Dear Miss Manners: My sister in-law and her now-husband, who are well into their 40s, indicated on their wedding invitations that they did not want any wedding presents. She was very open with all of her guests and family that she wanted them to give money toward the wedding instead of giving a gift.
She was also very open with the cost of each plate at $150 per person and expected friends and family to give her that amount for her wedding gift.
Her wedding turned out beautifully, and I don't think I've ever seen her as happy as she was that night. But now I keep hearing how only five people gave her money for the wedding gift and how she is shocked that more people did not give her money. She continues to harp on the fact that whenever she goes to a wedding, she makes sure to give a gift that is comparable to the cost of the meal and she keeps telling me that it's etiquette to do so.
She is also harping on all the things she has done for her friends and family and how they have not reciprocated her kind acts. She feels hurt that more people did not contribute and now she's ruining a beautiful evening by feeling hurt that her guests did not compensate her correctly. Is she correct in her wedding gift-giving etiquette?
Gentle Reader: Your sister-in-law has unfortunately confused the etiquette for weddings with the etiquette for putting on and attending commercial public spectacles, such as circuses.
If one is putting on a circus, one expects, at the very least, to recoup the expense from those attending, and the attendees know that they must pay for their entertainment and refreshments.
Miss Manners would not have thought that this was what motivated people to hold or attend a wedding. She would have thought that the impetus was wanting to be married among one's relatives and friends, and that people attending do so because they care about the couple, even to the extent of giving them a tangible symbol of their affection.
As this is not a business transaction, no financial deals are made or implied. People are, as usual in their private lives, responsible for their own budgets. Those putting on a wedding should plan to do so within the limits of what they can afford, and their guests should keep their own means in mind when selecting presents -- not admission payments -- to give them.
Your sister-in-law's approach is, as she found out, dangerous. She ran the risk of her targeted clientele's calculating -- with an absence of sentiment matching her own -- that they might have found a better deal at the circus.