Keeping The Shower Donations Leashed

by admin on March 25, 2014

I saw the following (names have been changed) attached to a bridal shower invitation my mother received. We both agreed it was tacky, and she wasn’t sure how she would proceed, but said I could run it past the eHellions for their opinion. I thought it took entitlement and solicitation to a whole new level.

The shower is being hosted by the bridesmaids, but the note was clearly from the bride:

“Throughout this exciting and happy time in our lives we would like to pass along our blessings to those less fortunate than ourselves. Both Groom and I are animal lovers and have had wonderful experiences adopting animals from local shelters. We are inviting guests to bring an item to donate to the local animal shelter in exchange for a raffle ticket for a prize basket. Each item will earn you one ticket. We would love nothing more than to donate a wonderful assortment of gifts to animals in need and we thank you in advance for your generosity.” 0322-14

Your mother has no obligation to facilitate or participate in a charity event disguised as a wedding shower.   She does not need to bring a donation item if she clearly understands that by not doing so she is not eligible for the prize basket.    And she does not need to explain to people why she may choose to not bring a donation item since how one spreads the personal charity is really no one else’s business.    I have no problem declining to participate since I am confident of my own levels of charitable giving and where it goes and if someone wants to think badly of me because they don’t know all the facts or are peeved that I am not supporting their pet charity, all I can say is, “What an interesting assumption.”

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Charliesmum March 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

While I agree no one should be obligated to contribute to a charity, I don’t get the impression anyone who chooses not to donate is going to be villified. Maybe a shower isn’t the appropriate place to as for donations, but it’s still a sweet, if mis-placed idea, and at least the bride and groom are thinking of others, not just what they can get from the party-goers.

Also, I’m kind of at a loss as to how this shows entitlement. It’s not like they were asking for donations to their honeymoon fund, or money to go to their new house. They were asking for donations they could bring to an animal shelter.

Reply

Taragail March 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Raffle tickets for a gift basket are not tax-deductible; donations (money or goods) to a charity are. They are asking others to fund their tax break.

Reply

Julia March 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

As someone who has never claimed charity giving on my taxes, I must confess it did not occur to me that the couple were trying to “steal” other people’s tax deductions.

Maybe they are just trying to organize a donation to a charity they think needs support and aren’t thinking of personal gain at all.

Why assume bad intentions?

Since participation is obviously voluntary, I’m failing to work up any outrage here – I’ve seen far tackier stories reported here. This seems slightly-inappropriate, at worst.

Reply

Wild Irish Rose March 25, 2014 at 5:10 pm

I see the entitlement mentality very clearly: “YOU bring the donations. WE will donate them and receive not only the thanks, praise, and accolades, but also any tax deduction that may apply.” I really hate these kinds of things anyway. My charities may not be your charities, and the idea that I have to donate something in order to have my name put in the hat at a shower just grates on me. This is one couple who can do without anything from me.

Reply

Mer March 26, 2014 at 3:38 am

Good explanation, that clarified the situation for me quite well, I was in line with Charliesmum first.

We don’t have any tax deductions for charitable acts, so if I would receive invitation like this, I would assume that as a result, animal shelter gets a joint donation from us like “Happy Couple and Friends donates Poor Dogs Shelter this huge basket of goodies”. Maybe there even would be a game or activity where we could … I don’t know, make together something useful for the shelter like small toys for the animals (I have a hard time thinking examples!),

But as there is personal gain in this picture, I suspect your vision is more accurate one.

Reply

Rodinne April 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I don’t think missing a few $10 towels or a few $3 cat toys off my income tax form is going to cost me a huge amount is deductions.

Reply

Lo March 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I think the only mistake here is in making this part of her bridal shower. Having a charity raffle is a nice idea but puts guests in an awkward position if they’re expecting a traditional shower. I don’t think these two events belong together. A shower is a specifically gift giving event.

Now if the couple wanted to forget the shower altogether and invite friends who were interested to take place in a charity raffle they were hosting unrelated to the wedding that would be a noble endeavor.

Reply

Kimstu March 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Right on. The way to truly “pass along your blessings” to those less fortunate is to give what you can to your chosen cause(s), rather than using your temporary position as the center of attention to coax others to give.

