Check Here To Pay For Your Reception Meal

by admin on March 25, 2013

My husband and I received an invite to an acquaintance’s wedding in June. I’m all for weddings because they’re fun and festive events so I didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t go.

Until we got to the RSVP card.

Along with doing them the honor of attending the happy couple’s nuptials were a series of check boxes for the potential attendees to tick off in order to pay for the wedding meal. $65 for each adult, $30 for children, and toddlers/babies were free.

I was baffled. Was this some contemporary custom I was previously unaware of? I asked around and learned that asking your guests to pay for their meals was mostly uncommon. The RSVP doesn’t state that you get to choose your entree, etc. and clearly asks you enclose a check for the full amount of whomever is attending.

We politely declined to attend but still: asking your wedding guests to pay for their own food? How strange!  0320-13

It’s nothing more than contemporary rudeness and base crassness by very ungracious people who wanted a bigger wedding than their budget can afford.   You were right to decline the so called “invitation”.

{ 155 comments… read them below or add one }

Bint March 25, 2013 at 5:13 am

“asking your guests to pay for their meals was mostly uncommon””

Asking your guests to pay for their meals should be unheard of!

That is sooooooooooo awful!


Puzzled March 25, 2013 at 5:52 am

Okay, I am absolutely horrified by this. A reception is a party, right? When you host a party, you pay for it. I would never attend a wedding where I am expected to pay for my food. There may be exceptions to this rule, but they would have to be exceptional, if you see what I mean.


Carol March 25, 2013 at 5:57 am

Oh my goodness. There are no words.

If you ever find out, let us know if ANYONE went to that wedding because…seriously?


Marozia March 25, 2013 at 6:27 am

There’s nothing like paying $130 for two people to attend a wedding *sarcasm*. That, plus the price of a wedding present AND (no doubt) money for the Dollar Dance and sundry other monies that drain the guests’ purses.
RSVP-ing “Unable to attend due to prior commitment” sounds very good to me!!


Allie March 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

It is kind of you to suggest a lie presumably to spare their feelings. However, as they clearly have no shame, I would be honest and RSVP “unable to attend due to demand for payment.”


Puzzled March 26, 2013 at 5:43 am

That’s an excellent idea, Allie!


Tracy March 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

But in that case, “unable to attend” might be a lie. The truth would be “unWILLING to attend.”


ImJustSaying March 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

“Prior commitment” is never a lie. Before I received your wedding invitation I had plans whether they were with other friends or with my couch and a Scandal DVD.


Miss Raven March 25, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I agree! “Unable to attend; can’t afford it” would probably be my response!


Allie March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

My only fear, Miss Raven, is that they might miss the sarcasm and think that you would attend if you could afford it. Sarcasm tends to be lost on boors of this magnitude : )


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Oh, and let’s not forget the vacation days burned, the potential rental of a hotel room if the wedding is far, the buying of clothes suitable for the wedding, gas spent to get to said wedding, and buying your own meal/entertaining yourself while the bridal party does bridal party things between the church ceremony and reception, and oh, this is DEFINITELY a cash bar. Brides need to realize that some people put out close to 1K in their own money, before presents, before it’s all said and done.


AS March 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm

@ Nancy: Brides AND GROOMS have to realize…

There is no reason to leave out the groom, even though the stereotype is that the brides plan the wedding. It is not always the case, and both the brides and the grooms should be villified equally for any boorish behaviour.


Lo March 25, 2013 at 7:41 am

There are a lot of things a couple can do at a wedding that are breaches of etiquette but I’ll still play along… I’ll give money when requested, I won’t smack talk a registry list tucked into a wedding invitation, I’d contribute to a “honeymoon fund” in lieu of a purchased gift, in short all kinds of things that I personally find tactless but when push comes to shove aren’t worth arguing over.

This on the other hand… This is the kind of thing that I would immediately decline and if asked wouldn’t bother to hide my reasons. If a close friend did this I would call them out on it. I don’t believe in telling other adults how they should behave but this is just so VULGAR.


Serena March 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

I should have learned by now not to be surprised by much of anything that goes on at weddings anymore. Maybe my family was just old fashioned, but honestly I’m still stuck on the fact that between the 9 years that passed between my youngest big sister’s wedding and my (at the time) best friend’s wedding, we went from my father paying for everything to my having to pay $285 (20 years ago) for the “honor” of being a bridesmaid. It’s just the way I was raised; I still think it’s tacky to make bridesmaids pay for their own dresses.


Kimstu March 25, 2013 at 2:55 pm

While it’s very gracious for brides to take on the expense of buying gowns for their bridesmaids, and it was very nice of your family to do that, it has never been actually mandated by etiquette. Expecting bridesmaids to pay for their own clothes and other expenses is standard in traditional wedding etiquette, which also recognizes that therefore some people may have to decline an invitation to be a bridesmaid due to affordability issues.

Expecting guests to pay for their own meals, on the other hand, is simply flat-out hideous. The unspoken (or sometimes spoken) greedy expectation that guests have to pony up sufficiently expensive wedding presents/donations to “cover their plate”, i.e., equal or exceed the per-head cost of the catering, was bad enough, but this is just unspeakable.


KiKi March 26, 2013 at 10:06 am

Exactly! I’ve been a bridesmaid several times and have never had a bride offer to pay for my dress, shoes, etc. That’s why, now that I’m a bride, I’ve done everything I can to pick a dress, shoes, etc that takes this into account. It’s nice if you can afford to pay for their dresses, but it’s not mandatory, nor is it expected.


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

It’s why I love the “new” tradition of having bridesmaids wear a fancy black dress. You can’t get more than one shade of black, and they can pick their own styles/budget levels. The wedding I’m standing up in is doing this, and it’s kind of a load off. I know it’s supposed to be bad luck, but I did it for my wedding, and we’ve been married for almost 9 years.


Tracy March 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm

As Kimstu said, in the U.S., etiquette does not demand that the bride pays for the bridesmaid’s dresses. It’s not really appropriate to refer to this as “tacky,” any more than it would be to call your bridesmaids “tacky” for letting you pay for their dresses.


Serena March 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

Oh, my mistake–and a good thing to know. Apparently this was something unique to my father’s extended family and I never would have known had you folks not said something. Thank you so much for the information!


another Laura March 25, 2013 at 8:46 am

I know I’ve lead a sheltered life, but what are they serving that would cost $65 for adults and $30 for children? It almost seems like they are going to pocket some money on this. Clearly they aren’t even subsidizing the meal. They could at least cover half. No doubt the people who do pay to attend -if anyone really does- have a right to expect lobster, filet mignon and several fancy drinks per person, but will probably get chicken cordon bleu, one glass of champagne, mac and cheese for the kids, and a cash bar.
I predict a wishing well complete with cheesy rhyme, a dollar dance, and any other “creative” ideas the couple can come up with for bilking their guests.


Compelled to Comment March 25, 2013 at 11:59 am

@Another Laura – I am appalled at the idea of asking for guests to pay for the food at a wedding reception, but do not find these prices to be out of line for “banquet food”. I do several large events annually at event facilities or hotels and the meal cost per person when including taxes and service charges start at $30 for a sandwich. $65 per person would cover a basic entrée with a soup or salad and dessert.


June First March 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

They might have also calculated in the cost of the hall rental.

So, if these are check-boxes, is paying for a meal optional?
Or is the card set up with “___ $65 adult meal, ____$30 child meal”??

I’d be tempted to highlight/circle the cost, then write my regrets on another line.


Marozia March 25, 2013 at 4:35 pm

@another Laura is completely correct. For $65, I’d expect my lobster to be platinum-plated!!
Look at it in this way, at least kids are invited. How many people add in invitations “no children”?
Then again, maybe the kids are invited to bilk more money out of guests?


Katy March 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

There’s no way in e-Hell I’d be spending $30 on a kids meal! She prefers the buck box of mac and cheese to anything fancy!
It’s probably the price given by the hall per person. So they’re not paying for any part of this, save for maybe the happy couple themselves.
Still, my wedding was at a REALLY nice hall in an upscale area, and it still wasn’t $65 a person. I think they may have even added a few bucks to cover the HC and wedding party.


KiKi March 26, 2013 at 10:10 am

I’d reply “yes” and write a note that I’d be brown bagging it since $65 is too much to spend on dinner.


bloo March 27, 2013 at 10:13 am


I really LOL’d at your comment, Kiki!

If they could be so crass as to charge a fee, what would be more crass about ‘brown-bagging it’?


