Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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I am mortified to report that this incident happened in my very own family...

Last year, my cousin married his girlfriend of approximately 8 years. While buying gifts for them, several relatives noticed that some uncharacteristically expensive items were listed on the registry. I say "uncharacteristically" because "Jerry" and "Sylvia" were known throughout the family for their devotion to secondhand stores even though they could afford to buy things new if they had wanted to. At any rate, while opening the gifts at the morning-after brunch, Jerry and Sylvia refused to let anyone touch the more expensive items (e.g., the Waterford crystal candlesticks), although the smaller-ticket items were freely passed around. Finally, when Sylvia's sister was prohibited from opening the $80 Ralph Lauren sheets, someone asked what the deal was, at which point Jerry and Sylvia revealed that they had asked for the more expensive items so that they could return them for store credit toward a new couch! Everyone was shocked and some finger-pointing (e.g., "MY side of the family would never do that") has gone on since then, so there was lots of bad behavior here.

Friends bought a new home. Sent invitations to a house-warming celebration. Nice, huh? WRONG! At the bottom of the invitation was this: " We would appreciate cash gifts". HUH???!!
I've never been invited to such an event, but I worked in a bridal registry dept. at a dept. store for a year and we had this one bride who actually wanted us to put a note ON the registry to the effect that:

"The china costs $85 per place setting. If you cannot give the couple at least one entire place setting, please do not bother with a gift."

The place settings were the cheapest things on the list too. Needless to say, we didn't include any such message to her poor (as in pitiable, not financially strapped) guests.

I have two cousins, brother and sister, who already had a well-established reputation for lack of manners on gift-giving occasions. However, when the male cousin was married a couple of years ago he truly topped himself. The first I heard of the nuptials was when I received an invitation several weeks *after* the wedding had already taken place! A glance at the postmark revealed that the invitation indeed had only been mailed a couple of days before and a conference with my mother confirmed that she had only just received her invitation as well, so we could only conclude that this was the bride and groom's strategy for extracting gifts from all the out-of-state relatives they didn't care to have at their wedding. My mother and I still burst out laughing whenever we recollect the incident.

As my friend and I were looking for ideas on hosting an upcoming baby shower - we came across "ETIQUETTE HELL". We felt compelled to share a story about a friend and her family and their idea of hosting Surprise parties for one another.

The first party we were invited to was thrown by our friend (we'll call her Tamara), and her older sister. The invitation was for a Surprise Anniversary party for their parents (whom none of us have ever known very well). The invitation was a nice gesture until you got to the bottom portion, in which it read, "we were each required to send a $20.00 check or money order to Tamara or her sister, to be used towards the cost of the gift they bought their Mom and Dad. HOW ABSURD...Needless to say, none of us attended the party!

But wait there's more...approximately a year later, we each received telephone calls from Tamara's Mother. She was planning to throw Tamara a Surprise Birthday party and was inviting us to come. Nice thing to do for your daughter right? Wrong! A few days later we were notified by another friend that Tamara's Mom had enlisted her to call and inform each of us, that in order to attend the party, we had to pay $10.00 each to help cover the cost of the party. Although the designated informer was mortified, since it was common knowledge that this family was quite wealthy, she could not figure out a way to politley refuse such a task. C'mon, being asked to bring a dish or a drink is one thing, but being told we were required to pay a cover charge was entirely another!

Since it was our friend's 30th birthday party and the humiliation we felt for her was so great, we held our tongues, paid our fee and attended the party. During the party, we learned that although the guest list consisted 75% of her parent's friends, we (Tamara's friends) were the only ones charged!!! We all left that night completely insulted. It had been made quite clear that her Mother would never consider making such an absurd request from her own friends, but had no problem demanding it from us. Our attendance never really mattered, nor did our feelings, but our money certainly did!!!

To top it off, it was apparent that we had paid for the entire event...the food had been home cooked by Tamara's Mom and one of our friends supplied the music. The party had obviously cost very little, if anything at all!

