Monday, October 1, 2012

blah blah blah etiquette


A lot of brides email me with questions about etiquette, which I dutifully (or snarkily) answer, complete with an "etiquette" tag. But I've become increasingly frustrated with the entire notion of wedding etiquette.

We no longer live in a world where a girl lives with, and is supported by, her father and mother until she goes to live with, and be supported by, her new husband. So why is it still considered proper etiquette for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding?

And it is rarely the case that a newly married couple is setting up household together for the first time, so why do we still shower them with gifts? Couples ties themselves in knots figuring out where to register because they don't NEED ANYTHING, and guests feel obligated to buy a gift/make a fucking donation to the honeymoon fund, even though weddings are GODDAMN EXPENSIVE to attend.

Why can't we throw out all the old rules and rely instead on common sense and good manners?

Consider this question:

[M]y fiance and I always wanted a very simple affair for a wedding, nothing crazy and with only close friends and family. We currently live in a different state than where we would be saying our vows so his family would have to travel for our wedding anyway.

My mother recently asked me if I would be interested in having a destination wedding. She would of course pay for my fiance and I to fly (and the wedding) but I'm not sure if she would (or should) pay for the rest of his family to attend as well. What is the proper etiquette for these sort of things? My fiance's family is well to do on their own (is that even a factor??)...but if I decide to do a destination wedding and I know it's traditional for the bride's family to pay for it...does that mean my mom should pay for his close family to attend? 

I want to know what the proper etiquette for this sort of deal is before I nix the idea or go along with it.

Blah blah blah etiquette, amirite? Just use common sense. Can his family afford to attend? Yes. Should your mom offer to pay for them? Nah. 

But it might be good manners to cover expenses for your bridal party, depending on how well-to-do they are. And what about your other friends? Can they afford the trip? That seems to me to be the more pressing question.

xoxo,
ESB

Photo by Markus Lambert via c ktnon

43 comments:

  1. Here here! I'm a 24 year old (the Wisconsin bride) and have lived with the FH for three years- raised liberal/feministish- but now living in the south. It seems like everyone down here just ASSUMES my parents are paying for my wedding. D'UH WHAAAT?! Are we still living in 1950? My parents paid for their own weddings in the 70s and 80s, as did my sister in the early 2000s. One thing I'm learning is that there is a clear cultural divide still in the country that leads many to these types of (archaic) assumptions.
    These etiquette questions just baffle me.

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  2. Yes - and just because I agree with you so much, yes, yes!

    My biggest stressor with wedding planning wasn't anything to do with arguing with my now-husband, or details, or even money.

    It was relatives being offended by perceived slights because we didn't do things the "right" way according to etiquette.

    The worst part is they don't even agree on what proper etiquette is! Each relative had their own, slightly different, standard. My great uncle was offended that my parents' names weren't on the wedding invitation. My great aunt was miffed the shower I didn't even want included guys. Many guests were pissed that we didn't register for much because - hello - we had lived together for three years, and our kitchen is freaking tiny.

    Every couple is different, every wedding is different. As long as the couple is treating their guests with kindness, respect, and consideration, can we all just agree that "should" is dead?

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    1. This. Just. . .this!

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    2. Half of the etiquette I 'missed' I didn't know existed til people told me AFTER the wedding.

      Umm hello family members, I've never been married before... if something is important to you (etiquette or not) why not tell me about it BEFORE the wedding. I might be able to accomodate it.

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  3. Amen!

    The whole registry thing is incredibly bizarre to me. If someone really wants to give you a wedding gift, they will regardless of a list.

    I never understood bride who whined there parents were well off so they should pay for their daughter's wedding. It's there freaking money, let them do what they want with it.

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  4. I agree that there is no one "proper" way to do things, and that there isn't one person or couple who "should" pay for the wedding...but I get a little sad that everyone thinks registries are SO unnecessary and newly married couples don't "need" things. Setting up a new home together can be incredibly expensive, and a registry is simply a list of suggestions in order to avoid getting a stuck with tons of ugly things you *don't* need. People will bring you gifts regardless, because it's tradition. Might as well help out baffled guests by letting them know what you're hoping to set up with regardless. No one is saying you HAVE to use the registry.

