Ever since someone told me that one’s wedding gift should be equivalent in value to the cost incurred by one’s presence at the wedding reception, I’ve said, “Whaaaa?”
Somehow in my vast etiquette experience (the sum total of which amounts to the pre-prom polite-eating demo at my Catholic girls high school) I missed this little nugget. Still, I’m skeptical. How can the answer to one etiquette dilemma (“What do I spend on my gift?”) lead unavoidably and rather uncomfortably to another (“Yo, what’s the per head pricetag on this shindig of yours?”)?
Thankfully, as with most burning questions of manners and etiquette, one trip to New Jersey has cleared it all up for me—sort of. Yes, over Memorial Day weekend, while I was eating Boardwalk Fries at the All Things Fried stand under the rooftop Wacky Golf course, a sage 40-something woman in a camouflage warm-up suit gave me the last word on wedding gifts: “I’m from New Jersey,” she said. “We give caish.”
She’d once been shocked to see someone give a “cawfee pot” as a wedding gift, which didn’t fit at all into her “caish” only scheme. Here’s how she put it: “If you’re like single and aren’t real close to the bride and groom, you give like a hundred. If you’re married, and you know the couple better but aren’t related to them, then you give like two-fifty. If it’s family, then we’re talkin’ like five hundred.”
If she’d opened up the discussion to questions from the eavesdropping audience, I’d have asked what you’re supposed to do when you’re married, with 2 children, with all family members participating in the wedding, and you’ve already spent seven-fifty on clothes, shoes, hair, and accessories, plus you’ve booked a hotel to stay out of the fray that inevitably is a family wedding, especially one that’s happening in New Jersey.
Then again, I guess that if you got married in New Jersey yourself, you’d use all the money you raked in at your own wedding to pay for all the wedding gifts you’re expected to shell out in the future.
If you’re not from New Jersey and you’re still stumped about what to give or how much to spend, there’s lots of advice to be had; unfortunately some of it will leave you scratching your head. You can check out Smart Money’s very sensible Wedding Gift Etiquette Guide (“No, the gift is not the admission price to the wedding…”), Gifts.com’s Nine [Sort-of Oppositional] Tips for Nuptial Gifting (“If the couple says ‘No gifts, please,’ do not take them up on it!!), and the old-school sounding, shot in the dark-advocating lovetoknow.com (“It’s bad form to mention a gift registry on an invitation, or to hint for or recommend a gift.”).
I’m going to a wedding in June which, refreshingly, has no New Jersey connections whatsoever. The bride and groom have registered for gifts on Amazon.com (love that), which makes life easier and more interesting, considering that the groom is an aspiring screenwriter and there’s a Kill Bill movie poster on the registry. I was thankful for the tip, but as much as I appreciated the semi-sinister idea of a wedding gift reminiscent of a movie bride who dedicates her life to revenge after a bloody massacre takes place on her wedding day, I opted for the knife block instead.
The way I figure, the knife block should come in handy for both culinary and assassin-busting pursuits. Plus it comes with a bonus cheese knife, which is nothing if not good stuff.