What is the social pay scale? How much will it cost you if someone you know gives birth, graduates, marries or dies?
Now that the ancient and charming custom of exchanging presents is deteriorating into simply paying people by the milestone, Miss Manners supposed that she would not have to become involved.
However, if everyone is happy with the pay-as-they-go system, it is not for Miss Manners to interfere. Goodness knows it is entirely outside the realm of etiquette.
But it appears that not everyone is happy, and both sides of this commercial equation keep appealing to her. By far the most frequent etiquette question she receives – dozens of them every week – is, “What is the polite way to inform our guests that we want monetary gifts only?”
The second most frequent question is from the targets of these demands, wanting to know how much they owe. Furthermore, they seem to believe that it depends on particular circumstances:
– “What is the appropriate amount of money to give at a baby shower for someone I’ve met only twice?”
– “When going to a destination wedding that costs you money to fly, hotel, etc., what is a proper amount per couple or per person to give the bride and groom?”
– “How much money is appropriate to give to the daughter of your best friend from high school for her wedding?”
– “How much money should you give the family at a wake?”
– “My sisters and I traveled quite a distance to attend my oldest sister’s funeral. My niece was appalled that our sympathy envelope did not contain any money. Although it has been a year, our niece is still fuming.”
Please stop. Miss Manners cannot help you. Etiquette has no such thing as a chart that gives the cost depending on the relationship, the emotional bonds or the age. It considers both the hosts’ and the guests’ expenses irrelevant. Just go pick out something nice that you can afford. Or skip the whole panhandling event – there are more worthy charities than people putting on expensive weddings.