Author Topic: Wedding Gift Spat- Should Cultural Traditions Be Considered in Gift Giving?  (Read 19567 times)

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kareng57

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ETA: I can see being generous if the married couple was being reasonable with expenses but just because you want to have a crazy expensive venue or excessive decorations doesn't mean I should have to gift you more than someone who has a more simple affair.  I gift the amount in correspondence with the relationship with the person, not how much they spent on the wedding.  I do gift what I consider pretty generously but then again I only go to weddings of people that actually care about me not just some random acquaintance.


"Cover Your Plate" bugs me too.  Just because a couple throws a more simple affair doesn't mean it's appropriate to give them less of a gift.  Not that gift should ever be expected, but using the cost of the event as a determinate for the value of a gift strikes me as wrong.

Besides that, how are people supposed to know how much their food costs?  The whole concept is ridiculous.


Well - if it's a quite close-knit ethnic circle, it might be the case that most Italian weddings in the community take place at the local Italian Cultural Centre, for example.  So most of the guests are very familiar with the place and probably have a good idea of the catering prices because they've also been involved with planning weddings there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not defending the "cover your plate" tradition.  But it's a longstanding one in some areas, and my guess is that the hosts would not be upset if guests contacted them to try to get an idea of the appropriate $ amount.

Tea Drinker

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The problem is, when people say "cover the plate" I start thinking "OK, how much of my expenses do I put against that?" If I fly to your wedding, do you owe me a gift?

The last wedding I went to, I believe we gave the happy couple some maple syrup--because I knew they like it, and it's readily available in New York but not in Wales. Yes, we took the opportunity to make a vacation out of it: I showed my husband London (including a museum exhibit I knew he'd like), and I stayed over in Wales a few days after the wedding. But even if we had just flown over for the wedding and back, airfare plus one night's hotel would have cost significantly more than our friends paid to host us at the wedding. But that wasn't the point: the point was to be there when someone I love got married.

Threads like this make me feel very lucky in my friends.
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LadyR

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The thing that gets me about "cultural" traditions in this sense... this did not take place in Italy or Croatia. This happened in Canada. I wonder if either bride has even spent more then at most a few months - if even a single day - in Italy or Croatia, or if they planned to live there, or follow all the other details of those cultures? Because it seems to me when you invite a Canadian, to a wedding in Canada, where you live and work, its pretty reasonable to expect to get a gift that follows Canadian gift giving culture.

If they are anything like my husband, then they're upbringing may have been fairly insular. My ILs friends are all Croatian, they attended a Croatian church, sent their kids to Croatian school on the weekends (though they went to normal Catholic school during the week), banked at a Croatian bank, etc. Its a huge community and though my ILs have been here for 40+ years, they have done very little mixing with non-Croatians. The first non-Croatian wedding my husband went to was for a university friend of his and he was in his late 20s by this point.

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And the first generation in her family is heavily influenced by the Croation-ness of the family.
So I can see that truly being a factor in the expectations of what a wedding should be like, and what the gift-giving should be like.

This. If the brides are first generation born here then those are the traditions they have been raised with. I'm not saying it makes it right, my MIL would be horrified by their behavior and would have taken her children to town for it, but at the same time my MIL also demanded a list of who gave what after the wedding so she could make sure to 'match' it.

And yes, $100 per person is pretty ingrained as an expectation (my ILs have actually topped up DH and I's gift in the past to family weddings as they knew money was tight for us, but wanted to make sure we gave an appropriate amount). You are also expected to give at least $100 cash as a shower present.


HelenB

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I was thinking of the section where they say that culturally, you expect to get that much at your wedding, and you expect to spend that much per wedding as time goes on.

My step-mother-in-law is of Croatian and Italian background.  She was determined to invite all her friends to our wedding, because she had gone to the weddings of their children, and this was the chance to get a payback.  We declined to dis-invite our friends so that we could get bigger $$$ from her friends.

heartmug

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I was just at a wedding (the groom is 100% Italian) at a country club a couple of months ago.  I gave a $50 gift off their registry and we wrote a check for $100.  I have no idea if that covered the dinner for me, DH, and our dd.  I don't know the prices.

That bride is beyond rude.  You thank a person for their gift, for coming to your wedding, and you never ever correct them as to what you think is proper etiquette.  Wow.

Y'all are making good points.  At this same wedding there was an open bar.  I have no idea who paid for that (bride or groom's parents, or the happy couple) but I could factor in that DH had one beer and dd and I had water only so we saved them money.  This was DH's cousin so we knew very little about the wedding.  No one discussed details with us and we are fine with that.
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Outdoor Girl

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A friend of mine was marrying an Italian guy.  Her future FIL wanted to invite this friend of his to the wedding.  Only he didn't know his full name or his address.  My friend was so frustrated planning that wedding; she's the one who gave me the sage advice, 'Find yourself a nice orphan!'   ;D

But she was telling me that in her husband-to-be's family, it wasn't unusual for the patriarch of each family unit to hold onto the card envelop with the money, leaving it unsealed, throughout the reception.  And then take money out of it for each perceived slight at the wedding/reception.   :o

The wedding and reception were lovely.  I spent about $100, giving them a great portable grill and propane tank, that I delivered before the wedding so they wouldn't have to cart it around.  They used that thing until it completely wore out.
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Winterlight

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I do have to say that Marshmallow Giver's response:

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you should just be happy your sham of a marriage is legal dude!

was disgusting and incredibly offensive.
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nuit93

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I do have to say that Marshmallow Giver's response:

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you should just be happy your sham of a marriage is legal dude!

was disgusting and incredibly offensive.

