Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weddings & Whatnot

No, I'm not getting married. Trust me, you'll be THE FIRST TO KNOW. Well, maybe not the first, but you'll be up there with the Important People. Pinky swear.

Anyhow, I'm wondering how citizens of the world at large generally and you people specifically feel about wedding registries.
If I'm going to a wedding, I usually tend to buy the couple a gift off their registry. My logic behind this is as follows: It is traditional to give the newlyweds a gift. This item is something I know they want and will therefore like.
But I've had a few conversations with people who adamantly proclaim their distaste for registries. Usually it is because the person feels too hemmed in by a registry and wants to be more creative for his or her gift ("It's just so impersonal!"), or it is because they feel like the act of having a registry conveys greed ("It's like they are saying you HAVE to buy them a present."). Or both.... KC got his sister the Shake Weight for her wedding. And, on the way to a friend's wedding, he pulled over at a Rite Aid and bought a hideous 2 foot tall knick knack figurine THING. He presented it to the couple and told them it was a fertility statue. He now takes credit for the fact that they have a kid. Think what you will of that but he comes from a family that regularly buys each other horrible gifts-- so they can take them out into the desert and SHOOT THEM.

Uh. Anyhow. I don't generally tend to feel like the act of having a registry is the same as INSISTING that the guests bring gifts. I do think it is tacky (and leaning toward more insistent) when registry information is included with the invitation or save-the-date card, but most people don't do that.
And I don't feel creatively stifled by the registry, either. I think of it as a helpful guide. Like, "Just in case you might be interested in giving us a gift here is a list of things we like."
When my sister got married I made her a video of all the wedding preparations (trying on the dress, seeing which veil she liked best, wrapping the favors, unwrapping the presents) and her wedding (ceremony, speeches, dancing, cake) all edited to music. That was her gift-- it didn't cost much MONEY but it did take a helluva lot of time to make. She loved it. But it's not like I'm going to do something that creative and time-consuming for everybody who invites me to their wedding. I do make soap, so sometimes I'll include some as a little sub-gift. That's the maximum wedding-gift-creativity that I have to give.

So, in general, I'm on board with registries. I particularly like registries that have a nice range of stuff. Like, not EVERYTHING is in the $100 and up category, but there are plenty of things to buy that are in the $25 range without looking like the asshole who bought one spoon. Usually I tend to spend $30-$75 on a wedding gift. That's kind of a wide range, I know, but it just really depends on a variety of factors. This is the very unscientific algorithm I use to decide how much to spend:

How close are we?
If we are closer friends or relatives then I am probably likely to spend a bit more on your gift. Same goes if I know BOTH the bride and groom.
If I am coming as somebody's plus-one then I usually let that person handle the gifting decisions (see also: Shake Weight).

What is my current income?
When I was working full-time I was more likely to err on the spendier side. Now that I'm a full-time student again I tend to spend a bit less on wedding gifts since I know I'll be paying it back with interest to Sallie Mae.

How far away is your wedding?
Whether it should be like this or not I tend to spend a bit less on the gift if getting to the wedding is going to be a large inconvenience or expense. If I have to pay for airfare, a car rental, and a hotel room, then the wedding gift can't be as pricey. Or I might just opt for a gift card since carrying a gift might get tricky with airport security workers and their sticky fingers.
I recognize that the couple is spending money on the wedding and having my tush in a seat costs them some cash. But I DON'T like the idea of some kind of equalish trade-off. Like, they're spending this amount of money to have me at the wedding so I need to spend that amount on a gift. I think that's the kind of thinking that leads people to say 'well I'm TRAVELING for the wedding, so my gift to them is my presence' and for many feelings to get hurt.
I don't have a money tree so I can't afford as fancy of a giftie if I'm voyaging a long way for a wedding and that's just how it is.

Am I bringing a guest?
Oh goodness. Don't get me started on THIS particular subject. I accept that I may feel differently about this and if and when I ever do get married I reserve the right to change my mind. I also accept that MANY people feel differently about this and I do understand that there are lots of good reasons for this. My dear friends, if that is the case for you, we are just going to have to agree to disagree. BUT I feel, in general, that a person in their mid-twenties or older should be expected/allowed to bring a date to a wedding. That should be the default. Person in their mid-twenties coming to your wedding? Include a plus-one.
Because, I'm sorry, but weddings are just not THAT fun. Especially if you HAVE a significant other but he or she is not allowed to attend the wedding with you.
I know that weddings are expensive. I know that it is hard to decide which people to invite or not invite and that everybody has their own priorities of which expenses are the most important ones and etc, etc, whatever. But going to a wedding by yourself can kinda... suck.
AND I hate the idea that someone else has assigned some sort of value or validity to a relationship based on months/years together. Like "Oh we'll invite Todd and Angela because they've been together for a year, but not Brian's girlfriend Lisa because they've only been dating for 6 months." What if Todd and Angela are about to break up and Brian and Lisa are about to get engaged? Who are YOU to say which relationship is more "valid" than the other?
I think my feelings on this stem from the fact that I'm unmarried so there's never the GUARANTEE that I'll get to bring a date to a wedding. And that can get frustrating and awkward. (I'm not trying to offend anyone-- again, these are just my opinions.)
Related? I'm also getting tired of being one of the last single ladies pretending to be excited about catching the bouquet. Oh yes, woohoo I caught it, I'm next. I'M THE ONLY ONE LEFT.
Bitter? Me? Whyever do you ask?
Anyhow, where was I? Oh yes, if I'm bringing a guest I will spend more on a present since it is kind of from the both of us.

How much is shipping?
If I'm buying the gift online and need it shipped either to me or directly to the newlyweds then I need to take the shipping cost into account. Like, if I want to spend $50 on a gift and I find out the shipping is $12, I'm probably going to spend less on the actual gift or I might just opt for sending a gift card. Of course, if I'm buying the gift in person then this point is moo. 

Am I going to multiple weddings or wedding-related events in a small period of time?
If I'm going to three weddings in July then my money will be stretched a bit thin and everybody will likely get a proportionally less expensive gift. Same goes if I'm going to several wedding-related events for the same person all within a short time period. I'm going to a shower, bachelorette party, AND wedding all within a month or two of each other? Sorry, those gifties get downsized. On the other hand, if your wedding stands alone in the dead of winter? Hooray for you; I'll be wearing a raincoat and bringing a fancy gift.

What does my mom think?
My mom knows her etiquette, you guys. She's got it DOWN. So if I ever have a Big Dilemma I'll ask her and go with what she says.

There's no, like, mathematical value I attach to these variables, they are just the factors I tend to take into account when purchasing wedding gifties. These are MY opinions and methods for deciding what to spend on wedding presents. I don't claim to be an expert or The Tsar of Present-Giving but this is what works for me now. I'm curious to know YOUR gift-buying opinions/methods, if you are inclined to share.