Hi, I enjoyed your webpage. I found it stumbling around in cyberspace trying to solve my own dilemma. I was asked to be a bridesmaid for one of my best friends in the world recently. I am scraping money together to pay for the very expensive plane ticket to the opposite side of the country. (All the other bridesmaids are local, by the way) One day, I find a letter in my mailbox telling me the elaborate wedding shower that is scheduled in the brides honor, down to every little detail. The letter lists the appetizers that will be served down to the last garnish, soup, main course, dessert, even the party favors in vast detail. Everything is pre-planned and laid out for me quite nicely for my perusal. Then I come to the part that tells me that my part of the shower will be $100.00, to be sent "AS SOON AS POSSIBLE". I am further informed that if it is less, I will be refunded, or more, notified. This letter is received about a month and a half before Christmas. If I were even able to attend the shower, which is months before the actual wedding, I would still expect some sort of say so for my hundred bucks....???? I am quite certain that the bride is not aware of this. I'm from the school that the maid of honor puts on the shower, herself. I'm not sure how to respond to this unusual bill I have received. I am truly looking forward to the wedding, but am unsure of how to handle this situation. it etiquette hell?

At least you seem to have the right attitude about it. That's great. I remember when I was MOH at my then closest friend's wedding. All morning she kept talking about how cheap people had been so far and hoped that she would at least "break even" at her wedding. I asked her what she meant and she said that she and her soon to be hubby were counting on actually MAKING money off of all the cash and gifts. After she returned from her honeymoon she called to complain that she and hubby actually lost $3k and that some people didn't even have the decency to buy a gift equal to the cost of their meal! I was shocked. It was the first I had ever heard of this. I was thusly made aware that my $80 gift came in at just barely adequate. Ever since then I have extreme paranoia about gift-giving and avoid weddings altogether. Now that I'm about to have my own I think I'll have my family pass the word that gifts are not expected nor do the bride and groom require anything. -TG
My Grandmother was at a Croatian wedding a while back, and explained that the Master of Ceremony went to each guest at the tables during dinner and collected cash. He then publicly announced the amount and the name: "Mr. Jones, $100!" I don't want to offend anyone whose culture involves this sort of thing, but it seems rather vulgar.
At a recent family wedding, after I had hugged and talked with my cousin for a while, his new wife came up to me and hugged me, then asked, "Where's your envelope?" I didn't know what she was talking about until she took out the white bridal bag of cash and waggled some cards - opened, mind you! - with checks in them at me. My cousin, happily, covered by saying, "Kim sent that big pink box that's sitting in the living room, remember?" She agreed, then said to me by way of explanation, "I'm just making sure everyone who hasn't given me something yet gets a chance to see me," and waltzed off, presumably to the next person who hadn't given a gift.

A friend of mine went to a wedding of her friend's last weekend. As a gift, my friend (I'll call her Betty) gave the bride (I'll call her Susan) a really nice silver serving set (I think she spent about $60 on it--I thought wow! What a lucky bride!) Anyway, the bride had registered for this item, but since my friend lives far away from the store where she registered, she called the store, found that she had registered for this set, and then bought it at another department store in her home town.

Okay, to the point of the story. Yesterday my friend got a phone call from the bride. After saying "hello", Susan says "Where did you buy my wedding gift?" Taken aback, Betty says "I'm sorry, but what did you say?" Susan replied: "I want to know where you bought my wedding gift. You know, that silver set." All this time my friend is bewildered not only by the question, but by the way Susan asked it--in a demanding tone!

Susan went on to say: "I'm asking you because I want to take your gift back, and that's why I need to know where you bought it."

Betty replied hesitantly, "I bought it at a department store where I live. Was there a problem with the gift?"

Susan then cut Betty off, saying "Yeah, I figured you didn't buy it from my registry, since someone else gave me the same exact thing! At least they had the sense to go to the store where I registered to buy me gifts!"

At this point, Betty got pretty miffed (reasonably so, I should think!) and said "I'm sorry Susan, but I live quite far away from where you registered, and I thought that what I got you was what you wanted."

Susan replied: "Yeah, but everybody knows you register just so you can take the gifts back and get the money for them. That way you know how much people spent on you too." All I could think of when my friend told me this was "the NERVE of some people!"

Betty did not tell Susan the exact store where she bought the gift, since she was so hurt, so Susan hung up in a huff since Betty wouldn't tell her. Nice friend, huh? Anyway, I still can't believe this happened--I guess my friend's friend was being Bridebrat Extraordinaire.