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  5. It definitely annoys me when people assume the parents are paying.

    I was talking to a co-worker about dress shopping and that I fell in love with a dress that was more expensive than I had budgeted for. Her response was 'does that mean you have to asky Daddy for more money?' to which I replied, 'No, it means I have to pay more than I had planned to.' I'm an adult, k, thanks.

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  6. Hmmm Anon, I think the idea is that most people getting married these days already have plates and dishes and beer glasses, so it doesn't have to be so expensive. Of course this is different for people getting married just out of college or have always lived at home, but I think in general, most people have everything they need. Everything they want, that's a different story!
    If someone didn't include a registry, I would just give money. I don't know why that is so baffling. And if you receive a gift you don't want or need, return it or give it away. I don't think it has to be so hard.

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  7. Ugh... there is no 'etiquette' involved in deciding where your wedding is, or who pays for what. Etiquette is how much notice you give people about your wedding, or whether or not you invite significant others.

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  8. I feel like whenever money becomes an issue (or even when uncomfortable money-related questions enter your brain), the obvious answer is to pay for the wedding yourself. Some parents live to pay for their kid's wedding, some don't, but the only way to have the wedding you want and be in charge of it is to pay for it yourself. Obviously.

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  9. we had a destination wedding and paid for it ourselves, but even if one set of parents paid for it, you're in no way obligated to pay for people's trips. a destination wedding invite is a choice, not a mandatory death sentence. people who can't afford to travel don't attend, people who can, do. it's considerate to pick an affordable option or get group rates at hotels in the area, etc.

    also for bridal party, we waited until we knew if our friends were making the trip or not before we asked them to stand up with us to avoid them feeling obligated to attend.

    oh and please, PLEASE, plan 1 or 2 optional events in addition to your wedding. they needn't be paid for, but it's a nice gesture for people who travel around the world for your wedding to be invited to see you the day before or after your wedding. no matter how informal.

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  10. capital-E Etiquette is like esperanto: it's supposed to get us to something universal, but so few people are conversant in its weird old rules that it's constricting at best and straight-up classist at worst, if we're being honest. fuck it.

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    1. i really should have titled the post "FUCK ETIQUETTE."

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  11. I see what you mean ESB. . .but I don't want people to use common sense. I enjoy your (and your readers') opinions too much:)

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  12. Back on that registry thing... who the fuck cares!! Have a registry, don't have a registry... just do what you fucking want! Even if you have been living together for 2 years or have had your own home separately for 10 sometimes it's just damn nice to have something other than Ikea dishes to eat off of, or a really great chef's knife that didn't come from the dollar store or hell, cotton sheets that don't feel like sandpaper. Just because someone has a list does not mean people have to buy from it, and it doesn't mean you have to buy it from the store they're registered at. Some of the coolest gifts I've seen at weddings weren't registered for, but some of the most useful items have been. Lets stop shaming people for wanting nice things!! Same goes for the damn "who's paying for the wedding" question. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! You get to come and eat, drink and have a fun time...does it matter if parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or the couple paid for it? NO! (raging over being given one too many "OHHhhhh you're doing that" comments by busy body future sis-in-law)

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  13. Etiquette seems to exist today for the sole purpose of justifying greediness... The only thing I've found more distasteful than wedding etiquette is baby showers. My grown ass friends are demanding I pay for their kid's car seat and that annoying french giraffe sucky toy? Really now. I just got my own kid everything he needs. And everyone else, who feels like it and have the money, can just get him random cute whatevers because I know no one wants to buy me a breast pump.

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    1. I agree with this. I often feel like a crotchety lady because I am annoyed at having to buy burp cloths for a 30-something-year-old woman who is having a baby on purpose

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    2. I had a baby shower discussion w/ a friend of mine recently. I can understand a baby shower for the 1st kid, but not the ones following. It's exciting for some people, even me at times, if I'm close to the person having the baby (like my sisters). It came up when a mutual friend of ours found out she was pregnant with her 4th kid. The 3 boys were all over the age of 12 when she found out she was having a girl. Her friends put together a surprise party for her b/c OMG A GIRL. But really, it's helpful for a lot of people who can't afford baby things :S

      Otherwise, I dislike baby showers. A lot. I send a gift and call it a day.

