EtiquetteFilter: What do you do when someone refuses your wedding present?
August 14, 2005 4:07 AM   Subscribe

My sister recently refused my wedding present on the grounds that I'm a cheapskate. She wants another one. What should I do?

My sister recently got married and I was stumped about what to give her for a wedding present. A friend of mine who got married last year made a fabulous DVD slideshow presentation synchronized to music of his wedding, and since I've been learning to make DVDs under Linux, I thought such a thing would make a great present from the heart for my sister. I estimated it would take me up to 100 hours to scan the photos, learn the software, pick the music, and make the presentation, but (I thought) it would be unique. When I offered to make it to my sister, though, she was horrified and called me a cheapskate. She asked for another, more expensive present instead -- not any particular present, just one that costs more. I'd like her to have a wedding present that she likes, but I don't know what Ye Bigge Booke of Etiquette says on this. My wife is of the opinion that there is no standard answer, but I think there's got to be. Surely this has come up before. URLs, anyone? (BTW, there are complicating factors such as my sister's claim it would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to send me copies of her wedding photos, and the fact that I'm out of work and have already spent $700 on airfare and a tuxedo, etc. for her wedding, but these are details.)
posted by rwhe to Human Relations (74 answers total)
Your sister sounds like she needs the book on etiquette, not you.
posted by trey at 4:10 AM on August 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'd tell her to shove her fist up her butt. That's the height of rudeness. One must always accept a present gracefully, unless it was obviously given to cause offense. Your single mistake here was asking if she would like you to do it, rather than just doing it and presenting it. It was a good idea, but she clearly didn't understand it.

My advice? Come clean with what you think, what your rationale was, and what your situation is. If she doesn't understand or sympathize with that, she's not the sort of person you should be buying gifts for. In reality, though, I imagine she's just stressed about the expense of the wedding, and will be horrified to have caused you such offense.
posted by wackybrit at 4:26 AM on August 14, 2005

Wow. The best presents come from the heart. Presents which have taken time and effort are the best of all. I'd get her the same gift and hope one day she realises. You could add gift tokens if you need to up the "value". Or you could get her gift tokens full stop since she doesn't seem to appreciate gifts that have taken thought.

I'm very sorry, rwhe -- this would *really* upset me.
posted by nthdegx at 4:37 AM on August 14, 2005

I think you should get another sister.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:48 AM on August 14, 2005

I'd get her a DVD player to play the disc in.

And a kick in the ass.
posted by sebas at 4:51 AM on August 14, 2005

Two word answer, second word 'off'.
posted by holgate at 4:54 AM on August 14, 2005

Your sister is the cheapskate here, in that she can't find the generosity to accept your gift, no matter what it is. Give her a clock, and forget about it.

rwhe had to tell his sister about the gift, because he needed her photos to make it. So it wasn't really a mistake.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:55 AM on August 14, 2005

I think I agree with your wife. There's no overriding rule here I would think. These things depend on the nature of your relationship with your sister. What does her husband say? If $$ really is a big factor I would try talking to her again and involve the hubby if he's sympathetic. Otherwise it depends on how much you rate appeasing your sister/getting into debt. I somehow think I'd avoid the Rhomboid/holgate helpful advice however.
posted by peacay at 5:04 AM on August 14, 2005

To paraphrase a line I heard in some obscure movie, "If I had a sister like that, I'd kill my mother." :(

Man, I can't express how annoyed I felt reading that. Here you are, putting your heart into something, and she wants something "more expensive"? Perhaps a tool to extract the pole up her arse might be useful.

Bah, get her a couple of books or something.

And what Rhomboid said.
posted by madman at 5:16 AM on August 14, 2005

The nature of a gift is that it is something someone *chose* to give you without prompting- didn't anyone ever tell your sister it's the *thought* that counts? That she would demand a more expensive gift when you're out of work, she's obviously only concerned with what she can get, not with people's sentiments.

In any case, I'd buy her a picture frame, put a nice photo of her in it, and be done. There. now she has something tangible, and you aren't out a lot of time or money.
posted by headspace at 5:23 AM on August 14, 2005

trey called it: Get her an etiquette book.

Write a really nice note to the extent of, "...after our discussion, this was the first gift that came to mind. Hope you enjoy...."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:28 AM on August 14, 2005

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated has a whole section on "Wedding Presents" that starts on page 431 (use Amazon's search within this book feature if you want to sample). You might want to bookmark this section before giving it to her.

Man, I'd just love it if someone made something that thoughtful and creative for me. Your sister is an ingrate.
posted by grouse at 5:51 AM on August 14, 2005

The sentence that struck me: you're out of work. Perhaps your sister doesn't grok that? What would your time be worth, times 100? Way more than a clock. Go get an estimate to have it done by someone else and tell her how much she would have to pay. Gently. At least several hundred bucks is my guess.

