Hint: It rhymes with bash - Macleans.ca

Hint: It rhymes with bash

Please come to our wedding: RSVP with cash


Photo illustration by Sarah MacKinnon

Kristen De Filippis recently had an argument with her aunt and mom about what makes an appropriate wedding gift. “They said, ‘You have to give at least $100 [cash] or more,’ ” says De Filippis, 38, who lives in Toronto. “I was like, the whole thing is insane. It should come down to what you can afford.” De Filippis loves her big Italian family, but wedding season isn’t cheap. It’s standard to give gifts at the engagement party and the shower, and an envelope on the big day. “With the older generation, if you don’t give a certain amount, you’re considered cheap.” (At a distant relative’s bridal shower, when De Filippis committed to giving a $40 gift, her mom put in $150 from both of them instead, she says, to avoid embarrassment.)

In many cultures, giving cash at weddings has long been standard. Now that a growing number of couples live together before getting married, money is an increasingly in-demand present: They may not need another set of towels or dishware, but would prefer funds toward a vacation, or the down payment on a home. “I have five weddings this year, and five next year, and I’m giving cash at all of them,” says Amanda Marshall, 29, of Vancouver. Having polled her close friends, she knows that’s what they want. But other guests can see it as a cash grab, and in some cases, cash-strapped guests are fighting back.

The first high-profile spat erupted in June, when two guests at a Hamilton wedding left a gift basket filled with salsa, oil, biscuits, spreadable marshmallow and Sour Patch Kids candies. “Life is delicious,” the card said. “Enjoy!” But the two brides did not enjoy. Afterward, one fired off a text: “I’m not sure if it’s the first wedding you have been to, but for your next wedding … people give envelopes. I lost out on $200 covering you and your date’s plate.” (The brides were of Italian and Croatian heritage, two cultures where cash gifts are the norm.) Outraged, the guests sent this exchange to the Hamilton Spectator newspaper, and it went viral.

Just a few weeks later, another woman—an American named Tanya—went public with a Facebook message she’d received from a friend whose wedding she’d attended. “I just want to know, is there any reason or dissatisfaction of Mike’s and my wedding that both you and Phil gave $50 each?” the bride wrote, informing Tanya that the cost was in fact $100 per person. “That money didn’t grow on a tree,” Tanya huffed to the Huffington Post. “If she had a minimum gift requirement, she should have specified it … or asked everyone for income statements before inviting them.” While that bride’s reaction might have been unusual, she wasn’t alone in her expectations. De Filippis notes that, at weddings, “it’s understood you have to cover the cost of food per plate.” This is also the rule of thumb with Marshall’s friends.

The average cost of a wedding in Canada is now $32,358, but never mind the couples—for those attending these events, the price is going up, too. This year, guests expect to spend $539 per wedding, according to a U.S. survey by American Express, up 59 per cent from last year. Close family members will spend an average of $179 per person on a gift; for co-workers, it’s $66. There seems to be a growing disconnect between the happy couple and their guests. Most Americans (35 per cent) would like to give a gift from the registry. Most couples (52 per cent) want money. A growing number write on the invitation, “Presentation” or “No boxed gifts,” to more politely imply they want cash, although etiquette dictates that even registry information should be left off the formal invite.

If there’s a generational gap between De Filippis and her mom about how much cash is appropriate to give, Marshall has experienced a different kind of disconnect: an ex’s mom who was told a couple wanted cash, and just “couldn’t do it.” Loath even to buy something off the registry, she insisted on picking something out herself. Indeed, some people still feel that cash is too impersonal. Most people, though, whether givers or recipients, seem to agree on one thing: After the big day has come and gone, proper etiquette dictates that thank-you cards should be sent out for each and every gift—even if it was a lowly box of Sour Patch Kids.

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Hint: It rhymes with bash

  1. Wow…… first world problem?!

  2. How sad! When did it got so complicated?!

    • When people get sucked into the fantasy and illusion. You will never hear a wedding planner suggest the JP as there is no money in it.

  3. If they want X amount of dollars from each person, they should be frank about it and just charge admission. Otherwise, they get what they get.

    Minimalism is in. Time to ditch the faux royal weddings.

    • Or just get married by the JP, run off to a private upscale retreat and enjoy each other. Marriage is about each other, two together. No need to blow $38k++ and beg for money, when you can spend just $5k and have 10 days of bliss without in law issues. And with a JP, you even have the energy to properly consummate the marriage. If a big wedding, 100+ guests, the emotional drain leaves little at the end of the night.

      Have a much less expensive yard party 3 or 4 weeks later and let guests celebrate informally.

  4. Easy: I wouldn’t be friends with someone with that kind of greedy attitude.

    • Yep, but what do you do it you are a relative?

