I have seen my share of etiquette goofs, but I have one story that should win a prize of some sort. I wasn’t even a guest at this particular wedding (Praise Jesus). Rather, I was attending a religious conference for young Catholic adults, and the keynote speaker at the conference used his own wedding as his subject matter. Copies of his “Wedding Registry” were given as handouts.
For openers, the bride and groom decided they wanted a big wedding and to invite “everybody,” which would number more than 400 guests. How do two hand-to-mouth lay ministers accomplish that? Why, have a potluck wedding, of course.
But it was the registry that was the focal point. Instead of traditional wedding gifts, the bride and groom announced they wanted all their guests to do good works instead. The registry was homemade, with the introduction, “We will be accepting gifts from this registry only. All gifts should be described in a wedding card and delivered at the wedding. Thank you for respecting our wishes.” Below was a list of things to do. Sound nice? Not quite…
For reasons I still can’t fathom, the bride and groom assigned *dollar values* to each item, ranging from $5 to $500,000, as means of demonstrating the value of the gift to them. For example:
- Donate blood: $72
- Support a single parent; i.e. food shopping, babysit: $90
- Pray for the terrorists, especially Osama bin Laden: $1,250
And so on. The most valued item on the registry was “Go to Confession” (a Catholic Sacrament), appraised at $500,000. So what is wrong with this picture? Several things:
If this bride and groom are only accepting “registry gifts,” what if Great-Aunt Edna *wants* to give her heirloom crystal as a wedding present? Are they going to refuse that too?
- Just what criteria were they using to calculate these values? A single pint of blood that can save the lives of up to three people is only worth $72, but “Go back to church/synagogue/mosque,” which may only benefit the doer is $300,000.
- By making “Go to Confession” as their most valued gift, they are effectively shutting out that option to their non-Catholic guests. Only in very dire circumstances will most priests hear confessions from non-Catholics.
- The couple effectively took public credit for the hard work and good deeds of others. The groom became visibly emotional during his conference keynote speech when he described receiving a note of gratitude from a stranger who had benefited from one of the “wedding gifts.”
Frankly, I felt sick watching this display. To me, the whole thing just flew right in the face of our Christian faith: “When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms giving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matt 6:2-4) Needless to say, I left as soon as possible. 12-16-08
I asked the submission author to mail me the “Wedding Registry” conference material handout and she did. It was even more worse than she describes. There are 56 service “gifts” you can choose from. My favorites are…
- Write a letter to your senator/congressional rep to lobby for legislature that supports morality and justice…$450
- Defer the cost of 2 buses from New Jersey chartered to carry wedding guests (teens) to Pensacola…$2000
- Cook for our potluck reception dinner…$250
But the submission author doesn’t even begin to cover the full extent of this “registry”. After the 56 “gift items” there are two further sections, one titled, “Talents You Could Contribute to Wedding Mass” and the second, “Talents You Could Contribute to Our Reception”.
Wedding Mass Talents include instrumentalist, singers, flower arranging, transportation of wedding party, and even making homemade Eucharistic wine.
Receptions Talents include singing, cooking, reception coordinating, playing an instrument, teaching dancing, be the DJ, make the wedding cake, set up and clean up.
While the Gift Registry items could be interpreted as a good-hearted, well intentioned attempt to serve others, the inclusion of the request for gifts of labor to execute their version of what their wedding and reception should look like puts the registry way over the line for sheer “gimme-ness” sadly justified as religious duty. From a Christian, Biblical perspective, the only required elements for a wedding is a groom, a bride, and an officiant (and a marriage license the government requires). Two people are just as married in the eyes of God, the congregation and the law if they married quietly in the pastor’s office. Having crossed the long-established etiquette line that one does not dictate to one’s guests how they are to bestow gifts upon you, it was an easy slippery slope to asking people to contribute labor for what appears to be a very large wedding.