Double You March 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

From this comment (and others like it) I take it restaurants / wedding caterers in the USA must be rather inexpensive compared to their European counterparts? My husband and I had a fairly modest, not too extravagant wedding, but still the catering amounted to approximately $ 160 per adult for a selection of entrées, soup, a choice of two main courses, and a dessert buffet. Wine and soft drinks were included in this price.

Over here in Belgium, $65 would be the price for a simple two- or three-course meal in a decent, but not too fancy restaurant. Dinner in a “fancy” restaurant (especially one with a Michelin star) can easily set you back $200, and that’s excluding drinks.

But whatever the price differences, over here it’s not done either to ask wedding guests to pay for their meal… 😉


Kai April 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

Was the dinner plated?
i haven’t been to a non-buffet wedding yet. And personally, I strongly prefer that. I’d much rather pick out my own amounts of my own food preferences than be given served something predetermined. and I’d much rather pay for a buffet where everyone chooses what they want, rather than see piles of food go to waste.
In a rich city in Canada, I paid $28/person for a buffet that included rolls, 3 different salads, 3 different pastas, a couple other side-type things, and a full selection of assorted desserts. (We had pasta options and not a meat and a side on purpose. Cost for a more classic meat with potato sides would have been the same.)


gellchom March 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm

They were probably including a prorated share of the music, flowers, etc.

Not that that makes it any better!

I would decline, but I would NOT say why or otherwise chastise them. No matter how bad this is — and it’s really, really horrible! — it’s still rude to point out others’ rudeness. Just decline politely. You don’t have to give reasons.


AS March 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

At our wedding, the cost per adult was around $55; and that was the third lowest costs offered by the in-house catered venue (the highest was around $100, and consisted of prime ribs, open bar and all!). But that cost included hors d’oeuvres with an open bar, followed by a fully staffed reception, setting up and cleaning, tables and chairs with the linens, cutleries and the china, votive candles and other decorations, champagne toast, and an event coordinator. This made up practically 80% of our wedding cost, and almost all the reception needs were taken care of.

If the couple in the story is paying $65 a plate which includes all the things I mentioned that were included in our wedding per-plate cost, then they are effectively making their guests pay for their reception.

Additionally, we paid only around $12 for children, and not $30!


FunkyMunky March 29, 2013 at 8:07 am

My adult guests cost $155 each. Kids were $65 (including drinks). Adult guests not drinking alcohol were $125. Makes no-shows incredibly irritating.


another Laura March 30, 2013 at 10:38 am

What were kids served that it cost so much?


Bekka March 30, 2013 at 2:44 am

I guess these things can vary considerably by location. Where I live an ‘average’ wedding is around $100 per plate. This does include a drinks package of wine/beers/softdrinks.

Mine was at an upscale venue and cost considerably more than that, but we would never have thought it was ok to ask guests to pay for it!


Nikki March 30, 2013 at 10:23 am

I wish I could say that $65 sounded outrageous to me, but I can see it. The plated and served meals at my wedding were $40 each (it was a double entree, so each guest got roasted chicken, steak, potatoes, steamed green beans, bread service, and a salad). That did not include beverages (an extra $5 a person for sodas), and we had to provide all of the alcohol ourselves (about $1000 total, but I only 60 people invited, so that evens out to about $17/person). None of that includes the price for the cake.
Of course, we saved and budgeted in order to have the things we really wanted and cared about (top notch food was my #1 priority). Never would it have occurred to me to ask my guests to pay for their meals.

That being said:
I also would never pick up the phone and ask for the money back from those who RSVPd yes to attending and then just didn’t show up because they “changed their minds.” Or those who RSVPd no, and then did. And didn’t like the food. And had to have special things made for them that cost me even more money.
That’s where good etiquette stops me in my tracks. 🙂 Can’t say I didn’t fantasize about it, though.


Lou March 30, 2013 at 12:15 pm

@Nikki I’m so with you on that final paragraph – at our wedding last month we had half-a-dozen cancellations in the week leading up to the wedding (luckily managed to bump up some very understanding evening guests so their meals didn’t go to waste), one cancellation the day before and one that just didn’t bother turning up. And for a few fleeting seconds, I really felt like ringing them all up and asking if they understood how irritating they were! I prefer not to make a habit of buying food for guests who’ve confirmed they’re attending only to see it go to waste – if I had to, I’d rather just take the £60 per head in cash and set it on fire, for the rock and roll factor x


No Wedding March 25, 2013 at 8:48 am

Wow, do you know what kind of meal I could have for $65? One a heck of a lot better than any reception meal I’ve ever had.

Cake and punch receptions used to happen (at least, that’s what my parents had and they acted like their wedding was no different than others of the time.) Can we just go back to that?


Lo March 25, 2013 at 10:38 am

I think that you and Another Laura are dead on about the cost itself. If anything proves that the wedding industry is just one big markup it’s the price per person that people are expected to pay for the meal. I take dining out pretty seriously. I live in a major city and I’ll pay a lot of money for a good meal at an upscale restaurant but that’s a *maybe* once a year experience so it must be worth the cost. $65 a meal is unacceptable unless you’re talking about a restaurant with a Michelin star rating. I understand that the addition of wine drives up the cost but I doubt they serve anything even remotely resembling what I’d expect to be served for that kind of money.


No Wedding March 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Exactly, Lo. I would pay $65 to eat at a Michelin star-rated restaurant. Not to eat at the local reception hall.


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Sad part is that there probably isn’t any wine in this cost. You can get to $65/person pretty darned quickly when you factor in hors d’oevres, cake (this bride will be needing elaborate fondant which makes the per slice cost closer or above $5), even a basic chicken meal at some places will run you $25-30, and some of the hors d’oevres are $3 PER ITEM. Then there’s all the fancy extras, like rented china, chair covers, ceiling drapes, ect. I doubt there’s so much as a champagne toast. I worked for a caterer who was one of the more expensive (but good) options in town. But here’s what I can’t figure out. The “kids meal” is often chicken fingers and french fries. If memory serves me, that was along the lines of $10-15 a plate, maybe not even, because the labor on that was basically “put stuff in fryer, put on plate.” The other kids meal options were equally as basic. Like seriously, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese and stuff like that. How in the high holy hell did they get $30 a plate for a child, especially considering said child will not be consuming alcohol?


Sarah Jane March 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

I agree completely. At least let’s go back to the days where the ONLY people “hosting” elaborate sit-down dinners for ALL their wedding guests were people who could actually afford it.



Hanna March 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

I’m with you on this. These things are getting ridiculous!!


NostalgicGal March 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Just over 30 years ago, a catered meal of chicken and a few sides was going to be $25 for an adult and 15 for kids. I am talking a piece of fried or baked chicken, some mashed potatoes, and a scoop of green beans on a plate. And a small bowl with a few shreds of lettuce and a dollop of dressing. Aka the first big trainwreck of my mom’s planned theme wedding of mine (she had planned it out when I was four). The entire wedding budget wouldn’t even get the caterer to offer cookies and punch. Yes her reality check was bouncing to the moon…. For $65 today I bet that is the same meal being offered!


Angela April 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm

This thread is making me feel very good about having eloped. I bought new clothes and we took our witnesses out to dinner after. Maybe $200 altogether, and 20 years later we’re still married!


Bint April 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

It would be nice if we could have one thread without someone boasting about how little their wedding cost. A wedding is a wedding. Nobody is better for having a big one, nobody is better for having a small one. We all make our choices for our own reasons.

I’m rather tired of constant smug posts insinuating that other posters have been somehow ripped off for spending twenty grand OR inferior for not having had a big white wedding. It’s so boring.


Alice February 6, 2014 at 6:39 am

Hear hear!


Jay March 25, 2013 at 9:34 am

The only part that shocks me is that someone aware enough of this site to submit a question, would somehow think that maybe this was some sort of acceptable custom they just hadn’t heard of yet..


micah March 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

They were directed here from another site that is more of a general question and answer site 🙂


Tanja March 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

Wow… I have heard of the guideline that your present should, if you can afford it, cost as much as your plate but this is taking that very literally!

I wonder if the HC are expecting presents on top of funding?


Bint March 26, 2013 at 4:10 am

That’s a fake guideline. Guests should give what they want to or can afford. The cost of the hospitality has nothing to do with it and shouldn’t be a factor. The couple chooses what to spend on their guests. This ‘rule’ is just an excuse for greedy couples to raise expectations of what they think they’re ‘due’ from their guests, or the idea that you should attempt to recoup your wedding costs.