A charity registry is one thing (as long as information about it isn’t pushed on the guests unsolicited), because the bridal couple are simply expressing their preference that a charitable donation is what would personally please them best as a gift FOR THEMSELVES. But an “add-on” charitable collection at an event where guests are already expected to bring gifts for the guest of honor is neither gracious nor generous: it’s just the guest of honor egotistically leaning on the other guests to squeeze THEIR generosity.

The fact that the bride is gimme-pigging the guests on behalf of her favorite charity rather than on her own behalf doesn’t save it from being rude. If she wants to organize a charity raffle for the local shelter, she is free and welcome to do so at any time as a standalone event, rather than using her bridal pedestal as a platform on which to rattle her collecting tin at her family and friends who are gathered to wish her well as a bride.

Reply

Lindsay March 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Actually, I see nothing wrong with this. It’s clearly and tactfully worded as an invitation to participate in an optional small part of a traditional shower. I’d be happy to participate and wouldn’t feel bad if I, as admin, did not want to bring an extra donation. I think this would violate etiquette if it were forced that you must bring a dog donation in lieu of a shower gift. In fact, I don’t see this as that different than a baby shower invitation to contribute a book to baby’s library. It’s a request the couple has made about something near & dear to them (animal shelter, library, etc.) that can be met or ignored as long as the guest follows the normal shower flow.

Reply

Cat March 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm

A close friend’s stepmother passed away and the family requested donations to “Wounded Warrior” in place of flowers. The lady had no connection to anyone who had been wounded and neither did anyone in the family. I chose to send a standing flower arrangement since I could not attend the funeral. I just think that a funeral should have some flowers.

The florist did a magnificent standing display. It was so beautiful that the family chose to place it by the professional photograph of her as a much younger women. I received two lovely thank-you notes from her sons.

When my younger brother died and all his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren all came home, I gave my sister-in-law gift cards to a favorite restaurant so she would not have to feed everyone at home or spend money to take them all out to eat. Feel free to do what what seems right to you.

Reply

Cannibal queen March 25, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Cat, the restaurant vouchers sound like a really thoughtful, practical gift! I’m sure the widow really appreciated them.

Reply

Emily March 25, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Actually, I don’t see the issue with this one, for once. The bride is not standing to benefit from the charity portion. In fact, for participating you potentially receive a gift in return, which means the bride is taking money out of her own pocket (presumably), which I think is the opposite of entitled and selfish.

You are not obligated to participate; just say you “forgot” a donation for the raffle.

Reply

Marozia March 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I would’ve asked which animal shelter they were donating to, and donated AT that particular shelter, not to bride/groom/MOB at the shower.

Reply

Jett Jaguar March 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I can’t help but think that, if this charity-gathering exercise is successful, it’s the bride and groom who’ll get all the credit for their “generous donation”. Why don’t they just give everyone details of the animal shelter(s) so their guests can send their donations direct? (Or am I being too nit-picky?)

Reply

Lakey March 25, 2014 at 7:14 pm

As an animal lover, I do have a problem with this because you are soliciting donations from your guests. I do not believe that that is appropriate behavior for a hostess. If you want to fundraise for a charity, that is great, but you should not combine it with pushing guests to donate.

It is putting people on the spot. The ones who choose to not participate, may feel that they are being judged. It creates awkwardness.

Reply

Stacey Frith-Smith March 26, 2014 at 12:29 am

Okay, I admit it. I peruse four advice and etiquette columns…. It’s surprising to see how often this kind of suggestion is submitted by both those who write in and suggested by the columnist as a means of “honoring” the birthday celebrant, wedding celebrant, graduate or anniversary couple. It seems that we have such an abundance of material wealth that others can now be told that their efforts aren’t quite up to acceptable standards without a registry, a suggested charity or a large group outing and gift. As pleasing as these ideas are on the surface- I agree with the prior posters. Guests are being given instruction or direction on their giving, which isn’t quite nice. It’s always going to smack of thinking of things (gifts) before people (guests). The high minded and moralistic stance of many who suggest these alternatives to traditional gifts (that it’s for charity, that it’s easier for both guests and celebrants, that some gifts or categories of gifts aren’t wanted) only exacerbates the sense that some deceit is being practiced and that a greedy selfishness is underneath the nice sounding words on display.

