Is it common to ask guests to pay for their dinner at a wedding?
March 20, 2013 7:34 AM   Subscribe

We've been invited to the wedding of an acquaintance. Yay! But on the RSVP card, it asks to you tick a box confirming you'll pay for your meal (per person).

I understand that asking guests to chip in for the wedding/reception is not uncommon outside of the US/Canada--or at least that's what my responses from the Twitterverse seems to say--but is it wrong to be a little weirded out by this?

This isn't a potluck dinner. This is a reception meal that as far as I can tell the happy couple, or the happy couple's family, have hired a caterer and a wedding cake maker for. So I ask you, Hive Mind, are we just being jerks by being a little uncomfortable with this, or this is a new trend/tradition we've previously been unaware of?
posted by Kitteh to Society & Culture (104 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's uncommon, and it would give Miss Manners a heart attack.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:36 AM on March 20, 2013 [68 favorites]


I've never heard of this. I'm American but I've been to weddings in Switzerland and Turkey as well.
posted by dfriedman at 7:37 AM on March 20, 2013


If you're in the US, yes, this is weird and tacky. If a couple can't pay for a dinner, they shouldn't have one.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


The non-US/Canadian culture I come from, giving anything except straight-up cash at a wedding (or other big, catered event) is a pretty significant faux pas, so I can totally see where this is coming from. However, in said culture, you also don't talk about it. It's just an implied cultural thing that you give money and if you want to give a gift, you give a gift along with money. So it's a little gauche, from that perspective.

That being said, the economy stinks worse than it has in a long time, many, many people are either unemployed or underemployed, and a wedding is a significant expense. Maybe this isn't the classiest way to try to recoup some of the wedding costs, but if it was between asking for people to pay for their own food and having to field several dozen HEY WHY WASN'T I INVITED I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS, perhaps this was the lesser of two evils.
posted by griphus at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What? No.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Very unusual and discouraged here in the US. How much is the meal and how much do you A, like these people and B, have to be nice to them? I might be willing to swing something like this for someone I either really liked or someone I couldn't drop (like a cousin), but only up to a certain price.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2013


The couple can ask for whatever they want on the invitation. Similarly, it is entirely appropriate for you to ignore their ridiculous requests. Leave the box unchecked and RSVP regardless. If they ask you to pay anyway, politely refuse and stop any further contact with them.
posted by saeculorum at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have attended many weddings, showers, anniversary parties, receptions and the like in the US every year for the last decade or so, and the only ones which have ever requested payment on the response card are fundraisers for nonprofits and political organizations. So, not to my knowledge a common or new wedding practice.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:41 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, it's becoming more common. It's also crass and rude. Decline of civilization and all. I wouldn't go. I'm just cranky enough that it would seriously diminish my esteem for the couple. But that's me.
posted by space_cookie at 7:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


I'm with Miss Manners on this. You should ask nothing more of a guest than the pleasure of their company.

But because they are acting impolite, do you do the same in return, and not pay? When would you as a guest not give a gift that at least covers the cost of your meal?

Personally, I would decline to attend, and send a nominal gift. No, you're not being jerks.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is certainly a faux pas. However, at least they let you know upfront. Just decline the invitation.
posted by payoto at 7:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


For an acquaintance? "I'm sorry, we can't make it. Congratulations and best wishes."

For someone dear to you whose wedding you'd be sorry to miss? Check the box and consider it your wedding gift to them.
posted by dywypi at 7:43 AM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


I understand that asking guests to chip in for the wedding/reception is not uncommon outside of the US/Canada

Could you be more specific? I am not aware of any culture where this is common either inside or outside of the US.
posted by vacapinta at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's appalling. Ignore it; don't go.

Do not "send a nominal gift" to the greedy acquaintances. Easy to assume that the wide net being cast here is hoping to drag in more gifts. No need to play along.
posted by kmennie at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Depending on how much it will cost, look at it this way: the wedding gift you are buying them is your presence at their wedding.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:45 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unheard of and frankly bizarre. At least in the US.
posted by Dansaman at 7:46 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Could you be more specific? I am not aware of any culture where this is common either inside or outside of the US.

In Russia it is implied that the money given by guests as a gift goes a significant way toward recouping the cost of the party, which is generally very lavish and (technically) above the means of the people throwing it. In fact, an estimate of how much it costs to cater (per person) will determine how much you give. But, again, it's a very different cultural thing compared to the way people in the US (and I assume Canada) do things.
posted by griphus at 7:47 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


greedy acquaintances.

Greedy? I agree this is pretty unusual/weird but not that different from people who have weddings abroad where the guests have to pay for their own flights/hotels. Surely the standard wedding registry/expectation of a wedding gift is greedy, whereas just asking people to turn up to their wedding is not greedy at all. Maybe this couple can't afford to take on the debt that paying for the whole thing themselves would incur, but doesn't want to have to go the "only immediate family/best friends, <15 guests" kind of route.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:48 AM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm a caterer who works weddings in the Bay Area, and this is the absolute first time I've heard of ANYTHING like this.

If you can't afford a big, fancy dinner, have a smaller one. But inviting people to buy their own dinner for the pleasure of wishing you well on your wedding day is all kinds of tacky and wrong and classless and...

Trying to be a big shot on someone else's nickel.

"Best wishes, unable to attend".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:48 AM on March 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


Yup, weird and double weird.

I am a money-giver, myself, especially since the people I know who are getting married these days are younger than me by a bit. I finally switched to cash when I asked a bride-to-be (who I knew was a little cash-strapped) "I'm not loving your registry; would it be OK to just send you guys a check for the honeymoon or unexpected expenses or something?" Her reply? "Oh, god, yes." Now it just seems easier all around.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:49 AM on March 20, 2013


This is incredibly tasteless. If you can't afford to pay, you have a cheaper dinner or don't have wine or a host of other things. Or you have a ceremony but no reception. But whatever you do, do NOT do that.

