Author Topic: Wedding Gift Spat- Should Cultural Traditions Be Considered in Gift Giving?  (Read 27472 times)

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siamesecat2965

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Miss Manners has this one exactly right, the couple (or their family) give the wedding they can afford and the guest gives the gift they can afford, the two are in no way related.  "Covering you plate" is not a recognized concept in etiquette.

And this is what I choose to believe is correct.  Makes life so much simpler.

I agree 100%. if it were not true, then I should not have attended any of the weddings I did in the few years after college, since I was poor as a churchmouse, and in no way would have been able to afford to give a gift equal to what "my plate" cost. What I did was give a gift that I could afford, and also that I knew my friends would like, based on their lifestyle, etc.

WillyNilly

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I would probably decline an invitation to a wedding where I was expected to cover my plate. 

I also think that if you plan on having a traditional wedding (Chinese, Croatian, etc.) that it might be a good idea to include that info in the invite.  Whether you just point out that it's going to follow the traditions of that culture or take an extra steps and include information for where someone can go to read about it.  It won't guarantee that every guest will bring something that's appropriate for the tradition, but I do think some of the responsibility is going to fall on the couple if they have specific expectations about the gifts.

I see your point, but I wouldn't do it.  How would you word it?  "The honor of your presence is requested at our traditional Croatian wedding"?  I would find that confusing, and possibly even a bit arrogant, as if their wedding were somehow more correctly traditional than other people's.  And no matter how you'd word it, it would also look to me like exactly what it really is: trying to direct gift-giving toward cash, which, like any other push toward a gift, is rude no matter what, the same as if they'd put "cash gifts requested" on the invitation.  That's my problem with the bolding: whether or not there is a traditional gift in the couple's community or culture, they are rude to ask or even hint for it unless and until asked what they'd like.  Whatever gift people give them, unless it is something the giver knew to be outright offensive, is by definition a lovely surprise.

That a polite guest tries to ascertain and, if possible, conform to what is considered appropriate in the couple's community, does not equal permission for the couple to try to push them to do so or be anything but gracious if they don't -- just like the existence of a registry does not make it rude to choose something elsewhere.  A gift is always voluntary and it is always the giver's choice, not the recipients'.

I'm with ettiquit, I'd probably decline to attend a wedding that was in a "cover your plate" culture, at least if the plate was more than I would have spent on the gift. Sorry, but I'm not going to break my budget because you want to have a very lavish party. But I also would't want to burden you with the cost of my plate if you expect to be able to recoup your costs. I'll send my regrets and a gift appropriate to our relationship.

To the bolded: I think as long as you make it about the different customs in general and don't make it about the gift expectations, it would be easy enough information to slip into an invite, especially if you put it on a a small insert instead of the invitation itself.  Even better if you can highlight a non-money/gift related tradition. "In homage to our heritage, we will be having a traditional Purple wedding, complete with a customary Purple People Eater cake wrestling ceremony."

That would mean people interested in following tradition or getting a heads up on unfamiliar customs could look into it a little further without sounding pushy. Then if those people googled traditional Purple wedding and found that wearing galoshes for the cake wrestling ceremony was recommended and that giving gifts that started with even letters was unlucky, they could plan accordingly.

I live smack dab in the middle of "cover your plate" culture - my father taught me the phrase when I was still in high school and certainly I have had friends (who obviously grew up in different households) mention the phrase as a personal code many times.

Let me please reiterate - its is not the mentality of the hosts/B&G even when they have that mentality when they are guests. I certainly did not consider whether my wedding guests "covered" the cost of hosting them. The $25 gift we received was just as appreciated as the $400 check - in fact my DH and I were rather touched by that $25 gift because we know it was a lot for that particular guest and we were really moved by his generosity; and trust me it cost a lot more then $25 per person to host our reception.

