Should Your Wedding Gift Cover Your Meal?

…wedding etiquette calls for guests to give enough money to cover their estimated meal and drink costs, plus a little extra… Our wedding ran us about $50-$75 per person for food and drink. It is considered customary to pay for about what you think your meal and drinks will cost when you go to a wedding. It will be no less than $50, unless it’s a picnic, and maybe even then.

Jessica Delfino wrote a piece about her cheap wedding that was covered by the Weddings Section of The New York Times. While some of her advice was interesting (get a sheet cake at the market, use Instagram instead of a photographer), her advice to “cover your meal” is woefully incorrect (especially since she used to show up empty-handed at weddings). Most people will probably spend in the $50-$100 range anyway, but to expect your guests to essentially reimburse you for the wedding you chose to throw is foolish. Emily Post will tell you that you give what you can afford (“There is no rule, so it is entirely up to you. Let your affection for the bride and groom and your budget be your guide”). The same advice should be given to couples that want to recoup in gifts what they spend on their wedding: Throw the wedding you can afford.

After all, this is about the commitment two people are making to each other, not a fundraiser.


Wendy Frink lives in New York and sometimes tweets.


56 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#22)

No. Definitely not. If you can’t afford the wedding you’re throwing, expecting to make it up in gifts is a) stupid b) terrible and c) astoundingly rude. Fuck you.

katerrific (#374)

What?! Noooo! I am really disturbed that that sentiment is out there, existing in the world! “No one told me that for my whole adult life.” Because it isn’t true, and whoever did eventually tell you that is a g-d graceless clod.

@katerrific I know! There are so many beliefs I feel that about (big and small), but man, there are a lot of misguided wedding-related beliefs out there. For bride/groom, guests, parents, everybody. This is one of the worst, but fortunately I don’t know too many people who think they need to follow it (or expect others too).

Some of these are good ideas, but it’s my experience that with photographers you get what you pay for. Instagram is nice (and cheap!), but there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want, that the photos will be flattering, that they won’t devolve into drunken party photos…which is fine, if you’re willing to take that risk! Hiring a good photographer was the best (and most!) money I spent on my wedding (the total cost of which came nowhere near $20k.)

But yes, you absolutely never ever really should not expect to make money back on your wedding. You throw the party, you pay for it. Do not expect your guests (who, presumably, all come from different financial backgrounds…) to pay you for the price of their meal. Come on.

KPeeps (#1,140)

@dj pomegranate WHY would you ever skimp on a photog? I don’t understand why people think that’s a good idea. The photos are all you have left of the wedding when it’s all over (aside from the spouse).

synchronia (#185)

@KPeeps Because as readyornot so nicely puts it below, “weddings are a social ritual to make a commitment and have it observed by your community,” which fortunately doesn’t require professional photographs to occur?

deepomega (#22)

@KPeeps Also because there are only two times you look at your wedding photos: Right after your honeymoon, and when you get divorced.

@deepomega come on, this is the facebook age, you make a wedding photo your profile image and everyone you know will be looking at it for the next two years.

deepomega (#22)

@Lorelei@twitter You’re right, it’s totally worth 2000 dollars to have a real nice 100 pixel square icon on facebook.

ugh, agree with the other commenters. this is so rude and tacky! if you can’t afford to pay for the people you’re inviting to your wedding, then have a smaller or cheaper wedding.

readyornot (#816)

Gifts should never be expected! Sheesh. But honestly, this idea was not the only one that felt a little off in the xojane piece. Get PR mileage out of your wedding? Go on a reality show? Even “plan a shenanigan” felt a little bit mememe it’s all about me. I mean, to each her own and whatever, but it all comes off as a little narcissistic. To me weddings are a social ritual to make a commitment and have it observed by your community, as a bonus they’re a wonderful time to hang out with all the people you love, not a show.

olivia (#1,618)

@readyornot Seriously. The best is that the author complained in the comments that she shared her beautiful day and all anyone is commenting on is that she expects people to cover their plates. LOLOLOL

readyornot (#816)

@olivia omg I didn’t even see that. wow.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Oh, please. Miss Manners just dropped dead.

