Fox and Friends (Fox News) ran a quick piece this morning on a letter that appeared in a June 20th Dear Abby column. The letter writer wanted to know how to extricate themselves from having already rsvped to the wedding of a couple who had blatantly admitted to registering for expensive gifts for the sole purpose of returning them all for cash.
Jeanne Philiips, the new “Dear Abby”, hit it square on the head calling the wedding a “fund-raiser” the invited couple had no obligation to attend. Great minds of people with the first name of Jeanne think alike! I addressed this very phenomenon in my book, “Wedding Etiquette Hell:Â The Bride’s Bible to Avoiding Everlasting Damnation” (St. Martin Press, 2005) , in the chapter called “Has It Registered Yet?”:
Registries have become convenient money-laundering schemes in which couples register for outrageously expensive gifts or items they would never really want for the sole purpose of returning the item for cash or store credit. It’s a sneaky way to get the cash you really want under the guise of registering. Poor schmuck guests actually believe the charade and carefully choose gifts from the registry under the delusion that you really want the items for which you registered. But it’s all a game, a little con game at the expense of the department store and your guests. With abuses of registries like this, is it any wonder guests are becoming increasingly leery of even glancing at the registry?
My disdain for the practice goes back even further, when the registry money-laundering scheme was in its infancy. From “Bridezilla: True Tales from Etiquette Hell” (Salado Press, 2002):
This type of underhanded manipulation of the gift giving process is gaining popularity as more people marry later in life thus combining two households that are lacking in nothing. Cash then becomes a more advantageous gift, but to ask directly for cash gifts is rude, so the above dirty tactic is often used as a poor substitute. It’s a major etiquette faux pas, because it is a direct slap in the face of the guests, many of whom spent time, energy, and thought seeking out the registry, choosing a gift, and having it wrapped and sent, only to discover the effort was for naught. It is simply the bridal version of money laundering by using the store registry to convert gifts to cash. Make a mental note when you encounter such a couple and resolve not to buy them any housewarming or baby shower gifts since you will have firsthand experience in their schemes.
The discussion on Fox and Friends segued into giving cash gifts and whether it was proper to give enough cash to cover what the guests believes is the cost per person at the reception. What on earth is it with New Yorkers and cash? I had an interview earlier this week with a reporter located in New York City on the topic of wedding showers and our conversation segued to this same topic of giving cash gifts in the amount the guest understands to have been spent, per person, by the hosts of the wedding. The reporter did not seem to comprehend at first why this was wrong so I asked her the following questions:
“How does the wedding guest come to the knowledge of how much is being spent per person for the reception? It certainly isn’t by grokking the amount from the invitation by some psychic osmosis. Did you hear it from the bride or her mother? How crass and tacky to be discussing the financial particulars of what the wedding budget actually is! It’s clearly done with an agenda to sway cash giving to its greatest greedy potential. Did you ask how much was spent? If so, mucho tacky since it’s an indiscreet and nosey question to be asking.
Bottom line, there is no etiquettely correct way to convey how much is being spent per person on the wedding, so this whole belief system that cash gifts must equal or exceed the cost per person being spent on the wedding is based solely on either rude declarations by the hosts of how much cash has been expended on the wedding or rude speculations by guests on what has been spent.