For what it's worth, a few years ago I aggregated every old childhood picture I could find of my siblings (by hunting in my parents' collections), scanned about 450 pictures and put them into a Quicktime slideshow on a CD. It took about 30-40 hours of work. And when I sent it to my siblings they were thrilled to have it. Maybe she is unlcear on the concept. It's a lovely gift idea.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:51 AM on August 14, 2005

Your sister's claim about the cost of copies of the wedding photos may be true; if she had professional photos done, it can be quite pricy to get additional prints.

It sounds almost as if she assumed that you were asking her to drop a bunch of cash on copies in order to get her present, which of course you didn't intend to do. But she responded very badly; she could have thanked you for the thought and warned you about the cost of the copies, in the spirit of friendly warning, or reminded you that your presence on her happy day was all the gift she needed, or any number of other classy things, instead of heaping scorn upon your intended gesture and then ACTUALLY GIVING YOU A PRICE RANGE for a GIFT YOU ARE GIVING, which is the height of rudeness and makes me shudder.

From the benefit-of-the-doubt standpoint, I would hope that she is stressed and misunderstood you to be asking her to pay for a pricy set of photo copies on top of the expense of her wedding. But you are under no obligation to follow her guidelines as to cost; just give her something you think she'll like, if you still feel like giving a gift at all. In this case, I would be tempted to write a lovely letter detailing all the intangible -- even priceless! -- ways in which she and her husband are charming and valuable to you, and leave it at that.

As far as I know, there are no specific guidelines about wedding gifts. Since they are supposed to be from the heart, and all that, most etiquette mavens refrain from price guidelines. I have heard of an equation where each guest gives a gift roughly equal to the per-person cost of the wedding, but this seems crass and mercenary and also makes me shudder. (Not to mention, how are you as a guest supposed to predict how much it will cost to host you? It makes no sense.) Aside from this spurious advice, I really think there are no set guidelines for you. Sorry!
posted by hilatron at 6:00 AM on August 14, 2005

Wow, I would never actually do this, but I'd think about just giving her a card with the url to this thread inside. Notice I said think. And speaking as a girl, let me just say that I'd LOVE to get a gift like this. :)

Maybe she doesn't realize exactly the situation you're in? Or if she does, she's never been there so she doesn't fully understand what it's like to be there? I've had a couple close friends get married this summer, so I totally hear you on the strain that this can take on your wallet before the wedding gift even comes into play. Honestly, sometimes the bride is so caught up in the planning and everything that she just doesn't realize that attending a wedding can require some serious finanacial planning for the guests too.

Or, maybe she's just a selfish, spoiled brat who doesn't deserve such a great gift. I don't know.

Seriously talk to her, and make sure she realizes the thought process behind the gift and just how long you were going to spend putting this gift together - any old schmuck can go to the drugstore, buy a card, and then go online and buy something off the registry. That would take about 2 minutes and absolutely no thought at all. Try explaining to her that you can't afford an "expensive" gift right now (expensive in terms of dollars), what with all the other expenses you're shelling out to be there for her. Let her know that you though it would be a great gift, "from the heart" (like you said above), and if she still demands a more "expensive" gift, do what trey said and get her an etiquitte book, with NotMyselfRighNow's note. Technically, it's more expensive in terms of dollars. Make sure to wrap it in a nice big box too.
posted by AlisonM at 6:08 AM on August 14, 2005

Just an option - spend $100 on a gift and then forget the whole situation. Her response to you was completely obnoxious, but she'll be your sister forever. What's best for your relationship with her may be for you to be the bigger person, even if she was completely wrong.
posted by kdern at 6:12 AM on August 14, 2005

As someone who comes from a difficult family, I think that the only think you can do is to accept your sister is the way she is, and then decide what kind of repurcussions you want this behavior to have on your relationship with her. You can't change people, you can only change your reactions to them. If you want to escalate things further, get her an etiquette book or nothing at all. Otherwise just get her something that she would like and that costs whatever you feel comfortable with spending and be done with it.

The problem with applying etiquette to a situation like this is that it's the height of rudeness to point out to someone else that they're not following the rules correctly. Your sister was wrong but there's not a damn thing you can do about it - short of pointing out to her how her response to your offer made you feel, and trying to open up a dialog about it. If you think this could have a positive outcome, then by all means try it, but if not then all you can really do is just let it go.

While your sister was completely in the wrong to ask for an "expensive present", I can also see from her side that you were asking her to put money and effort into the present you were making for her, and she does have every right to say no to this request. Also, if it seemed to her that you were using her wedding as an excuse to practice your DVD-making skills - i.e. pleasing yourself without thinking of what she might like, I could see how she might be hurt by this. Please note that I'm not saying she's right to think that, just taking a guess at where she might be coming from.
posted by hazyjane at 6:13 AM on August 14, 2005

You were right. Your sister was wrong.

