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With This Ka-ching! I Thee Wed

My fiancee and I want the American Dream: to be married, have a family, and own a home. I’m still a student, and she has some debt, so the home-owning part of the dream is beyond us right now. My suggestion: Instead of registering for wedding presents, we could ask our guests to contribute to the down payment on a house. My fiancee thinks this is tacky and rude -- although she has no problem with signing up to get crystal and china. What do you think?


I think it’s like going to a bar and informing the person next to you, “Hey, in case you want to buy me a drink, I should let you know up front, I’d really rather have the cash.”

Is this a celebration of love you’re planning, or Live Aid for the overspent middle class? If it’s the latter, don’t hold back. Make the receiving line double as a giving line by sticking an ATM at the beginning. Let no moment go unmerchandised: “For $80, you’ll get a DVD of our wedding night. For an extra $180, we’ll even throw in the bedroom scenes!” Don’t forget to offer your guests the option of a monthly direct-debit from their bank account, which may usher them up the tiers of giving; turning, say, gold-level friends into platinum ones.

You claim you’re after the American Dream -- the idea that, through hard work and determination, anybody can have a happy, prosperous life. Um, yes, but that’s supposed to be your own hard work and determination, not that of your friends. Some couples do ask their families to chip in for a down payment instead of a big wedding -- but, at what point do your parents get to be done feeding the upstretched palm? Then there’s the tacky new trend of setting up a Web site where wedding invitees can seamlessly pay for the couple’s home, honeymoon, and more. Suddenly, they’re not just your pals, they’re also your PayPals!

There are arguments for registering for gifts: it prevents a couple from ending up with 26 blenders, saves them when others’ bad taste is not exactly their bad taste, and it’s a relief for “friends” who’d scarcely recognize the bride but for the big white dress. But, maybe people who don't know you well enough to gift you without assistance have no business coming to your wedding. And frankly, if a wedding is about the love, not the loot, is it best celebrated with a flock of lead crystal butterflies, or the $14.95 John Gottman book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work? Of course, you two could also do with a few visits to a Certified Financial Planner so “’til death do us part” doesn’t become “’til debt do us part.”

This being America, not the Sudan, what do most of us reeeally need on top of what we already have? Will your love be meaningless if you express it in a rented one-bedroom apartment while eating on Target-ware instead of Wedgwood? Unless you’re dirt poor, why not tell your guests "love is all we need," and in lieu of gifts, suggest they donate to your favorite charity? Otherwise, maybe a truly meaningful wedding gift would be a letter from each guest, perhaps to bind into a book, with their hopes for your marriage; such as, that it will last longer than the payments they'd be making on that jewel-encrusted breadbox they would’ve ordered you from Tiffany’s.

Posted by aalkon at April 26, 2006 11:58 PM

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Aw man!! That is pure gold advice!! Awesome!

When you're done here, can you tackle the question of a wedding not being a wedding unless everyone is falling over drunk?

What about registering for really expensive stuff so you can return it for cash later?

And those tacky registry cards that everyone throws in their invitations to let people know where they can buy this expensive swag..

I love your advice.

Posted by: Rebekah at April 27, 2006 6:35 AM

Hey, thanks so much. I just can't believe the tacky-greedy things people do! A while back, I heard of a really rich couple that registered for a $12 garlic press. These people have a house in Malibu! Can't they buy their own damn garlic press?!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 27, 2006 7:08 AM

Classic, as always, Amy :-) People are wierd about weddings. We registered, but I would have died before putting a registry card in the invites. What I *did* do was put a map to the park where we were getting married in with the invites and on that map I had listed a handful of hotels' contact information and also my Maid of Honor's phone number with the message: If you have any questions please call Betty Joe Smith at (555) 123-4567. And MoH knew where we were registered - if people want to know, they'll ask.

Posted by: Anne at April 27, 2006 1:03 PM

Lol, classic advice that my friend clearly skipped. We got the invitation and the registry card AND their website that suggested even more expensive crap we could buy them. And instead of the $12 garlic press, they wanted the $20 bottle opener. I attachedw a college level bottle opener with a bottle of wine, made of money I am not.

Posted by: Lia at April 28, 2006 4:14 AM

Amy, I think you should have metntioned that the purpose of using a gift registry is to make life easier for wedding guests and others who might wish to bestow a gift upon the betrothed.

Undercapitalized's mistake is that he fails to see the difference between REQUESTING any gift at all, and simply providing a service to aide those who ask for guidance in giving a gift.

While I always enjoy you going nuclear on questioners, you usually always do so in the context of sage advise. Here I thought you just teed off without such benefit.

Posted by: Scott at April 28, 2006 5:19 AM

"Amy, I think you should have metntioned that the purpose of using a gift registry is to make life easier for wedding guests and others who might wish to bestow a gift upon the betrothed."

Scott, see below:

"and it’s a relief for “friends” who’d scarcely recognize the bride but for the big white dress"

Excuse me for not spelling everything out "Dear Abby" style, but I'd hate to bore anyone.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 28, 2006 7:15 AM

Oh man, why do I get the feeling these days that, to about 90% of the couples getting married, the actual "marriage" part is totally beyond them? My DW and I did not want a big wedding. We rented a chapel out of town, in a tourist area, and only had immediate family and a handful of close friends. No registration needed. Having said that, I don't mind going to a registry to buy things for other couples when I know that they are making an honest effort to start a household, and he's having to throw out all of his bachelor stuff because it's crap, and she doesn't have anything because her roommate got pissed at her moving out and gave all of her stuff away. Just remember, if you are going to register, make it something reasonable!

Posted by: Cousin Dave at May 2, 2006 11:54 AM

Once upon a time people married young, typically fresh from their parents' households, and had very little of their own with which to start a new life together. Wedding attendees (close family and friends, not everyone the bride or groom had ever met) gave domestic items to help the couple set up housekeeping. Nowadays most people have a home of their own, alone or as a couple (probably both) long before the wedding day, and the purpose of gifts is just to help them accumulate new stuff at someone else's expense. That's bad enough. What's making it worse is the trend toward weddings as blatant fundraisers, with the happy couple inviting 350 of their dearest, most intimate friends and spelling out the price of admission right on the invitation...or in a tastefully engraved enclosure card. And the real tragedy is that virtual strangers feel like they have to buy the crystal butterflies (or contribute generously to the honeymoon/new house/time-share in Maui) so they don't look like cheapskates. It's only a matter of time before the "guests" are asked to pay for the wedding, too (and it already happens, although I like to think it's still rare).

Posted by: Debra at May 25, 2006 12:25 PM

I couldn't agree more with Debra. These days the bride and groom are usually much better off than many of the guests. For starters they already enjoy a double income, or will soon. I resent the pressure that I feel to buy expensive gifts for people who have far greater financial resources than I do. When I know that they already have the basics needed or better, my gifts are given begrudgingly. Great advice Amy, and good comments Debra!

Posted by: newGuest at May 26, 2006 6:58 PM

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