), but in my defense the gift was going to turn out to be practical in the long run anyway, and I genuinely wanted said gift to reflect my own high hopes for the happy couple. But even if it had been a super fancy wedding at the Halekulani - even for someone I never knew too well - I'd still be ashamed to walk in there with a gift that cost me no more than a bowl of chili.

If I knew the couple well enough to know that they would really appreciate me being there for them on their day, I wouldn't let a monetary figure stand in the way of my presence. That's the case with a lot of the weddings I attended this year, because so many of the folks who did come to these weddings were so genuinely happy for the couple - and vice versa - that money was no object at all to not being there, as long as they were invited. Some of my friends even ended up with gift cards to the stores they were registered with because there were guests who couldn't afford the actual items in the registry.

Bottom line: An expensive wedding gift - or, heck, an expensive wedding for that matter - does not always bring any guarantees of best wishes for a happy marriage. If you're the guest, the value of the wedding gift is all up to you, regardless of the price. All that matters is that you are genuine about wishing the couple well on their journey.

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