Now the question is would you rather be right or have a good relationship with your sister?

If this is an isolated incident, I'd get her the more expensive present and just let the issue drop. The other route has the potential for developing into a life-long feud.

If it's part of a pattern, then addressing it separately from the pattern of behaviour isn't really beneficial.
posted by winston at 6:21 AM on August 14, 2005

I agree with kdern and winston- she's your sister. Yes, it was incredibly tacky of her. Yes, you have every right to give her whatever you want/tell her off/give her nothing. But is your relationship with your sister worth being right in this situation? It was a very nice offer you made, but she said no. I firmly believe that if you offer or ask something, you should be fully prepared to deal with a "no". So she said no to your idea. That's not so bad. Are you really going enter a stubbornness competition with her just to do what you want to do?

I would suggest going ahead and getting her a present that would be "acceptable". You wanted to do something nice and sweet and fun. She refused- her loss. Please don't turn this into a situation in which you would lose as well just to be right.
posted by wallaby at 6:25 AM on August 14, 2005

I completely reject the notion that you "can't change people, you can only change your reaction to them." This is a rude and unacceptable way to behave -- would you rather placate your sister who has been rewarded for her boorish behavior or would you rather have a sister whose company and behavior you enjoy?
posted by trey at 6:30 AM on August 14, 2005

Fifthing, or whatever we're up to, the advice not to give a vengeful present (my suggestion of the letter was a bit sarcastic, although if you can write one without a hint of irony or "teaching her a lesson" I still think it would make a lovely gift).

I would try my best to shop for a gift as though the DVD slideshow, and any price guidelines, had never been mentioned at all. Get her something you hope she'll like, and within your budget - those are your only obligations when looking for a gift.
posted by hilatron at 6:36 AM on August 14, 2005

I completely reject the notion that you "can't change people, you can only change your reaction to them." This is a rude and unacceptable way to behave ...

Turning the other cheek is rude? Who'd have thought it?

or would you rather have a sister whose company and behavior you enjoy?

I'd like a sister whose company and behavior I enjoy, please. Where do I sign up?
posted by hazyjane at 6:42 AM on August 14, 2005

IIRC, the traditional gift in these circumstances is a beautifully wrapped lump of coal.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 AM on August 14, 2005

Buy her a pedigree cow, possibly a livestock-show-winner. Have it delivered while she's out at work.

Or $100-worth of pencils.

Actually if it's just the monetary value, you should probably get her a book-token
posted by Grangousier at 7:05 AM on August 14, 2005

But is your relationship with your sister worth being right in this situation?

What "relationship"? How close can the relationship be if she's treating him in this way? The only reason I'm not joining the majority here in calling the sister names is that she's probably suffering from bridal psychosis and this may not reflect her true nature, but it's still unbelievably shitty behavior. To tell an unemployed brother "I want a more expensive present"... well, I can only hope she'll feel appropriately guilty and remorseful eventually.

As to your course of action, I certainly wouldn't take the low road and get her a grudge present (and an etiquette book falls into that category), but I also wouldn't break the bank in the (probably futile) hope of pleasing her. Get her a present you can afford and think she'll like, maybe explain it's what you could afford if you think she hasn't grasped the situation, and hope for the best.

And make liberal use of the booze table at the wedding. You'll need it.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 AM on August 14, 2005

Oops, in my indignation I overlooked the fact that the wedding has already taken place. Well, have a drink anyway. What the hell.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on August 14, 2005

1. If she's registered, get her an item from the gift registry that you can easily afford.
2. Don't ask her for copies of the professional photos. that will be a pain in the butt for her, and expensive.
3. Get as many digital photos as you can from friends and family at the wedding, and make her a little slideshow as you intended. If you want to spend 100 hours on it educating yourself, that's great, but you could also do this on a borrowed Mac in a couple of hours.

Your sister may be stressed out and possibly rude, but I agree with those who say that it's better not to call her on her rudeness right now. Better to preserve the relationship.
posted by alms at 7:10 AM on August 14, 2005

I'm sympathetic to "bridal psychosis," but it doesn't grant unlimited leeway; and I don't think it covers this behavior. Your sister's behavior utterly lacks class -- and if we're talking about a younger sister, I think you have a degree of older-sibling responsibility to tell her.
posted by cribcage at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2005

Turning the other cheek is rude? Who'd have thought it?

or would you rather have a sister whose company and behavior you enjoy?

I'd like a sister whose company and behavior I enjoy, please. Where do I sign up?
posted by hazyjane at 6:42 AM PST on August 14 [!]

