A bit of a rant follows....
Each year, the start of the wedding season fills me with a sense of frustration. I'm not really a big fan of huge celebrations. And the weddings that I've attended in the past decade have been pretty elaborate affairs. In addition to trying to figure out what to wear, there's the tricky issue of trying to figure out what to get for the bride and the groom. Registries help, but only to a limited extent.
My parents taught me that you should always cover the cost of your plate when giving a wedding or shower gift. But when the bride and groom choose to spend, on average, $75-100 per plate for an elaborate dinner reception, your wedding gift will need to be lavish and expensive as well. Obviously, folks who don't make a lot of money spend what they can afford. The bride and groom usually understand that and wind up covering the cost. But since my friends and acquaintances know that I earn a decent wage, there's definitely no free pass for me, even if I'm trying to save up money to go back to school. So, that creates a huge dilemma for me. If I want to celebrate the occasion, I can either attend the ceremony and just skip the reception, or attend the reception and purchase a gift that would meet or exceed the bride and groom's expectations.
Then there are the out of town invitations to weddings that both you and the happy couple know that you won't be able to attend. A number of years ago, I was shocked to discover that according to the etiquette books, you're expected to send a gift to the bride and groom even if you can't make it to the wedding. So, some of my college friends must have thought that I was incredibly rude. Chalk it up to ignorance and different social customs.
What I find truly ironic is when my married friends complain about having to spend money on wedding or shower gifts. At least they've benefited from the social norm at some point in their lives. I have a fairly young co-worker who registered for and received flatware that cost $30 per setting. Let's just say that my flatware cost substantially less.
As for the actual impact on my finances, I spent $100 on a wedding gift in January, another $40 on a shower gift last month, and $137 on two wedding gifts this weekend (one is for a wedding that I'll be attending in June and another for a wedding that I won't be able to attend in July). I still need to pick up 3 more gifts for weddings that I'll be attending in July, August and September. And this morning, I got an unexpected invitation to another wedding shower. So I need to factor that in as well. Anyway, all this to say, I think it's time to adjust the 'Gifts Given' category in my budget again.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a miserly person. And when I give birthday gifts, I tend to be quite generous. But it's the societal expectation that I have to give a certain amount in order to celebrate or participate in what should be a joyous occasion....that's what rubs me the wrong way. And don't even get me started on how much I've spent over the years serving as bridesmaid.
Okay, end of rant.