June 20, 2013 in Advice
Hello, fair felines, to my second edition of The Menacing Kitten Services You. Through the thick storm clouds of writer’s block and moving stress, a beacon of inspiration has cracked through thanks to this lovely article appearing on Jezebel which involves the tackiest people ever to both give and receive a gift. To summarize if you aren’t up for reading the link: a former boss was invited to a wedding and gave the blushing brides a basket of grocery store items. Well, to be specific:
“As a gift, my Girlfriend and I gave [the couple] a wicker box with a hinged lid, filled with food items, most of them PC Black Label, including: tri-color pasta, salsas, Balsamic vinegar and Olive, Gourmet croutons, Panko Breading, Pesto, some baking ingredients, Biscuits from Godiva and a few ‘Fun’ items like Marshmallow Fluff, Sour Patch Kids and Butterscotch sauce.”
Bride #1 requested a receipt from the gift-giver, explaining she was gluten-intolerant. The former boss didn’t have a receipt to give, so Bride #2 told him that a basket of fluff and sourpatch kids isn’t a good gift for a $100-a-plate wedding. Well, to be specific:
“Hey it’s [Bride 1's] wife Laura. I want to thank you for coming to the wedding Friday. I’m not sure if it’s the first wedding you have been to, but for your next wedding… People give envelopes. I lost out on $200 covering you and your dates plate… And got fluffy whip and sour patch kids in return Just a heads up for the future :)”
They then got into a passive-aggressive war over etiquette, which basically is the same as when the Real Housewives of Botoxville start throwing overpriced tequila and electric plug-in dildos at each other while arguing over who is klassier.
While the bride side of things is pretty abhorrent, both sides present us with teachable moments in the art of wedding gift-giving and gift-receiving. When discussing etiquette, rule number one should always be:
ETIQUETTE IS NOT AN EXPECTATION YOU FORCE ON ANOTHER PERSON, BUT THE STANDARD YOU HOLD YOURSELF TO.
But Anne-Marie, you say, you’re placing an expectation on other people just by posting this very thing. To this I say, YES! But that’s because I’m better than them, as are you, dear reader. We are third party observers and have no personal stake in this matter. This is the internet – an anonymous, unnecessary collective that joins together from across the globe to pass judgement on viral stories with minimal perspective and even less fact-checking. You and I are but two lion heads in a Shame-Voltron.
Let’s start with the lesser of two evils (in my opinion), the Gift-Giver. Let’s walk through his missteps in this matter, remembering that we are discussing what he has control over – the brides’ missteps will be covered later. We’re spending a little more time on this side because it’s a bit more nuanced:
- As an attendee, the polite thing to do is to provide (if you can afford it) a gift or gift of services that roughly equals the expected cost of your meal. Even when couples are established, weddings are not cheap. More graceful couples than Bridezilla2 are inviting you to share in their special day at a great expense to themselves; as a friend, consider helping them offset that cost in some way.
- You know how I placed “if you can afford it” in parentheses above? Don’t let that part go unnoticed. Not everyone can afford a $100+ gift, and a graceful couple usually knows that. If you are a close friend or family member to the couple, it can be assumed that they have at least an inkling of your financial situation. I would argue that it means more to the couple that you are there than that you gave them an expensive gift. If you do fall into this category, I guarantee the graceful couple would be honored to receive something you made or designed, or accept a service you can provide – perhaps you can arrange the flowers, pick people up at the airport for the event, or even housesit for them when they’re on their honeymoon. Here is the fact of the matter – a graceful couple should expect nothing, but that doesn’t mean it’s proper for you to take advantage of them.
- The food gift basket the gift-giver gave them is a tricky thing; why? Because he states he didn’t know them all that well. That sort of gift takes on a different meaning if you know the couple and you know they love those things; for example, one of my sisters gave me this amazing marriage-themed Penzey Spice Box. I love baking and I love Penzey’s. Plus, the spice box was filled with certain spices and a description of how they represent marital bliss, love, etc. in different cultures. That is a well thought-out gift and an excellent gesture. I loved it so much, I bought one for another couple.
There is one other problem with the gift-giver’s homemade basket: it doesn’t make any fucking sense. You’ve got tri-color pasta, balsamic vinegar, pesto and olive oil. Italian. Then you’ve got salsas. Mexican. Then croutons and panko crumbs? Okay… “some baking ingredients” – flour? Extract? Huh? Godiva biscuits, and…fluff, Sour Patch Kids and butterscotch sauce. And a card that says “life is delicious.” This is such a random hodgepodge of food with such a lazy cliché attached, Mr. Gift-Giver, that it tells a story of you running down the grocery store aisle an hour before the wedding in panic mode, throwing random crap in your wicker basket that you’re probably re-using from a gift you received along with the original straw that came with it. I’ll bet you the straw was still molded in the shape of a wine bottle and glasses. I probably sound like a bitch on this point, but here’s why – I’m seeing zero sentimental value or thought behind this gift. If there was some real thought, at least tell a story that ties all this shit together – a story that doesn’t involve you sweating in your cheap suit in the Cost Plus parking lot with your trunk open, desperately trying to reshape the straw in the basket while bags of Korean-labeled Lemonheads and Israeli couscous spill everywhere. Effort and thought? That actually would have made this gift A-OK.
- This takes me to my third suggestion: if you don’t know someone that well and you don’t feel they are worth a thoughtful gift, why are you bothering to go to this wedding? I’m just throwing that out there.
- I’d go into the etiquette of their text exchange, but there is just so.much.wrong.happening. I can’t say I disagree with him on a few of his points, but there are a few too many low blows made for me to approve of his handling of the matter.
Now, onto Bridezilla2:
- So after Rule Number One, which applies to both gift-giver, and gift-receiver, you, dear Bridezilla have a Rule Number Two: NEVER HAVE A WEDDING YOU CANNOT AFFORD BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER INVITE SOMEONE TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF THEM. This ties into Rule Number One. See, a gracious host (which is what you strive to be since this is the grandest event you will likely ever host) wants to share an experience with others. That’s your end-game; not how many envelopes you’ll get at the end of the night. My favorite weddings were the ones that were basically giant celebrations filled with food, drinks and laughter. My least favorite weddings were ones where you can see every corner cut, every mini-quiche counted, and a couple who only interacted with 70% of their guests during the Money Dance. And people – can we please stop with the Money Dance? It is SO FUCKING TACKY. If you really need money, start up a fucking Kickstarter or something so I don’t have to treat you like a freaking stripper on YOUR SPECIAL DAY. It’s ridiculous. Unless you offer a lap dance option. Then it suddenly just turned into a hilarious crazed Hedonistic Awesomefest fully worth the price of admission.
- Following Your Special Day, when you find out you got a few shitty gifts, do you know what you do? YOU WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE. “Thanks for the Marshmallow Fluff and croutons! We smeared them all over each other and had sexy sex on the basket! I’m so glad it had hinges! Life IS delicious, Pasta Boy!” It’s that simple. Now wait a minute; did you write thank you notes to your other gift-givers? You know, the ones who apparently gave you the dollas that make you holla? I’m guessing you didn’t. Call it a hunch. Sit down and write your damn thank you notes! I know it forces you to open your Precious Wedding Kitty filled with its sweet, sweet cash (and a half-eaten Sour Patch Kid), but it is what you do.
- A quote from Bridezilla’s message: “Weddings are to make money for your future.” Please read Rule Number Two. No, they’re not. If they were, I would have skipped college and just married myself every couple of years. It definitely would have been a better return on investment than a Music degree with an Art History minor. Another quote: “People haven’t gave gifts since like 50 years ago!” Coincidentally 1963 was the last year grammar books were handed out as gifts.
- Keeping all of this in mind, do you know what you don’t do? You don’t tell people what to gift you at your wedding, and for God’s sake, you don’t tell someone how cheap they are and proceed to give them an etiquette lesson. Now, the closest thing to telling people what to gift you and having it be acceptable is to set up a couple of bridal registries. If Bridezilla2 did this (I’m assuming they didn’t since it’s not 50 YEARS AGOOO), they probably only put expensive things on there, like I don’t know, Jimmy Choo pillow cases (I don’t know if that’s a thing; probably not). Please don’t do this. If you want to put a few nice items on there, by all means, go ahead; but please, give your guests affordable options as well. And don’t force the registry on people – if they want to go off a registry, they’ll ask you where you’re registered.
There is something I tell people when I talk about my philosophy on weddings: A wedding is just a day, a honeymoon is just a vacation, but a marriage is a lifetime. People spend way too much time, money and drama on the one day. If you’re going to make that level of effort, think of it as a gift you are sharing with others. If you are viewing Your Special Day as a giant G-string for people to stick their hard-earned dollars into, perhaps you need to reevaluate your priorities. And your friendships. Likewise, if your friend is getting married, celebrate it with them. Give them something thoughtful and nice. Like two jars of maraschino cherries. Black Label.