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    3. Somelittlestories, it disturbs me that i sometimes forget my favorite quote about poetry or, like, to wear my underwear right-side-out, and yet i, a childfree woman, know that giraffe is called sophie.

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    4. "poetry redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man." eat shit, sophie.

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    5. I've gotta say, this doesn't strike me as being quite so cut and dry. Grown ass people having children are about to embark on something extremely expensive and intense (parenthood). As a friend of such people--none of my friends are rolling in dough, per se--I'm really happy to help them out a little bit, even though I'm in the same economic bracket. And as for weddings, I think people genuinely want to give a gift to the couple... at least I do! Saying "Fuck presents, fuck help from your parents" and so on and so forth just because you're not such an innocent flower anymore is dispiriting. A sense of community still exists out there! You might as well say, "Fuck birthdays."

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    6. @somelittlestories I'm with you on this.

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    7. Anonymous, I'm with you. I don't honestly care much about getting people wedding presents (great, I'll give you a present... for being happy?) though I do it because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But having a kid is expensive and exhausting and often isolating and a huge transition and I think it's important for people to experience support from their friends and family. Baby showers are an opportunity for people to get friends together, celebrate a little, and get some tangible support. That's *awesome*. That's also why I don't think there's anything wrong with having them after the first kid. The US has terrible support systems for people who are having kids (lots of pressure to do it, fuck-all in terms of help once you're taking the plunge) and the least we can do is try to create informal networks that make it easier. Not to mention that you def. need a bunch of new stuff for a baby, which is not specifically true about getting married.

      FWIW, I'd totally pitch in to buy a friend a breast pump. Can't afford it on my own, but happy to help.

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    8. @somelittlestories so basically what you're saying is, all "grown ass" people who are embarking on parenthood should easily be able to afford $300 car seats and $300 breast pumps... on top of all the other necessities it takes to start a young person's life, not to mention the INSANE medical bills that no-doubtedly are attached to having a baby? please tell me what kind of fantasy world you live in, because i'm dying to move in. and if these expenses were truly not such a burden for you, then why, OH WHY, are you bitching about buying a $20 giraffe??

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    9. Last time I checked, Americans choose to have children or get married, knowing full well how expensive it is before they take the plunge. I'm not a fan of showers because I think they are boring, but I do like giving gifts to new couples and parents because they are my loved ones. But I don't think people should get married/have babies expecting others to pay for things for them. And some of the crap people ask for is really just crap.

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    10. @Alycia @somelittlestories (and others) Wait wait wait.... Having a registry or participating in a baby shower (Ahem, which is generally thrown FOR you by someone else who WANTS to)... does not in any way mean you "expect" gifts or "expect" your friends/family members to share in the expense of the life plan you're making for yourself. We registered for gifts for our wedding because family members *wanted* to know what we still hadn't bought for ourselves or what our tastes were like if they felt a little out of touch... In NO way was anyone obligated to buy a gift from the registry, nor were we EVER unable to buy anything/everything from our registry for ourselves... and ... obviously, we also didn't expect a gift, period! Lots of people travelled long distances and spent a fair amount of money to celebrate our wedding -- a gift is a wonderful, thoughtful gesture, but we certainly didn't view it as an obligation. Jesus, it isn't like I registered for food stamps, people.

      Also, I kind of love that I think of a certain Aunt when I serve pasta, and a single and clueless male friend when I am baking with the gifted baking supplies he (adorably) bought us, and my bridesmaids when I'm using my hilarious neon kitchenaid mixer, etc. etc. No, we didn't need those things, and if we did of course we could have bought them ourselves, but jesus. Have a sense of occasion! Giving/receiving gifts is about love, not obligation or judging the couples' tastes as "crap" -- and if you can't wrap your head around that I guess we're living in different worlds.

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    11. What ever happened to having friends and being happy for them and wanting to get them gifts because you love them? My pal is having a baby? I want to get them something to say congrats! I don't know what babies need, so a registry is a great help. Friends getting married? Yay! Get them a gift to celebrate! These people who are all pissy about showers and babies... it's a miracle they have any friends to invite them to such things!

