Author Topic: Wedding Gift Spat- Should Cultural Traditions Be Considered in Gift Giving?  (Read 19579 times)

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cattlekid

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My husband is Serbian and I could have written a lot of the responses about the expectations around Serbian/Croatian weddings regarding invitations, gift giving etc. 

I have often felt that Serbian weddings are pain inflicted from generation to generation.  Your parents got the pain from their parents and your parents are intent on passing that pain on to you.  For the "happy" couple, weddings are so fraught with cultural expectations to live up to that all individual expression is squelched from the get-go.  We had so many guests at our wedding that I never met beforehand and never saw afterwards but they were "required" invitations issued by my ILs.  By the time you get to your honeymoon, you never want to hear the word "wedding" again for months or even years. 

Then you have the gift giving expectations as well.  Of course, you are expected to cover your plate, plus more.  I finally got to the point where we started declining invitations if we didn't know the B&G well enough to be willing to shell out $250 for our gift, plus at least $100 for a shower present.  I've had two weddings and two christenings in the last five weeks and we are tapped out for the rest of the summer. 

Hmmmmm

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I had never heard of the cover your plate idea until reading EHell.  Growing up, the price of your gift was based on 1)how close you were to the couple 2)your financial situation. It had nothing to do with whether you attended the wedding or not or the cost of the wedding attended.

If you were wealthy Great Aunt Martha, you were probably going to give one of the more expensive china pieces, whether she attends the wedding or not. Aunt Jill who has 2 kid at home and another in college is probably going to buy a place setting and Jill, her DH, and the 2 at home kids and maybe the college one will all be in attendance. Cousin Adam who graduated college last year and was in his first year of teaching, is probably going to give a place setting of flatware. And Sheila who you volunteer with one Sat a month is probably going to give a nice picture frame.  Mom's next door neighbor may gift a set of fingertip towels she has hand embroidered. The expectation that these 5 guests should all give a gift of the same monetary value because they all attended the same function is just very foreign concept to me. 

I understand a couple who grew up in a culture where every one gave a monetary gift equal to the per head cost having that expectation, but only expect if they only invited guests who are members of that culture. As a host you should not expect to force your cultural expectations on everyone else. If you want a "pay at the door" wedding, then only invite people you are comfortable with that model.

camlan

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My college roommate relayed to me a very difficult conversation she had had with her fiance when they were engaged. He had started adding up the anticipated amounts of money his side of the family would be giving as wedding presents, then asked her what she thought her family would give. He was stunned when she told him they would be giving presents--you know, the china that was Great-Grandmother's that they had just received from Great-Aunt Bertha? That *was* their wedding present.

He, in his turn, was stunned when she refused to tell all the guests on her side to give money, not actual gifts. She said it would be extremely rude to do so, but he thought the guests would be rude for not giving money.

They were from two different ethnic groups, but had been born and lived in the same city growing up.

So cultural expectations are there. But it is rude to hold someone to an expectation they don't know exists.

And the whole email exchange between the two parties leaves both of them looking bad.
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BarensMom

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What a pair of rude brides!  Even if the gift wasn't culturally correct, they should've sucked it up and wrote a proper thank you, then donated/given/trashed it.

Looking at the picture of the sample, I see at least 10 items at an approximate cost of $5/item = $50.  For the most part, baskets aren't cheap, my guess is that a basket of that quality would be around $100+.  The givers also had gifted them a card for Macaroni Grill(?) to cover dinner, which had to be around $50. There's your $200 right there.

blarg314

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When I read the original article, I totally missed the two brides part.

I'd be tempted to read up on Croatian/Italian wedding traditions, print out a list of all the ones that require a groom or best man, and tell them that I'd present their cheque when they had the marriage annulled, married someone of the traditional gender, and worked their way through the appropriate traditions.

But I find personally it really annoying when someone yells "Cultural tradition" for something that benefits them at the expense of others (large monetary presents) but is very quiet when the cultural tradition is something that would inconvenience them (cultural prohibitions against both pre-marital sex/cohabitation *and* same sex marriages that would traditionally leave them as social outcasts or get them disowned). If you're allowed to pick and choose, you have to grant your guests the same privilege.


Sharnita

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The thing is, just because somebody is Italian-American doesn't mean that they are having a wedding that observes Italian wedding traditions (same with Chinese-Americans having a traditional Chinese wedding and so on).  I don't know that the guests would have had any reason to think that these brides intended a "traditional Italian wedding" or even that there was anything else traditional about it, other than their expectations of money. Do we know the ethnicity of the other bride?  If she is German why wouldn't guests expect German traditions to be upheld?

nuit93

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Can we please stop with the "well, it's not like they were obviously that traditional because they had two brides" remarks?  It wouldn't change the fact that the behavior was rude.

