Sometimes I browse The Knot (I know, I KNOW) for etiquette tips about things I'm not sure of (traditional wording on invites, etc.) or to get an outside perspective. The last time I did this was to try and get a handle on exactly WHY it is such a breach of etiquette to do anything other than a traditional, scan gun, store registry.
You see, in my hometown, the cultural norm is to ask for money. Right on the invite. You put “Presentation Only” or “Presentation” on the bottom right of the invite, and it indicates to everyone that you are accepting cash. I didn't realize that this was not only something that doesn't happen everywhere, but apparently my entire prairie background is SUPER TACKY.
We also have socials (sometimes called Stag and Doe parties) to raise money for the wedding, usually held about 3-6 months beforehand. I knew that practice was specific to the area, and apparently in just the past couple of years people they have been on the downswing because people are starting to think it's tacky.
How it works is that you rent a hall, and then you get some cheap booze, food, a DJ, and a liquor license. You sell tickets for like $10 a pop to anyone who will buy them. Then you solicit businesses, friends, family, etc., around the city to donate prizes for your auction. You create about 10-20 prizes, and you sell off tickets during the social.
Everyone knows these events are a money-making scheme. Because it's regional tradition, everyone is fine with it. I've been to about 15 socials in my life, most of them for people I've never met. I've donated prizes. I even flew in from out of town to attend my brother's social, because the social is a big deal.
I bring this up only to point out my first big issue with “wedding etiquette:” the mistake of thinking that what's rude is universal. It isn't.
Here is why I think traditional etiquette is wrong when it comes to registries:
- If you would prefer for people to donate to a charity on your behalf, you should be able to indicate where you would prefer that money go. It is a gift for you after all. Still, they should get some say in where that money goes because it's their gift to you.
- Spreading news of a registry by word of mouth was fine when everyone was from small, tight-knit communities and barely left their hometowns. Now the internet exists, people are all over the place, and it's pretty likely that the person most effectively able to get the word out is you. Go forth, internet-minion, and do my bidding.
- OF COURSE some gifts are expected. That's not to say they are required, or that the idea is to “giftgrab,” but gift-giving for weddings has been around centuries. Some people are going to bring gifts. I have never been to a wedding where I haven't given a gift. We create regular registries (which was a tradition started by department stores in the '20s, which kind of ruins the whole “BUT MY DELICATE ETIQUETTE” speech for me) to assist in the selection process and prevent duplicates, because we KNOW some people are going to give gifts.
- Indicating a preference of charity (or house fund or honeyfund) is hardly forcing people. You are simply indicating a preference, in the same way that you registered for a particular spatula. And just like that, a guest can decide they'd rather get you a beach-glass framed photo frame. Again, people are not required to get you anything. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.
- My politics don't shut off just because I'm getting married. I could go on for hours about my issues with materialism and weddings and describe every little reason why I prefer not to register at large chain stores. Instead we've chosen to register in line with our personal politics, for donations to organizations that we already support and a smattering of handmade items from independent artisans.
Registry etiquette is bullshit. If you want experiences over a spatula, a house fund over a stand mixer, or a donation to charity over a ice cream maker, then that's what you should register for.
Who else is bumping up against the dreaded wedding registry etiquette issues?