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    12. Kenzie, read my comment again. I love giving gifts/money to friends and family for all sorts of occasions. But I know that if I ever get married or have a baby, I will not register because I don't need anything and I don't want anyone to feel obligated to buy me anything. Because as much as we love to say it's not an obligation, when presented with a list of things someone wants, you do feel obligated.

      And come on, we both know that a lot of people register for gifts because they WANT new things. My boyfriend worked at a bank and every Sunday, a couple who was married the day before would come in with all their wedding money and open a checking account. Do you know how many times the bride (always the bride!) would call someone cheap for only giving $50 or not covering their costs of attending the wedding? A lot! And that's just greedy and pathetic and you know she was quoting etiquette! No one is saying every bride or new mom or whatever is like this, but there are a lot of greedy people out there, and sometimes they get married or have kids.

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    13. I can't argue with you there -- there will always be asshats who judge what you give them by its monetary value and who demand material items in exchange for watching them get married... and that sucks. But I don't think a registry indicates a couple is like that or has those values... And ughhh if I thought a couple did feel that way it's probably someone I'd have no problem rsvp-ing "no" to! I was just saying that, while I LOVED the thoughtful, unique gifts people bought (off registry), I also found the practical, run-of-the-mill registry items touching to receive, bc they came from people we love... and I think a lot of people feel the way I (and you) do about gifts regardless of the registry.

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  14. The problem with etiquette is that sometimes it means "not being an asshole" and sometimes it means "following pointless rules."

    In the "not being an asshole" category are questions like whether your friends can afford to get to your destination wedding, how to help your friends and family pick good gifts without making them feel like they gotta shell out, how much work it's ok to ask people to do to help make your wedding happen, how to acknowledge all the people who helped. &c &c &c. There are a lot of ways to be an asshole about a wedding, and sometimes people need help figuring out how to avoid them.

    In the "following pointless rules" category are questions like the correct format for an invitation, whose name comes first on an envelope, whose family pays for which events, whether you need printed RSVP cards, &c &c &c. The funny thing is that some of these pointless rules are total jerk moves in reality, like expecting the bride's family to pay for everything. ETIQUETTE VERSUS ETIQUETTE.

    A possibly more useful response to the original question: we had a middle-of-nowhere wedding (felt like a destination wedding, but actually like 10 miles from my partner's parents' place) and comped probably 15 people their accommodations. The nice thing is that we had some cheap lodging options ($15/night) so it didn't feel like a stretch for most people and we could help out the people who needed it. We also bought one friend a plane ticket. She was broke; we wanted her there. We let family handle their own travel and lodging, though that was easier because the family who were out of town could afford tickets.

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  15. My mom (a wedding florist) will tell anyone who will listen that she thinks we (as a culture) should give people serious housewarming showers when someone moves into their first apartment, since so many people either wait until they are established adults to get married and many NEVER GET MARRIED. I have to agree. I never mind going to baby showers because usually the parents actually need baby gear, but if I go to another wedding shower where the bride registered for X and Y simply because she wants every appliance in her kitchen to match, I'm going to scream.

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    1. YES! When I moved into my own house on my own straight from college and started to be able to afford things like a new pan, new bedsheets etc my mom constantly kept saying "why don't you just wait until you're married to get a new one of those".... 10 years later and I'm finally engaged, so glad I bought that pan when I did!

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  16. People treat weddings like they are one size fits all. My soon-to-be husband & I can afford the wedding that we want. At this point, I'd feel guilty having my parents pay for the things that I WANT (not need) at my wedding. (For the record, they've contributed time and money but out of love, not obligation.) However, if I had gotten married right out of college, I would have likely had to rely on them more heavily for financial support.

    Along those lines...I didn't have a wedding shower because we have most of what we need & I didn't want to cause people additional "obligatory" expenses on top of attending the wedding (and likely bringing a gift there). And yet the groom's family was horrified and told me that I'd be missing out. Not likely - I hate going to other people's showers so I can't imagine I'd feel any different about my own!