This piece must be a joke, right? Especially the part about how we’re supposed to cover our meals “plus a little extra.” Eat it, lady.

blueblazes (#1,798)

As a married person, I can assure you I have NEVER, NEVER heard that about covering the cost of the meal. NEVER. I wonder if somebody said that to her as a joke… and she didn’t get it.

DrFeelGood (#401)

@blueblazes I have gotten into SOO many arguments with people about this very topic. Growing up in the south, weddings weren’t a huge deal (mind, 30 years ago now) and you got the people something off the registry usually, and it was expected you have a variety of price points on the registry so people could spend as little or as much as you want. Homemade or handcrafted items were common too, like a homemade throw blanket or something like that. It was also considered hugely tacky to give or ask for cash. I lived in the NE for awhile and there are a lot of cultural traditions; Italian and jewish jump to mind, where cash gifts equal or greater in value to the cost of your meal is expected. At Italian-american weddings I have seen the bride walk around with a small purse for the checks that guests give her, I even once saw an italian grandma pull out a checkbook and estimate what the meal was worth! Also, many cultures have “money dances” where people pin money to the bride’s dress. So I guess this notion got started somehow, because I have met a lot of people who think it is 100% expected to drop ~$100 pp on gifts.

wendyleigh (#3,537)

@DrFeelGood Ugh, money dances. So tacky. I had a friend that had a “money tree” at her wedding. She was disappointed that no one really participated. She was divorced less than a year later.

mygoldies (#2,349)

As everyone agrees, the idea that you would throw a party and expect your guests to reimburse you is so vile.
Also, the part of her article where she writes about getting in the vows column and how it was free PR irritated me – getting into vows is super competitive! It is a lot of work to get selected. I know one couple who appeared in vows, and a few who were in the ordinary listings (and a few more who submitted and weren’t selected). The level of vetting submissions go through is intense and hilarious. Anyway, we all know getting your wedding in the NYT is a status thing, not a PR move.

the rat lady (#785)

It’s not like getting to weddings is generally easy or free, either. Once you’ve paid for an outfit (if new clothes are your bag), airfare/transport, accommodations, food during the trip, etc, the total cost to attend an out-of-town wedding can be several hundred dollars. I should hope that any sane bride and groom would recognize that my schlepping myself down to St. Louis or wherever to spend this important day with them is part of the gift I’m giving, in addition to the $20 salad tongs I bought. And even though it doesn’t help them recoup the $30,000 they spent on wedding swag.

Catface (#1,106)

@the rat lady And don’t forget about possibly having to take precious vacation time away from work — even to get to St. Louis, do not even get me started on the “destination wedding.”

Megano! (#124)

“After all, this is about the commitment two people are making to each other, not a fundraiser.”

This is why I find Stag and Does SO ANNOYING.

mygoldies (#2,349)

@Megano! So, never having heard the term, I just googled Stag and Does, and the idea baffles me. Just… have a less expensive wedding.

Is this only a Canadian thing (or specific parts of Canada)? I haven’t heard of anything like it in the States.

@mygoldies it’s kind of a rural canada thing (from what little I know of it) but some places in the world have them under a different name, like hen and .. something. Something that I forget. They do exist in other parts of the world.

Stag and Does are just effing rude. I swear on my dragons I will never.

Quinn A@twitter (#1,008)

@redheaded&crazy We don’t have them in Newfoundland! I was appalled when I found out that they were done in Ontario. My fiancee and I aren’t doing it. I very much doubt that she would have wanted to, but after hearing my opinion of them she definitely wouldn’t have suggested it.

They’re done under a different name in the Prairie provinces, but I can’t remember what it is.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@Megano! Stag and Does=not classy. CMON Canadians!

Cup of T (#2,533)

@Cup of T Although I’ve been to a few American weddings where people sell raffle tickets to win the right (?? privilege??) of taking off the bride’s garter. So disturbing on so many levels.

pompom (#1,574)

@Megano! People really have fundraising parties for their weddings??

Stag & hen dos are super common here in the UK but they’re normally just a boozy night out with friends. The fancier ones (weekends away with spa treatments or paintballing depending if it’s hen or stag) can get pretty pricey though, I’ve known them cause quite a bit of conflict, especially when the bride or groom now earn more money than some of their old friends but still expect their less affluent mates to cough up for the weekend away and all the extras.

amglory89 (#3,588)

@Cup of T Is this really a thing?!?!?!?! Gross.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@amglory89 Yes! And the wedding party walks around all night selling raffle tickets. Fun times all ’round.

amirite (#2,677)

@Quinn A@twitter “They’re done under a different name in the Prairie provinces, but I can’t remember what it is.” Wait, is this what a wedding social is? I moved away from the prairies during high school, so I was never invited to one, but I remember hearing about my friends going to them and wondering what they were.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@amirite I’ve been to socials, and they were people from church eating food (ice cream in one case) and giving gifts, much in the way of a shower, but more low-key.

Yogi (#2,872)

@Cup of T This is awful! Ugh. As someone who recently got married, we didn’t even do the traditional husband takes off the garter because I hate it.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@Megano! ” Often, people who may not be close enough to the engaged couple to warrant an invitation to the wedding or reception (especially in the case of a small wedding), will attend the stag and doe so as to be part of the overall wedding celebration. Hosting a stag and doe party does not preclude the couple from participating in other wedding-related parties, such as a bridal shower, bachelor party, bachelorette party, and so on. ”

stop stop stop all of this

DrFeelGood (#401)

@Megano! Well, this is basically a wedding shower. I think that wedding gifts are not really part of the wedding except recently, but the whole point of a wedding shower is to “shower” the bride with gifts. That and to apparently sit around and watch someone open gifts… ugh the worst.

amglory89 (#3,588)

@Cup of T I just puked a little in my mouth.

Catface (#1,106)

Anyone can begin a sentence with “Wedding etiquette calls for…” Such sentences are not necessarily true! Try it for yourself, have some fun. “Wedding etiquette calls for the bridesmaid with the whitest teeth to offer herself as a sacrifice to the sun god Ra.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

I thank everyone who has posted comments so far for making it possible for me to deny this horrible person the incremental gratification of one more click on her article. Ugh ugh ugh, no thanks.

@Catface does this sacrifice involve sex? I’m just asking for a friend who bought these crest whitestrip thingies…

Sadly, not in Singapore.

Here is a list of the ‘market rate’ by hotel of the cash-filled red packets one gives and gets at Chinese weddings. Yes, people give based on this, and expect others will do the same at their weddings.

This was so obnoxious to me when I got married a year and a half ago, that we had a micro-ceremony in a park and took a few friends and family out to lunch (bad Asian person!). End of story. My introvert parents were greatly relieved.

Maybe it’s just because I’m at a conference full of business people, but the idea of for-profit weddings sounds great to me. Why not just get married over and over again and live of the proceeds?

Unless that’s what you’re trying to do, this “rule” is self-evidently wrong and ludicrous.

Penelope Pine (#2,808)

@stuffisthings Two words: Kim kardashian

Cup of T (#2,533)

Ughh her whole ‘people need to pay to attend your wedding and if they don’t they’re the worst’ is KILLING me because a) it’s ridiculous and entitled and b) it means *I’m* the worst! Allow me to explain:

I gave a co-gift to my cousin for his wedding this past summer but my sister wrote the cheque so even though we both signed the card it looked like it was just from her and I looked like the dumb cheapskate cousin :( I got a really lovely thank you card from him and his new wife that was all ‘It was so great to see you and meet your bf, wish we could spend more time together’ and I was all ‘oh so nice, and classy not to mention the money!’ and then come to find out that my sister got a card that was all ‘thanks for the money, you are awesome!’ So they didn’t mention the gift in their card to me because they thought I didn’t give them one… angst.

sheistolerable (#2,382)

@Cup of T You could just have your sister mention it to them? I think they would be happy to know that you did give them a gift but they still did the right thing by thanking you for coming.

Cup of T (#2,533)

@sheistolerable That’s a really good idea, except neither of us actually really knows/speaks to our cousin (I hadn’t seen him in at least 10 years before the wedding) so I feel like it would be unlikely to just come up in conversation…

inspector_tiger (#2,651)

@Cup of T can’t she send a thank-you-card to her thank-you-card, like “by the way.. just wanted to mention, so I don’t take the full credit..”? Maybe it’s overeager, but I think it would be the decent thing to do, lest that part of your family thinks your a cheapskate, which can be rather unpleasant…

questingbeast (#2,409)

I always thought it was etiquette for guests to recoup their wedding gift in the amount of drink consumed. Boy is my face red now.

highjump (#39)

Wow this article was obnoxious. Total NYT click-bait.

You know how they had such a cheap wedding? They only invited 75 people and they had a free venue.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

This type of sentiment is the worst. Having recently gone through the wedding rodeo myself, it was much more important for us to have friends and a few family around us than to get any gift from any of them. I only set up a Honeyfund account because a couple friends asked for it. I made it clear on the site that our guests’ presence was gift enough, but if they really wanted to give us something, we’d put it towards a fun trip because that’s what we love. In the end, people were more than generous, both via Honeyfund and at the reception, especially considering that a number had come from Europe and the West Coast to be there with us.

Since this is the Billfold- if you want some insight on how it shook out for us, I just downloaded our Honeyfund transactions. Lowest was $20 from a colleague of my husband’s who wasn’t even invited (lives in London), and the highest was $175 from some close friends.

So umm, is there anyway to delicately let guests know that a couple would maybe like money instead of random housewares for wedding gifts (for people that you know, want to give a gift?). We do plan on only having a wedding we can afford, but we really don’t need a blender or a toaster or whatever. I don’t know, all this wedding stuff is stressful. There is not really a way to ask for this that isn’t terrible is there?

@This is my new user name there is not! Sorry.

The good news is, if you just don’t register most people will give you money anyway. I was shocked and blown away by how many people gave us cash or a check (in a good way, it was so generous of them!) People aren’t stupid.

Also, don’t discount the random. I now own the most beautiful mirror and an amazing book that were wedding gifts!

Also also, I love how horrified all the Billfold commenters are by the article and the sentiment – what a lovely, well-mannered group of people. :)

DrFeelGood (#401)

@This is my new user name Yea just have a small or no registry. They’ll figure it out. But, you may get a ton of random gifts too. Some people just want to give gifts, and you can’t stop them. I know one couple who received like 15 vases because they didn’t register and wanted cash.

@DrFeelGood Okay, these seem like reasonable solutions. That is roughly what we were toying with doing. I mean we have lived together for awhile now and our family/friends are fairly smart people, so likely many will realize that is what we might want. And if people have something they’d like to give us, obviously that is lovely and thoughtful and we will be grateful and all that.

Homestar Runner (#3,732)

@This is my new user name

I agree with DrFeelGood. We got married last year and had a TINY wedding, and we decided not to register to avoid the implication that we wanted gifts from people we hadn’t invited. Turns out that people really really want guidance. If I could do it again, I’d register for like 15 things at Target.

[Of course we’re grateful and thrilled that people wanted to give us presents at all! Obviously! I just wish we had handled it differently to prevent bad feelings around such a nice gesture]

This has cemented my decision to never again attend any wedding that isn’t one of a close family member. It seems that a check is all anyone wants when inviting one to a wedding anyway, and it will spare me the teary wedding slideshow and the drunk groomsmen.

DrFeelGood (#401)

The worst is when you get a wedding invitation and they have those stupid little cards that say “we are registered at xyz”. I am to the point, just say hey we’re getting married but not inviting any guests but please select a gift off this list, otherwise we won’t talk to you ever again. It would be cheaper than going to the wedding.

sarrible (#1,545)

The last wedding I went to, I gave the bride and groom a (nice) bottle of bourbon as a gift, plus an ice-cube tray that makes great big ice cubes (so you don’t dilute your sippin’ bourbon as quickly). They’d registered for the ice-cube tray, but not for the whiskey. So I guess my gift covered what I *drank* at the reception.

@sarrible Ohhhh fancy booze sounds like a GREAT wedding gift!

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