The "cover your plate" mentality carries on because it is a mentality of giving gifts, not receiving gifts. Its the giver's thought process of trying to be overly generous specifically at a wedding - the beginning of a couple's new life chapter. For example while I know countless people who believe in "cover your plate" its not a thought that extends to other formal parties like Sweet 16's, or other formal birthday parties, anniversary parties, retirement parties, welcome home or going away parties, etc. Some people might assign it to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a formal communion or confirmation party, but its less prevalent even for those. It is firmly only the thought when giving a gift and its more about thinking "what would be super awesome generous of me to give" and since its a guess as to the amount anyway, its really just a basic thought process (not  rule) of where to start thinking about numbers.

drzim

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The detail that I found interesting was that the brides claimed that "no one else gave them a gift" and implied that they were the only ones who didn't give money.  But, if they got $$$ from 200+ people,  why were the brides so adamant about getting a receipt from the gift givers?  Especially since they considered it such a "cheap" gift?  Was that extra $50 so important?  I'd be willing to bet that they actually got many gifts and that they were indeed trying to raise some money to offset a wedding they couldn't afford.

The brides were obviously the rude ones here; but looking at the picture of the basket I do agree that it looks pretty cheap.  We got several gifts of that nature for our wedding, however we wrote gracious thank you notes and then quietly disposed of the gifts.  We never said anything to the givers.






jaxsue

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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.

ITA. My family is in Canada, and judging by my experiences at Canadian weddings this couple's expectations are ridiculous.

jaxsue

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A number of years ago we attended a wedding for a work friend. The invite did not specify presentation only so I put together a movie themed gift basket with their favourite treats and a $100 gift card. Months passed, no thank you note. CW asks another in front of me if they got their thank you note and "subtly" mentions that only the people who gave"real gifts " got thank you notes. The "real gifts" were just the money gifts. I declined attending her subsequent baby showers.

That is awful! I would have loved your gift.

jaxsue

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I remember finding a book of all of the wedding presents my parents received (in 1958).  One gift, from two very elderly aunts was $4.00.  Considering how little money they had, that was a generous gift from them.

I love stories like that. I have a charming sterling silver dish that my maternal grandparents received as a wedding gift in 1922.  :)

Rohanna

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I would not have particularly cared for the gift the writer gave (I prefer to pick out my own food due to multiple food sensitivities in my family), but I would *never* have responded in the way the couple did.

I got some absolutely wonderful gifts for my wedding, some bland ones, some cheap ones, some thoughtful ones and some ummm wha? ones and a couple folk who couldn't even give a card/write a note apparently- but everyone who gave something got a thank you card. I'll admit that in person I gushed a LOT more (aka when no one else was around) to the people who were extremely generous or kind - whether it was monetarily or in effort- I still have the hand-stitched wedding cross stitch up), but I don't think that is unfair. The only person I've ever complained to about the family of 7 who RSVP'd and then decided on that day  to "go to bingo" instead, and never even sent a card, was my husband- particularly as they were well known for their bad manners at parties and *I* hadn't wanted to invite them in the first place :P I certainly never sent them any nasty emails, though my evil side wishes I could have sent a bill  >:D

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baglady

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Culture, schmulture. Tradition, schmadrition. Sorry if I sound insensitive, but in *no* culture or tradition I know of is it considered OK to castigate the givers of a gift. You say thank you. If the gift is unsuitable or disappointing, you vent to your nearest and dearest, and you give or throw away the gift... but you do *not* tell the giver that the gift was unacceptable.

People give money gifts for two reasons: They don't know the couple enough to know exactly what they might want in terms of material goods, and they know that newlyweds can always use cash to buy things they will need to start married life -- not to help them recoup the costs of throwing a wedding they couldn't afford without getting it back in the form of monetary gifts.


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Rusty

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If the brides thought their gift was "cheap and nasty" then I think it correlates nicely with their subsequent reaction to the gift.

StoutGirl

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I was absolutely appalled by the brides' behavior, though the givers were not completely golden either.

Its not just heritage culture to consider sometimes, but lifestyle and geographic area.  I come from an Upper Midwest state that is primarily rural, though I have started to embrace the "city" ways.  Bridal shower gifts are typically $30 or less, $50 if you are very lucky.  I was incredibly surprised when I read on a couple of previous posts that $100 gifts are expected at showers.  Wedding gifts around here vary greatly, and it all depends how close in relationship you are.  We do not follow the cover the plate idea (and most of the weddings that I have been to are roughly $6 a plate).  I think that the biggest aspect that dominates gift value around here is reciprocity, like considering "what have they given us or have done for us over the years?"  Over the years my family has helped out with numerous friends' and family weddings: my mom has helped with the food, made quilts as gifts gifts that were pricey and time consuming, and my dad has helped run the farms during the wedding.  Honestly, if they gave me just a $5 gift if the time came for me, I would be a little upset, though I would certainly not say anything negative and send a thank you card.   