You are not jerks. I would not go on those grounds alone.
posted by corb at 7:50 AM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


It is extremely rude.

That said, plenty of people will find ways to rationalise it. Like, you know, maybe the couple couldn't afford it and decided that you should afford it instead. The benefits of asking for other people to pay for your stuff are so obvious they don't need to be calculated.

But anybody saying "manners change, and charging the guests for your own wedding is the Way of the Future" is wrong on the grounds that when etiquette changes, it changes in the direction of being *more* courteous towards others, not less. Inviting people to your wedding (a nontrivial social obligation, such that anyone who could easily attend your wedding but chooses not to is effectively defriending themselves) and then asking them to pay for the hospitality the hosts are supposed to provide (on top of the considerable costs guests incur in attending a wedding in the first place) is way, way, way less courteous than the established standard (which is Pay For Your Own Motherfucking Wedding, You Shnurers, I Can't Even).

To be honest with you, I would find this invitation so offensive that I would simply RSVP 'no'. If you still want to be on friendly terms with these people, you can mail a gift to the bride's home in advance of the wedding. If you want to be on less friendly terms, send them a warm letter of congratulation and well wishing on their upcoming marriage under separate cover.

OMFFSM that is FUCKING. OUTRAGEOUS. I wish I could say it was surprising. But it is definitely outrageous.
posted by tel3path at 7:50 AM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Jeez. So much black lash. People have paid for much more worse things than a meal and perhaps an accompanying gift. I don't see how this is any different or more unacceptable than, say, paying to attend a destination wedding in Mexico.

At the very least, requesting guests to pay for their meal will at least diminish the number of people attending the wedding to only those that really want to go. If you don't like it, then don't go.
posted by nikkorizz at 7:51 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Eastern Canada weighing in here. I have heard of this, but only in an "Oh my god, can you believe they would actually ask someone to do this?!?!?" sort of way. It's not common and seems horribly tacky to me. I wouldn't attend.

For what it's worth, while my brother and sis-in-law were planning their wedding, they needed to eliminate some things to stay on budget. Instead of a sit-down dinner, they had what they could afford, which was a stand-up reception with some lovely hors d'oeuvres instead. They wouldn't have dreamed of passing the costs on to their guests!
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:52 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know if this is a local acquaintance, but it's pretty unusual here too. (It is expected, in certain cultures in Quebec, to give a cash gift that covers the cost per person of the invites, but I've never heard of this before.)

I do know someone who was invited to a (family) wedding, chose what meal they wanted and then was asked by the mother of the bride to change to a cheaper meal. (They refused.) There are all sorts of weird, rude things people ask for.

If you'd like to go, just figure that your gift to them is paying for your meal plus a token gift. If you weren't going to spend that much, decline.
posted by jeather at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2013


As noted above, it's far from the social norm. But I'd just take it in stride, assuming you would have gone to the wedding had it not been listed this way. Deduct the cost from what you'd normally have given as a gift.
posted by festivus at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am cringing in horror over here at the thought of asking people to pay for their own dinners at a reception. I am dying to know what the response card looks like.
posted by crankylex at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Jeez. People have paid for much more worse things than a meal and perhaps an accompanying gift. I don't see how this is any different or more unacceptable than, say, a destination wedding in Mexico.

No, a destination wedding to an expensive, exotic place is equally offensive and presuming on your guests to shell out big expenditures for the pleasure of attending your wedding. Destination weddings are equally a douche-move.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:56 AM on March 20, 2013 [49 favorites]


Wow. My partner and I are planning a wedding right now and I WISH it were common to ask guests to pay for their dinner. Any cash any of our guests wanted to give us would certainly be welcome.

But hell no, this is neither common nor (in my opinion) polite. That's why we're spending a whole heck of a lot of time planning and saving for the wedding we can afford.

Holy cow, this is so crass I think my head would fall off if I seriously considered trying it.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


No, a destination wedding to an expensive, exotic place is equally offensive and presuming on your guests to shell out big expenditures for the pleasure of attending your wedding.

I think it's less offensive, because there is a lower expectation of attendance. Ie, no one expects people to actually come.

It's also fairly common for people who have traveled a lot and have friends all over the globe, such that everyone must travel /somewhere/ to attend.
posted by corb at 7:59 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure of the situation, but if it's a couple that have been co-habitating for a while I think it's quite reasonable. When my wife and I married after living together for over 8 years we asked our guests for a donation to our honeymoon holiday fund in lieu of a gift. Having said that we still paid for the wedding dinner (we had wine and pizza not a huge expensive extravaganza).

I've also attended a wedding where there was a small cocktail reception afterwards (drinks and nibbles) and if you wanted to attend the dinner it was a pay your way situation in lieu of a gift.

Maybe this couple is feeling caught between doing the the traditional "Big wedding" and what they want and can afford..

At the end of the day it boils down to a nice get together with the people who are close to you not who pays for what and who can buy the biggest present.
posted by mule at 8:00 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I have heard of this before. One half of a couple got made redundant several months before the wedding so they decided that they would charge their guests for the food at the reception. (The idea of having a very modest food budget didn't appeal I guess.)

They presented it as a generous gesture towards the guests: "Now, our guests will be buying us a gift that they can share in." You can always spin this kind of thing and also turn the generosity tables on the people you're supposed to be entertaining: "why would they object to this? Are our guests that money-grubbing that they wouldn't want to pay for their food?"
posted by tel3path at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2013


Do not "send a nominal gift" to the greedy acquaintances.

We don't know that they're greedy. They could simply be poor, or horribly misguided.

I understood that if you're invited to a wedding, you give a gift regardless of your attendance. You give a gift if you go, as thanks for being invited to this special occasion, and you give a gift if you don't go, to show that you're really sorry for being unable to attend.

But I realize that this is not a universal approach. In declining this particular invite, I would give a nominal gift -- and yes, nominal. The best way to respond to rude behaviour is to show good manners yourself. But no need to go overboard on this one.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:08 AM on March 20, 2013


Meh.

I understand that there are cultural norms around this stuff, but the outrage in the thread here is a bit much. There are no rules when it comes to wedding planning.

Would I do this? No. Would I judge a friend or acquaintance for doing it? No.
posted by hamandcheese at 8:10 AM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


FWIW, I'm going on a cruise/destination wedding, and we're being asked to pay for everything *except* the reception dinner.
posted by grateful at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I attended the wedding of a friend who had the ceremony, let all of the wedding guests loose for dinner on our own (medium sized city, plenty of choices) and then regrouped later for the reception. I thought it worked pretty well (fancy steakhouses for rich people, burrito from the gas station for me) and didn't hear anyone complain. I thought it was kind of a neat idea.

Then again, I'm a total cheapskate who would eat a gas station burrito at my friend's wedding, so...
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I've never heard of this anywhere in Western Europe either.

That being said, I'd still go, because my attitude to manners is to follow Postel's law and be generous in my interpretation of other people's behaviour and conservative in my own.
posted by atrazine at 8:13 AM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Currently planning a wedding in Altantic Canada. Wedding are hella expensive so I can absolutely understand why they would want to do this, but that doesn't make it not frowned upon. I have never heard of this ever, and I think it is pretty bizzare.

1. How close are you with them? Would this be a wedding you would have wanted to go to, or was it a wedding you would have attended out of courtesy?
2. Do you know how much the meal is going to cost? Did they provide a per-person amount? Big difference if they were charging 30$ per person vs. charging 100$ per person.
3. Is there any sort of reason behind it (like tel3path's example) that would justify it? Had they recently suffered a job loss or major financial hit? Is it possible they had booked in on all this stuff that, at the time, was within their budget but since had something happen that has made it impossible to pay for?


If they are close friends I would go but have the cost of the meal be your wedding gift.
If they are just acquaintences and you aren't very close to them I would pass.
I agree with hamandcheese that the level of outrage expressed here is maybe a little excessive.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:14 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are no rules when it comes to wedding planning.

This is nonsense of course. You can argue that there shouldn't be, but to pretend that there aren't strong social norms associated with an event with legal, religious, and ceremonial importance that has thousands of years of tradition behind is comically wrong.
posted by atrazine at 8:15 AM on March 20, 2013 [50 favorites]


It's incredibly rude.

Maybe this couple is feeling caught between doing the the traditional "Big wedding" and what they want and can afford..

Uh, sorry, but too bad. People get caught between what society promotes as acceptable, and what they can actually afford, all the time. A wedding is not a golden pass to throw etiquette out the window.

There are no rules when it comes to wedding planning.

Huh? There totally are. Not, like, written rules, but certainly unspoken rules. Such as, if you invite people to an event to celebrate yourself, you pay for their refreshments.
posted by Salamander at 8:16 AM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


[Folks, I think we can take it as a given that not everybody is going to agree with everybody else about what is or should or shouldn't be expected/okay/ideal with wedding planning, but let's keep this to specifically answering the question asked and avoid getting into a general argument about wedding etiquette. This isn't a chatroom.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2013


There are specific situations in which a "cover-charge" dinner would be acceptable - as tel3path or mule mentioned. One of the awesome things about getting married these days is that the couple has a huge amount of flexibility in planning their event; a wedding isn't just a church/dinner/cake, but can be a beach, a brunch, a cocktail hour, a huge party, a tiny party, a hike up the mountain, skiing out to a lodge destination, whatever - so in fact there could be a type of event that asking your guests to pay for their own dinner is a (somewhat tacky) way of creating the event concept that the couple wants, and would make most sense with less-formalized concepts. However, the flip side of that flexibility is that the couple really needs to take responsibility for their choices and explain their "wedding concept" to the guests. Asking a guest to buy their own dinner is weird, but explicable. Making this request in an unexplained way with a check-box on a formal RSVP card is the thing that is incredibly tacky.

In short, they're being weird, but weddings are often swimming in weirdness. Don't feel at all guilty if this is the thing that makes you decide to skip the wedding. It's an invitation, not a command performance.
posted by aimedwander at 8:21 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's incredibly rude, and I would decline. That's ridiculous. "Come to my lavish party, but you must pay for the level of lavishness I want!" Uh, no. Do something cheaper you can afford. A BBQ or takeout kind of affair is fine and can be fun. You throw the party, you try to provide for your guests, who are taking time and money to attend. The pleasure of their company and their happiness at your event should be your utmost concern.
posted by agregoli at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


You don't have to judge them as people to acknowledge that this is rude. For all any of us know, they could be wonderful people who did one rude thing.

I don't generally want to reward people for being rude to me and I would choose not to go for that reason. I've been hit up an unbelievable number of times, not often for weddings, but for other occasions (including one where the birthday girl cooked dinner and then literally passed a hat around the table to pay for the groceries[1]) and I'm honestly really sick of it. Partly because my finances are no more elastic than anybody else's; I've been affected by the recession, too. But also just on principle.

-------


[1] If we're going to get into judging people's motives, characters, and financial situations: this person was a volunteer who lived on an annual stipend meant to cover the minimum comfortable living expenses in the city where she was volunteering. The thing is that that stipend was higher than my annual salary at the time. Just by thinking about this, I've already started to open an ugly can of worms.
posted by tel3path at 8:23 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sympathize with this couple. From my experience announcing that my fiance and I were going to elope (or whatever you want to call it when you go off by yourself to get married, but don't keep it a secret), there were many, many friends and family who were downright pouty about not being able to attend. Guess how many of these friends and family offered to chip in for the wedding they all but demanded?

We stood firm, but I can understand a couple trying to make everyone happy by asking for guests to pay their way. It doesn't make it right, but I can see how it happens.
posted by payoto at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would be completely baffled to receive such an invitation and I would politely decline.

And, admittedly, it would forever color my opinion of the couple. How tactless and tacky and rude, yikes.
posted by lydhre at 8:25 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've never heard of this and would consider it rude. I don't buy that having a wedding "concept" would make this socially acceptable.

That said, I think the polite thing to do is to overlook their rudeness. Attend or don't attend, but respond politely and don't make a stink (someone else, perhaps an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, should serve as enforcer of social norms.)
posted by Area Man at 8:26 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have had friends who did this before. They were broke, and doing shoestring weddings. One couple made this request because the bride's lovely father was dying of cancer, and treatment is expensive. Didn't think twice about it.

My family had my wedding catered (sooo expensive for poor people like us), and I would have melted into puddles of horror and guilt if we'd ended up asking guests to pay for their meal. I felt like people should be properly compensated for attending an event that was all about MEEEE IN A WHIIIITE DREEESS.

But it's never bothered me to chip in for the weddings of people I like and trust. I assumed that if they were asking for us to pay for their meals, there was a good reason. On the other hand, if you think these people are kind of sketchy, grabby jerks, then I'd just skip the wedding and send a small gift. Or whatever, go to the wedding and bring them a corkscrew.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:27 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are specific situations in which a "cover-charge" dinner would be acceptable - as tel3path or mule mentioned.

Um, just to clarify, the example I gave was not an example of where a "cover-charge" would have been acceptable. This was several months before the wedding so they had plenty of time to cancel the caterers and scale back the refreshments they provided. They just chose not to.

I'm sure at least some of their guests were made redundant before the wedding, too, and it really doesn't feel good to get invited to something like that and then emotionally blackmailed into paying unexpected and unnecessary costs. I'm not unsympathetic towards the couple, but giving their guests the "opportunity" to pay for the wedding itself really was not the kind gesture the couple were trying to make it out to be.
posted by tel3path at 8:27 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Count me as another person who's not ever heard of this as an explicit ask from the people getting married. Culturally unspoken traditions like griphus mentioned, yes, but a checkbox on the RSVP? No. It's not common, and if this is an ordinary American couple, goes beyond the bounds of wedding tradition.

You are not being a jerk for feeling weirded out by this. Because it is weird.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rare. Rude.

I encourage you to post an anonymised version of the tale at Etiquette Hell, where it can join the rest of the field research on this topic.
posted by batmonkey at 8:31 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


An acquaintance? Pass.
posted by mean cheez at 8:32 AM on March 20, 2013


Oh my holy yikes, no this is not common (thank goodness!) I have heard of an unspoken "rule" in some parts of the US that your wedding gift is supposed to at least "cover your dinner", but it's unspoken.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:34 AM on March 20, 2013


Not only do I find this weird and impolite (and have never heard of anything similar around here) , I am also intrigued by the the addition of a checkbox: what are they planning to do with guests that agree to come but skip the checkbox?
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:34 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have been to weddings where the couple asked for money to offset the cost of the wedding, but never explicit. Are they expecting gifts as well?

I would decline and would probably give them feedback as to why - there are more elegant ways to go about what they're trying to accomplish and it's unfortunate nobody in their social circle told them this before they sent out invitations.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:37 AM on March 20, 2013


Here's the thing about planning a wedding: no matter what you do, no matter how carefully you make decisions, someone is going to think you're being tacky, or cheap, or excessive, or insensitive, or something. There are religious, cultural, regional, and generational traditions. There are trends from year to year. There are subcultures and backlashes against certain trends or traditions. There's a lot to choose from.

And I think that amount of choice is both a positive and, in some ways, a negative: there are lots of unwritten rules, yes, but a lot of them conflict or reflect outmoded traditions and expectations. And different rules reflect different meanings and intentions for weddings--is it a traditional community ritual where it's important to include the whole family, or is it a big, personalized party for the couple? is it sort of both? how do you do that?

So, yeah, I'd be taken aback by an invitation like the one you received. I'd think it was pretty tacky and not something I'd choose to do. But I wouldn't be offended as if the couple had insulted me. I'd try to be charitable toward the couple, whether I attended or not.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:39 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm planning a wedding, which has led to reading all sorts of Seriously Intense Wedding Fora. This is something that comes up sometimes, along with the controversial cash bar-- still frowned upon by Mrs. Manners, but more common and more accepted than the cash dinner. Or worse, the prix fixe version, like this. (If there were some extreme extenuating circumstance like a dying father or medical treatments for the couple, that would be different, but that doesn't seem applicable here.)

I would nth the suggestion that you politely decline and to send a gift from their registry if you are uncomfortable with this. If you can afford it, and if you would like to celebrate with them, you could always go and pay the dinner cost sans gift. If you can afford it and would like to celebrate with them but refuse to deal with the situation, invite them out for dinner when the nuptial dust has settled.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2013


I seem to remember you're in Quebec.
I lived and have gone to multiple weddings in (southern) Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. Just asked my coworkers, who are from northeastern Ontario with a large Quebecois population.

This is not a thing in any of those places. The normal thing when it comes to "spouses need money" is a stag & doe event, which nobody would question.

As for how to react - it depends on how close of acquaintances you are. I would personally decline to attend and send a nominal gift, as suggested above.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:40 AM on March 20, 2013


I'm in the US, and I've never heard of this, either.


I did attend a wedding some years back of a Japanese couple of my acquaintance, and it was the full-on traditional Japanese nuptials. My and my buddies were quietly informed weeks in advance by the bride's brother that in Japanese culture, cash is the expected gift, and the amount can't be divisible by two (bad luck, I think). So we tracked down some sort of special envelope and made the appropriate gift, because (a) she was our friend, and (b) she had family flying in from Japan and we were not going to embarrass her in front of them.


That's the only time I've ever heard of it. And the cash wasn't asked for by the bride and groom, or the families of either. We were simply advised sotto voce that due to the culture, cash was the expectation.


So unless it's some circumstance like that...yeah, no.


Sometimes people forget that weddings don't give you carte blanche to demand things from your guests just because it's your special day. And when the demand is cash...well, in America that can become a two-way street pretty quickly.


I know people who, if told to pay their own way at a wedding reception, would have no qualms about telling the bride and groom that the caterer was too expensive, and they need to switch to another one in order to bring the costs down. And since we're talking about your wedding budget anyway, here's some more suggestions about how you're spending your money on your wedding....


If you insist on making presumptions about other peoples' money, they're going to feel free to make presumptions about yours. That's the single biggest reason not to make demands like this.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cash bar is acceptable because alcohol is (arguably) optional, but dinner really isn't. You can do open bar for an hour and then switch to cash bar, for example, but there is no equivalent for the food.

This is, BTW, really weird. But during the wedding-planning process you can get a lot of messages that are disconnected from reality, and it can lead you into a mindset where you decide things that you wouldn't have done otherwise. So maybe this couple just read an article saying this is now A Thing for saving money, tough they wouldn't have dreamed of doing something so tacky before they started planning their event. *shrug*
posted by wenestvedt at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2013


But anybody saying "manners change, and charging the guests for your own wedding is the Way of the Future" is wrong on the grounds that when etiquette changes, it changes in the direction of being *more* courteous towards others, not less

This isn't really true. It used to be considered the height of rudeness to speak on the telephone when you had guests. Anyway: it is extremely unusual and tacky to ask for payment for a wedding dinner, but consider this, if you will:

- It used to be considered tacky to have a pay bar at a wedding, but it is much more common now.
- It used to be considered tacky, at least in the UK, to have a wedding list.
- Even as wedding lists became more common, asking for money towards something was considered tacky.
- Outside certain cultures, the mere asking for money as a gift was considered tacky.

So it's unusual and tone deaf and tacky, but things do change. One way is to look at it like this: are they charging you the *full* cost of the dinner and drinks, do you think? Are they asking for a gift as well? Because if the happy couple have just got it wrong in terms of how they ask for cash then it's a faux pas, but functionally no more grasping than the implied gift of cash or parting with cash at somewhere else in the proceedings.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:48 AM on March 20, 2013


If you cannot afford to do/have it at your wedding without charging your guests money, you cannot afford to do/have it at your wedding.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is so far removed from normal wedding etiquette - not to mention basic good manners - that it seems like a pretty shameless attempt to get away with murder through sheer audacity. I'd have nothing to do with these people or their wedding.
posted by Decani at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


These things (talking on the phone when there's a guest, and all the other things) are common practice, but they are still considered rude.

There are two questions here, of which the headliner "is it common" - is it done, does it happen often, is this a normal thing we can expect to encounter? The answer is no, so far, but I have nevertheless seen it a few times in the past and I expect it to happen a lot more frequently in the future.

The second question is "is it wrong to be a little weirded out by this" - as in, uncharitable, unreasonable vis a vis social norms - and the answer to that is, no, it's not wrong, because even if this does become common practice it will still be considered rude. And as noted above, even in cultures where the norm is to give money, there are polite ways of framing the request to guests who aren't part of that culture, and an invitation worded in the manner described doesn't remotely qualify for that.

I have to caution against giving the couple any kind of "feedback" about this. If they don't ask you straight out "did we upset you by asking you to pay for your dinner?" (in which case you could of course be frank) you unfortunately can't politely correct them about this. If a lot of people decline the invitation, my guess is that they will know why. And TBH, it's unlikely that they really are in a genuine vacuum of cluelessness about this.
posted by tel3path at 8:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


They're having engraved cards made that say what *a lot* of couples would be quietly expecting. Seems pretty tacky to me, but it probably wouldn't influence my decision to go or not go to the wedding unless the amount they expected was more than I could/would give as a gift. In which case I guess it would be kind of nice to know what was expected - I wouldn't want to give an insufficient gift and be considered a cheapskate. But usually those kinds of expectations are conveyed through back channels and/or are just understood in the community/family.
posted by mskyle at 9:00 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a person who is trying to plan a wedding and keep costs down, I totally get why they are doing this. Events, especially weddings, are expensive.

But, according to current US cultural norms, asking guests to pay to attend a wedding is not acceptable. It's not borderline - it's not even close to borderline. It's just flat out Not What You Do. Perhaps the couple doesn't realize this (which would be too bad, as then they are inadvertently offending a lot of people). Perhaps the couple knows it and doesn't care - which is fine, people can break cultural norms if they want to (though it often goes more smoothly if people are clear that they are aware they are breaking cultural norms & not just being clueless).

The cultural norm - at least where I grew up in California - says "If you can't pay for it, you don't get to have it at your wedding" - so an inexpensive potluck wedding is fine; but asking guests to pay is not. Is that logical? Not really, but it's the way it is.

It's fine to choose not to go to an acquaintance's wedding for any reason or no reason.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Whooo, nope, that's bizarre and rude. I'd be sorely tempted to RSVP "yes" and check "nope" on "paying for dinner," and then either load up at the buffet or bring a peanut butter sandwich in a brown paper bag and make a big show out of eating it, and give them a useless hideous crystal albatross of a gift and conveniently lose the receipt. I wouldn't actually do that, but I'd daydream about it.

I also kind of feel for the couple, because this is so unusual and such a faux pas that they're bound to get a whole ton of blowback for it. Decline the invitation (unless you actually want to go), wish 'em well, and move on.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:14 AM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Another vote for this is weird and you're not jerks: societal and cultural norms say that if someone invites you to an event (wedding, birthday party, whatever) then the host pays, the guest most emphatically does not. The only exception is for events clearly noted ahead of time as 'Dutch treat', such as a date or theater tickets --- never for a wedding.

As so many have already noted, the norm is that if the host cannot afford it, then they should lower their expectations to a level they can afford: instead of the big wedding with lots of frills and a catered wedding reception and all the rest, perhaps they should consider a smaller family affair in their own backyard, a dress and suit they can wear again (instead of thousands spent on a one-time-use wedding gown and tux), and potluck or deli instead of that catered meal in a rented reception hall. Billing your guests is rude and tacky.

And finally, something I've observed over the years: couples who lavish massive amounts of time and money on their wedding --- a single day's event --- seem to implode far more often and far quicker than couples who concentrate more on the marriage --- their lives together.
posted by easily confused at 9:25 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whoa...understandably the Hive Mind has strong feels about this!

I appreciate all the responses. I think we're going to politely decline the invite, seeing as how they aren't close friends at all. We just wanted to be sure it wasn't a cultural thing that had somehow passed us by.

(And for the curious, it was $65 a person for the meal.)
posted by Kitteh at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The right way to handle this is to be clear that there will just be no meal (and perhaps desserts or snacks instead). Friends of ours did this and I think went well. Their families pitched in to make cakes, pies and cookies. We just ate beforehand. But forcing guests to pay a caterer is bad form.
posted by SpicyMustard at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2013


Return the RSVP anonymously and enclosed a gift card from a local grocery chain? It would make a great story in the years ahead, especially if you were present when that event was then discussed, secretly knowing you sent it. Evil? yes. Fun?, most definitely.
posted by Freedomboy at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't know that they're greedy. They could simply be poor, or horribly misguided.

Maybe this couple can't afford to take on the debt that paying for the whole thing themselves would incur, but doesn't want to have to go the "only immediate family/best friends, 15 guests" kind of route.

...exactly -- greedy. This isn't a lot different from setting up a crowdfunding page to try to fund the purchase of a luxury car. People do not require weddings in order to be married. They certainly do not require catered meals to be married. These people could have had a joyful little backyard thing, and opted not to and decided their acquaintances should foot the bill for their own party. It's inexcusably greedy.

In declining this particular invite, I would give a nominal gift -- and yes, nominal. The best way to respond to rude behaviour is to show good manners yourself.

Agreed with the second part, but I don't agree with the idea that coughing up a gift in response to this is good manners. The polite thing to do when somebody farts is to ignore it, not to further draw attention to it and encourage more of the same. Consider a negative RSVP and 'best wishes' to be doing the couple a good turn by not giving positive reinforcement to their bad manners.
posted by kmennie at 9:50 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


$65 a person is a definite no! $130 for a dinner where I don't get to pick the entree, I don't think so!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:56 AM on March 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


I live in Barcelona, Spain, and this is actually culturally acceptable here. When invited to a wedding, it is the expectation that you at least cover the cost of your dinner. The closer you are to the couple, the more money you'd add on top. The bank account number is frequently included with the invitation. If not, envelopes with cash are accepted at the banquet.

As an American, I seriously did a double-take jaw-on-ground when I received the first wedding invitation here.

Wedding etiquette in Spain.
posted by Nerro at 10:05 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


That would offend me. I would decline the invitation.

No, a destination wedding to an expensive, exotic place is equally offensive and presuming on your guests to shell out big expenditures for the pleasure of attending your wedding. Destination weddings are equally a douche-move.

I'd advise anyone who feels that way to also decline such an invitation, to the benefit of all involved parties.
posted by xiaolongbao at 10:10 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


After someone stops believing in Santa, they are no longer allowed to demand gifts without looking foolish.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


If they're going to charge for dinner, can you bring your own instead? My inner prankster is intrigued at the idea of pulling out a couple of Subway sandwiches ("$5 footlong!") and a few bags of chips, but maybe that's why we don't get invited to these sorts of things very often.

Otherwise, yeah, what most of everyone else has said. Not illegal or even immoral to ask one's guests to pay, but incredibly gauche.
posted by mosk at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recently went to a wedding with an old co-worker who still works for a large consulting firm. Once word of the engagement got out, their guest list ballooned as all the partners specifically said they would be honored to attend the wedding. Suddenly a 100 person wedding turned into a 250 person wedding.

Because they had to invite work colleagues, and because work colleagues felt compelled to RSVP, there was a ridiculous number of no shows. Standing in line for our third servings (as the bride urged folks to eat as much as possible) was a group of work-spouses talking about going through the same exact problem at their wedding. So much wasted food. Paying for a venue that was twice as large as the actual guest list.

And it's not just the wasted food. Looking out on your wedding day, and seeing mostly empty tables, is depressing. Even if you can afford the waste.

Asking people to even consider asking to cover their own meals (not demanding it) is a decent way of actually knowing who will show up to your wedding, and the size of wedding you should plan. Yes, it's tacky. But it's understandable as some circles have clearly stopped respecting the weight of the RSVP.

Personally I find it less obnoxious than a cash bar, and less tacky than the rise of honeymoon registries.
posted by politikitty at 10:38 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


(And for the curious, it was $65 a person for the meal.)

This is just about as close as I've ever come to doing a real-life spit take. You are definitely not being jerks by turning down their offer to let you buy an expensive meal at their wedding.

On the bright side, you now have a pretty good contribution any time anybody brings up tacky/rude wedding experiences!
posted by DingoMutt at 10:45 AM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


The only way I could see this not being rude is if it is an option for people to pick instead of giving a regular gift. It doesn't seem like that was explained clearly if that was the case.
posted by soelo at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should probably stop posting in this thread, but I just went and looked at the invite again. I did not see that they are requesting $30 per child (but hey, toddlers are free!) as well.

Now my mind is doubly boggled.
posted by Kitteh at 10:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


For what it's worth, $65 per head (and half price for kids) is a pretty standard wedding venue charge for a meal. It can go way, way higher than that. Not saying it's good value of course, wedding venues just like to rip you off.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:01 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should probably stop posting in this thread, but I just went and looked at the invite again. I did not see that they are requesting $30 per child (but hey, toddlers are free!) as well.

OMG. You need to submit this to Etiquette Hell.
posted by lalex at 11:02 AM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The only way I could see this not being rude is if it is an option for people to pick instead of giving a regular gift. It doesn't seem like that was explained clearly if that was the case.

Actually, the only way I can see this being more rude is if the invitation also mentioned gifts.
posted by lalex at 11:04 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you want to go, and want to pay for for your meal, then go. Cash bars have become standard at weddings, though they are still unacceptable to Miss Manners, but cash dinners have not, and Miss Manners would certainly have the vapors publicly, and a Texas hissy seizure privately at the idea. But, who knows, they may be misguided, broke, or have a parent who is bossy and misguided.

My concept of a wedding is: you're having a very important ceremony, then a party. The party you throw should reflect the life you live and the amount you choose to spend. It's fine to have a lunch, dessert buffet, potluck, or all-out shebang for the party, but you don't invite people to a party and ask them to pay. Cash bars have become a thing partly because the liability of serving drink requires a trained bartender with liability insurance, and that's expensive.

Weddings have become a way to signify one's actual or desired social status, and people get nutty. The best weddings I've attended have included a moving ceremony, supportive and/or interesting community of family & friends, and some sort of fun, often including music and drinking. If I couldn't afford to give people a catered meal, I'm make them a meal at home, and have a small wedding, but there may be all sorts of issues in play.
posted by theora55 at 11:05 AM on March 20, 2013


I live in Barcelona, Spain, and this is actually culturally acceptable here. When invited to a wedding, it is the expectation that you at least cover the cost of your dinner.


It's common in many southern European cultures, and among southern European-North American families. So much so that many people don't even think to mention it on invites; it's just understood that you'll estimate the cost of your plate and stick that in an envelope (as in, it's embarrassing if you don't). It is also expected that you'll bring a gift, in addition to the cost of the dinner. Because the wedding is explicitly thought of as a mechanism for giving a young couple stuff (money, goods) to start a household; no one in the community wants them to begin their married lives with debt.
posted by nelljie at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I should probably stop posting in this thread, but I just went and looked at the invite again. I did not see that they are requesting $30 per child (but hey, toddlers are free!) as well.

OP, I thought maybe at the start of this thread that your acquaintances might be a little selfish and/or socially clueless. But now they strike me the types who value finances over friendships. If your cash flow permits, take that $65/person you would have spent and go out for a nice quiet meal of your choosing with your SO. And yes, to Etiquette Hell with this one for sure. Surprised (not in a good or bad way, just wasn't expecting it) that is acceptable in other places.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:44 AM on March 20, 2013


Yuck! These are not people I would want to be friends with. I have been to many weddings ranging from super lavish destination weddings to the ceremony and reception in the couple's back yard. The best weddings (whether expensive or budget conscious) made the guests feel valued and welcomed. Time and effort (not necessarily money) had gone into making the occasion as joyous and fun as possible. It is not about money, its about having those who are most important in your life there to celebrate with you and being thankful for their friendship, love,and support. Get away from that, and a wedding becomes something else entirely. Something vain and empty. Something I at least, have no desire to participate in.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:55 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


To chime in, in all the weddings I have gone to in North America and Asia, the guests are not required to pay for their meal explicitly. What is done, instead, is that a combination of gift and cash gift is calculated so that it covers the cost of the meal and provides "extra" but this is a personal calculation that takes in multiple factors such as, culture, location. cost of venue and all that. You do not ask your guests to pay for items explicitly. There is a reciprocal understanding that the presence of the guest is a lovely gift and that the guest understands that a good guest does not freeload egregiously.

Now, I have also catered my own wedding and the weddings of others. The usual routine was that if it was completely outside the budget then adjustments would be made. You did not burden the guests because they are your guests not your catering clients.

My mother, who comes from Viet Nam would be APPALLED that someone would ask a guest to pay. In the traditional culture the wedding ceremony, banquet and even the bridesmaid dresses are paid for by the couple or their family. You do not levy costs on people who are your guests and or honoring you with their presence.

There are so many ways to have a celebration that does not require that your guests pay right on the invitation. Potluck? Sure! Cookie table? Me and my box are right there. Cupcakes instead of big fondant extravaganza? Hell, yeah. Asking for cash outright for my meal? Er, no.
posted by jadepearl at 12:00 PM on March 20, 2013


(... and it operates on the logic of extended reciprocity, obviously; everyone knows they'll get their money back when it's their turn. This kind of awkwardness comes about, I guess, when some guests are from outside the loop of exchange.)
posted by nelljie at 12:02 PM on March 20, 2013


American, New York wedding photog here. I have never, ever heard of this.

I think this is appalling, it's basically telling their friends and family "if you can't at least cover the cost of your meal, we don't want you here." You don't plan a party, set a budget you can't afford, and then expect the guests to pay for the wedding of your dreams.

If you wanted to be extremely obnoxious, you could attend the wedding, decline the meal, and have a pizza delivered to the reception. Guests are responsible for feeding themselves, right? (You should probably not do this).
posted by inertia at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the strangest, and rudest, part is the checkbox, as if this is some sort of choice you are making. "Check this box to confirm you aren't a cheapskate."
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where I come from, cash is basically the ONLY thing given at weddings anymore. And I think people do expect that their gift would cover the cost of their dinner ($50 is pretty standard for acquaintances, $100 for friends and up from there. The last wedding I went to was for my distant cousin and I think I gave something like $200). So okay. But that's not DIRECTLY for the meal. I think everyone comes out having had the wedding banquet costs covered, but it isn't done in such a direct way. I've never seen anything like this.
posted by marylynn at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2013


Also--don't caterers usually need to be paid in full before the event begins? The idea that they will be collecting money from guests before their wedding date...ugh. What are they going to do, send you a bill?
posted by inertia at 12:33 PM on March 20, 2013


One possible solution: attend the wedding, but not the reception. Just indicate this on your response card by writing a brief message in the card.

Agreed that's it's tacky. It's also sad, because I'm guessing they're going to end up with a lot of no's and/or no-shows.
posted by pecanpies at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2013


Ugggh, wow, these people actually do suck. That is WAY too expensive. The couples I mentioned were just expecting people cover their own food at a restaurant - I got through one of those dinners for $8! Your acquaintances either really are jerks, or so stupid/clueless that they can't be dealt with like adults. The epic non-attendance at this wedding will be their own fault.
posted by Coatlicue at 1:31 PM on March 20, 2013


I am in the middle of planning my wedding right now and specifically I am working on how to word the invitations and RSVP cards.
You made my week with this!
Hilarious. OMG. So bad. So out of touch with the US/Canada norms.
$30 for kids.... awesome! HA. I'm surprised they aren't more. Throw in a little "kid tax" in case they cry on your special day or something.
posted by rmless at 2:32 PM on March 20, 2013


Because they had to invite work colleagues

No. No, they didn't.

I'm familiar with the southern European custom of an envelope of money, but I've never heard of a breakdown between cost of meal and cost of gift. (Besides, since the meal was the responsibility of the bride's parents, not of the happy young couple, so....)

But then, I'm old fashioned enough to find gift registries themselves a little off putting. The polite fiction is that one is to express surprise at getting any gift at all. It's a party, not a market exchange.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've had this twice, in Australia. One half of the couple had been laid off between booking venues and wedding, and the other was a contractor and struggling a bit at the time.

I was happy to pay as I was close to the couple, and the meal was not outrageous (30 bucks or so I seem to recall). I didn't view it as some kind of personal insult ffs - we don't have any insight into these people's lives or what was happening.

The other time I was actually best man. It was a bigger wedding, one half of the couple was at university, the other was either unemployed or minimum wage (I can't remember). They didn't have the money, they wanted people to celebrate their wedding with them, 99.99% of guests could afford. Again, we paid. Not a big deal, if we couldn't, we would have declined the invite and no hard feelings.

Note this is two weddings out of, I don't know, more than 20 that's for sure. So, yes, unusual here, but not unheard-of. I wouldn't go for an acquaintance - and I'm sure some people didn't. But it's not a direct or personal insult. If I'm happy for a couple and want to celebrate their union, paying for dinner to do it seems minor to me.

We pay for our dinner when we go out or are asked out to dinner with friends all the time; no biggie. I would prefer to pay for dinner than have someone go into debt to host their wedding, obviously I'm an extremely outlier on this one though!
posted by smoke at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a party, not a market exchange.

It's a market exchange disguised as a party. That is pretty much the anthropological definition of a wedding. Its success turns on the art of the disguise, which is what Ms. Manners can speak to (wrt mainstream North American culture).
posted by nelljie at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


IndigoJones, I think you have misunderstood my comment. I am trying to explain that I don't think it's common etiquette based on existing tradition, but I think this will potentially be more common as we see folks waiting until they are professionally secure to get married.

They did not have to invite anyone. They could have eloped and simply ignored the social etiquette of the corporate culture they're currently living in. But not only did they feel pressure to invite work colleagues, I had conversations with multiple co-workers who felt the same pressure. It's one of those new social landmines that have arisen from folks putting off marriage.

Regardless of whether this pressure is right or wrong, in these circles, it's becoming exceedingly common for a significant percentage of the invite list to RSVP to the wedding and not show up. They might have left the company, and didn't want to make nice with their old bosses. They might have felt anxious about spending time with their bosses at an open bar. It doesn't matter. The point is that regardless of whether I can afford to spend 10 dollars a head or 100 dollars a head, I only want to pay for the guests who want to be there and bother to show up.

Would Miss Manners approve? No. She would find it terribly gauche. But if you have a peer group filled with people who don't comply with Miss Manners rules of RSVPing to a wedding, asking people to think about the 65/head price you're paying is a good nudge. Not as a guilt trip, or trying to recoup your costs (though it currenly does both of these things mostly because it's not widespread), but as a way to invite everyone to your wedding, and only get Yes responses from people who truly want to be at your wedding, and not just want an excuse to dress up and network with their colleagues. Those folks will suddenly clutch their pocketbooks and realize they don't care that much to be a part of that special day.
posted by politikitty at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2013


First thought is that this is a couple that cannot afford the wedding they want. IMHO, one hosts the kind of party that one can afford in the finest way possible. I offer this thought: do you gift a 5-pound box of crummy chocolates or 8 oz. box of Godiva? The Godiva, of course. I would kind of slink into the reception, embarrassed for the bride and groom.

A W K W A R D
posted by Lornalulu at 5:11 PM on March 20, 2013


Chinese person here. I have given way more than $65 sealed in red envelopes when attending Chinese wedding dinners held by close friends, but it is never explicit or asked for by the inviter.

I don't think this is good etiquette regardless of which part of the world you come from.
posted by ianK at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But then, I'm old fashioned enough to find gift registries themselves a little off putting. The polite fiction is that one is to express surprise at getting any gift at all. It's a party, not a market exchange.

Well, the tradition behind "gift registries" is that a new couple just establishing a household together is going to need things like flatware and dinnerware and a coffee maker and hand towels.

Similarly an envelope of cash (red or not) is supposed to be because young couples tend to have fewer resources when they're just starting out. The envelope is so one is not tacky and classless enough to flash publicly how much one is giving. I've been at a really broke wedding where they passed a hat for some extra spending cash on the already no-frills honeymoon. That felt fine. That dinner was hot dogs and potato salad at the Union Hall.

But a $65 cover charge for the privilege of celebrating someone's wedding? Only a broke alcoholic is gonna gripe about a no-host/cash bar at a wedding. But the dinner?

Food, and the sharing thereof, has a whole lot of hospitality traditions wrapped up in it across just about any culture that eats and shares food. And the message is "You're welcome at my wedding if you can afford a $65/plate dinner".

I really think this (along w/ asking your guests to pay for the big party you can't afford to throw) is the biggest part of why there has been such a visceral WRONG/BAD/NO reaction in this thread.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


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