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Yeah, that’s a guideline made up by moochy brides who think that their guests “owe” them presents. Your reception isn’t an investment. It’s something you do for your guests. Not the other way around.


No Wedding March 27, 2013 at 8:29 am

I’ve heard people say that before (and plenty of other people saying no, that’s not a guideline at all) but my question is, how am I the wedding guest, supposed to know how much my dinner was? Phone the bride? Phone the caterers?


Amber March 25, 2013 at 9:56 am

I wonder how many people declined that invite. Seriously, I’ve never heard of this before.


AS March 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

I hope that this is actually unheard of, and not just uncommon! And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it never catches us. What a shameful thing to ask your guests to pay for their meals. My parents (as well as my in laws) would have disowned us if we ever tried to make our guests pay an “entrance fee”.


AS March 25, 2013 at 10:52 am

Adding to my previous comment, if I pay for my plate, I’d like to choose what I want to eat and how much I want to pay for it. I doubt that the bride and the groom are making any proviso for that.


essie March 26, 2013 at 3:47 pm

If I have to pay for my dinner, can I bring my own? Or have a pizza delivered? What if I find out the “wedding colors” and bring my dinner in a complementary container? 😀

(Bad essie! Bad girl! No, no, no!)


NostalgicGal March 27, 2013 at 1:13 am

Go Essie Go Essie Go Essie Go! I’m with you on this one…


AS March 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Love that, essie!

“OH! Your wedding colors are green and red? That is great! I’ll get Papa Johns deliver pizza for me at the wedding. The delivery person as well as the box will be your wedding colors. And I’ll get tomato and green pepper toppings” 😛


Marie March 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

Being Dutch – and the Dutch being known for being cheapskates – I find this extremely rude. Personally I always decline invitations where I have to contribute to participate, with the exception if it clearly states “Potluck” on top. Of course this also means that I would never ask my guests to contribute if I throw a party.

Oddly enough, in the last years of my life I have encountered this more often than 10 years ago, when my friends and I were all poor students. Maybe because parents are no longer paying people are realizing what money it costs. To make things even more strange, I have friends asking me if they should bake or buy something when I host a party. I find this quite rude as well, because I feel their comment suggests I’m not a good host that is not providing enough (or good enough) food.

If I ever get married, I wouldn’t be able to afford a whole lot of guests joining for dinner – but I’ll make sure to adapt my guests list instead of asking for money.


Jdbar93 March 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I understand your feeling but I would try to work on not being offended when a guest asks if they can “bring something.” My guess is that they are trying to lighten the load of hosting duties, assuming that you are already going to be doing the lion’s share. I would guess that they are not in any way making judgments on your own abilities and/or resources. While, yes, technically, this may be rude, I think it falls into the category of “assume the best.”


justme March 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Marie ~ Please don’t think that your friends are being rude or suggesting that you aren’t a fabulous hostess when they offer to bring something to your partys. They may have been raised like me, never go to someones home empty handed. I was taught to always bring a hostess gift, whether it be a bottle of wine, or offering my time to the hostess by making something, or even stoping at the store for a last minute forgotten item.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Ah, yes, the Dutch culture. I lived in Holland as a child, and had to contend with different attitudes about hosting. I remember hearing people were “going American” when they went on a date and split the bill. I have no idea why Americans call that same thing “going Dutch,” but there it is. I was quite confused there on a number of behaviors, and just when I got it all sorted out, I moved to America, and went through the culture shock all over again.

It appears that your friends are “going American” when it comes to dinners, as it is more common in America for guests to bring something in the way of food. Technically, this is a “host/hostess gift,” which the host may consume whenever they wish, but usually they serve it at the meal, along with whatever they had planned. Some hosts find it upsetting, because they carefully planned and prepared a meal, and someone brings something that simply clashes with the flavors they had already prepared, and more and more people are expecting to enjoy a share of the “host gift” they brought to the party. In fact, we have read of people on, who complained that the host did NOT serve the host gift they had brought! “I brought a lovely cake, but the host just left it in their kitchen, and served bananas foster, instead! How dare they!”

I blame TV. Seriously. The Dutch get all sorts of American TV shows, and people do absorb behavior from what they watch. And American TV is not the best teacher of good manners. I often complain to my sister that people on TV, or in movies, just don’t say “goodbye,” before they hang up the phone, and “thank you” is so rarely said that it has become a HUGE indicator of just. how. grateful. a person. is! whenever they do actually bother to say it.

Mind you, I do enjoy TV. I’m just saying that it is not a good basis upon which to found your behavioral patterns. And when you take the TV shows from one culture and put them in another one, it gets very confusing. Meanwhile, I’ve been watching “Monarch of the Glen,” and wondering why we don’t start dinner with a nice tune on the bagpipes.

So, tl/dr – They probably do not mean to offend you. They are probably taking their etiquette advice from the wrong sources, and in fact, the wrong culture.


Yvaine March 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

And the reasons for leaving out “goodbye” aren’t even because it reflects a deficiency in real-life US culture but because it’s dialogue that takes up time but doesn’t advance the plot. So scriptwriters cut it to streamline the show/movie because, if you are from the culture, you’ll kind of automatically fill in that stuff in your head unless someone points out that it’s missing.


Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 5:53 am

Ever see the movie “Paperback Hero”? A character hangs up the phone without saying goodbye, and someone nearby calls her on it! I loved that bit.

Yes, I see your point about it being unnecessary dialogue that takes up time. However, if you are writing a character that actually is polite, then it IS necessary characterization, just as would be a catch-phrase or quirk.

So, I guess it boils down to what kind of characters are the writers creating?


Corvid March 30, 2013 at 7:29 am

There are other negative phrases with “dutch” in English, such as “dutch courage”. Supposedly it dates back to the time England and Holland were rivals.


inNM March 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

$65 a meal? $30 for children? Is Kobe beef, smothered in caviar on the menu? And does that include taxes and tip or is that separate?


NostalgicGal March 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Kobe Beef and Caviar, probably $350 a plate. And I’m probably low. When something is catered especially in a ‘canned’ environment such as a wedding, prices go through the roof.

I’m betting it’s a piece of chicken, mashed potatoes, and greenbeans on a plate with a small bowl of salad (a few shreds of lettuce) with a dollop of dressing. Beef roast (cheap cut pressure cooked to make it tender) is probably more. …


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:13 pm

One would think that meals made en masse like that would be LESS expensive, due to the savings of buying in bulk. But for some reason, catered food seems to go just the opposite.

I don’t understand this, but then, math never was my strong suit.


Kendra March 28, 2013 at 12:00 am

I think it is because when you slap the words “Wedding” or “Baby” on anything, the price triples. You are correct that more meals made at one time does bring the food expenses down, but unlike a restaurant, everything for that meal is only for that meal. A catered affair is always more expensive than just eating out because the meal cost includes everything: the kitchen staff, food, food prep, servers, tables/chairs/linens, china, beverages, and whatever else is considered needful. A restaurant factors all that into the cost of doing business.


WildIrishRose March 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

I’ve never heard of this before, either. I’m with No Wedding–let’s just go back to cake and punch receptions and stop expecting hosts to break the bank and guests to pay their own way. Weddings have become all about showing off. Sad.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Cake and punch is my ideal wedding.


No Wedding March 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

Honestly, that’s all I really want as a guest at a wedding. I enjoy the actual ceremony part, and then I just want my piece of cake, and then I want to go home. I sincerely don’t enjoy the long drawn out affair of the sit-down meal, the music and dancing- have only been to one wedding where people actually danced, the rest the music is blaring and no one is on the dance floor, I don’t really want to watch the bride/groom open presents – have been to a few that do this.

I don’t expect everyone to feel that way, and the bride and groom can do whatever they like. But if they are thinking they have to put on this big, elaborate dinner/dance because it’s “expected,” no, I really don’t expect that.


Ange March 30, 2013 at 2:12 am

I agree, hence why we’re going for an evening wedding with drinks and canapés. It’s proving so much cheaper than a full day affair and we’re getting what we actually want; an opportunity to really celebrate with our nearest and dearest.


Ashley March 25, 2013 at 11:25 am

Wow, between this and the wedding I submitted a few days ago (with the A/B guest lists)…what is going on in some people’s heads?

I hope they get a lot of declined invites. Guests do not pay for their meals.


