My friend just called to ask me if I had the same impression as she did about an invitation she received.
The invitation is to an engagement party. The hosts are the bride’s parents. On the invitation, guests are directed to a registry — and not just any registry: with an airline for, I suppose, the honeymoon. Evidently, guests can buy frequent flyer points or donate their own.
My friend was really put off by this, and so am I. First of all, although I might be inclined to give a small gift for an engagement, especially to a couple with whom I am very close, when did engagement parties become required-gift-giving occasions? In my opinion, they are not — and if they were, then it would be inappropriate for the bride’s parents to be hosting one.
Then there is their having put registry information right on the invitation. I know that etiquette sanctions putting it on shower invitations (although I still wouldn’t). But that is because a shower is not only definitely a gift-giving occasion, it’s the POINT of a shower. After all, weddings, birthday parties, graduations, b’nei mitzvah, etc., are also gift-giving occasions, but you don’t put registry information on the invitations. And here, too, the parents being the hosts make it worse.
It almost feels to me each of these things multiplies the others: the presumption that gifts are expected for an engagement, the fact that the parents are hosting what they clearly see as a gift-giving occasion, and the inclusion of registry information on the invitation. Like, if someone else were giving the party, the registry info would still be wrong, but not so awful.
And actually I don’t think it would be so terrible for parents to host an engagement party if there were ZERO indication that gifts were even contemplated — more like a “Come meet Petunia’s fiance, Cuthbert, and his parents” party.
And then, of course, there is the perennial topic of whether cash or cash-equivalent registries (travel, gift card, etc.) are ever acceptable. And for an engagement? I’ve never heard of cash engagement gifts, even in the northeast communities in which people give usually give cash gifts for weddings.
My friend was also annoyed that it felt to her as if she was expected to buy three gifts (there will be a shower) for the same wedding. I don’t blame her.
I am not invited to this party or the wedding, but I am acquainted with these people. I’m sorry to say that they are neither poor nor uneducated; the dad is a doctor. (Even though that wouldn’t make any of the errors all right, it might make them a bit more understandable and therefore mitigate the eHell sentence bit.)
I don’t know what she is going to do about this invitation. They will attend if they can — she isn’t going to boycott over this. But she is in a dilemma about whether to get a gift at all. I’m sure she won’t contribute to the airline fund. BTW, engagement gifts (and parties, for that matter) are not customary in my community. We might get something little for a bride we’re very close to, party or no party (e.g. a ring holder), and maybe we might be a little more inclined to do so if invited to an engagement party, but that’s it.
What would you do? And please keep in mind: I’m sure she does NOT want to “teach them a lesson” or give any indication of how she feels about this. These people are friends she likes and doesn’t want to criticize or insult. So, no, not an etiquette book! Although I am sure we can all think of lots of snarky and funny responses, really, what WOULD you do? 0404-13
You’ve done an admirable job explaining why this is reprehensible behavior. It completely dilutes the joy guests may have at the new season in their friends or family member’s life if there is an expectation that joy is best expressed as “give me something”. Parents are not immune from the desire to see their offspring as financially “blessed” as possible (it relieves them of any responsibility to provide for their own) and orchestrating events that make sure their ignorant, stupid guests are made aware that money and acquisition of material assets is a parentally approved goal for their soon-to-married children.
My husband and I hosted an engagement luncheon for close friends and family to celebrate our daughter’s engagement and privately we gave her personal jewelry. The types of gifts offered to honor an engagement should be personal in the event the wedding does not occur. Giftgiving is at the option of the family, mostly the parents, or very close friends but note the word “option”. Engagements are not another opportunity in the wedding planning to squeeze more assets from friends and family. Good heavens, the bride-to-be just received a costly engagement ring..isn’t that enough of a gift?
Another danger to expecting your guests to give financially on the occasion of an engagement party is that the hosts, in this case the parents, better make darn certain that every single guest invited to the engagement party are also invited to the wedding. Otherwise, what has occurred is that “guests” have been used to increase assets with no respect to their presence being important at the actual wedding. Money trumps relationships and that is just sick.
If I received that invitation? I would attend, perhaps mail a congratulatory card to the bride, and give absolutely nothing. I do not feed the gimme pigs no matter how cute they are.