  5. 38000 for a wedding?!?!?!? We spent just under 10000 and thought that was crazy! Maybe people need to stop having crazy weddings to afford all their fancy things! A wedding is one day a mortgage is 25 years!! I’d rather save on the wedding and have money for a down payment!

    • Me, I spent $600 on a yard party 3 weeks after marriage, $3000 on a weeks romantic getaway. We were married by JP at 11am and in bliss…nothing to do but enjoy our bonds of marriage. And no regrets as 100% of our energies were directed to each other.

  6. Weddings have become money gathering events. Most people attend reluctantly. Yes most of us have better things to do. Downscale and control your greed.

  7. My husband and i were just at a wedding last night and gave 80 each(they didnt have a gift table, only a box for envelopes). We bring extra $$ depending on the style of wedding, how the bride and groom put into food entertainment, open bar, etc.
    Honestly, if you’re going to complain about how much you have to bring you may not really like them and you might as well not go. It will probably save the bride and groom money and you wont have to buy that new dress, tie, etc.
    But its a little tricky when you apart of a family where you’re expected to give lots of dough. I have a former coworker who is engaged and is italian. She got a part time job. I’m not part of that type of culture, but she just accepts it. I’d probably complain!
    But in the end you just want some kind of fairness.. The couple of the wedding we went to last night gave us a butter dish and four beer glasses when we got married. We gave cash, drove 2 hrs to the middle of nowhere and shared one porto-potty with all other 100 guests last night. It super sucks at that point because you want to have a good time and support the two getting married, but you cant help but feel something is off (maybe it was the smell of the porto-potty.)

  8. When we got married we wanted the wedding to be a celebration of our commitment to each other, and how we wanted to celebrate with family and friends. It was a party we hosted so we covered all the costs and made sure we planned something we could afford (ie. no cash bar, no exotic location wedding, we paid for all the wedding party outfits etc). If people can afford a 30 thousand dollar wedding they don’t need my money. I will give a cash gift but I will not calculate the amount on the basis of how much it cost the couple to throw the wedding. I went to one location wedding that cost the guests hundreds of dollars for hotel rooms and travel costs and then learned the couple had a cash bar. In my opinion that is unforgivable. Host the wedding you can afford – don’t ask your guests to pay for it.

  9. This is ridiculous. I guess if that’s standard to leave that much cash I will RSVP no at the next wedding. I thought you go to a wedding to celebrate with the “happy” not greedy couple. If they want to spend a crap load of money on a wedding to make it pretty or better than the next persons, then that’s their prerogative. Doesn’t mean I have to pay for it! If they invite me I would assume it’s because the want me there, not because they want my money!

  10. The best wedding i ever attended was in the bride and groom’s home with a wedding cake purchased at Metro and a pot luck dinner. We had to bring our own chairs. Everyone laughed and cried and had a great time and the bride and groom didn’t look at anyone but each other all day.

    • And they were not saddled with a huge debt.

  11. greed, greed, greed… how insulting, they don’t want to see you at their wedding because your a good friend, all they want is your money.

    • Which is commercialization of marriage. Which the wise couples avoid. Even if I had a billion in the bank, I would still opt for JP and run away together focusing on each other. It takes 5 minutes to get married and your first focus should be on each other. Then have a party at a later date. Could be a simple yard party with kegs of beer and lots of wine.

  12. Maclean’s, once again, is covering the truly important stories of the day. I once read Maclean’s for their insight into current IMPORTANT events…

    • Not every story in a magazine has to be a life or death issue. Weddings are something almost everyone will have some involvement with at some point in their lives.

  13. In my opinion, you shouldn’t have a wedding you can’t afford. You are hosting a party and inviting your friends and family to be guests at that party. Expect to pay for the whole thing 100% on your own – any gifts you receive are an absolute BONUS. When did the whole world give up basic good manners? *shakes head*

  14. Why are we still doing these big weddings most people live together for years before “tying the knot” what exactly are we celebrating??? Signing the paperwork??

    Most people I know are just looking to break even on cost of the wedding. Why not put the price/plate on invite and a bill at the end of nite. People can decide up front if they can afford to come and the couple can avoid unnecessary costs.

    • Or just forget it, and have a yard party pot luck event 3 weeks later?

      • Agreed! But Please explain that to my girlfriend…. LOL

  15. If you have a diamond on your finger marking your engagement, you owe it to De Beers’ communications.
    The wedding industry is rooted in the fact that people are easily convinced that “wants” are, in fact, “needs”.

    • Well said. Sort of like government, selling the perceived but unnecessary need to get other peoples money.