Me too.

White Lotus

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In a country of immigrants or one with varying cultures, the best you can do is be polite according to your own norms or the norms of the couple's culture, if you know them.  If you receive a gift outside the norms of your culture -- in DH's culture, money is Not Done; in mine, money is ALL that is done -- you thank the giver sincerely for his/her/their kindness, recognizing that things are done differently by different groups in different places. And that is it.  People are giving you gifts!  It is not up to the recipient to dictate those gifts.  I would be delighted with a jar of Fluff and a box of crisped rice!  What DH makes with that and a cube of butter is something we both enjoy.  Imaginative, inexpensive (which might count for the giver) and makes for a fun evening of making, eating and movie watching.  If it was something we couldn't eat, like most of Hickory Farms (we are veg), DH would probably take it to his office, so it would be enjoyed by those who do eat it, and that would also give us both pleasure -- which is the point, isn't it?

lmyrs

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My mother is second generation Croatian and they have the "cover your plate" attitude in that family. (Though it doesn't have to actually be with cash - a suitably priced gift is fine too.) BUT, like Toots said, that's the attitude that the gift giver is expected to have. The gift receiver is expected to love every gift that comes to them. If I had pulled that attitude on one of my wedding guests, I would have been shunned by my entire family. Even if they were secretly thinking that the gift giver was too cheap or wrong in some way, I would not be able to show my face after displaying that kind of behaviour.

I have a good friend who is very prominent in the local Italian cultural scene. (He's second generation Italian.) We actually used his connections to secure the Italian cultural centre for our own wedding reception. We had a reception only (no ceremony that day) and it started around 8pm so we had sandwiches and a bunch of other foods put out at 10:30pm but no full meal. My friend was horrified when I was telling him about our wedding plans. He could not believe that we were not having a full $150/plate meal. I explained that we simply couldn't afford it. He explained that it didn't matter because everyone would know to bring an envelope with at least $200 cash in it. That is truly how all the weddings he'd been to worked. (He's not married.)

I can sort of see how if you grow up in that type of culture, you may be disappointed that things didn't work out like you thought they would. I can also see why it may be frustrating to be a bride or a groom in that culture and want to have the "wedding you can afford" and not be allowed to because of family or cultural pressures on you. ("Allowed to" is strong, but you know what I mean? You get so much pressure to live up to your cultural norms.) And while the second generation may have been really insular in their community, usually the third generation has a multi-cultural friend base and they know that those folks don't follow the same cultural norms and would be horrified at the idea of spending $200 on a wedding gift for a friend. So all these things collide and turn into a giant mess.

But, geez, the brides in this case could not have handled this worse. Part of being in that third (or later) generation is understanding that not everyone grew up in your culture and if you want them there, you have to accept that they don't know all your secret handshakes and things that are "normal" or "just what's done" aren't really once you leave your own community.

TootsNYC

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And yes, $100 per person is pretty ingrained as an expectation (my ILs have actually topped up DH and I's gift in the past to family weddings as they knew money was tight for us, but wanted to make sure we gave an appropriate amount). You are also expected to give at least $100 cash as a shower present.

My MIL has actually told us what we should be giving. Or asked us, and then told us it wasn't enough.
(and she has asked about who gave our kids what for what occasion, so she can "match" it as well; why the other grandma assumes that we'd reveal this info to MIL, I don't know, but I'm sure that she (other grandma) does assume that)


And my MIL thinks that's it's not very generous to give less than what you *think* it costs them to entertain you at the wedding. Because, then, you've actually cost the couple money. She thinks the couple should come out ahead. Oh, sure, i you're broke, you don't give as much, but it's not going to happen on her watch, so to speak.

Her sons have had to get pretty grim to get her to butt out of their gift giving.

I think some of this comes because they realize that the wedding couple "has" to invite people. They recognize the *obligation* of them being invited to a wedding, and there's a part of them that acknowledges that this is a burden to the couple. Inviting them was NOT optional for the couple. So they want to be sure that the couple doesn't end up worse off for living up to that obligation. They don't regard the wedding as a

Note that as lmyrs points out (and I said before): This is how they believe the gift GIVER should think. It would be beyond rude for the recipient to say the tiniest thing. (Now, there might be gossiping about how cheap someone was, if the Aunt Mafia thought the gift giver ought to be more flush than that. They regard the giving of wedding gifts to be as strong an obligation as paying rent or making the car payment, and I think they believe that people should be prepared for it always. So barring any known financial issues like a layoff, they expect you to live within your means, and "your means" *includes* appropriately sized gifts.)

gellchom

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I agree that the Brides were incredibly rude. 