Reply

Mya March 26, 2014 at 7:57 am

I’m not really sure this qualifies as a ‘Gimme pig’ because it is suggested that donations are optional based on the ‘Donations = tickets to a raffle’ system thereby suggesting that guests have control over how much, if at all, they’d like to participate.

I’m not sure a ‘Wedding Shower’ is really an appropriate event to hold this kind of thing but really in this day and age it is really hard to organise successful and independent charity events on a medium/small scale and if the bride and groom feel strongly enough about the cause I think the optional participation and prize basket aren’t the worst way they can go about it (think ‘Wishing wells’).

I also think that building it into a social event does lean towards ‘shaming’ people into participating, particularly if the donations are taken at the door or put on a display table.

This one is a difficult one because as a Cat lover I want to do more to support my local cat charities and I participate in making catnip mice and saleable goods for fundraising but I often feel it isn’t enough but lack the time and money to do anything about it so part of me thinks ‘how thoughtful’ and part of me thinks ‘shameful exploitation’

Reply

another Laura March 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

It sounds to me like a gimme piggyback ride :-)

Reply

Kimstu March 26, 2014 at 1:11 pm

“Gimme-piggyback” is a BRILLIANT term for this sort of attempt to use one gift-giving occasion to extract additional gifts for a different purpose. Well done. :)

Reply

Kate March 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

Let’s face it: it’s far from the worst we’ve seen. A touch tacky, but I think their intentions weren’t horrible When my youngest sister was around 9, her best friend, an animal lover to the extreme, had a birthday party and requested, instead of gifts for the little girl, that party-goers bring something to donate to the animal shelter. I thought that was adorable.

Reply

Kimstu March 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

The key words in your example are “instead of”. If the bridal shower hosts were throwing a specifically animal-rescue-themed bridal shower with shelter donations IN LIEU OF shower gifts for the bride, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.

Bridal showers do sometimes have themes like “kitchen shower” or “lingerie shower”, so as long as the focus is on small items and guests aren’t being prodded into expensive contributions, I don’t see why a bride couldn’t be given an “animal shelter shower”.

But in this case, as far as we can tell from the OP’s description, guests were expected to bring standard shower gifts for the bride anyway, and the shelter-donation raffle items were optional additional contributions.

It’s not nice to use an event like a shower, where the guests are already expected to bring you a present anyway, to suggest that they spend yet MORE money on something else that would please you. Even if the “something else” is a charitable cause, and even if your suggestion is well-intended, it’s still not a gracious thing to do.

You’re right that it’s far from the worst we’ve ever seen. But there’s a lot of middle ground between “not tacky” and “most tacky”, and this solicitation falls squarely into it.

Reply

Nicole March 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I don’t see the problem here, the bride and groom are not throwing the shower for themselves. The bridesmaids are doing it. Maybe having it as an optional charity event is a compromise because they simply don’t NEED anything. Would it be better if they skipped mentioning the charity part, returned all their shower gifts for cash and donated THAT to the animal shelter? For all we know that might be the outcome anyway. A gift is a gift, for the receiver to do with as he or she pleases, but I imagine everyone would still be up in arms about deception and gimme-pig greed and tax write-offs.

I feel like sometimes we get so caught up in etiquette but forget about the human element. Do you like these people? Do you want them to be happy? Will it hurt you in some way to acquiesce to their well-meaning but somewhat by-the-book etiquette-challenged request? Don’t let your “pride” at knowing The Rules spoil what should be a nice time for friends and family and yourself.

As far as the tax thing – that is a stretch of logic, because I think it assumes that they commit tax fraud, donating and claiming items they did not pay for. Plus, what is the real benefit? Under $100 value, they will get no tax write off. Between $100 and $500, at most it will earn them anywhere from 15-35% of the donated value based on their tax bracket, so as little as $15 and as much as $165, minus the cost of the gift basket they put together, and the raffle tickets if they wanted to buy real ones. Over $500 and they have to have a record of where the items came from, and at that point there would likely be no benefit as they do not have their own receipts from buying the items.