Ally March 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

Wow. It’s tacky to expect your guests to pay for their own meal. That’s basically the one rule about events. If you’re hosting a big event like a wedding, you have to feed people. That’s like throwing your kid’s birthday party at our house and asking the parents of the kids you’ve invited to pay for the cake. But if you can’t afford to feed people, downsize the guest list and feed people something else. Period.


NostalgicGal March 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

This is not new but been awhile since I’ve heard of it happening. Receptions being held at a dinner club or bar-with-food venue and if you wanted to attend you had to ‘pay to play’. And a card sent with the invite to let the people book their own reservations.

Needless to say most of the ones that I had heard of, sort of went fizzleflop. 300 guests to the wedding and 15 at the reception, let’s say that the place that was booked was already ticked before the event went down and some were flat cancelled because the number of reservations was seriously flat.

So this is maybe 40 years after the first one I heard of (distant cousin, and they wondered why nobody came to the wedding either…)


Sarah March 25, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I think the first comment implied this but I want to ask straight out – “mostly” ?! How about the height of rudeness and entitlement? And yes, the price does seem high to me! The question also burns on my tongue as to the number of people who sent in a cheque.


Katie March 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

That’s terrible! I hate the idea of being beholden to covering a plate, but being asked straight out to cover costs beforehand is beyond tacky. However I do find that whenever I am invited to a wedding, I tend to ask around to see what the cost is per person and give a gift accordingly. I’ve done this for my group of friends that I’ve had growing up, because it’s almost expected that you will cover your plate when you attend a wedding (I don’t like it, but I do it). My friends from med school were flabbergasted when I told them that I did this. They’re from different states (I’m from NYC) and they’ve never felt obligated to cover their plate. A good friend got married last fall and her per plate cost was $350. We ended up giving a thousand because I do dearly love her, and it was a spectacular wedding, but I kept cringing when I would remember how much it cost per person (there were about 230 people there).


Mae March 25, 2013 at 4:36 pm

$350 per person? ………… sorry, I think I fainted for a moment. What in the world did they serve that cost $350 per person?


Marozia March 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm

$350 per plate cost!! Who was hosting this wedding, HM the Queen of England and the President of the USA?? For that amount, I’d expect the Palace staff to serve me!!


Amber March 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I never considered covering the cost of the plate. If they had invited me to a dinner party, it would be polite to bring a little something along, but they wouldn’t expect cash for inviting me to a party, right?

Hosts throw parties because they want guests to have fun and feel relaxed while celebrating an event. The cost of the party should be entirely on the shoulders of the hosts, with the guests giving it no thought. And gifts should never be considered manditory, unless attending a shower -and if the guests don’t want to give a gift in the case of a shower, they can always decline the invite.

This should be basic stuff in U.S. etiquette.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:29 pm

You know how eHellDame has said that the only way an adult can throw himself a birthday party is to just throw a party, and not mention it’s for his birthday, and then when the party is in full swing, he can bring out a cake. A surprise party, as it were, but the surprise is on the guests.

How cool would it be if a couple did the same thing for their wedding. Have a fun party, no pressure, no expectations of gifts, and then when the party was going strong, whip out the rings and have the ceremony right there. I think that would be totally AWESOME! It would be particularly good if the couple have parents who want to re-do their own weddings vicariously through their children. No meddling MOBs here. Just very surprised wedding guests.


NostalgicGal March 27, 2013 at 1:33 am

I did throw one last year for my 50th, I’m in a group that’s mostly for 50 plus ladies, and I did make it clear I wanted a bash…so I offered to hostess a particular month’s meeting… and paid for it myself. Triple berry cheesecake for dessert, no candles, and mostly come eat and be merry; and we did despite several things (including the caterer having last minute issues with not getting a server so I did the serving… for fifteen). I rented a place (long story short it was a donation to an organization disguised as a room rental) and did decorations and decorating (day before Valentine’s day so it was Valentines theme NOT Bday), had the food (and survived issues of people that couldn’t understand RSVP and called the day of-long after the numbers had been turned in-to come). We had party favors, door prizes, and only thing they did was sing me happy birthday at the very end, we were done, and I sent them all home and cleaned up the venue the next day. I escape e-hell I hope only because my guests were only expected to come and eat and have fun, and they did. Many offered to pay for the per-head for catering and I refused. I also said I don’t expect to do it ever again, unless I make it to 100. Thank you to Ehell for helping me recognze the parts I should and should not do to prevent it from being Tacky And Classless…

Michelle, I think your idea a top 10, IF you won’t have family that will lynch the B&G for doing it that way….


admin March 27, 2013 at 8:28 am

You had the equivalent of a Hobbit birthday in which you hosted the party, you paid for everything including food and you gave away gifts (door prizes and favors) to your guests instead of the other way around. Sounds divine to me.

NostalgicGal March 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Thank you, Jeanne, you made my day 🙂

A few of my guests weren’t even from the club, but I invited them as they were my friends, and they showed and everyone had fun, period. Which is what I wanted.

Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 5:56 am

Haha! That sounds great! What a cool hostess you are.

As for my family, well, my father once told me that I ought to elope whenever I get married. Basically, they would just be happy for me. I’m very blessed in my unselfish and understanding family. They realize that it’s not always about them! Woot!

Bint March 26, 2013 at 4:13 am

This just astonishes me. It’s THEIR decision what they spend, but in any case, how can you ‘ask around’? Are the couple telling people how much they are spending on their guests? Because none of my guests had a clue how much we spent on them, this being none of their business and our decision. Nobody would have been able to find out and we certainly wouldn’t have told them.

This just seems rather crude on several levels, not least the leaking of your wedding finances to your guests and the implied expectations.


another Laura March 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

If anyone had asked me, I wouldn’t even have known what to say. Our entire wedding cost $2000. That includes my gown and accessories, flowers, food, etc. Both our church and reception venue were free, and the food and flowers were from a wholesale club. We had about 170 people at our wedding. So I guess we spent about $12 per person 🙂
BTW we were married in 2006 and many of our guests told us how much they liked our wedding, and how beautiful it was.


WildIrishRose March 26, 2013 at 10:39 am

If you’re giving gifts based on the “cost per plate” of the reception, then you really aren’t giving gifts. You’re engaging in what we call “gift wars”–a quid pro quo approach to “giving” that really isn’t generous. Proper gift-giving comes from the heart, not the checkbook, and if you do this then it stands to reason that you also EXPECT it.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Wow. An entire month’s grocery money for a family goes to cover one plate. I’m gobsmacked and having great difficulty imagining the splendorifousness of this wedding. Please give us details, because we like to hear good stories, as well as etiquette blunders, and this sounds like it would be as lovely as a trip to the Taj Mahal.

I am very happy for you that you can afford to give such a large sum of money for a gift. Truly! Good for you. This is, however, far above the norm in American society.


Lakey March 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Wow. I got into a discussion with a co-worker once, where I said that the bride’s family expecting gifts to equal the cost of the meal just didn’t seem right to me. She said that realistically that was the way people looked at it because of the cost of the reception. My response was, “Then they should just send the guests a bill for attending.” I was joking. I didn’t think anyone would actually do that.

And yes, I’ll bet that there are people who will fall for this. There are a lot of people who allow themselves to be taken advantage of, and that’s why the greedy and rude keep pushing the envelope of what they can get away with.


Ashley March 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I have never understood the idea of buying a gift that covers the cost of your plate. Unless the couple is outright bragging about how much they spent, how are you even going to know in the first place? Furthermore, what if the couple decides to splash out and have some ridiculously expensive wedding with the best food in the finest location, etc. Why should I or any other guest be responsible for helping them recoup their losses? It was THEIR choice to throw the massive wedding, THEY pay for it. My only job is to turn up and enjoy myself.


Library Diva March 26, 2013 at 11:39 am

And by the same token, if a dear friend hosts a cake and punch reception, are you to go to the dollar store for some dish towels and call it a day?

I think a better way of looking at it is that the wedding gift is likely the largest/most significant one you’ll ever buy the individual in question. That’s how I view it whenever I’m shopping.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I’m perverse. If I knew it was a cake and punch reception, I’d probably double or triple the amount I would normally spend on the gift. Just because.


No Wedding March 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

I would too. “You mean, you’re not making me spend the whole evening? I can just enjoy the ceremony, have my cake and leave? I love you!”

bloo March 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

Then smack my hiney and call me ‘perverse’.

The amount of money I spend on a gift is based on my financial realities. The more expensive you (general) makes it on me to attend your wedding, the more modest the gift because that is my financial reality.

So if you make it extremely inexpensive for me to attend the wedding, the more resources I have towards a gift. And I take pleasure in trying to find the right gift (something in my price range that will make the couple happy).