No, I was saying the sister's behavior is rude and unacceptable, not the decision to ignore it (although I do find the notion of ignoring such terrible behavior pretty unacceptable).
posted by trey at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2005

According to Emily Post, there is no rule regarding the amount of money one should spend on a gift.
posted by Serena at 7:41 AM on August 14, 2005

I'm so sorry she was so ungrateful. That is really bad behavior on her part. Is this typical behavior for her? Or has she gone temporarily bridezilla on you? If it's the latter. Wait a while and approach it when she's a little less stressed out. If this is her normal behavior, send her a $50 registry gift and start to accept the fact that just because she's family doesn't mean you have to have a close relationship with her. I think your suggestion was a wonderful one.
posted by abbyladybug at 7:42 AM on August 14, 2005

I would return the tux and airfare and send that money to your sister. It's obviously more important to her.
posted by dobbs at 8:05 AM on August 14, 2005

When I read the first part of the question, I was as indignant as everyone else here. But upon reading the [more inside], I felt quite a bit differently. She did not refuse your wedding present. You came up with an idea for a present, and you asked her what she thought of the idea, and she gave an honest answer. There is a world of difference between doing what she did and refusing to accept the gift once it had actually been presented to her.

When you asked your sister what she thought (note your own use of the word 'offered' did not tell her you were working on the project, you asked her whether you should), you were giving her permission to answer.

Now, here's how she probably saw the situation: She has not been spending much time lately thinking about your lack of employment, or how long it takes to make DVDs in Linux. She's been thinking about her upcoming wedding. That does not make her a bad person, it makes her normal. Then her brother comes along and asks if it would be okay if, instead of getting her any of the things that she has asked for (assuming she has a registry), or any other conventional gift (whether she has a registry or not), he should begin a long, difficult project, involving software that he doesn't know how to use, and photos that she will provide at her own expense (hint, hint: a lot of money is already being spent on wedding photos; maybe she's happy with the arrangements for immoralizing the occasion that have already been made).

Of course she said no. Thank god you have a sister who will tell you the truth.

You (and many who have answered above) are acting as if you went to her and said 'I can't afford an expensive present; will our lifelong friendship stay intact if I buy you an inexpensive one?' and that she replied 'No, the cost of my love is an expensive present.' But be honest with yourself. That is not even close to what happened.

I think you should go back to her and say: "Look...that whole DVD idea. Here's what that was really about. I'm broke, and my sister is getting married, and I don't know what to do. I love you and I want to give you something meaningful, but I can't afford anything that I think would be appropriate. I'm sorry." Do not, by the way, ask her to come up with an idea. That's not her job, and she doesn't need the stress. Maybe she'll tell you to buy her something cheap. Maybe she'll tell you to just show up. Maybe she'll tell you to save up and buy her something expensive when you can afford it. And, okay, maybe she'll tell you that you are obligated to produce cash from thin air and pay for her first baby crib. And if she does that, then fine, she's a bitch. But I don't think she will. And the least wedding present you can give her is the benefit of the fucking doubt.
posted by bingo at 8:14 AM on August 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree with others that her rejection of your gift was extraordinarily unkind.

The action you need to take, I think, is predicated on a key fact that you left out of your response: what her personality and attitude is towards you normally.

Does she normally act this way? If so, I would simply give her a gift she asks for, within her means, and then simply live my life without her as best I could, finding closer relationships elsewhere.

If she doesn't act this way normally, is she the kind of person that is amenable to an explanatory approach as described above? I can understand the comment regarding obtaining copies of the prints (since many photographers retain copyright over their prints of your very own wedding, and charge you an arm and a leg to get them), but the cheapskate remark was entirely uncalled for.

I suppose the best advice I can simply give you is this: chart your own course on this. Do what you can out of a sense of responsibility and propriety, but know from the overwhelming response in this thread that her reaction was uncalled for, and take comfort in that.
posted by WCityMike at 8:14 AM on August 14, 2005

She doesn't like your thoughtful choice? Don't get her anything at all.
posted by elisabeth r at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2005

When I read the first part of the question, I was as indignant as everyone else here. But upon reading the [more inside], I felt quite a bit differently. She did not refuse your wedding present. You came up with an idea for a present, and you asked her what she thought of the idea, and she gave an honest answer. There is a world of difference between doing what she did and refusing to accept the gift once it had actually been presented to her.

Did you miss the part where she called him a *cheapskate*? It's all fine and good to give someone the benefit of the doubt on motivation when you don't know what it is, but in this case, it seems the sister was quite clear when she bandied about words like cheapskate and expensive.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:47 AM on August 14, 2005

What do your parents think about this?

I wouldn't get her a grudge present either, although she definitely needs an etiquette education. You do have to live with her and many people find their siblings, even obnoxious ones, becoming more and more important in their lives as they get older and their parents pass on. A simple traditional gift within your means is probably best as has been frequently suggested. It would not be wrong, however, to let her know that you were hurt by the cheapskate remark and you found it a bit rude of her to say this.