EllenS

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I think the real takeaways from this one are,
1) don't invite people you don't like or barely know to your wedding,
2)  don't invite more people or entertain more lavishly than you can afford - rule of thumb, if you care whether they "cover their plate", the wedding is too expensive for you.
3) if you don't know what the HC would really enjoy receiving, or know them well enough to understand their cultural expectations, think twice about why/whether you need to attend the wedding or send a gift at all.  A nice congratulatory note with your regrets is always perfectly polite.

Sharnita

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Can we please stop with the "well, it's not like they were obviously that traditional because they had two brides" remarks?  It wouldn't change the fact that the behavior was rude.

I don't think it would be reasonable to expect people to know/predict "ethnic traditions" if the Italian-American bride was marrying a man, either.  I certainly wouldn't make the assumption because one person was Chinese-American (or both people were) unless they had mentioned the intent to honor those traditions. In a marriage where one person is Irish-American and the other is French-American, how would a guest predict which traditions "win"?

Winterlight

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I had never heard of the cover your plate idea until reading EHell.  Growing up, the price of your gift was based on 1)how close you were to the couple 2)your financial situation. It had nothing to do with whether you attended the wedding or not or the cost of the wedding attended.

If you were wealthy Great Aunt Martha, you were probably going to give one of the more expensive china pieces, whether she attends the wedding or not. Aunt Jill who has 2 kid at home and another in college is probably going to buy a place setting and Jill, her DH, and the 2 at home kids and maybe the college one will all be in attendance. Cousin Adam who graduated college last year and was in his first year of teaching, is probably going to give a place setting of flatware. And Sheila who you volunteer with one Sat a month is probably going to give a nice picture frame.  Mom's next door neighbor may gift a set of fingertip towels she has hand embroidered. The expectation that these 5 guests should all give a gift of the same monetary value because they all attended the same function is just very foreign concept to me. 

I understand a couple who grew up in a culture where every one gave a monetary gift equal to the per head cost having that expectation, but only expect if they only invited guests who are members of that culture. As a host you should not expect to force your cultural expectations on everyone else. If you want a "pay at the door" wedding, then only invite people you are comfortable with that model.

That's how it worked in my area. Some people might choose to give cash, but it wasn't an expectation.
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NyaChan

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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.)

That really struck home with me.  Guests lists in my family are not about gathering your nearest and dearest, it is about making sure you don't accidentally offend someone that is related to you or that invited you in the past by not including them and whoever they think is supposed to be invited by virtue of attachment to them.  My cousin's wedding had over 1000 people attending - they were almost all connections of her parents and obligatory invites.  Attending years and years of weddings (I swear, there are weekends when they have to pick from 3 different invites at a time), racks up your obligations. 

The only mention of it would come from an older relative who knows that the amount wasn't in keeping with what that person had received previously or doesn't reflect the closeness of the relationship.  The bride and groom, however, even if they are sitting in the same room when such a remark is made are supposed to express nothing but gratefulness.

GreenEyedHawk

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This has nothing whatever to do with culture and everything to do with that bride being a horrendous hosebeast.

Her comments were so rude I don't even know where to begin.
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ChiGirl

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Another awful detail from the original article: apparently, the happy couple keeps the gift basket on display in their home to show their visitors -- presumably to mock the givers' supposed cheapness.

I don't think you can ascribe that kind of rudeness to any particular cultural tradition.

amylouky

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I don't understand the "cover your plate" idea, and will not ever be worrying about sticking to it.
DH and I had a medium-priced wedding because that's what we could afford. I'm not going to shell out $200+ for us to attend someone's fancy schmancy wedding because they chose to plan a wedding that is beyond their means.

I think both sides in this situation were pretty horrible. You don't call someone out on a gift for being cheap. But the gift-givers responses were pretty rude and insulting, too.

onikenbai

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For those that don't know, Presentation is a Manitoba tradition.  The wedding party lines up like a receiving line and the guests present the envelope to the HC.  It is very common for an invitation to say 'presentation'.  It is not done in any other part of Canada that I know of. 

It's not a thing in Ontario.  I've never heard of it happening here.  We are more likely to have a wishing well, but I did have the rather unpleasant experience of the bridal party putting the well at the end of the receiving line and then making sure to remind each and every guest to make their donation to the well.  I found that rather tacky.  Kind of made me want to fish out all the random garbage I had in my purse and dump it in the well as my donation.

I have no problem with the gift givers putting together a basket of stuff, but I do question what they put into it.  Sour Patch Kids and Jolly Ranchers?  Really?  They couldn't have aimed a little higher on the junk food chain?  The gift looks more like something your mom throws together to get you through exams, not something to celebrate your marriage.  Admittedly the brides were the ones who took the picture and they downplayed the better quality stuff that was also in the basket, but the gift does have a post-frat party munchies run feeling about it.  I personally have given food as a wedding gift myself.  I gave an assortment of hand made jams and jellies which I had personally picked the fruit and made.  Anybody who makes their own preserves will know how much that actually costs these days.

The brides were totally inexcusable, but the gift givers don't get an etiquette pass on this.  This is a local story for me so it's been all over the news.  Yes, this is Canada.  This IS what our radio DJs talk about on our commute to and from work.