I heard the daughter of a close friend was getting married, and knowing her taste and some of her likes and dislikes, I began to plan ahead for an appropriate and appreciated gift. After listening to her preferences and lack of enthusiasm for cleaning sterling silver, I collected beautiful pieces of contemporary and vintage pewter for her — things like candlesticks, mugs and serving platters that were useful and attractive.
As the wedding date drew closer and my large carton of pewter pieces filled, I was both surprised and disturbed when I heard that the couple had registered themselves online so that wedding guests could donate cash to pay for their honeymoon. Now in case you think my generosity needs a boost (polite way of saying I am cheap), I should add that between them this under-30s couple — employed in high-risk professions — brings home a collective salary of almost $1 million per year, owns a lovely home, a boat and high-end truck to transport it, and a BMW. The pre-wedding events included luncheons, teas and showers, and the wedding plans resembled a 20th Century Fox or MGM special.
Amid all of this opulence, how do you ask your guests to pay for your honeymoon? In spite of, or perhaps because of every rationalization I could imagine, I didn’t discard my plans but went full steam ahead, wrapped and presented the pewter. I suppose I could have contributed to their airfare or hotel by giving an equal amount of cash instead, but frankly I found it distasteful. In most instances, to me a cash gift says, “I couldn’t be bothered to shop or try to figure out what might please you, so do it yourself.” At the same time, there is a strong feeling of entitlement which I highly dislike, when someone presumes to tell me, unbidden, what I should give them for a gift and how much to spend on it.
Those of you who hate shopping for and buying gifts may disagree with me, but I hate seeing fill-in-the-blank choices guiding me on how much to spend; it’s more than arrogant and impertinent.
I have heard that this phenomenon is spreading. Now young couples are asking their guests to pay for the entire wedding! How cool is that! I always thought that if you couldn’t afford the Lamborghini, you drove a Toyota or a Honda, and if you couldn’t afford Champagne, you drank beer. It seems to me that somewhere along the way things have changed, and if you can’t afford to live within your means, why you simply put your hands into someone else’s pocket. Darn, I must have missed that class in Greed 101.
Now, if we were all on the same page here, I wonder how these youngsters would feel if we all decided to hold “pay-it-down” funerals? Don’t send flowers or make charitable contributions, just send a chunk of change to the funeral home. Instead of a $20 or $30 bouquet or wreath (and that would be a real cheapie) just haul out your checkbook and write a big one. We always wanted one of those big mahogany jobs with the brass handles, but all we could afford was the simple pine box. You can make it happen! Just think, you will be making someone as happy in the ground as he made you by contributing to your 14-day honeymoon in Dubai! And it will last longer!
This trend could really catch on, until no one has to worry about what he can afford, but simply assigns other people to pay for his desires. In fact, why not take it a step further and turn yourself into a non-profit charity, and make a list of whatever you need, somewhat like a bridal registry? That way, whenever you begin to whine about what you don’t own yet, all of your friends and relatives can simply go online and pay for both your necessities and luxuries.
Keep in mind, that at some point the shoe will be on the other foot, and you will have to pay for them. It’s only fair.