Dear Carolyn: My beautiful, thoughtful daughter is getting married later this year. She is paying for much of the wedding with money she has frugally tucked away.
Your thoughts on this seemingly popular new trend?
Appalled: I used to fight this myself. I will probably never come around fully on the idea of shaking down guests for cash.
But. Other cultures have had money-collection vessels at wedding receptions for ages and their societies haven’t all died off from tackiness. Meanwhile, real arguments against the “traditional” have been piling up for years. Decades.
First, the idea that couples move from their parents’ homes into their first, marital home hasn’t been a large-scale reality since I was a late-midcentury-modern kid, and even then I might have gotten that vision from movies. So even the couples who aren’t already living together already have more toasters than they have occasions to toast. Wedding guests just don’t need to build nests anymore with their — optional, always! — gifts. Unless the couple wants them to. (It is/was a lovely notion.)
Second, the idea of replacing miscellaneous accrued bachelor/ette stuff with expensive coordinated marital stuff barely got a foothold before it dawned that 1. Life phases are hardly so tidy, and it’s suffocating to treat them as such; and 2. Our attachment to stuff and stuff upgrades is killing the planet, and eventually us along with it. Which really kills the buzz of a sleek new martini set. So anyone who says no-thanks to a traditional registry or a separate set of fancy-occasion whatevers “for entertaining” is actually kind of a hero.
If you’re a collector or entertainer, of course, then have at it. We just need to uncouple life milestones from acquisition.
And that’s before, third, getting into the moral and emotional math of wealth inequality — in which guests who aren’t of means are nudged to part with high-value cash for things a couple won’t need except to maintain polite appearances for their parents. A registry can help guests know what to buy, and I’ve used some gratefully, but they’re only as good as the items are needed, wanted, reasonable.
Not to mention, fourth, especially now: Maybe we’re all poised to dust off our party sets the nanosecond it feels safe to party with other humans again, but that would be a hairpin cultural turn. We barely make it to tables for meals now, much less ones set with china.
So what are etiquette-minded wedding guests and hosts supposed to do? Give up, go cash, be grateful for the fig leaves available to those who — bless them all — can’t countenance asking for money. Mostly, they can “register” for just about everything they’d buy if someone handed them cash. Mortified parents can also spread the gospel of targeted gift cards among their judging-inclined, trend-immune friends.
Otherwise: Her wedding. Let go.
Memo to gift die-hards: Make sure it has either KNOWN value to the couple, or a receipt and no guilt-strings attached. On-trend till death do all of us part.
More from Carolyn Hax
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