My first thought was get the pictures from your parents or someone else and do it anyway, but who would want to put the effort into the project after that kind of rejection and despite her rudeness you might as well get her something she wants. [There is also a slight copyright issue, not that anyone but the photographer would really care.]
posted by caddis at 9:04 AM on August 14, 2005

I can see the thrill in getting her a turd wrapped in a 100 dollar bill, but agree that two jerkocities does not make a right.

Instead, consider a nice big (antique?) picture frame that you could give, pre-loaded with pictures from the wedding and their relationship. That way you can compromise on your gifts. She gets something up in the dollar scale, you get something up in the thoughtfulness.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:20 AM on August 14, 2005

Your gift idea was thoughtful and generous. Copies of the wedding photos could easily get very pricy (absurdly so), but that's no excuse to demand a "more expensive" gift, just a different one.

This situation is just sad. Gifts are supposed to be appreciated because there is thought behind them, not because somebody is doing your shopping for you.

My gift to her would be to show up at the wedding, be polite, and let her have her day. That's it.
posted by mosch at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2005

Make sure you put this thread's URL in the video. Your sister needs the gift of a cluehammer.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2005

Turn your sister in to Etiquette Hell. You can vent all about it anonymously there; it's kind of gratifying.

Then I would buy your sister a gift certificate to the store where she's registered in a denomination you can afford.

Whether this strains or breaks your relationship with your sister is up to you. Sometimes people do utterly tacky, hurtful and obnoxious things but you forgive them for it because you love them.
posted by Sully6 at 9:59 AM on August 14, 2005

For all who are giving sister the benefit of the doubt based in part on expense to her in making copies of her pictures - She doesn't need to make copies for rwhe's project to be done. She just needs to loan the ones she's got.

I think "ingrate" is the most civil term that describes her attitude.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:11 AM on August 14, 2005

* getting married in 3 weeks *

bingo, your contrary analysis is solid, but one thing doesn't wash. I, too, would tell someone to save their time and energy if they really wanted to make a DVD slideshow. But that's because it's a gift that's too expensive, not one that's too cheap. The 100 hours of labor pales in comparison to the five seconds of enjoyment I would get out of something like that. A lot of people would find such a thing tacky, and, since it involves additional labor on the part of the married people, it's likely not an offer that I would ever follow through on.

The reaction, however - get me something more expensive - is a thought process that disregards the relationship between effort and money. It's rude, yes, but it's also an unredeemable character flaw. My advice would be to get her nothing, not to stick it to her, but because according to the prevailing value system, nothing would be a more valuable present than that which you offered to get her.

Etiquette is all about conformity, anyway, so the advice you get from Miss Manners is that which is targeted at the generic populace, not the freak elements that seem to exist in your family. All bets are off here, and as others have indicated, the only thing that matters now is what kind of relationship you want to have with your sister. Personally, I wouldn't stick around a family that required a $100 ante at every get-together.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:19 AM on August 14, 2005

BTW, asking the recipient if he/she approves of your potential gift to him/her is usually a bad idea -- for exactly all the reasons people have mentioned here. You should either:

a) get something you're absolutely sure will be appreciated
b) take a risk with your "experimental" gift and just accept that the other person may or may not like it.
posted by randomstriker at 10:22 AM on August 14, 2005

Send her a big pile of monopoly money.
posted by matildaben at 10:22 AM on August 14, 2005

^ "disregards the relationship between effort, money, and value."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:23 AM on August 14, 2005

The etiquette answer is: graciousness, both on her side and yours.

On her side, she needs a good swift kick. What utter rudeness!

On your side, she doesn't like the idea of your gift, so don't give it to her.

But that last item comes with a proviso...don't send her one at all. You've given the gift of attendance, with the $700 airfare and tuxedo, while you are out of work. Make sure she knows this, and why nothing more will be forthcoming.

You want a good relationship with your sister, you say? Coddling a spoiled brat isn't a good relationship. Teaching her the value of honesty (and reality) might be a way to found one.

Now...the less unemotional answer: Smack her bitchy f-ing face, kick her down a well, and don't pull her up until she's soiled her bloody wedding dress.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:44 AM on August 14, 2005

They don't live near each other. It's doubtful that Sis wants to chance snail mailing him the only copies of her wedding photographs that she has, which would explain the need to buy another set.
posted by iconomy at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2005

For a wedding, multiply the cost per guest times the number of people you're bringing times 2. That's the standard - unless of course she told you how great it would be to have a custom DVD made and ta heck with the money.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2005

Your sister, unfortunately, seems to think she's owed something here. She's either forgotten or never knew that gifts by their very nature are optional. If she thought the effort on her part for you to make the DVD would be too much, she should have said so properly—something like "That's a very touching idea, but I just don't think I'll have the time to do my end of it."