I don’t think it is right to shame this couple for their good intentions and we should not be so offended by their attempt to do a nice thing. This could be so different and so much worse (they are not asking donations to care for their own adopted animals, for instance, or fund their honeymoon, or some other type of direct personal gain). I think this whole thing is a very minor faux pas, and like other posters have said, the donation is optional – not an entry fee to the party.

Reply

Kimstu March 27, 2014 at 10:43 am

@Nicole: “I feel like sometimes we get so caught up in etiquette but forget about the human element.”

Well, this is EtiquetteHell.com, not NonjudgmentalSympathy.com. Getting caught up in etiquette issues is precisely what we’re here for. Nor is there an official minimum rudeness level beneath which an etiquette faux pas is too minor for us to discuss.

I feel like sometimes some posters forget that our posts are not intended to be read out to the etiquette offenders in question. Nobody is saying that the OP or anybody else should actually rebuke this bride or lecture her personally for her faux pas.

@Nicole: “Will it hurt you in some way to acquiesce to their well-meaning but somewhat by-the-book etiquette-challenged request? Don’t let your “pride” at knowing The Rules spoil what should be a nice time for friends and family and yourself. […] I think this whole thing is a very minor faux pas, and like other posters have said, the donation is optional”

Make up your mind: Is this solicitation truly “optional”, or is it something that guests are somehow expected to “acquiesce” in so as not to “spoil what should be a nice time” for everybody concerned?

This sort of double-edged defensiveness is a very typical symptom of rude and greedy solicitations. In one breath their defenders protest “Well, nobody HAS to go along with it if they don’t want to!” and in the next they pout “There’s nothing really wrong with it and the mean picky people who don’t want to go along with it are selfishly ruining it for everyone!”

@Nicole: “I don’t think it is right to shame this couple for their good intentions and we should not be so offended by their attempt to do a nice thing.”

See above: nobody is advocating actually “shaming” this couple in any way. Moreover, they were not actually attempting to do a nice thing. They were attempting to pressure bridal shower guests into spending their own money, over and above the cost of their bridal shower gifts, to bear the bulk of the cost for doing a nice thing that the bridal couple would then get the praise for when they donated the spoils to the animal shelter.

Giving your own money to support a charity you care about is doing a nice thing. Organizing a charity fundraiser, either separately or in place of a regular gift-giving event like a birthday party or shower, is doing a nice thing. Using a gift-giving event in one’s own honor as an opportunity to prod the guests into ADDITIONAL expense on behalf of one’s favorite charity is not doing a nice thing.

People need to understand that rude behavior is still rude even if it’s inspired by a praiseworthy generous impulse. It’s great that you want to celebrate your happiness by making a contribution to needy animals, but it’s not appropriate to ask your shower guests to fund it. Not even if you’re offering them one of those “of course it’s optional but you should still feel guilty if you don’t participate” pseudo-escape clauses.

Reply

wintershere March 31, 2014 at 12:07 pm

I agree with Nicole! There is really nothing out of sorts here, and you do not have to do anything you don’t feel like doing. Most of us want suggestions for gifts, and this is as fair as it gets.

Reply

Barreleh March 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

I actually think this is kind of sweet. They love animals, they want to help, they tie it to their wedding. I know a LOT of people involved in all kinds of animal welfare stuff, and getting a tax deduction is — believe me — the very last thing in their minds. If you don’t support this charity, that’s your prerogative. However, if you’re attending this shower (which is a gift-giving event, no?) you’re expected to show up with something, so what’s so bad about bringing a scratching post or some dog toys instead of a set of towels or a coffee maker?

Reply

another Laura March 29, 2014 at 9:25 am

Because the added note doesn’t read “in lieu of gifts to us” but implies “in addition to your gift to us” so you’d be coughing up funds for both the scratching post and the coffee maker.

