A few weeks ago, a writer I follow on Twitter made a controversial statement. The 142 character bombshell was that she no longer gives wedding presents. Is this so incendiary? In 2017, actually yes, I think it totally is.
I got married in my 20s. My own wedding was the first wedding I’d ever actually attended. I didn’t really know what a wedding called for. I didn’t invite people to the registry office just the afters. I didn’t have a white tiered wedding cake. I didn’t do up a present register in a department store like they do in the movies and on Sex and The City. I didn’t really know what I was at, frankly. The wedding was brilliant aside from some light flooding in the tent and the fact that everyone was cross with me for not getting a tent with a real floor. In my memory, people were on the dancefloor in flood water up to their shins and the whole thing had a slightly Day After Tomorrow disaster movie vibe about it, but surely it couldn’t have been that bad?
Flooding aside, the most shocking thing about the wedding was that my friends gave us envelopes of cash as presents. I was stunned, this was bizarre. I felt weirdly awkward and guilty about taking money from my friends – all of whom, I presumed, were every bit as broke as we were.
Five years later and now I understand that envelopes of cash are completely the norm and, in fact, to not hand it over is social rebellion. Don’t believe me? After a wedding a few years ago I hadn’t brought a gift intending to give it to the couple after the party because I had bought them some stuff for the house. On the Monday after the big day, I got a call from the bride at work asking me who I’d given my envelope to. I was a bit stunned and stammered out that I had the gift wrapped and ready to go and that I would be delivering it post haste. Gift procrastinating is evidently not remotely acceptable.
The wisdom behind the cash gift as I understand it, is basically to pay for your dinner, which is fine however lately, I attended a cousin’s wedding and was thrown into a bit of internal turmoil because my husband was staying home to mind the kids and I would be going alone. My turmoil was born out of not knowing how much to give. I was going solo so did that mean that I was “paying” for just one dinner? Or because I live in a double income household, do I still give the ‘couples’ amount?
It seems like a really petty mercenary concern, in light of the fact that we’re supposed to be celebrating the union of two people in love. However, the reality for a lot of people, I feel, is that weddings are becoming almost prohibitively expensive to attend. Let’s do the sums. €200 for gift; €200 for the (often necessary) overnight stays and travels expenses and €200 for the hen party, that’s €600 without even factoring in a babysitter, shelling out for a new dress or the various pre-wedding personal admin (hair, nails, tans if you go for that kind of thing). Times that by a conservative three weddings to attend per Summer and that is nearly €2000. A LOT basically.
I’ve had to start declining invitations due to the cost, which is kind of a sad state of affairs but with two kids and a mortgage, it’s the truth. And I’m not blaming the bride and groom, I know that they’re not trying to scrounge money off their friends and relatives, they’re just trying to have a nice celebration. But let’s be real here, I just feel we need a societal shift away from big weddings, big dresses and big MOOLAH.