She is being completely ungracious. I suggest you go to the wedding to show your sister you love her, and pick out a nice Hallmark card as her present. She doesn't even deserve that, really, after the way she's acted, but that way she'll know that your present didn't accidentally go missing.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:30 AM on August 14, 2005

For anyone who thinks that gifts are 'optional' at a wedding...technically, you're right, you cheap bastard.
posted by nj_subgenius at 11:55 AM on August 14, 2005

Give her 3 deep fryers, all wrapped up in the same huge box. Be sure to include the receipt, highlighting the total cost, stuck somewhere obvious (I'd throw it inside the gift card). You'll make the point of how money isn't everything without giving her cause to insult you, and you may even give her the opportunity to ask "Why?"

At which point you could nicely explain to her that you followed her advice and bought things based only on their monetary value. Let her know she can either keep two of them in storage or sell them for money. I'd also let her know that future gifts will be this ridiculous as long as her fixation on monetary value over their personal value for gifsts continues.
posted by shepd at 12:04 PM on August 14, 2005

I'd just like to point out (as several answers seem to miss this point) that the wedding has already happened, and rwhe already spent $700 on the tux and airfare to attend.

My personal advice is to not do anything for a little while. I know that the old saw saying "you have a year to give a gift after a wedding" is largely discredited, but I do still think you should take a ilttle time (a couple of months?) to sleep on this. As others have pointed out, much of this hinges on the relationship you have with your sister in general (has it mostly been good, bad, or indifferent?), the behavior she exhibits outside the realm of possible bridal psychosis (is she always a demanding, self-centered, greedy diva? Or is this actually a significant deviation from her usual behavior/personality), and what kind of relationship you'd like to have with her in the future (because this is the kind of thing that has the potential with some people to turn into a deep, long-standing grudge).

When the dust settles, she may approach you and apologize for her behavior; alternatively, she may coldly demand to know where her expensive gift it. She may also say nothing, either out of embarrassment or resentment. None of these options is under your control. The thing to do (imo) in a couple of months is to check in to see how you feel. Maybe you'll feel pretty coolly towards her -- after all, you made an extremely kind, heartfelt offer that was rejected (made more hurtful under the circumstances of you being out of work), so perhaps you'll genuinely feel that you don't want to give her anything else. I believe that's a perfectly legitimate decision -- though best made not in the heat of the moment but rather after a little time and reflection.

On the other hand, you may still feel in a few months that you genuinely would like to give another gift to your sister (and new brother-in-law). That's fine too. Think of what she (and he) would like to receive. Obviously, she doesn't seem to care much for the kind of gift that you (and plenty of us here) find meaningful, so that kind of means you're going to be in the realm of going off the registry (assuming she has one still open at that point) or something related. Fine. I think you are pretty free to ignore her exhortation of "expensive" (what does that mean, anyway? $100? $500?) and get her something nice that fits your budget. Maybe a picture frame (antique, crystal, or silver) for her wedding portrait? Whatever. The point is, if you want to give her something because of a genuine desire to give (and not because she or anyone else in your family is demanding it), then pick out something that's her style but won't break the bank. That way, her needs are being met, as are yours.

Ultimately, you can see her rudeness in a couple of different contexts that may ultimately help you shake off this sad experience. Either it's a one-time snit, and you can take comfort in the fact that it doesn't really reflect on your sister's essential nature; or it's indicative of a more fundamental lack of manners and compassion on her part, and you can take comfort in the fact that you're a kinder person than that.
posted by scody at 12:06 PM on August 14, 2005

My suggestion is simple. Send her a lovely card which reads, however you choose to phrase it: "I.O.U one wedding gift, pending employment on my part." It makes your position clear. Of course you do have to follow through on it, at some point.
posted by cm at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2005

You know, the worst part about it is that, even if she begrudgingly changes her mind ("Oh, OK, fine. Make me the DVD, then.") you're really going to have a hard time finding the will to complete the 100-hour effort required, knowing now how she really feels about it.

If I were you, I'd get a pricey but absolutely useless, completely uninspired present, like a crystal paperweight or something. Clearly her priorities are skewed towards that which is shiny and expensive.

When she asks you how much it cost, tell her "approximately the affection of a sibling."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:44 PM on August 14, 2005

I am not a professional photographer, but perhaps semi-pro might be a good description. And it seems almost odd that photos at such an important event where not taken digitally. In which case mailing a cd or two would have cut mailing costs way down.

I would say a mixture of the above advice is appropriate, a token gift with an explanation of the thought process behind the original offer.
posted by edgeways at 1:54 PM on August 14, 2005

Then her brother comes along and asks if it would be okay if...he should begin a long, difficult project, involving software that he doesn't know how to use, and photos that she will provide at her own expense...

bingo's got a point here, folks. This was *not* a great idea for a present, given the situation. The difference between rwhe's situation and that of his friend is that his friend made *his own* DVD of *his own* wedding pictures. Asking someone to loan you copies of their recent wedding pix seems like a lot to ask.

iconomy: It's doubtful that Sis wants to chance snail mailing him the only copies of her wedding photographs that she has, which would explain the need to buy another set.

Exactly. Is it usual when giving presents to require an effort and some expense on the part of the receiver? The sister's initial "ew!" reaction is understandable. Her subsequent reaction - "My brother is a cheapskate!" - is another matter entirely, one that completely misses what's wrong with rwhe's offer. And then asking for any present *that just costs more*? Good lord. Bridezilla is right.
posted by mediareport at 2:18 PM on August 14, 2005

I cast my vote with the 'pick something you can afford off the registry, and then forget about it' crowd. The more you make a big deal about her piggishness, the more the issue within your family will become about the big deal you made about it, rather than your sister's rude behavior that started it all.
posted by spilon at 5:26 PM on August 14, 2005

I went through a somewhat similar situation with my sister, minus the rudeness on her part. I didn't have a lot of money and I wanted to get something personal (the registry was really overpicked by this point). My main advice is: give it some time. You can still get her something personal, just let her know that it might be a while. Scrap the dvd idea since she's already said she doesn't like that. [This is just me, but I cannot stand slideshow presentations set to music. at. all.] Don't worry about how much money to spend, or how much you've spent so far. Yes it sucks that you had to spend so much money on her wedding when you're not making any, but that doesn't mean you should get her a cheaper present because of that. Spend what you can afford and if she's upset that you're "cheap", well, her problem. The spiteful gift/get a new sister suggestions are funny, but not advisable if you have any sort of relationship with her.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 5:30 PM on August 14, 2005

If you decide to purchase her a gift after all -- and after you've blown nearly a grand just to attend the wedding, I think it's outrageous that she would also expect a gift -- I suggest a bit of raku pottery. They're usually very pretty, usually reasonably priced ($40ish), and are non-functional decorative items.

Which seems appropriate.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:41 PM on August 14, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, what a huge response. Thanks to everyone so far for a lot to think about. I'm going to give the situation at least a few days to simmer, because I'm winding up my first draft of a book and the whole wedding present thing is just too overwhelming right now.
posted by rwhe at 6:43 PM on August 14, 2005

Dude, don't go with the original DVD idea -- not because it was a bad idea but because your work will obviously not be appreciated.

If you must, go with some other suggestions here -- a DVD player or the like, but whatever you do, don't spend a bundle on top of your ticket thinking that you now have something to prove.

I add my note of disapproval to the chorus here on your sister's lack of appreciation just for you being there.
posted by dreamsign at 8:54 PM on August 14, 2005

Recommendation for ettiquette book: The Etiquette Grrls' Things You Need To Be Told and More Things You Need To Be Told.

Put post-its on the appropriate pages. (Spending money on gifts, rude brides.)
posted by IndigoRain at 9:47 PM on August 14, 2005

Your wife is right. You are wrong. Your sister is being a jerk. It's your choice to do what she wants or not, make her happy or not. But it doesn't sound to me like "happy" is on the table, anyway, with this kind of hissyfit drama.

Just explain that you put a lot of work and thought and love into the DVD project and that it's her choice to accept it or not. Of course, if you truly are a cheapskate then, sad to say, there's no greater expression of affection you could make than changing your ways, sacrificing your precious, precious money, and buying her something a little extravagant for once. If this is an ongoing issue between you guys, maybe this is a time to do it her way. Just sacrificing your standards and doing something out of character sometimes can show you're really thinking of the other person and not just buying a gift YOU would like or that YOU can afford or that YOU think is expressive of love. I also hate it when cheap people go out of their way to invent some supposedly "cool" or "more personal" way for THEM to save money :)

But I have near-zero patience for pissy relatives who assume you're just supposed to know what to do for/at their wedding. Of course that isn't a good present, stupid. Duh. Well, if she didn't like it, that's one thing. If she shat on it, told you you're cheap and need to try again, I say give her a size 12 boot. She may think that's cheap, too, but it's what she needs most in the world.
posted by scarabic at 9:58 PM on August 14, 2005

cm is on the right track, I think, suggesting the follow-up note with the IOU for a gift when you gain employment. My suggestion is a bit different: Write her, offfering a nice gift, suitably expensive as per her taste and expectations. Then ask how much she is willing to loan you so you can afford it.*

*A less charitable addendum: Then plan a recommitment ceremony with your wife. When you invite your sister, tell her that you'd like her gift to be canceling the loan.
posted by rob511 at 11:08 PM on August 14, 2005

rwhe: If the situation really is exactly how you described it-- your sister not only rejected your offer but also insulted you -- I would also tell her to fuck off, as many others here have suggested. No revenge gift, no guilt trips, just "goodbye creep". End of story.

However, the fact that you haven't done this (the most natural reaction), and in fact are asking advice on how to deal with this mess, leads me to believe that the situation is not so black and white as you describe in the question. First of all, I know you are upset, but be honest in your assessment of what your sister said. Did she really say in so many words that you are a cheapskate? If so, was it said with malice? Are there any extenuating circumstances? I'm talking about circumstances that particularly involve your personal relationship with her. Alternatively, perhaps your sister got caught up in the hideous big-wedding industry and ended up spending a small fortune on her wedding and is now desperate to reoup her money via gifts? (Her fault I know, and utterly pathetic, but yet it could explain much...)

Like I said, if she really acted exactly as you described, this is a ridiculous question, you should give her nothing (especially not your love). But there is something about the wording of the question that makes it sound more like a mechanism to pump up justifiable irritation into something more akin to righteous indignation. If that is the case (and I'm not saying that it is) maybe you just need to take a few steps back from the situation and think about what to buy her in a few days. Because if she really isn't the horrible, money-grubbing person that you describe, you might want to, you know, preserve that relationship. And if she is a horrible money-grubber, the question should be why do you want to preserve that relationship...?
posted by sic at 1:54 AM on August 15, 2005

Married last October here. I, too, find it hard to believe that she's only got prints - we were offered TWO CD's of our photos (even the ones of which we did not get prints) for a small fee added on to our total.

Your sister seems to be being a bitch. Did we get wedding gifts we did not know what the hell to do with? Yes, we did. But we did. not. complain. It's grossly rude to act the way she did, even if you just asked her opinion. There are about a million ways she could have said, "No, brother, please don't bother with the DVD," that don't include "Buy me an expensive piece of china, cheapskate!"

Give her an IOU if you must, but I probably wouldn't bother with a gift at this point. She apparently isn't deserving of one.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:13 AM on August 15, 2005

ended up spending a small fortune on her wedding and is now desperate to reoup her money via gifts

Are you suggesting she's planning to sell the gifts? There are some really weird responses here, and I don't think trying to psychoanalyze the poster is a productive idea. I have to say, though, that I agree with those who think this wasn't a great idea for a gift unless you knew for a fact (which you obviously didn't) that your sister would think so. Too much work for something that is likely to get a few minutes of semi-attention and then be forgotten. The first rule of gifts is that they should be something the recipient will appreciate, not something you would appreciate.
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on August 15, 2005

What cost would your sister incur for your work? Everyone seems to assume that she should pay for the cost of an additional set of photos. I don't get this. She's got her set and that set could be scanned for the montage. If she didn't want to let the photos out of her site, then the scanning could be done at her home the next time you visit.
posted by onhazier at 11:55 AM on August 15, 2005

This doesn't answer your etiquette question, but I still have some advice. Why don't you take the 100 hours you'd spend making a DVD and find a J-O-B? In the whole prioritization of life I'd say that buttering your bread comes first. Additionally, it takes some skillz to produce a good DVD. While your motivation is altruistic the result may be a little questionable. Maybe this is what your sister is concerned about when she's requesting a different gift.
posted by quadog at 12:10 PM on August 15, 2005

Find out what gifts she got the most duplicates of and buy her one that is more expensive than any of the others.

Include your receipt in the card.
posted by leafwoman at 12:58 PM on August 15, 2005

Your sister freaked out a bit and was rude, but I think she had some grounds for a negative reaction. I'm also pretty skeptical of someone who is willing to spend 100 hours doing something he doesn't yet know how to do, but doesn't have a job. How long have you known about this wedding? Did you really not have time to do something to get money for the wedding and a gift? Also you've said nothing about your family dynamics. Is this typical behavior from your sister? Are you in fact cheap in other ways? Do you start projects you don't finish? Maybe your sister knows things about you that you are not admitting. Given that this situation is about family, it's hard for me to completely condemn the sister. You asked if she wanted a slideshow DVD and she said no and was mean to you. Maybe she didn't get the concept or maybe she got it perfectly and didn't want to deal with sending the pictures to you. Finally to answer your question, get her whatever she wanted in the first place. That's what registries are for. If you can't afford anything now, call or write her and say you're sorry the DVD idea flopped and explain your good intentions and buy her something later.
posted by monkeyman at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2005

Electric carving knife. Had an English professor (which is to say that it's probably from some book) who offered that as the perfect example of the sort of useless crap people give as wedding presents.

Electric carving knife. Leave the price tag on it.
posted by Eamon at 5:12 PM on August 15, 2005

Response by poster: To the best of my knowledge, my sister did not have a wedding registry.
posted by rwhe at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2005

« Older Help me find a great travel gift.   |   DRM-free music subscription services? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.