Thursday, June 13, 2013

The wedding present backlash

So apparently there's this new trend where people write articles and blog posts decrying the outdated, old-fashioned, selfish, terrible, horrible, no good and very bad practice of not just giving gifts at a wedding but also of brides- and grooms-to-be of having the audacity to ask for presents.
(I'm sure there are more examples out there. These are the two I came across today that prompted this post.)

Because anyone getting married is a selfish jerk who should not at all expect anything from their guests. And I get it; we're asking our guests to travel for our wedding and possibly book a hotel room and those costs add up. But because our invitations do not state "GIFT MANDATORY YOU UNGRATEFUL BUM", we're okay with how we've arranged the logistics.

I'll be honest, I could have done without a gift registry. When the Beau and I set up house last October, we combined two full households. Do you know what we bought for our three-bedroom home? A bed frame, an IKEA closet (but only because our master bedroom closet was tres petite) and two couches. THAT'S IT. We already had, between us, enough furniture to furnish said three bedrooms (add: one bed frame and one closet); most of the main floor living room (add: the two couches); the dining room; the kitchen (gadgets, not furniture, but still); the basement living room; the basement den; the basement kitchen (yay storage!); the front entryway; and this interesting space we have in our dining room/kitchen that nicely accommodates our buffet and another storage cabinet and also holds one of our two desks that we use as an extra table for big family dinners.

Plus, we have bath towels, tea towels, dish cloths, flatware, stemware, dishes, a coffee maker (as well as a much-loved Keurig, which was a housewarming gift), place mats, table cloths, an iron and ironing board and all the small appliances a person could need. (Except a food processor, but we've purposely put off buying one of those so we could put it on the registry.)

I'm not trying to brag about how much we have, but instead make the point that when someone makes the argument that gift giving is outdated because it's no longer about young'uns leaving their parents' house for the matrimonial home and needing everything to set up house, I can understand the argument. When it comes to giving a gift at a wedding, it's not about "What lovely thing can I pick out for the couple that they will need and love and appreciate for years to come?" but instead "They have everything. What's the point in buying something for them?"

This, of course, is where the wedding registry comes in handy, yet many hate on it as well. Because the Beau and I have so much that we need, we made the decision to build our registry around the few things we don't have (like the food processor); one high-end item that we're honestly not expecting anyone to buy but we wanted to give the option (erm, Le Creuset); and items that will replace old/mismatched/worn out items we currently have (like new, matching coffee mugs and a full dinnerware set for 12). We also registered at Mountain Equipment Co-op as we enjoy the outdoors and could use a few more things. And I know some people who don't like registries and who would rather buy a gift they like and think the couple will like. This is fine, but I view registries as a list of what the couple wants and will use, which to me is much more practical to shop from. And since we've included some pretty things on our registry, guests can buy items that aren't just utilitarian.

I think we did alright with our registry and we were very aware of how much things cost and that we should give our guests a wide range of options to fit all budgets. And if someone doesn't give us a gift? No biggie - that guest will still get a thank-you card because that guest celebrated with us and that's what matters.

So why did we bother with the registry? I think it's about the generational divide more than anything. Guests from our parents' generation were very keen on us creating a registry so they would be able to buy us something that we wanted, rather than just give us an impersonal cash gift. Of course, some will prefer to give cash. Some will prefer to pool resources and give one gift on behalf of several couples/families. And some will give us a card and leave it at that. But it's okay because all options are wonderful and fantastic and completely acceptable.

So were did the backlash against giving wedding gifts (and wedding registries in general) come from? This is all just my opinion, as I haven't researched anything and don't have any data to back up my thoughts, but I wonder if it comes from engaged couples who have everything building a registry of more expensive items that they wouldn't normally buy for themselves but are better to give as gifts. Or maybe it comes from the brazen couples who specify cash amounts to give in lieu of gifts (a practice I consider rather gauche). Or perhaps it's simply a general backlash against the wedding industry, one that is growing and constantly demanding more and more from couples (engagement party! bachelor party! bachelorette party! stag and doe! bridal showers! rehearsal dinner! post-wedding brunch/lunch/something!) and their guest list.

Then, of course, there's the etiquette that says a guest should spend as much on a wedding gift as the couple has spent on the food/drink for said guest. I think this is a great starting point, but again, it's up to each guest how much to spend.

One thing I did wish was available when we were registering was the ability to register for events. Because we're watching our costs with the wedding planning, we're not going out as much and gift cards for dinners out, a night at the movies, theatre or museum tickets or a fancy food store would be awesome. (Perhaps this should be a new business venture...?) But even though we didn't find that, we found what works for us and we're going to share that with our guests. How they use that information is completely up to them.

When it comes to my own wedding, I view it in two ways: firstly, as a legal ceremony to officially make me and the Beau husband and wife and secondly, a celebration of this awesome new legality. He and I both want to make it a fun and fantastic experience for our guests. Anything on top of that is a wonderful bonus.

The bottom line: buy a gift if you want to. That is your right and regardless of your decision, you should expect a thank-you card. (I feel skipping the thank-you card is a bigger faux pas than skipping the gift, but maybe that's just me.) Of course, each couple will react differently to guests who don't gift and that this their right. But don't be angry because two people decided to make a list of what they want and told you where you can buy it. Go to the wedding, have fun celebrating your friends/family/work buddy/acquaintance nuptials and be sure to tell the bride she looks beautiful.

And if you're at my wedding, expect a thank-you card. (I'm really keen on those.)

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