Ally March 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think “cover the plate” is a terrible rule and makes no sense.

If a couple is wealthy enough to throw a lavish wedding, they’re also wealthy enough that they probably don’t need my help with their place. Sure I’d give a nice gift, but the idea that I’m obligated to pay a lot for a gift because they chose to pay a lot for their wedding makes no sense.

On the other hand, the couple who spent less “per plate” may have done so because they can afford less, and would actually be unable to buy themselves a fancy mixer or similar. The whole thing suggests that, the richer you are to begin with, the more stuff you should expect from others, which is so weird.


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Yeah, this. It seems to me that the richer you are, the more you can afford to choose and buy for yourself, and so you should not be expecting so many store-bought gifts. Gifts of the home-made variety that cannot be bought would be far more meaningful in that case.

Meanwhile, a poor person, just setting up in life, needs the traditional wedding gifts.


Stacey Frith-Smith March 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I, too, will admit to an unbecoming curiosity about how the event turned out. Admin, at what point does an invitation become so crass that it no longer qualifies… obviating the need to even decline? If the host and hostess have become the middlemen brokers? If the party is a multi-level marketing event? Is there a time when an invitation lacks so much of the essence of an offer of hospitality that it can be wholly ignored? Facebook trolling for fun and profit showers? Solicitations to donate to a favorite charity or help start a business parties? Showers at work where organizers are coming around with containers for cash and checks? Fundraising at work, at church, and at school in the guise of networking or socializing? When does an invitation become null and void as requiring a response? Also, if you find yourself at an event that’s been wholly misrepresented, can you immediately and quietly leave, with gift and hat in hand? (Not if the cuisine isn’t kosher, vegan, or gourmet… not if the amenities are unsatisfactory… not if your obnoxious ex-bestie or ex-ex is there… just if you were completely fibbed to as to the nature of the event?)


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

My personal rule for “does not require a response” is when I get an invitation from someone I cannot identify as an acquaintance. If my first response is “Who are these people?” the answer will be no. If my second response to the invitations is “Oh, I think I met her at a party once,” then I’ll send a response. If I think about it for a while, and still have no clue who the people are, then I treat it as ordinary junk mail, addressed to “Occupant.”


verstrickt March 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

@No Wedding
The wedding industry is what happened. Seeing money to be made, many who cater to wedding parties have jacked up the prices for all wedding events, resulting in limo companies that require parties to pay a premium for wedding service (above the normal hourly rates) and venues that won’t rent to you unless you use their recommended caterer and serve a full meal. Why would they rent to you for a cake-and-punch reception when they can rent to someone with a buffet or sit-down meal and line their pockets ?


Lou March 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

@verstrickt – exactly this! I got married last month and spent the preceding 18 months planning the beast (not my idea, I wanted a cool new non-wedding frock, a registry office, and lunch for 12 immediately after – the other half wanted the whole fizz reception/sit-down dinner/DJ/evening buffet fandango – and I couldn’t deal with the pouting!). Anyway, I kept spotting more and more blatant methods of extortion by wedding vendors – for instance, the florist that increased the price of rose bouquets by 30% when she clocked it was for a wedding, or the wedding dress shop that had a half-price sale on all bridesmaid dresses in any style or colour EXCEPT for white/ivory/cream ones, in case (gasp!) a bride managed to get herself a bargain frock for £125 rather than potentially doing them out of a £1k+ sale. Needless to say, we didn’t bother any such vendors with our business!


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:40 pm

That does it. If I ever get married, I will wear green!


June First March 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

When I was wedding dress shopping (roughly two years ago) there was a simple lace dress that I really liked online. You know, one of those things that you just want to see if it looks as good in person.

The bridal shop didn’t have it in stock, but the owner said she had a similar one in pink in the bridesmaids’ section (in a different area of the store). I asked three times throughout the appointment if I could see it. Maybe I’d like it in pink, maybe I’d just see if the style was right.

She never brought it up for me. I can only assume it was because the bridesmaid’s version was cheaper. I did not buy a dress at that store.


Ange March 30, 2013 at 2:22 am

I was super lucky to buy a custom made wedding dress online for only $45. It hasn’t arrived yet but if it needs alterations no big deal and if it doesn’t work out at all…. Well, people waste more money on less. eBay has some wonderful things and might be worth a look.


another Laura March 31, 2013 at 9:31 am

I got my dress from this site:
The link is to my dress, but they have many other lovely styles as well, most for around $200.
You send your measurements and they send your dress. The first dress they sent was too small, so I sent it back and they sent one that fit perfectly.
Also, I got my shoes and a small crown (think Marion in Robin Hood) from eBay.
If used wisely, the internet can big a big help and money saver in wedding planning.

Kimstu March 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm

All together now, folks: YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BREAK EVEN FINANCIALLY ON YOUR WEDDING, MUCH LESS MAKE A PROFIT ON IT. Hosting a wedding or any other party means that you SPEND money, your OWN money, to entertain your guests, and end up with less money than you started with.

If you must think of it in terms of financial reciprocity, the reciprocity happens over the years as you in turn attend weddings and other parties given by the people who were your guests, and they spend their own money to entertain you.


A March 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I don’t understand where the “cake and punch” reception went. I knew we weren’t going to be able to afford a sit down dinner for our reception, so we planned the wedding in the afternoon; after lunch, but before dinner time. Cake, punch, mints, and nuts were served… just like my mom and dad had done at their wedding. Everyone still had a good time and we didn’t have to take out a loan to pay for the wedding.


WildIrishRose March 26, 2013 at 10:43 am

Yup, same here, except that we had an evening wedding after dinnertime. Cake, punch, mints, nuts, coffee. That’s it. No band, no dancing, no dinner, nothing we could not afford and didn’t NEED. Oh, and no alcohol, either, but the members of our Southern Baptist church weren’t surprised by that! 🙂


Kate March 25, 2013 at 7:29 pm

This is just unspeakably rude. Seriously, if you can’t afford to provide your guests with a fancy sit-down dinner then DON’T HAVE ONE. There are so many choices available – cocktail reception (I’m going with this option), buffet, champagne breakfast reception, even afternoon tea receptions where you serve sandwiches, scones, cakes etc. Yes, it might not be what you see on Four Weddings and the like, but if you don’t have the budget, for heaven’s sake don’t ask your guests to make up the shortfall.


Cat March 25, 2013 at 8:45 pm

They did stop short of added up the additional costs: wedding flowers, church, bride’s dress, groom’s tux, limo, etc. Perhaps you could suggest that they cover the costs of the entire wedding by having the guests pay their “share” of all the expenses. Why stop at the meal alone?


Kate March 26, 2013 at 5:49 pm

You never know – the guest with a nice car and the guest with a prize flowerbed of roses might have been asked to “chip in”!


Cat March 27, 2013 at 10:14 am

True, and there are so many other costs that guests could be asked to pay their “share”. How about asking for money to help pay for the engagement and wedding rings? Guests are already asked to pony-up for the honeymoon-which the groom used to see as his obligation.
But really, why should the happy couple have to use garden flowers or a used car? If you are a prince or princess don’t you deserve a brand new car and florist flowers paid for by your loving friends and family? Why, they should feel honored that you deign to know them!


Agania March 26, 2013 at 12:21 am

Nooooooo. Gag, gasp, clunk (dead faint).


Lex March 26, 2013 at 6:58 am

In this day and age where families are considerably more spread out than they were even 50 years ago, I think we can never go back to the ‘cake and punch’ reception model because if the sheer distance some family members have to travel and the associated costs involved (fuel/plane/accommodation etc). The US is far larger than the UK so these costs are probably a good factor larger than the UK, but even in the UK, most of my family live over 6 or 7 hours drive away and would expect, when attending a wedding that far from home, that they will need accommodation. In the UK a wedding is usually a full day event and to not feed your guests is unthinkable. If your guests all live locally I can see no problem with a simple cake and punch reception, but for people that have to dedicate 1 or more full days to attending and often have significant travel costs in terms of fuel and time, I cannot imagine holding a wedding where I do not provide for my guests. These guests would be the day guests with an evening reception held for work colleagues and less-than-close friends. I certainly don’t feel that receiving an invite to a colleagues evening reception is uncouth, but I would expect an invite to my cousins day service and meal (for example).

Asking guests to pay for their meal is revolting and if I received such an invite I’d immediately decline on principle. It is common in the UK for meals at reception sit-downs to cost upwards of £60 a plate ($80) because the venue factors in service, furniture rental, wine and water on the tables, etc etc. It is totally different to going for a meal in a restaurant.