I think that I would actually be okay with the gift that was given in the article.  The basket can always be used, and food is always good.  I must not be hard to please!   :D

TootsNYC

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I remember finding a book of all of the wedding presents my parents received (in 1958).  One gift, from two very elderly aunts was $4.00.  Considering how little money they had, that was a generous gift from them.

I love stories like this.   :)  Sometimes, it's the smallest gifts that mean the most. 

We were married 16 years ago.  My cousin, his wife and 2 kids gave us $15 from the family.  I still remember that gift because I know that it was a lot to them and honestly, I didn't expect anything from them.  I was just happy that they were able to come spend the day with us (and I live in an area where 'cover the plate' is common).


My mom insisted I send a wedding invite to my grandfather's sister. Nobody had seen or spoken to her in decades because she'd moved many states away, and travel was just not easy for them. I felt awkward, but Mom said she'd be hurt ob e ignored.

I got a really nice note and a dark-green crocheted trivet/pot holder. One of my fave presents. (And she told her brother, my gramps, about the nice thank-you note I wrote. Phenomenal PR--you can't *buy* that.)

Quote
I think that the biggest aspect that dominates gift value around here is reciprocity, like considering "what have they given us or have done for us over the years?" 

Actually, that *IS* usually what's behind the concept of expensive shower presents, or even "covering your plate." Because for people who "cover their plate," they consider that the bride and groom *ARE* doing something for them. They're providing a wonderful party to attend.

zyrs

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I remember finding a book of all of the wedding presents my parents received (in 1958).  One gift, from two very elderly aunts was $4.00.  Considering how little money they had, that was a generous gift from them.

That was over 2 hours of average salary for the time.

Twik

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I think the real problem is that the brides expected their wedding to be an "investment", with a net profit. Otherwise, even if a guest gives a gift they feel is inappropriately cheap, it can be laughed off, right? "Oh, that Frank, he'll squeeze a nickel until the beaver screams*, won't he?"

Instead, they've clearly lost sight of why they're hosting - that is, spending their own money so that their friends can be with them during a day when good feelings should be overflowing. Instead, it appears they viewed their wedding as a stage production, and one of the audience didn't pay for his ticket in full, so they're sending an invoice. This is really a terribly sad thing for them.

*This is in reference to the Canadian nickel, of course.
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Slartibartfast

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I think the real problem is that the brides expected their wedding to be an "investment", with a net profit. Otherwise, even if a guest gives a gift they feel is inappropriately cheap, it can be laughed off, right? "Oh, that Frank, he'll squeeze a nickel until the beaver screams*, won't he?"

Instead, they've clearly lost sight of why they're hosting - that is, spending their own money so that their friends can be with them during a day when good feelings should be overflowing. Instead, it appears they viewed their wedding as a stage production, and one of the audience didn't pay for his ticket in full, so they're sending an invoice. This is really a terribly sad thing for them.

*This is in reference to the Canadian nickel, of course.

Nah, the really fun ones are the couples spending their parents' money for a big bash.  Because you can't just ask your parents to give you several thousand dollars outright, but you can ask them to fund a lavish wedding and then expect your guests to pay you for the privilege of attending, right?  Then you get the money plus the big white wedding of your dreams!

(Nothing wrong with accepting your parents' help if it's offered - we did - but you still have the obligation to treat their money with the same care you'd treat your own!)

gellchom

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I believe that there are some communities/countries where very very large, lavish weddings are expected, and cash is ALWAYS the gift, and that's how they pay for the wedding.  So that's sort of "covering the plate," I guess -- it doesn't require a calculus of the amount spent on you, just a generous cash gift because it is understood that that's the way the wedding gets paid for.  Seems like it would usually end in a wash, but if that's how they do it, that's how they do it.