    Somehow, our decision to have a small wedding with close family & friends, keeping only the traditions meaningful to us, has offended his parents (i.e. mother)...in the name of etiquette and tradition. I don't begrudge people who want the fancy weddings with all the trimmings, so why can't people let me have the wedding that is right for me & my fiancé without judging?

    I guess I said all that just to come to the conclusion stated so eloquently above: FUCK ETIQUETTE.

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  17. Yeah, except that you run a wedding blog, and you usually have to know what the etiquette is before disregarding it. That shit exists for a reason, and some of it is outmoded and doesn't apply to a specific wedding...and some of it does.

    Besides, as much as you're bored wading through all the etiquette questions, maybe we're bored scrolling through all the travelogues.

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    1. This is kinda venemous but I totally agree. Travelogues= boring.

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    2. I used to agree on the Travelogues thing too...until the fiance and I started arguing about where we could possibly honeymoon to that could be fun for both of us, different, not an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean...yup, we've been referring to those travelogues a fair bit now.

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  18. it feels really good to say fuck etiquette- and thank you esb for being an outlet for that- but in reality, don't we all have a grandma or a grandpa who'd be reeeaaalllly disappointed if we didn't follow a wee bit of tradition when it comes to our weddings? i do, anyway.

    and i love them to pieces and i'm proud to say that honoring them at my wedding by following the traditions and etiquettes that were important to them was worth it in the end. yes, etiquette and tradition can be tiresome and seemingly pointless sometimes...but when they serve the purpose of making your family feel included, valued and honored- what's wrong with that?

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  19. To everyone thinking they might be judged for having baby/wedding registries:

    No one judges you for having one. Everyone just judges you for having god-awful taste.

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  20. re: 9:25 anonymous. ha! my favorite comment, maybe ever, definitely in this long ass thread. totally agree.

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  21. Gotta say, I don't agree with fck etiquette. I think etiquette is about treating people courteously, and a lot of stuff people say is etiquette, especially the greedy things, are made up and not true etiquette.
    I don't however, agree that baby showers and wedding gifts fall into the should be dropped by te way side. Historical etiquette says that registries are greedy and uncouth, but since everyone seems to want you to have one, it's nominally acceptable now. That said, I think even today, baby and wedding gifts sere a purpose, to allow guests to bleep the couple build their home. Surely some people are just plain greedy, but a lot of folks getting married that I know have plenty of forks, true, but not two matching forks. They rarely havig matching plates, or decent pans and very very few have one good knife much less a set. Maybe people who get married in their thirties are more likely to do so, but folks in their mid20's often don't. It's lovely to help them set up for married life together with a really nice chef's knife, or matching forks, which will last their whole lives together.
    And really, with regards to baby showers, who has the money for all the new things babies need? (Even after you cut out all the unneeded crap). And having a new baby, especially a first, can be such a lonely time, I think coming together to provide social and material support is important.

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  22. I'm so late to the party here, but I wanted to chime in - when we decided to elope with very little pre-planning, no registry, no showers, no bachelor party, no bachelorette, no honeymoon, no diamonds, we got a lot of shit from friends and family. We talked to everyone beforehand so no one would feel totally left out, but even with us repeating our motto of "we can do it NOW, this way, or have to wait a few years to do it the 'right' way" people really weren't happy. Quite a few people seriously wanted us to wait a few years to start our MARRIAGE just so we could afford the diamonds/big party. I just.. cannot even.. who possibly thinks that?! Put your life, your marriage on hold, so we can have the big celebration! Huh, what?

    I almost think its better or hide or lie. Don't tell anyone anything until its over. The whole "beg forgiveness, ask permission" thing. It's tough to boldly break the rules because EVERYONE has something to say about it.

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  23. Hi Guys. This was the original question-asker here. I appreciate the input and I appreciate ESB's advice. I was only concerned about etiquette because none of my friends or family have ever done a destination wedding and I just wasn't sure how to go about the whole 'money' issue in regards to THAT since talking about money is awkward enough.

    We weren't planning on having a wedding regardless (abroad or not), just a simple ceremony which is now planned to be at City Hall in SF. I think etiquette is important because some family members just get so damn offended!

    So thanks guys. Appreciate it.

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