LeBoyfriend and I are facing a huge dilemma when the time comes for us to get married as my sister got married when my Dad had a job and had a wedding worth about £8000 which my parents (as per tradition) paid for. A couple of months later my dad was made redundant when the company he worked for went bankrupt. He’s in his 60’s so he has struggled to get a job and as a result my parents have basically spent their savings – including their ‘rainy day’ fund and ‘Lex’s Wedding’ fund.

I am not affected in the slightest by how my parents spend their money and whether or not they had a fund for my wedding as I am not so entitled as to assume it is a right. My dilemma comes from the fact that my sister had a fantastic, perfect wedding (apart from the cake but thats another story) to which all available family members were invited and a goodly cohort of friends and extended relations. As LeBoyfriend and I will now have to fund our wedding ourselves, we cannot afford to match the breadth of the guest list my sister hosted. In fact, I don’t actually think we can afford a wedding at all as renovating our home (it was all we could afford) is eating money like a black hole. The end result being that WHATEVER we do, SOMEONE will be offended/upset/insulted that we cannot afford to invite them to our wedding when they were showered with luxury at my sisters extravagent affair.

LeBoyfriend and I have debated a tiny immediate-family event but even then, where is the line drawn – my Uncle would be offended if I didn’t invite my cousins and their SOs, so I can’t invite my Aunt and Uncle without their (adult) children, and I can’t NOT invite them either! This situation seems to occur for almost every relation (and lets not talk about slightly dotty Aunty B who takes offense if you don’t phone her at the right time of day). Whatever we do we’re going to upset someone so I can easily see the HC in this post putting a ‘cost per person’ on the RSVP to prune this kind of issue from the guest list. But even facing this dilemma, I would still never expect my guests to pay a fee to attend! We’d elope first!


WildIrishRose March 26, 2013 at 10:48 am

I respectfully disagree with you about cake and punch receptions and distance. As I said, I had a cake and punch reception, and I had relatives come from Europe to the U.S. for my wedding. They did stay with family and had meals with family, but I did not feel obligated to provide a dinner for them at my reception. And while I invited many of my college friends from another state, I was prepared for a lot of declined invitations because of the travel issues. But I did not feel like I had to spend money I didn’t have for a dinner.


Bint March 27, 2013 at 6:07 am

Lex lives in a totally different country with totally different cultural expectations. You might not have felt obligated, but in our culture, she does if she throws a formal wedding.


Sansa March 26, 2013 at 11:35 am

Elopement sounds like the way to go for you and maybe a scaled back reception/party a few days or weeks later. Surely, your family and friends would understand.

My husband and I could not afford a large wedding & reception so we got married at the courthouse and had a celebration/party (finger sandwiches, chicken tenders,veggie trays,other assorted snacks, beer, wine & cake), a few weeks later. A couple of people’s feelings were hurt but they quickly got over that.

People get so touchy about being invited/not invited to weddings. I just don’t understand it sometimes.


NostalgicGal March 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Sounds like have a small event, then later when weather is nice have a reception… or even a few, moving closer to where some relatives could come.

I was in the same boat when I got married, two broke college students and my mom’s plans for my wedding seriously clashed. And her idea of what things cost was 15 years out of date too; the budget needed to be 10-20x to even have a chance of it happening.

Is there any chance of a family reunion happening soon? Having the two events together would at least help with getting everyone together… and hopefully make some things more affordable.

Surely they can realize that there is no way that they are going to see/be treated to your sister’s wedding all over again?????? You might have to just bite it and go for what you can afford and realize you’re not going to get gifts and have a cold shoulder for awhile… Good Luck dear.


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

No, you can totally go back to the “cake and punch” reception. If someone doesn’t want to come to your wedding because there won’t be a free meal, they probably weren’t coming anyway. Also, if you have the “cake and punch” wedding, there can totally be a dinner for those coming from out of town. At a restaurant. Maybe not even that fancy of a restaurant, just a good one. Because let’s be honest. For $65/head, you can have a pretty darned good meal in most parts of the country. My last fancy meal out came out to that, and that was a James Beard nominee/winner, and accounted for craft cocktails, appetizers, a shared entree (they’re huge) side dishes, and desserts.


Nancy March 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Oh, and my best friend had a similar family dynamic. They actually COULD have had a fancy pants wedding, but there was the fact that his side of the family didn’t get along, his mother was super broke and would need lots of financial assistance to even make the wedding, if they invited x, than y, z, a, b, and c needed to also be invited or drama would ensue……

They found an officiant, a photographer, and a pretty bed and breakfast. She wore a wedding dress, he bought a suit, and they got married. When it was over, no one said, to her face, how much it offended them, and everyone handled it really well.

Plus, everyone always TALKS about eloping, but no one actually DOES it, and you watch, when you do it, people will actually be kind of jealous. It’s the one way to ensure your special day really is all about you. Then yeah, have a casual reception of the backyard barbecue or what have you. If Auntie is going to get her knickers in a twist no matter what you do, you might as well do what suits you, right?


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I vote for eloping.

Ooooh, you could go to Gretna Green, and be married over an anvil! How romantic!


Bint March 27, 2013 at 6:15 am

Sadly, not if one sees Gretna Green, which has to be one of the ugliest, least romantic places in the UK. Plus it rains constantly, it blows a gale, the countryside isn’t attractive, and once you’ve queued for the wedding conveyor belt in the smithy with five other couples before a rushed service, you come out to see a lovely fish & chip shop and a few other rough buildings. Gretna Green is awful. Ironically, the other border town couples used to elope to, Coldstream, is very pretty and the countryside’s gorgeous. Yet everyone goes to Gretna. I went to a wedding there once, and it was both expensive and depressing.


Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 6:03 am

Coldstream? Thanks for that information! Now I must look it up!

I suppose Gretna Green is like Las Vegas. It’s the name everyone remembers, but really, Americans can elope for a quickie wedding in any town in Nevada. It’s quick because you don’t have to have blood tests and a waiting period, and all that jazz, not because they have drive-throughs. Well, not JUST because of that.

Lots of people go to Reno, instead.


NostalgicGal March 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm

The county I live in has no waiting period and no testing either. Just that we are not a place that stands out to come to to tie the knot. Not just Nevada… $50 at the courthouse and there are quite a few churches and other in town and a few retired ministers that will perform a ceremony for close to nothing…

Reno and Vegas just have all the notoriety along with Gretna Green and others…

Bint April 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

People have to have blood tests to get married?

NostalgicGal April 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Yes in some places you do. I and my then future DH had to to get the license (so about a week before we went to get the license we had to do so, they messed up drawing blood on me and I had a bruised up arm that seeped under the skin and it was ugly for 3 months).

Lakey March 26, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I just don’t agree that because people live a distance away the hosts must provide a reception with a full meal. You have a reception you can afford. If people find it difficult to come from a distance for a reception that is scaled back to appetizers, cake, and punch, it is their choice to attend or not. Or you scale back the number of guests. People with sense can understand that you may not be able to afford an extravagant reception for a large number of guests.

Lex, just a suggestion. A niece of mine had her reception at the home of her husband’s family. They had a nice backyard, rented a tent, served sliced ham and some salads. The new mother in law was an interior decorator and did some lovely decorating. She had clear glass plates with pressed flowers underneath, her own flowers in vases, and so on. It looked really professional. There are ways to do a reception without bankrupting yourself.


Lex March 27, 2013 at 5:55 am

One of our friends is a professional photographer and she has already stated on several occasions that her gift to us will be her time and expertise as our photographer we just need to pay cost price for the prints, albums and portraits etc. She is a well established and successful event photographer and would be invited to our wedding anyway so that is already a grands worth of savings.

In reality LeBoyfriend and I couldn’t elope – his brother went to Hawaii and got married with 2 strangers and no family in attendance and his parents were terribly hurt (they couldn’t afford to fly out there and his father has a degenerative condition that means he can’t fly without an oxygen tank anyway), my parents would be very hurt as well.

