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Money Manners: Groom expects 4-figure(!) gift

Dear Jeanne and Leonard: When I went to a good friend’s wedding, there was box at the reception for cash gifts. I gave an envelope with $200, which I thought was very generous. Later, though, my friend mentioned that in his culture (he’s Middle Eastern), friends usually give a couple of thousand dollars. I was shocked, especially since there’s no way I can afford that kind of gift. Plus, I was offended that he thought my gift was so small.

Now another friend from the Middle East is planning to get married. What should I do? I don’t want to offend him, but I can’t afford to make a four-figure gift.

– S.M., Southern California

Dear S.M.: Start by telling the ungrateful first groom that in your culture, the bride and groom typically celebrate their nuptials by giving each wedding guest a thousand dollars.

Seriously, you can always send your regrets to the couple planning to get married and thereby avoid an encounter with the cash box. But if this is a wedding that you would like to attend, don’t let your other friend’s sour reaction to your generous gift keep you at home. First of all, that guy was completely out of line in making you feel your gift was inadequate. And, second, he would have done well to heed the ancient adage: “When in Southern California, do as the Southern Californians do.”

While expecting four-figure gifts might be reasonable in the old country, or even reasonable to expect over here from friends from the old country, it was unreasonable of him to expect you to know this custom, and absurd for him to expect you to adhere to it.

Presumably, Groom No. 2 knows better.


Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Whenever I see my stepmother, she’s always wearing the most beautiful costume jewelry. And when I compliment her on it, she always laughs and says, “Oh, your dad inherited this from his mother, and someday it will be yours.” Well, I’m over 40, and I feel I’ve waited long enough for the pleasure of wearing my own grandmother’s jewelry. Don’t I have some rights here? And don’t you think my stepmother should let me have some of the jewelry now? Please don’t tell me to ask my father to get involved, because he’ll refuse.

– Only Daughter, Buffalo

Dear Daughter: Wasn’t Dante’s Vestibule of Hell reserved for the folks who refuse to take sides? Just asking.

The next time your stepmother tells you that someday the jewelry will be yours, ask her if you could have a few of your grandmother’s pieces to wear now. Because, of course, you’re right: Your stepmother should be gracious about sharing jewelry that your father’s mother presumably intended for her descendants, especially if your stepmother expects to be around for another decade or two.

But tread softly. Because while your moral claim to the jewelry is strong, your legal claim is not. It’s your father who owns these pieces, and apparently, he’s content with the status quo.

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