Here, in NYC, money is a standard Wedding gift because most couples seem pretty well established before the Wedding.  Still, objects are given and appreciated. 


Why would couples in NYC be more likely to be established before marriage?  That's not my experience.

I agree with Toots - guests should try to take the couple's cultural/geographical/etc. customs and expectations into account when deciding what to give.  That doesn't mean they have to conform to it, unless of course it is something that would be considered outright offensive.  But if you want to know whether your gift will seem cheap or strange, then do your research and then decide what to do. 

I recently attended a Persian wedding in Israel as a last-minute add-on guest.  The groom was my daughter's fiance's first cousin, and when she found out I was visiting his mother very nicely called her sister-in-law and insisted they bring me so we could all meet.  Now, I live in the midwest, where wedding gifts are usually more modest than the east coast or Israel, and are often things, not cash.  I felt like I was in the position of a "plus one," whom I would not expect to bring a separate gift, KWIM?  But I decided to give a small gift, anyway.  I knew that cash is always the gift in Israel, and I wanted to make a good first impression, but I thought that under the circumstances $50 or so would be really nice -- I mean, I would consider that a very generous gift from a "plus one" in my city.  Good thing I asked an Israeli friend: he told me that anything under $100 would seem really cheap.  I didn't HAVE to give that much, of course, but it was good to get the information before making my choice.

But the bride's response was absolutely unforgivable, and would have been even if the gift had been something that the giver didn't know was something truly offensive.

We keep a kosher home.  Once a Thanksgiving guest brought us a big package of pork sausage as a gift.  He was from Vietnam and I'm sure didn't have a clue about this. We thanked him nicely, put it aside, and the next day donated it someplace or gave it to someone.

I can only imagine what this bride said to people who didn't give the anything at all.

And, even as an advocate of same-sex marriage for over forty years, I too have to laugh at this bride citing "tradition" as her excuse for shaking down her guests.

goddessofpeep

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I always wondered when it came to the "cover your plate" idea, how on earth are you supposed to know how much to spend?  I mean, you can sometimes get an idea of the expense of the wedding from the quality and style of the invitations, but you never really can be sure. 

I once attended a wedding that must've cost somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to put on.  The bride and groom both paid for it as they were both well off. They really wanted their wedding, their way, and both of them were very sweet to everybody who attended.  We knew it was going to be a nice wedding, and we had to go(it was my husband's boss' wedding, and attendance was mandatory), but we had NO idea what we were in for.  They didn't have a photographer, they had a whole crew.  The had a separate film crew to do the video.  It was at one of the nicest resorts in one of the most expensive areas in one of the most expensive States in the country.  They had a custom dance floor made because they couldn't find one for rent in the proper shade of brown.  They even had furniture made specially for a lounge they made for guests to relax around the bar.  I have no idea what the per plate cost of that wedding was, but I'm sure it was more than a month's worth of pay for my husband.

We gave them a nice gift, but I'm sure it was nowhere near what the food for us alone cost them.  We got a lovely thank you note from the couple within a few weeks of them returning from their honeymoon.  I always found it very interesting that the people who had the most expensive wedding that I'm probably ever going to attend were also the ones who were the least concerned about how much they were "getting back" from the guests.

WillyNilly

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I agree that the Brides were incredibly rude. 

Here, in NYC, money is a standard Wedding gift because most couples seem pretty well established before the Wedding.  Still, objects are given and appreciated. 


Why would couples in NYC be more likely to be established before marriage?  That's not my experience.

Polls, census, wedding industry folks, etc, all pretty much agree people in large cities - and NYC s by far the biggest in the country - tend to get married later in life. The national average age for brides is 27, the average bride in NYC is 32. The older someone is, the more likely they are to be well established in the home dept.

cwm

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I personally would check the cultural traditions of people before planning a wedding gift. I'd hate to be the only person to show up at a Chinese wedding, for example, without a red envelope of money.

That being said, I think it boils down to a pull vs. push of gifts that gets discussed a lot. It's not up to the HC to push their culture (or gift registry) onto anyone else, it's up to the guests to pull that information out. And if they end up giving something that's not on the registry or that doesn't cover their cost of the meal, then if it's a thoughtful gift (which it sounds like this was) I don't see a problem with it.

I detest the idea that guests should somehow magically know how much the HC is paying for them and get a gift worth at least that much. I was my sisters maid of honor and I still don't know how much she paid for the reception at her wedding. It wasn't within my duties or responsibilities to know, and it wasn't discussed. Any of my friends who have gotten married have done so on an extremely tight budget. Does that mean they're less deserving of gifts than a HC who can afford to pay $200 a head for catering? Would it change things if it was a close relative who had an inexpensive reception? I would give them more than a co worker for their wedding, regardless of how much it cost to have me as a guest because of my relationship with them. I give based on my personal relationship with the HC, not by how much money they spend on their wedding. To me, that information is between the HC and whoever is being paid to host/cater the event.