reality check

In the hectic moments leading up to a recent family party, a family friend pressed an envelope into my hand, telling me it was an engagement gift. “Put it in your wallet,” she said, “put it someplace safe.”*

Oh, my.

Of course, it’s a check*. I hope she meant it as an early wedding gift. That is, I’m touched by her kindness, and I dearly hope this is her one and only gift to us, forever and ever, amen. But I fear otherwise.

This is a simple collision of different social worlds. I’ve always given modest wedding gifts, maybe a nice salad bowl and a bottle of fancy vinegar, or a picnic basket with a blanket and some citronella candles, or a bottle of wine and nice glasses. I’m coming to realize that some of our guests (especially those of our parents’ generations) are more extravagant.

I’m bowled over by the generosity, but it makes me squirm, too.

The same family friend was appalled to hear that I’m not having a bridal shower. She lamented the loot we would forego, and (I think) misunderstood my reasons. I told her that The Fella and I have a small kitchen and a large batterie de cuisine, and in any case I’d be uncomfortable having a party where people have to bring me gifts. She remarked that we’d likely get plenty of wedding checks to spend as we liked. My silent rejoinders: What? and Whoa.

Like I said, squirmy.

As crass as it is, I find myself totting up rough figures in my head. No, no, it’s not greedy expectation, but apprehension and anxiety. Tally with me:

– Guest Y drops X dollars in our laps for getting engaged.
– Guest Y expects to give us a shower gift, until I tell her I’m not having a shower.
– Guest Y may well feel moved (or, worse, feel pressured) to give us a wedding gift.

Yikes — no wonder people gripe about weddings! Once you add in travel costs and accommodations, a wedding guest could easily spend a month’s rent at this rate.

I know the Miss Manners drill: since gifts are freely given and unexpected, the bride and groom may not acknowledge the possibility of them, not even by curtailing them. And of course we’re grateful to Guest Y, and we’ll think of her whenever we use the [blank] that her generosity allows us to choose.

But… but… what ever happened to the modest wedding gift, the small gesture, the thoughtful token? Or was I the only cheapo giving these modest gifts?

*Yes, Mom, I have written the thank-you note. Before I abandoned the wedding forums, I found one tidbit of great advice: send the note before you use the gift or deposit the check.

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2 thoughts on “reality check

  1. I’m all in favour of modest gifts, but whenever I give something small, I get something big in return, and if I ask for small gifts they give me something big anyway. Are they being competitive and showing off, or am I just tight-fisted?

  2. Simon, I sometimes wonder that, too, but I’ve decided that in exchanges like these, we’re each giving what we’re comfortable giving, and I try not to worry about the disparity.
    For me, this is made easier (a little) because I’m often giving something homemade (candy, jewelry, aftershave) or something I’ve assembled(e.g., a nice salad bowl, a bottle of good vinegar, a tired & true recipe for dressing, and a whisk), so they can see that I’ve I’ve put some effort and thought into it. Of course, I’m also a poor student, so people perhaps cut me some slack.

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