Friday, August 7, 2009

Stuffing the Envelope

Stuffing the Envelope


So its summer and that means its wedding, engagement, baptism, shower season. It’s actually one of my favorite and least favorite things about the summer. I love that my friends are moving on in life and getting married, having babies and all that other great stuff but I hate that every weekend seemed to be booked by going to an event. Every once in a while you like to just sit at home on your couch on a Saturday. Luckily this season has been a bit different. The majority of my friends who are having these events don’t live locally and as much as I’d love to be able to fly in to help them celebrate, I can’t. But I do send gifts when possible.

I was always taught if you can’t make it to an event, along with your RVSP card saying “I regretfully decline,” you should send a gift. Be it a check, a mixer, or whatever. You shouldn’t just say no empty handed because that person wanted you there to help you celebrate with them.

I did that with most of the events that I had to decline this season…I wasn’t able to make it to a friend’s wedding shower and I tried to buy a gift and have it sent but apparently the place she was registered at didn’t want to take my Canadian credit card. But I did make up for it at another one of her showers (lingerie).

So when it comes to sending gifts what criteria do you use? The reason I ask this is because often at Big Fat Greek Events you can over hear a couple discussing what to put into the envelope (because we don’t normally have box gifts at our weddings, that’s what the wedding shower and housewarming is for). It’s not rare to hear an older couple telling a younger couple, “Oh, you don’t have to put a lot in this envelope, the bride isn’t Greek.” Or “150$ for the both of you is okay, the served chicken!” Yep, that’s what people around these parts do. They look at the following to gauge how much you are worth.

1. Are you both Greek? If not, you just lost at least 25% of the “norm”
2. What type of meal is being served? Chicken?! Shame on you! Beef, way to go.
3. What reception hall is it at? Are you paying $40 per person or are you paying upwards of $100?
4. How well do we know you? Did you invite me because my mom made me invite you to my event?

I think its all stupid. When I go to an event with my husband I think of: “How well do I know them?” I don’t think about if they came to my event, how much did they put in the envelope, what did they serve to eat, are they both Greek or both Italian or Arabic? Who cares? The only thing that should matter is how well you know them and how close you are to them?

I’m obviously going to put more money in an envelope for my cousin then I would for a friend? And I’d put more for my sister than I would for my cousin. If I can’t make it to something I try to either send 100$ or a gift that is approximately that much. I don’t say, “Oh they are having their wedding at the Chateau Royal so their meal is probably $40…” that’s wrong. That’s cheap. At that point just don’t even bother going.

I have a funny story about my wedding. Instead of doing the traditional Greek thing and going to a Greek reception hall which are totally over done and need a MAJOR face lift I decided to go to an Italian hall in the East End. Sure, it’s a bit further away but you know what? I loved my hall. If I would have gotten married in the Greek halls I would have spent about $5,000.00 just decorating the hall to make it look decent. I didn’t have to pay a dime at the Madison. Sure I spent a little more for the meals then I would have at a Greek hall but who cares? I’m only getting married once and I wanted to have an event that I’d never forget. I wanted an event that I would look back at the pictures in 20 years and smile about how perfect everything was.

Some people (I won’t name names!) told me that I would “lose” money if I got married at an Italian hall because the meals were more expensive and people wouldn’t put that kind of money in the envelope. I told that person that I’m not looking at my wedding as a money making event. I’m looking at it as a celebration and if you can come then come. I was told that the Canadians (read “white folks”) don’t put money in envelopes and would bring us a bottle of wine or something and we’d lose money on them so to not invite them. I told that person to stop telling me what to do at my wedding. I’m happy enough to have that person join me at my wedding and I don’t care what they bring. In fact, I had recently met a cousin of a great friend of mine who was having a hard time. He was going through a divorce, he wasn’t enjoying life, and he was out of a job. (Oddly enough his parents were invited to my wedding via my parents. His parents actually married my parents. They put the stefana on them! SMALL WORLD!). I asked him if he had a suit and he said he did. I told him to come to my wedding. (I met him on Thursday, getting married on Saturday…). He said he’d love to but he just didn’t have money to put into the envelope and I told him screw that. Just come. I told him that I’d already given my head count to the hall and one of my husband’s friends cancelled at last minute so I was going to pay for that meal regardless and I’d rather someone be there to eat it then end up trashing it. He thanked me and said he’d come. He did show up and you know what? He had an amazing time hanging out with his cousin, her husband, and a lot of my friends. He loved Table 13.

Well, there was a family of 4 that showed up to my wedding. A family that was related to the person who told me that we’d lose money by doing the wedding at an Italian hall (yes this is important to the story). The husband of this family works for a huge company and brings home a 7 figure paycheck yearly. Do you know what they put in the envelope? A check for $125 for a family of 4. Um, sorry dude but that doesn’t even cover the cost of ONE meal let alone 4. At that rate, why even bother putting anything at all? It made HIM look like a fool and no one else. In fact, my husband and I decided not to even bother cashing the check. That guy called us one day asking why we didn’t cash the check (about a month or two after the wedding) and I told him simply, “Apparently you need it more than I do”. Was it rude? Sure. Do I care? Not really.

Now with all that being said I know that its not everyone’s customs to bring an envelope as a gift. But my question to you is, how do you determine the value of the gift (envelope or box)? Strictly on what you can afford that weekend? If you have to travel to get there? How close you are? The venue that the event is held?

3 comments:

  1. the value of my gift would be relative to the relationship that I have with the person that invited me. We black Americans also have some preconceived notions, if I don't know someone that well and over do it on the gift I am showing off, but if the money value of the gift is too low then why bother. Its almost a catch 22 situation. The only perception that really counts is the one of the receiver.

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  2. Being Italian, I completely understand. It is like a mathematical formula when we have to go to a wedding,Baptism, Engagement... Dom

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  3. Jenny, OMG, I was laughing at your response to the rich guy whose wedding check didn't cover the price of his dinner there.

    You know, I totally agree - this is a very delicate issue. I, to this day, can remember the four couples who no call/no showed our wedding. We ate the cost of their meals. I realize things happen, but at least call and say you can't come, you know.

    And yeah, I put great care into deciding gifts, whether that be what we can afford vs. what they asked for or comparing our thoughts to what they gave for our wedding - we try to be comparable. But it's never easy.

    I think people are always in an awkward spot about that stuff, which is what makes your post so interesting. I'll be curious to see the other responses too.

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