I don’t think our friends would be overly worried what we decided to do but following my Grandmothers death there has been a big schism in the family as a result of my Maternal Aunt commiting fraud and basically abusing my grandmothers senility. This means that the ‘political’ situation in my Maternal family is very sensitive and we discovered that this Aunt had basically been playing her brother and sister off against each other and there has been a lot of hurt and anguish over the years that is only now beginning to heal because we have found out what a foul woman my Aunt is so relations with my maternal family are complicated and I don’t want to generate more conflict. Things on my Dads side are more straightforward but he has 3 surviving Aunts who all need their Adult Children to bring them to any event, plus my Sister did offend a few of these relations by not inviting them which is damage I feel I have to repair as the oldest of my Dads daughters I feel ‘responsible’ for the relationships in the family because I feel that I have to represent our family more positively than my sister did (the guest list at my sisters wedding was a difficult, fraught affair as both parties had huge extended families and they wanted a massive cohort of friends and in the end had to offend a few people from all sides – even so her wedding was still massive!).

My sister is Deputy General Manager for a mid-range hotel near us and it’s a nice hotel – not as nice as the one she had for her venue, but as she works there I will likely get discounts/extras that I might not get at other venues by virtue of her legitimately getting staff discounts (Staff get discounted rates on food and bev etc) so we plan to hold our reception there which means we will probably be able to have a larger guest list than we can otherwise afford, but even so it is still going to be a basic, simple affair and I am still going to have to offend SOMEONE by pruning the guest list :-7

I do a lot of craft work and have no problem at all sorting out my evening invitations, orders of service, place settings and favours so those costs will be shaved heavily too. I’d probably buy invitations but I have a very simple, elegant design in mind that I found on Pinterest so if they prove too expensive it will be no difficulty to do these myself too. So I am certainly saving as much as I can in as many places as I can (I have yet to discover if having my dress made by a dressmaker will be cheaper than buying one – I have the pattern).

As no-one in my family has a house or grounds large enough to hold a party in I will need to hire a venue whatever I do and knowing UK weather, an indoors venue is always the best choice lol.


Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 6:09 am

I actually take comfort in the “if you invite one cousin, you must invite them all rule.” Since there was a schism on one branch of the family, and I would not invite that particular branch, my guest list is automatically hacked to a tiny portion of the family tree, since I cannot exclude one branch, without excluding all the rest. Yay.

Of course, I have a warped attitude about it all, I’m sure. Your situation is completely different than mine. Good luck with all the political power plays in your family. It’s admirable of you to take responsibility to repair the damage that has been done. I hope you do not face any additional difficulties, and that your wedding is both affordable and lovely.


daisyaydon March 28, 2013 at 7:22 am

We had a similar scenario – my sister and now-husband (both of whom earn considerably more than my DH and I) had the full deal: big designer dress, whole of local hotel booked up, coach laid on to get to the venue, free (and very generous) bar, live music, partying till dawn etc etc. Yes, it was amazing, but not exactly what DH & I wanted to do for ours a year later!

We had a budget of £5000 for everything (dress, rings, food, etc. etc.) and neither of us wanted a big do. At the same time as organising the wedding, we were relocating several hundred miles from home so had to balance DH working away during the week while I had a 3 hour each-way commute every day – we were due to exchange contracts on a new house the week after the wedding. So we chose a venue that meant a lot to us (Manchester Art Gallery) and happened to have space for just 40 people! My mother volunteered to make her special chocolate cake, my parents bought the wine and sparkly as their gift to us, I got a dress from a high street store (50s style – poufy dresses look silly on me!) and we used black cabs to get everyone from the hotel to the registry office, before walking the 2mins from there to the gallery. For centrepieces we had ribbon wrapped cardboard boxes filled with blue card and cute boxes of coloured pencils – instead of a guest book everyone was asked to doodle on the cards. These really broke the ice while we had the photos and we had some amazing mini works of art and origami sculptures by the end!

The budget meant we could afford to have a wonderful lunch and everyone was left to their own devices in the evening while we went off for our ‘honeymoon’ (one night in the swankiest hotel in the city). Since the guests were all very close friends or very close family, a lot knew each other already and swept the others along too – apparently they all went to a local thai restaurant and had a fab time while we were indulging in room service and 5 star pampering!

This was several years ago, and ever since everyone who attending has said how much fun they had and how they wished they’d thought of the same for their weddings.

I’ve rambled on, but the point it that we did what suited us and it worked. Yes, we had a couple of moans from MIL but all those who weren’t invited seemed to understand – we certainly had a lot of lovely cards from people wishing us well. We wanted to get married for us, not for anyone else. We also did a lot of expectation-managing well in advance – whenever we spoke to the wider family and less close friends about the engagement, we said right at the start that we’d probably elope or have a really small do and funds would be pretty low since we were trying to move house.

You don’t ‘owe’ anyone an invitation – if we’d not been in contact with people for over two years (including phone, e-mail!), that was a pretty good judge of whether they could be considered ‘close’ for us!

What’s the most important thing for you? Having a big do or getting married more quickly? For us it was getting married – if I’d wanted a big do I would have waited another year to save up more money!!

(Incidentally the house move fell through so DH & I went back to work on the Monday after getting married on the Saturday – we finally got our proper honeymoon just before our 5th anniversary last October!)


twik March 26, 2013 at 11:01 am

The argument I’ve seen in favor of charging is that it allows the host to provide better food, and isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that really a favour to the guests, to allow them their filet mignon rather than sliced turkey?

Which, I think, shows that some people have forgotten the basic idea of hosting as a gift to one’s guests, rather than simply the organization of an evening of entertainment. Then, they are upset to discover that people treat their wedding as just another evening out, rather than a deeply personal event.


Shell March 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I had a wedding planner offer me information on a “bridal loan” with the expectation I would recoup my “losses” in wedding gifts. I picked my chin up off the floor & fled, resolving to do it all myself, which I did, with help from my friends. A buffet for 75 people (with tons left over!!) & the most amazing wedding cake ever for dessert – less than $10 per person. No one went home hungry, and almost everyone told me it was the most fun, stress-free wedding they’d ever been to. Lesson learned – if you can’t enjoy your wedding day because of the huge cloud of debt hanging over you, you can’t expect your guests to enjoy it either . . . or to pick up the tab for it because chances are, they’re as broke as you are.


Ally March 27, 2013 at 8:01 am

When I got married, we ordered some food from a local restaurant to do a buffet, then my family and I prepped some food (fruit plates, salads, and bread) ourselves. The food was good (it helps that my brother is a professional cook and my mom has been doing church dinners forever) there were leftovers (which we donated to the church for letting us use their kitchen) and everyone seemed happy.


Shoegal March 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Yep – I love this. It clearly says to enclose a check? How about RSVPing in the positive & marking the box for 2 $65 plates, and not enclosing a check. Nope – no money – make this lousy couple follow up & call and ask for their $130.00. Next your option would be to shame them & say – “Gee whiz, I really thought that was a joke!!! I’ve never heard of inviting people to a wedding and have them pay for it!!!” Another option is to tell them their check is in the mail but never send one. If they call again – tell them it must have gotten lost – and you’ll have to stop payment and that you’ll send another. Pesist on this – then don’t show up at all. Opps – forgot all about it??!?!


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I was smiling right up until “don’t show up at all.”

It’s one thing to make a point about the payment being absurd. It’s another thing to give a fake affirmative response, and then, when they’ve planned and paid for your places, to do a no-show. Definitely not good form.


Mary March 28, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Worse form is to charge GUESTS for food at a wedding reception.


Shoegal March 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

Yes – you’re right – two wrongs don’t make a right. I thought it was mean when I wrote it.

I suppose never send the check and attend the wedding without paying a dime – which is what any “guest” invited to a wedding should expect. I seriously doubt that the couple on their wedding day would try to collect the cost of your dinner on that occasion. I’d rather crawl under a rock than ask for it. If they did – I think I would tell them that my gift should help cover the cost.

To be honest – I really couldn’t attend this affair. All the while I was there I would feel somehow “in the wrong” for not having paid when the opposite is true.


Sarah March 29, 2013 at 8:39 am

Oh! That would be so satisfying! Morally and ethically dubious but sometimes you just want to shake people out of their little world! I would advise against it because you are coming down to their level and even beneath it!


Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 6:15 am

Yeah, it’s fun and satisfying to imagine doing it, but I wouldn’t ACTUALLY do it. Like it’s fun and satisfying to imagine putting X-lax (sp?) in the coffee pot, but I would never actually do it, no matter how ticked off I may be.

I was raised by an expert practical joker (so I know some reeeeeaaalllllyyyyy good ones), as well as by a practical and caring woman who taught me to always consider the consequences of those jokes. So, while I really enjoy hearing about them, and get a fun kick out of designing elaborate and effective practical jokes, the enjoyment has to stop there for me. Guilt is just too strong a de-motivator.


Coralreef March 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

A wedding consultant my daughter met at a wedding salon suggested that the guests should pay for their meals. I said I would disown her if she ever did such a thing.

Guests are guests, not customers. And a wedding is not a for-profit endeavor.


Ella March 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I have seen this sort of thing done without offending, ONCE.

A relative got married in a small private ceremony, and invited close family and friends to a restaraunt afterwards to celebrate. The word was passed around before official invites were sent out, that in lieu of gifts (they were both on their second marriage) they would prefer everyone to cover their own meals. Everyone knew this before they accepted the invite, and while it was a few years ago, I don’t remember anyone being anything other than happy for them.

I think it worked (although still questionable as far as etiquette goes) because:
Guests knew the couple very well, and there were few invitees
It was put forward as ‘everyone goes to dinner to celebrate’ rather than ‘wedding reception’
Guests knew ahead of time that this was happening
People were able to select the food they wanted at the budget they wanted


Michelle C. Young March 26, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I can see how that would work, with the right group of guests. It’s more of a “Let’s meet at this restaurant and celebrate together” than a reception, though. Sort of what many social circles do to celebrate birthdays.


Mamabulldog March 27, 2013 at 6:09 am

Holy Cow! And I thought my friend was bad – she decided it was a great idea to have a fancy reception/dinner/dance for only 150 of the more than 450 guests invited – I’ll let you guess how that went over. For everyone who didn’t make the cut, they threw themselves a 2nd picnic-style party the next day and then told their guests to bring the food. In fact, on their RSVP cards there was a line so you could indicate what dish you were bringing to the party they were throwing for themselves so they wouldn’t have too much of one thing (seriously). I was absolutely horrified when she told me and, believe me, she thought it was the most wonderful idea in the world. My mouth literally hung open while I composed myself enough to speak. This one definitely tops that though. Unbelievable.


June First March 29, 2013 at 8:23 am

Oh, great! So I can spend not one, but BOTH days of the weekend with Friend! That’s in addition to buying a gift, traveling, possible time off work, hotel costs, cost of a dish to pass, possible child care, etc, etc.



Michelle C. Young March 30, 2013 at 6:16 am

Unbelievable! Where in the world did she get the idea this was OK?


Kirsten March 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Lex, a few years ago I went to the wedding of the sister of a friend of mine. I had met her lots of times (I used to share a flat with her sister) so it wasn’t very strange that I was invited. I was talking to her during the reception and she said that she had been at a cousin’s wedding a few months before which had been held in a stately home with swans and peacocks wandering around the grounds and she had started to panic about their plans for their own, much simpler wedding, wondering how she ever thought she could pull it off.
The ceremony was in the local church and the reception was in the church hall. The decorations for the church hall were strings of fairy lights along the walls. The meal was a home-catered buffet with beer, red wine, white wine and soft drinks. And they booked a great 80s tribute band for the dancing. The cake was made by the bride’s mother and decorated with Thorntons truffles.
I’m certain the whole day was really quite cheap, and it was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. It was small, relaxed, fun – everyone enjoyed it. You don’t have to spend a huge amount to give guests a good day – what counts is the attitude people attend with.


Drjuliebug March 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

The demand for payment was stunningly rude, but I have no trouble believing that the prices were for real. My husband and I avoided that issue by having our wedding luncheon reception in our favorite restaurant. It probably cost a third of what a banquet hall would have charged — and the food was MUCH better. We didn’t have a full open bar, but we did have wine with the meal. Some guests who wanted other alcoholic beverages went to the restaurant bar, but I ruled out having a cash bar in the function room itself. Of course, we were trying to have a pleasantly informal party with good food and wine for our families and close friends, rather than finding out how deeply we could put our families and ourselves in debt for our wedding.


Ally March 28, 2013 at 8:40 am

Sorry to post again, but I have to point out that if they’re asking guests to pay the “per plate” charge from the caterer, they are, in fact, not just asking the guests to cover the costs of their food, they’re asking them to cover the general catering costs itself (transportation, the wait staff, etc.) and part of the reception hall cost (that’s why they tie you into particular caterers ad some places). Considering that this can be the bulk of the cost of the reception, I just find this astounding. They’re not just paying for their own food, they’re paying for the wedding itself.

So weird.


delislice March 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

WOW. Just, WOW. Oh, and UGH.

When The Guy and I got married, the total cost for the wedding-reception-and-clothing came in under $2,000. We paid for the bridesmaids’ dresses ($79 each off the rack at Penney’s), flowers, and boutonnieres. We got married in my parents’ church, which was an hour from where The Guy and I and most of our friends lived and two hours from most of his relatives.

The reception was in the fellowship hall. My sisters put up some crepe paper and floral decorations, my father’s quartet sang a couple of numbers, and we had a cake, hors d’oeuvres, and punch. (Midafternoon reception.) The people who came the farthest were probably my aunt and uncle from two states away, about a seven-hour drive, and they stayed in a local hotel.

The Guy persuaded me to go to the Department Store and make a wedding registry, so that his numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins who hadn’t seen him in several years and who had never met me would be comfortably able to purchase a gift — because they would feel terrible if they didn’t. (On the upside, we now have good-china place settings for 8.)

Twenty years later, we’re still happily married. I would rather have eloped to a J.P. than hint, ask, request, or CHARGE anyone for any part of our getting married. I am thoroughly disgusted.


Angel March 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Just when I thought I had seen and heard everything, I read this site and this story tops them all! I would really love an update by the OP–if she hears anything about how this wedding actually turns out, let us know!

Of course it is beyond rude and tacky to ask guests to cover their own meals–that should not even be up for debate. The only question I have is, why in the hell would this couple have a wedding that costs $65 a person when they cannot afford it? I can’t think of any other reason for asking guests to pay. Unless they are exceptionally greedy. Bottom line is, think about how many guests you want to have, then budget accordingly and have the wedding you can afford. It’s not a hard concept, but apparently so many couples are under the impression that their wedding needs to be grand and over the top to be authentic. I will never understand that.


chechina March 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

Whoa. *mind blown all over her netbook*

How can anyone justify this etiquette-wise, or friendship-wise, or religiously, or culturally? It violates all the things.

It’s an honour to share your happiness with your friends and family. And even if you don’t think that, who tells people how much they owe you for the food you picked out for them?!


Sansa April 1, 2013 at 11:18 am

In addition to the wedding industry, I think another thing that has come over people is the expectation of invitations and some happy couples not wanting to let their friends “down” by not inviting them. See Monday 4/1/13 post as an example.

I am still married but if something (death, divorce, etc) should break that union and I got married again, I would definitely elope to avoid all the drama. For people who got upset I would simply say that I was so lucky to find love again and could not bear not being the new Mrs. X for one more day and how’s the bean dip? (haha)


NostalgicGal April 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Love it, Sansa. Pass the dip!


AngiePange June 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

To play devil’s advocate (a little), I was researching “wedding on a budget” – let’s face it, you mention the “w” word and there is an automatic premium on food, flowers, etc. I mean, a plate of food for $155? *chuckle* – unless its a wedding, and then suddenly logic flies! But I digress!
While researching, some of the advice I saw was “Hey! I know! Instead of gifts, ask people to PAY FOR THEMSELVES!” In fact, when I was bemoaning wedding costs to some (very close) friends, they all said to me “I’ll pay for myself if I’m invited – its more important for me to be there for you than to get a free meal!” – to be honest, these friends are just pure niceness wrapped in awesome. But my insides recoil and burn at the idea of asking guests to PAY TO BE AT MYYYYYY PARTY – REALLY??? It goes against every fibre of my being and screams poor taste. Rather don’t have a wedding. If you can’t afford it, do. not. do. it. The marriage is what is important after all (we really lose sight of this). Celebrate some other way. But don’t ask friends and family to buy you a special day. Its just not right, unless someone offers (like a relative generously paying for some things). And if someone DOES help out financially, be gracious enough to let them have a say as well (within reasonable limits). I think what hits me so hard about this is that if I go to a restaurant, I pick what I pay for. If I don’t want veal, or I hate chicken, or chocolate mousse isn’t my fave thing, I don’t order it and I don’t pay for it. At a wedding, the bride and groom choose the food, ambience, etc – so don’t ask people to pay for themselves. We’ve gone as far as to ask guests not to buy gifts, saying “your presence is our present”. If you get us something, we’ll be grateful, but it sure as hell ain’t “payment” to attend OUR wedding!


JackieJormpJomp September 21, 2013 at 7:28 am





Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: