A friend of ours was at Macy’s with her husband to pick out a wedding gift and she was appalled by what she found. The ” suggestions” in the wedding registry were outrageous. As she considered and discarded them one by one, she couldn’t help articulating what she felt sotto voce to her husband.
” Are they ever going to use this? ”
” Two hundred and fifty dollars for this? ”
” We don’t have anything like this ourselves. They have another think coming if they think we’re going to get it for them.”
All these comments were made to her husband in Gujarati, her mother tongue, and she had no idea that anyone else heard or understood them. Finally, she turned to her husband in exasperation and announced,” That does it. We’re going to give them cash.”
Unbeknownst to her, the salesman who was attending to them was a laandsman who understood every word she was saying.
As she made to leave, he quietly said in Gujarati, ” I perfectly agree with you.”
My friends were mortified but the salesman went on to say,” Sometime ago , I too was in your position. Only, I decided to buy the gift the bride wanted even though it was far too expensive and put a dent in my budget. Two years after the wedding, I visited the couple in their new home. As they were showing me around, I saw their wedding gifts, including mine, neatly stacked in a corner of the garage. They were still in their original wrapping and had not even been unwrapped. You have no idea how much it upset me. At least, if it’s a cash gift you know they will use it to buy something useful.”
Too often, bridal couples use the wedding registry as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get things they would never dream of buying for themselves. They ask for fine china ( $ 150 or more per setting), kitchen gadgets they will never use, satin sheets and other luxury items. And sometimes, the marriage falls apart even before the wedding gifts have been opened !
Some couples clearly state on the wedding invitation, ” No boxed gifts, please”, which is code for ” We’d prefer cash”. I see nothing wrong with that though I think it is crass to specify” Cash only, please”. It sounds a little too mercenary.
How much to give? Well, the prevailing custom is to give at least as much as it costs to entertain you ( and your wife) at the wedding. In other words, if the catering charges are $ 75 per person, you should fork out $ 150; if $ 100, per person, you should shell out $ 200.
However, my friend ( the one mentioned in the first paragraph) has a problem with this. The ones paying for the wedding are the parents of the bride and the groom; the ones getting the gifts are the wedding couple. There is no real connection between what was spent on the wedding and what you give as gifts. Besides, the parents too are being soaked for the most luxurious wedding they can afford ( and sometimes, even more than that).
My friend’s thinking makes sense. She goes on to add that one should give what one wants and what is appropriate for the closeness of one’s relationship to the wedding couple. I can’t fault her reasoning but acting on it is difficult. No one wants to be thought of as cheap and thus we wind up spending more than we should even if it is against our better judgment.