Weddings. The mere mention of the word sends everyone into a panic of organisation, budgets, what to wear and gift expectations.
Recent events have drawn me to question a few things regarding the 'wedding expectation etiquette' of 2016. After all, things have changed since 1970. New gown looks, Spotify playlists, destination weddings and wishing wells. Gone are the days of registering your wedding china at David Jones or presenting someone with a toaster for the engagement. (N.b. I'd be happy with a new toaster).
So today I want to put this question out there for discussion -- what's normal in 2016? Having already spoken to a few married and non-married friends, it seems people's opinions these days are varied. I have also found weddings will often stay true to the couple's (or lets be honest -- the bride's) personality.
For example; if you have a totally laid back, 'anything goes' type of couple, then you can reasonably expect the wedding format to follow suit. These are the types who couldn't care less if you turned up in white (or black) and also wouldn't mind whether you gave them a Bunnings gift card or wrapped a Maxwell Williams dining set for their big day.
Then you will have the overly organised. The traditional type who will ensure not only the wedding but all pre-wedding events go according to plan in the lead up. She will have an engagement party AND a bridal shower AND a bachelorette party.
You might have also encountered the destination wedding couple who are really just after a big holiday with whomever can afford to come -- and will secretly relish the idea that most won't be able to afford to.
Likewise, the overly romantic, quieter couple who tie the knot with only themselves present -- either down at city hall without a fuss or on a beach overseas -- only telling of the event upon their return. They are just going to have a big party with you all once they're home, and since they've spent all their money on travelling they will appreciate actual gifts to fill their home.
Whatever the scenario, the question remains the same for the guests: What is expected of me?
Gift wise, most people I have talked to seem to be in agreement that a wedding is the time to literally state on the invitation what is expected of guests. The little poems asking for donations of money instead of gifts or requesting no gifts from guests attending an overseas wedding due to the cost involved of getting there. Yep, the wedding itself is the time to quite clearly request what you would prefer, so that everyone knows what is expected.
But for engagement parties, the expectations become a little blurry. This is where most of the debate occurs, and personally, I think it should be as simple as this:
"Hi. We are having a party to celebrate the fact we are getting married in the future. Come have a drink and party with us." The end.
If close friends and family want to donate them a little cash, buy a thoughtful present or donate their time by helping set up the engagement party itself, then go for it. I am sure most will.
I also think you can judge this even better for yourself by the type of party. For instance, if the bride and groom are putting on alcohol and canapés at a venue, then perhaps yes, you might like to get them a little gift of appreciation. Because doing that isn't cheap. However, if it's more a BYO beers backyard party, then don't feel pressured into bringing the groom anything more than a celebratory six pack. It's just a party of happiness after all, not an official ceremony. Chill out.
Now, for those of you who have received 'wishing well' requests for the engagement party, my question would be this -- are they expecting additional wads of cash in Hallmark cards for the big day as well?
Ask around and you will soon figure out what the go is, but if this is indeed the case then you are allowed to be realistic. You are also allowed to gift in a group -- pool money from the family or friendship group as a whole. Not everyone can afford to contribute hundreds of dollars individually per wedding event, and may even feel slightly uncomfortable about it. There is always the inevitable worry that you haven't put in enough.
If you are not in the position to be quite so generous (or if you are, but find the double request of money doesn't sit overly well with you) then there are other options. Perhaps buy them a few (decent) scratchies instead with the promise of the real thing on their wedding day if they aren't lucky enough to win the lotto this time around.
If you can afford the cash, but feel funny about shoving $50 into a card, then try a gift card instead for somewhere they would like. Or, if you don't want the amount known, you can buy a 'service' for the couple -- i.e. a massage or a facial for the bride. That way it's something of monetary value they can use, but they won't necessarily know exactly how much you've spent. These kinds of gift ideas will also work for those expecting bridal shower gifts.
When it comes to the wedding day and time to donate some very welcome cash to the happy couple, this is when it comes down to both what you can afford and whether you are giving money as a couple or a single. A very basic rule to go by would be $100 per couple and $50 per single, again, depending on what you can afford and how close you are to the people getting married. Commonly, people tend to donate a larger amount if it's immediate family or a best friend. However, after much research, for a 'standard' (non-destination) wedding these amounts seem to be acceptable. Phew!
At the end of the day, every wedding is different and so is every couple. I would recommend going with what you know the couple would be happy with and if you don't know them very well use the standard amounts above for the big day, and a bottle of something nice for the engagement. Who doesn't want alcohol and money? Works for me!
The happiest day of your life for many is also the busiest and most stressful. After attending weddings of both close friends and family I can also say that it's always worth the stress in the end. It might just help to manage everyone's expectations a little bit before diving in.