In theory, we give gifts at weddings for two reasons:
1. The couple is moving out of their parents’ respective homes and it’s the generosity of their family and friends that allows them to establish a new household from scratch.
2. Because they paid for your meal of chicken or pasta.
We can, of course, also give gifts out of love, but since wedding gifts are considered obligatory, we’re leaving love out of the picture.
We should not be expected to give wedding gifts.
This is not a generally acceptable opinion. Somewhat recently, I went to a wedding across the country that cost me about $700 to attend, which may seem negligible to some, but was not to me. Not long after, I admitted to a mutual friend of the couple, who was also invited but did not go, that I hadn’t gotten the newlyweds a gift. She freaked. As a recently engaged person, she took my assertion that I didn’t owe them a gift very personally. I was not invited to her wedding.
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There are some exceptions. It is conceivable that some younger or less well-off couples are moving into a home together without even a spatula to their name, and in that case, a registry is appropriate and expected. To couples that are poor and need help to have a nice day, all blessings upon you. Send me an invite and point me to your wedding cake GoFundMe.
However, the rules of this hypothetical universe do not apply to people in their late twenties who have been living together for years in a $3,000 one bedroom in Brooklyn. If you can afford to buy your own KitchenAid and still expect one from a guest at your wedding just because they accepted your invitation, you can fuck right off.
Going to a wedding is expensive. By asking someone to come and witness your individual prom day, you’re also asking them to spend money to look nice, to travel, to stay in a hotel, and probably to take time off from work. If they’re in the wedding party, they’ll be paying for all the additional days that pop up around the central circus—bachelorette and bachelor parties, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, etc. Guess what, lovers: it sucks to have to choose between celebrating a huge day with your friend and paying rent.
Throwing a wedding is also expensive. Extremely expensive. But if you can’t afford to throw it without an expected $150 rebate from your guest on fine china, scale the fuck back. The cost of a BBQ buffet plate and a table full of red velvet cupcakes do not equate to stemware. No one should be expected to subsidize your decision to wear a tiara or buy a tailored satin tuxedo jacket. The only thing guests should be expected to do is show up and shower you with love, attention, and validation of your legally recognized union without embarrassing you by getting too drunk. That’s more than most people get.
That said, my disdain for gifts does not just apply to weddings. Birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, and most baby shower gifts should also go in the toilet—with some exceptions. Children deserve gifts, as do some people having their first child, who don’t usually have a baby starter kit lying around. It makes sense to help each other out with that stuff—even though there’s no equivalent support network for when people announce they’re growing old alone. Single people should start throwing mandatory parties to collect food for their pantry and start a fund for in-home care. That would be dope.
It’s also acceptable to give birthday gifts to kids between the ages of three and 16, because they’re still young enough to enjoy getting random stuff that’s not really to their taste, which will clutter their home and be a burden when they have to move. SURPRISE I don’t like getting gifts either.
The best gifts for adults are experiences. The shared experience of a wedding ceremony is powerful, memorable, and often really fun. As a host, it is you who is giving a gift, and we should never give expecting to receive. But if that’s the deal, just send me an itemized bill and we can compare costs out in the open.