Saturday, September 09, 2006

Improper Etiquette

Here’s a situation for Dear Abby or Miss Manners or whoever it is these days who’s in charge of etiquette.

On September 7, I received an invitation for a wedding reception on September 16. Pretty ding-dong short notice, wouldn’t you say?

Some background:

I haven’t heard a peep from the bride-to-be in over a year. She and I and a couple of mutual friends used to get together for a beer from time to time. These get-togethers were always dominated by the drama that was/is her life. Oh, the “crazy” methhead wife of her boyfriend (soon-to-be husband). How the crazy twitcher lied to get money out of him to support their two small sons. How the county refused again and again to grant custody to them and instead allowed the methhead to have full custody.

I have no firm idea how much of the drama was manufactured, but every time we got together a new, somewhat-difficult-to-swallow outrage had been perpetrated against the bride-to-be and the boyfriend. The saga of his divorce (which took forever to come through--naturally) was always good for about an hour’s lament. Once one of the other gals/audience members had the audacity to turn the conversation away from the bride-to-be and ask me how things were going in my nondramatic and even-keeled life. Bride-to-be immediately took the opportunity to nip off to the ladies room. *

Additional facts:

  • The wedding is a farkin’ potluck. The wedding invitation mentions (in two different places!) that guests are to bring a dish to share. Oh, and guests are “encouraged” also to provide beverages.
  • The bride-to-be and her fiancé have been living together for a couple of years.
  • Both have been married before and so presumably received the full complement of toasters, fondue sets, and other typical wedding gift crap--twice.
  • Both have good jobs and make a lot of money. They recently purchased a very expensive house.
  • For guests’ convenience they have registered at Home Depot. Their registry includes close to $10,000 worth of stuff including a $500 portable generator and a $200 espresso maker--things no newlywed couple can live without, obviously.
Am I hopelessly out of step with the times in thinking that it is tremendously greedy of them to register for thousands of dollars of crap they don’t need and then not even provide food and drink for their guests? Isn’t the purpose of wedding gifts supposed to be to help out a financially struggling young couple with some basic household goods?

OK. I know that hasn’t been the case for a long time. But I have always had a problem with this whole registry thing. To me it’s as if the couple is saying, “OK. We definitely think you should get us a gift, but we don’t trust your judgment/taste—and we’re afraid you’ll cheap out on us, so just to make sure that doesn’t happen, we’ll provide a list of stuff so we'll know exactly how much you spent on us.” It’s crass and it's insulting. If they’re really so fucking worried about their friends and family getting them stuff they won’t like, then just put “no gifts” on the invitation. I haven’t been to a single wedding where the bride and groom didn’t already have a much nicer, more expensive, better appointed home than I have. And I don’t buy the argument that registers make it “easier” on guests. In my view gifts shouldn’t be annoying obligations that can be gotten out of the way by consulting a register. Ugh.

I’m not against wedding gifts per se; I’m against excess consumption and gouging friends and family--and very much against gouging acquaintances (which is really all I amount to in the case of the bride-to-be). Whenever friends—true friends—get married, I get them a gift certificate to a nice restaurant—if possible, to their favorite restaurant, if I know what it is. It’s foolproof and it doesn’t add to the heap o’ shite that’s no doubt already mounting up in their basement and will be sold off at next year’s annual garage sale.

Will I be getting a gift certificate for the happy Home Depot couple? No, I will not. Will I be attending their potluck reception? No, I will not. September 16 happens to be my birthday, and making a vat of potato salad and driving 100 miles into the boondocks is not my idea of a fun way to celebrate my birthday. I’m sending them a card—with a picture of a toaster on it.

I think that’s more than generous, given the circumstances.

*You may wonder why I put up with the bride-to-be's histrionics. When I first met her, I didn't know many people in Portland, and I really did like the other two gals/audience members and I wanted to maintain the friendship with them.


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