Reply

LawGeek March 28, 2014 at 12:20 am

Are we sure that they’re asking guests to purchase items? There are a lot of things that shelters make use of that people would otherwise throw away – like old towels, linens, and stuffed animals. I’m sure I’ve gotten rid of a few things that would have been useful for a shelter, had I thought of it or had it been easy to do so.

A lot of time people don’t give not because they have allotted their charity giving already, but simply because of the transaction “costs”. Researching a place and what they need, loading up a bag (or a car) and schlepping to a facility can be pretty low on one’s priority lists if they have a lot to do. I know that I’ve given a ton of things to charity that would have gone in the garbage if I didn’t have family to facilitate.

Then again, I have a shelter dog on my floor who I’m fostering for a rescue, so I am anything but biased. I’m not being charitable, though, I just wanted someone to cuddle without commitment. :)

Reply

Kiki March 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I’d be of half a mind to bring a bag of kibble and not bring a gift for the shower. When asked, I’d say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry. That was my mistake. I thought we were asked to bring donations in lieu of gifts.”

Reply

The Original Poster March 31, 2014 at 1:03 pm

OP here.

No, we don’t dislike this couple. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our issue with this insert stems from the fact that it comes on top of being expected to bring something extra on top of spending $50-$100 on a gift for the shower itself – kitchen, bath, bedding, etc. Like a book for a baby’s library, the word “invited” is there to mask the intended “expected”. I don’t think that the HC would go so far as to use the donated items as a tax deduction, but everything brought would definitely go under their name. As a PP mentioned, it’s a “gimme-piggyback” situation. While they probably aren’t out to do harm, the path to eHell *is* paved with good intentions…

Reply

Kathryn April 17, 2014 at 12:00 am

Typically I am kinda rigid about this sort of thing but I have to look at the heart of it and truly I think the heart is in the right place. No matter if misdirected, I think the spirit of it is “While we are the center of attention, let us direct that attention to ______” I think their intentions are sweet and so much less “gimme pig” as people tend to be these days.

Reply

EJ April 19, 2014 at 2:14 pm

I think everyone needs to realize the main ehell issue is that they did not say in lieu of gifts….and I would say that would include NOT being registered for wedding gifts, so their intention is clear “we have the things we need for ourselves and home so please help us help our beloved shelter”. I nanny for a family who prefers charitable donations for their children’s birthdays so on the invitations it states ‘in lieu of gifts Suzy Q would appreciate a donation to your favorite charity’. Which with my hard core southern charm school upbringing still seems a little bossy to me but at least gives the guests options on where to donate. I will say though the mom changed it this year because so many guests were just scrawling in a card ‘we donated for Suzy’ and not saying where and her original hope was to show her kids some day scrapbooks with all the cool places they helped support. So this year she asked for used children’s book donations to go to a charity that donates them to kids who don’t have good access to books. That seems e friendly for an ” in lieu of ” request, green too! Similar to how one poster said donations may have meant to be used items for the shelter, again should have been stated clearly on invite. I should also say about my nanny mom she throws very elaborate parties for her children and friends with great goodie bags and the works often with an educational theme or held at an educational place. She truly is focused on spoiling her guests and the ‘in lieu of” helps her from having a house over run with toys. All that said I still get the munchkins toys for their birthdays since they are my extra kiddos plus I know what they like and don’t have toy wise. She is always very gracious about it and her closest friends usually do likewise. Point being regardless of invitation suggestion one should always feel free to go with their gut as other posters have suggested.

Reply

Jenny April 24, 2014 at 12:15 am

We did something similar at our wedding. We got married memorial day weekend and wanted to do something to help our veterans out so we set up a money tree for the wounded warriors foundation. I personally hate money trees at weddings but it is the norm in my husband’s family so I agreed to it as long as we a) didn’t do a money dance, and b) it went to those more deserving on that weekend. Rush Limbaugh gave us 3 cases of his “patriotic” tea for free when I had inquired about a bulk discount so we set those up as a help yourself thank you for the donation. We matched the donation with our own fund’s, gave the money to the organization, gave credit to our guests, and never thought of a tax write off. I’m not saying it was appropriate etiquette, but maybe that bride really is just wanting to do something nice

Reply


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: