June 24, 2012 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Cover-your-plate gift rule is a myth

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: Lucky me, about half a dozen of my good friends are getting married in the next three months. I would love to be able to express my happiness for them through a lavish gift, but I’m in my mid-20s and have a limited budget. I have prepared for these costs by setting some money aside throughout the past year, but I’m worried I haven’t saved enough.

Something that many of the brides-to-be and my friends have said is that in giving a gift, the guest should “cover the cost of their plate.” Is this true? I want to follow etiquette, but some of my friends can afford more expensive weddings than others.

My boyfriend and I are giving cash because it seems that most couples prefer this. But now I’m worried I don’t have enough to cover both of our plates. I’m also not sure what goes into the cost of “the plate.” Should I include drinks? Cocktail hour hors d’oeuvres? The entertainment? And then there is the bridal shower; do I need to cover my costs there too? I also can’t help but feel a little insulted that the money I have scrimped and saved isn’t good enough. The total cost for gifts that I’ve saved so far is already more than a paycheck. Help! – Love and Marriage Are Breaking the Bank

Don’t forget the cake, the post-wedding brunch and the little tulle baggies of Jordan almonds. Gotta pitch in for those or you’re not pulling your guestly weight.

I was going to edit your letter to end at “Is this true?” – but then I realized that the “What about … “portion is a point-by-point exposure of how ridiculous – and grabby, and rude – the cover-your-plate requirement really is.

It’s also not a requirement at all, but instead a corrupt little myth. You are under no obligation to reduce your love and support for your friends into a quid pro quo with the wedding couple and their caterer.

In fact, if you wrote the bride and groom a letter expressing your warm wishes for their marriage, or gave them a framed print of a favorite photograph of the two of them, or other such token of affection, that would be gift enough – whether or not you eat ramen. That you spent months carefully setting aside money to give to them strikes me as more than these plate-centric brides deserve. For their sakes and yours, I hope they appreciate you.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m. time each Friday at www. washingtonpost.com.


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