  16. I have been married twice, I divorced the first one as it didn’t work out. First time married we had the big bash, lots of guests, gifts, the whole 9 yards. Quite frankly, it a waste of money for feed brides and moms ego. I should have treated it as a red flag. And excuse to blow money out the window. And at the end of the night and next day, an emotional wreck as we were too tired to enjoy each other.

    For the second marriage after the divorce and met the right lady, we chose a new trend. Still in love and married 22 years now we used a JP and ran off on our own. Yep, just used a JP and just the two of us, then rented a private romantic hideaway for a week with private hot tubs and a case of champaign (they supplied the roses). I thought I had gone to heaven as we both focused on what was important to us, and that was us. We applied the savings for a house, off to a good start we never argued about money and bills. Didn’t have a marriage debt to start things off.

    We partied, but we bought burger and steak, 5 gallon pail of potatoes salad, chips, mustard, buns and a kegs of beer and spend the afternoon drinking in the yard
    with friends and family. Did it 4 weeks later when we had the time and only cost about $500. No big bills to mess up our finances.

    The big wedding is a farce really. Its to sell the false illusions, feed the narcissisms, and of course empty your wallet. As that JP wedding was quick, and then we moved on with “we” and our lives but without the baggage of relatives and bills from a industry of fancy.

  17. We had 210 people at our wedding, which was essentially a “traditional Italian wedding.” This was 22 years ago and all was great! Food, music, entertainment, etc…were wonderful and EVERYONE loved it and only had wonderful things to say. However, it did cost us $15K for one night, but…we made $27K in “busta” (envelope) offerings. So, we profited and it was quite helpful. To each their own.

    • You made a $ 12,000 profit on your wedding? And you’re actually bragging about it?

    • OMG! And since When the Whole world take an example Just from Italians? Just because They “must” have Big weddings and that “busta” thingy does it means We All should do the same like monkeys?

      I am from Europe – Slovakia and “I” paid for my wedding. Actually, both our Families paid – it was a mutual agreement who finances what. There is no bloody way we would let Our Guests pay for anything! “WE” invited them, we provided everything! IF they decided to give something, was up to them, but we didn’t expect anything, and we valued even just a bucket of flowers from friends.

      Why the heck would I even go somewhere where I would be expected to spend outrageous amount of money on something I would never pick otherwise?

      Wedding basically as a business? It’s dirty. You people are Waayyyyyy out of your mind.

  18. This is why I boycott weddings… I didn’t have one for my marriage ceremony, and I don’t attend others’. I find weddings to be very self-indulgent.

  19. Thought I could shed a little cultural understanding here since it seems many on this board do not understand the motivators involved. One of the worst things you could call a Croatian person is “cheap.” Image is important, that is one of the reasons for a big (by Canadian standards) wedding. Not having an open bar is unthinkable for instance and the ultimate in tacky, even in Canada, the land of expensive booze. There are others but in the Croatian culture a lot of self esteem and reputation is derived from how well a host you are. Being able to throw a good party is very important.

    In the Croatian culture returning the favour is also very important. You invite them, they invite you 10 years later to their wedding. They give $100 a person, you give $100 a person 10 years later (plus inflation). Over a lifetime it all equals out and yes, Croatians think that way. Cash is always given because it is the most practical. Croatians and Italians don’t have the same hangups about cash in general as some other cultures do.

    They see “large” gifts as covering the costs and helping out the newlyweds at the time of their life when money is tightest. Not returning the favour and not sharing the wealth with family is taboo in Croatian culture.

    Weddings are also important to the family. They are reunions, matchmaking opportunities and a healthy chunk of people’s social lives (especially for the older folks) all rolled into one. Grandma would never forgive her grandchild if she ran away and got married, nor would your single cousin.

    People from Asian cultures, African cultures, South American all understand this. It seems that Anglos just haven’t been exposed to it.

  20. The wedding industry is still spiraling out of control, as evidenced by this article featuring couples expecting their guests to pay for their own plates by way of cash “gifts”. Isn’t the idea of a wedding to celebrate the union with close friends and family? When did it become “understood” that to be invited to the celebration means you’re covering your own meal? How discourteous. In giving a cash gift, I’m hoping to give a gift to the new couple, not paying my meal bill. If you can’t afford a big glitzy wedding, don’t have a big glitzy wedding.

  21. The couple decides the level of expense for their wedding, with perhaps some family input. The guests are not consulted and most guests could care less whether the reception is modest or luxurious. To expect one’s guests to fund personal choices is beyond presumptous. One might wonder about what constitutes such a couples’ understanding of relationships. Since many bride and grooms are already living as a couple, one might even ask why many are deciding to have such an expensive wedding? Again most guests could care less. Many guests come to extend joyful support to someone important to them [and to visit with other guests]. It seems the stress of expense and related expectations is making this goal a low and limited priority.