I have a situation that happened a while ago and hadn’t thought of in over a year but it recently came back up and it’s really gnawing at me that I can’t figure out if I am overreacting or not. I’m usually pretty quick to admit my flaws but this is something I thought I was right about and now I just don’t know! I need your teachings as I have gotten before and I would appreciate the feedback of your loyal readers as well. I will warn you I wrote the story first and realized it was long but I felt the history of the wedding and background of the friendship had to be included at least a little bit so you would see this is not a situation between strangers or acquaintances:
I just want to say that I really do love your site. I discovered it in 2010 shortly before my wedding when my boss and I had a disagreement about discouraging guests from bringing gifts to the wedding happening in August. I was having a very casual destination wedding at a state park and because everyone was traveling I wanted to say something in my wedding newsletter (invite, map, various pet friendly hotels, fun things to do when in the tourist town, etc. rolled into one) to let guests know that gifts were not necessary, we just wanted a celebration with our closest friends and family. Anyway after my boss got upset at the idea that I would turn away gifts (which I would never!) I researched your site and my eyes were open- nothing mentioned and still no registry, everyone’s happy. It was an education for me as my etiquette had previously been a mix of common sense and winging it.
Anyways, trying to have a budget wedding within our means we kept it small and reached out to some friends with certain expertise. One of my best friends took wonderful wedding photos at no charge- a life saver. A friend of my MIL arranged the silk flowers for my bouquet, corsages, etc. We were paying for our wedding ourselves though our parents did want to chip in by helping with the DIY decorations and a couple of things to make the outdoor wedding more convenient (a tent for changing and for people to lie down if the heat got to them, an air conditioner and generator, etc.) My husband’s friend B and her then fiancé M (they were getting married almost a month later) put together some music for the ceremony (only a few minutes) and a loop of about 20 songs or so that we had discussed for the reception. M worked at a music studio for a living and they were so kind and helpful and understanding of my concerns about the music not being offensive due to the amount of elderly and children alike.
Some background: My husband has known B since childhood. Their fathers knew each other since before kindergarten and are best friends so obviously B is a family friend. I know B and her father somewhat well. B’s father, E, is a millionaire and B worked part-time for E for a time but never really had to worry about paying anything or earning money as she has been given a huge trust fund. Sometimes B had a spoiled rich girl outlook on life but I thought she was a fairly sweet girl and figured that was the kind of thing that changed with age and experience. Okay, that’s the background, here’s the situation.
B and M arrive about a half hour before the ceremony so we can do a quick timing of the processional song to make sure it was cued right. They were really great. They put the loop on for the reception and were able to enjoy it as guests and not workers. We had a blast and it was mostly within our means though between payday and honeymoon we were stretched pretty tight. My parents heard my husband and I discussing if we could afford to maybe pay each B&M and my friend who did the photos a token of gratitude in return. We knew they each probably did the services as wedding gifts but we felt that they had gone well beyond any expectation that we had and put in so much time and effort. They were so professional, did an amazing job, spent countless time with us planning ahead of time, lugging equipment and took their tasks so seriously running around like crazy even though we wanted them to not worry and enjoy themselves. We felt they worked too hard and wanted to show them we appreciated what they did to help make our wedding perfect- we couldn’t pay them as much as professionals would get but we felt like we needed to compensate them for hauling equipment, film, etc.
My parents overheard the conversation and insisted they wanted to pay (my friend who did the photos is like a daughter to them) and we discussed what we thought would be fair considering everything. My mother went to give B a check for $300 (I know it’s modest but it was really all that could be done within the means of myself, my husband and our families). B attempted to graciously refuse it but my mother insisted. To be honest my husband and I were sure B would not cash the check, she does not need the money and obviously only took it to be polite, but it was more the gesture of appreciation we wanted to extend and were really grateful that my parents were so willing to offer to help in that respect.
By the way, every thank you card was sent out within 2 weeks of the wedding. They were sent to everyone who attended to thank them for sharing our special day with a specific notation about a conversation from the reception or how cute their child was dancing. If they also brought a gift we included how much we appreciated the sentiment and generosity and how we had or planned to use it. Anyone who sent a congratulatory card but could not attend was also sent a thank you note. They were all personal and sentimental (not difficult since it was all family and friends) and handwritten by myself and my husband. I was proud and relieved when they were all mailed knowing we hadn’t overlooked anyone.
Fast forward a month, toward the end of September, we purchase a gift for B and M’s wedding and have it shipped to their home. We attend the wedding which was an extravagant affair and during the reception, when we cannot find a place to put our monetary gift, try to give it to M who refuses. My husband is good natured and doesn’t seem to mind one way or the other after the third attempt. I’m embarrassed but keep my mouth shut, it’s their wedding, they don’t have to accept money if they don’t want to.
Sometime around Christmas I check the mail and see they have sent a thank you card. I am pleased until I open it up. It’s a quick note thanking us for giving them a gift and inviting us to come try out their new pool soon… with my parents’ voided check inside…
Here’s the thing, I don’t think B was trying to be malicious. I really don’t. I think she just doesn’t know any better but my feelings were hurt and I was really shocked. Couldn’t she have just not cashed the check and left it at that?? I am upset for a couple of days. My husband and I disagree. He’s pretty easygoing and doesn’t get upset often and just says that is how she was raised and not to worry about it, we can’t change her. I think what she did was hurtful and careless. She’s made it very clear that she feels sorry for us because she thinks we’re poor (I mean we ARE but we aren’t destitute and when someone invites us to a wedding we save ahead of time and try to be generous within our means). I think that what she did could have been perceived as her flaunting her money and how she doesn’t need ours, it may not have been intended that way but it certainly could have been perceived that way. So I think it was reckless of her to do that without thinking of the consequences. I generally don’t hold grudges as long as I speak my mind but deciding it was probably best not to confront her about this it took me a little longer so I brooded for two days and let it go.
So anyways, 2 days of ‘I can’t believe that’ and I moved on. We were recently visiting family and somehow the wedding came up and that somehow led to my father mentioning the check. I didn’t say much except that I didn’t think she did it to be malicious and my father agreed and my husband again stated that was how she was raised and I may have made a comment about no one being raised to be rude. However the conversation moved on and I couldn’t help being troubled by it.
Did I originally overreact? Am I still overreacting if I still think it was a terribly rude thing to do? Am I being selfish and stubborn? I can’t help feeling like she really didn’t have to let us know she wasn’t going to cash the check much less including it in our THANK YOU note! It felt like she was saying, Thanks for the show of appreciation, but no thanks!
I was able to let it go after 2 days before but it’s been 3 days now and I am wondering if maybe we started this somehow. Did we make her think that we didn’t appreciate her gift by allowing and endorsing my parents to give her the check? Did she feel like it undervalued the gift of the music? At the time that never would have occurred to me as I spent painstaking hours picking out personal gifts for the men and women in our families that contributed to helping with our wedding. They chose to supplement our budget with additional decorations and thoughtful gestures and made the whole thing so great. It was the perfect, casual, non girly affair and I wanted to give gifts to everyone who made it happen. But looking back… did we offend her?
So I ask you oh etiquette maven and followers: Did we start this by overstepping bounds or am I just being way too sensitive for someone who has never observed etiquette in the strictest sense (by that I mean I have no idea what fork goes with what). 0221-12
I think you are reading more into B’s intentions and motivations than is prudent. There have been several times where I have given a friend the gift of my time for their wedding and while I appreciate their offers to compensate me for my time, it almost becomes borderline offensive that my gift of time is being monetized,and in a sense returned to me. In every case, the amount offered to me was really a token since my fees to coordinate a wedding can be many times more than what the giver gave me. The number of hours I can invest in their wedding can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of my time. On a rare few occasions I have cashed the check because I realized it was important to the giver that they retain some dignity by not presuming on my generosity and their recognition and gratitude for the value of the gift I’ve given them. But in general I decline to accept such payments since my time was the gift.
So,if you look at B&M’s time they put into your wedding as a gift, it was very nice of you to offer to compensate them as a show that you are not taking them for granted and appreciated their investment in your wedding but B&M do not want a money transaction for their gift.
In these types of situations, there almost seems to be a “dance” that each party does to make sure the other person is OK with the arrangement. Person A offers to pay or reimburse Person B who declines to accept it. Person A offers again and Person B may decline again. At the third attempt of offering money, Person B may finally capitulate and accept or he/she may decline for the third time. Both persons walk away reassured. Person A knows Person B really does not want or need his money and Person B is assured that Person A is a generous individual who is willing to not presume he is entitled. Win-win all around.