Bugged by modern wedding etiquette



Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Friends who pretty much grew up and married decades ago find some modern wedding practices to be … well, very interesting. Are we just too out of touch when it comes to questioning destination events to propose, and expectations that parents are to pay for certain pre-wedding parties but not have much of a say? Registries are announced on invitations and gifts aren’t supposed to be wrapped, just bring them.

Any thoughts on broaching this generational disconnect? Are we from too conservative a generation? Or have the times shifted to a grin-and-get-over-it mode?

— Disconnected

I think the more you can roll with it and the less you harrumph your way through it, the better. But that’s hardly new.

If that’s not possible and/or when rolling with something you dislike involves time and money you don’t want to part with, then just say no.

I’ll apply this 1-2 strategy to your examples:

— Destination events to propose? Not your business, so not yours to question. (Or approve of or attend, for that matter.)

— Expectations that parents are to pay for certain pre-wedding parties? If you don’t want to host or pay for something, then don’t. If you don’t mind the money but it’s the event that bugs you, then give a no-strings cash gift of an amount that feels appropriate.

— Registries are announced on invitations? How convenient. Otherwise not your business.

— Gifts aren’t supposed to be wrapped … just bring them? OK then. Save postage and save a tree.

— Not having much of a say? No changes there, actually, since it’s the couple’s wedding, not Mom’s or Dad’s. Contribute within your limits and, again, without strings.

Grinning and getting over it in general seems like a fine approach to anything other people do that’s generally well-meaning and doesn’t do you any harm. “Hmm, interesting.” Better than, “Get off my lawn.”

 

Re: Disconnected:

Etiquette has never, not ever, been static, and yet every generation thinks their forms of etiquette have existed since time immemorial. Your great-grandparents would have been appalled beyond words by your children not opening their wedding gifts at the ceremony and showing them off with fervent public thanks. Your early 19th century ancestors would wonder what an engagement ring is.

— Anonymous

I heart this with all my heart. Thank you.

Can we get a 21st century movement going to wonder what an engagement ring is really for?

 

Re: Disconnect:

I’m in my mid-30s, and a lot of my friends already have households and all the associated trappings — china, silverware, linens — that are traditionally associated with wedding gifts. I, personally, am not a huge fan of donations to honeymoons and destination events, but I’m slowly getting over it. If someone wants to use gift money on a great event that they’ll remember fondly for years, instead of a third set of china, that’s a sensible and legitimate choice.

— Getting Over It

I’m glad you brought this up, because I’ve come around on a lot of things, too. Shakedowns, no, but expressing a preference for experiences versus stuff? Using registries creatively instead of locking them into the past? Absolutely.

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Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Syndicated Advice Columnist
Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax takes your questions and tackles your problems.
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