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Don't Tell Emily Post: Guests Are Paying For Weddings Now
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Don't Tell Emily Post: Guests Are Paying For Weddings Now


Jun 13 2013
Have we taken the whole register-for-whatever-you-want thing too far?

After I got engaged, my sister gave me a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette—the 1950 version. It was half joke and half research, fascinating to comb through its musty pages to learn, for instance, how to introduce myself to a reigning sovereign should the Queen of England deign to attend my wedding. ("Mrs. Jones bows and, if the king offers to shake hands, Mrs. Jones bows again deeply as she gives him her hand.")

It's hard to imagine what Post herself, the queen of manners and doing the right thing, would say about weddings today. Wedding registries didn't even become de rigeur until a bit later in the 20th century. Up until that time, wedding guests chose from a socially prescribed list of household items—candlesticks, trays, china, and so on. The point of a wedding gift was that it was freely given, like all the best gifts are.

Now, of course, registries are the norm. Brandishing bar code scanners in department stores and clicking off Amazon wishlists have become engagement rites of passage. While registries are immensely helpful—who wants to end up with multiple cheese boards?—they have also opened the floodgates for all sorts of once unheard-of wedding requests. Honeymoon registries became popular, then savings registries to help pay for a down payment or a house renovation. It was only a matter of time before couples began asking for help with that other big expense: the wedding itself.

Strapped-for-cash couple can now setup online registries to solicit donations to pay for their wedding, in lieu of traditional gifts. It's not a mainstream thing for weddings (yet?), but it's happening. A friend pointed me to an example, where the bride and groom ask guests to "contribute to our wedding fund," which goes toward catering, the DJ, and all the other big-ticket items for the ceremony and reception.

It's a bold new world for weddings. A cake and punch reception will no longer do; the wedding bar has been raised by Pinterest and reality shows and cultural expectations and a bigger-is-better mentality. There must be imported flowers and perfectly mismatched china and cupcakes stacked in tiers with little flags telling you what flavor you're about to enjoy.

Most couples on these sites aren't seeking out an obscene amount of money, certainly not by today's standards, when the average wedding reportedy rings up well over $25,000 (or maybe more like $10,000). That's a lot. I understand their impulse to ask for help. A wedding is a special occasion, one that calls for celebration, great meals, and meaningful words. It honors God when we commit to our spouses before friends and family.

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