To Have and to Hit Up
by Jennifer Saranow For The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2005
|Guests invited to the wedding of Wesley Puryear and Valerie Hernandez will be treated to a $51,000 nuptial extravaganza, with a serenading string quartet, a cigar expert dressed in Cuban garb to roll stogies and a blazing Venetian dessert. Some of them will have paid for these lavish extras themselves -- to the tune of $150 a head. That's how much the future Mr. and Mrs. Puryear hope to collect from their deeper-pocketed invitees to pay for the August wedding in New York.|
"It's like wedding education for guests," says Mr. Puryear, a 25-year-old bond trader who plans to foot more than half the total bill himself. "They need to understand the cost."
Puryear says he won't be hitting some people up at all: For out-of-towners and friends he believes make less than $40,000, his invitations will include information about standard gift registries. For others, he's encouraging monetary gifts by sending "subliminal" messages, telling friends how expensive the wedding will be.
Given the spiraling costs of getting hitched, couples say they have little choice but to turn to their guests. An average wedding in the New York area costs about $38,000...
Some point to cultures where honored guests pitch in to pay for wedding expenses; others cite the recent spate of highly publicized ceremonies in which brides and grooms had their weddings funded in part by companies in exchange for publicity. And then there's the growing number of late-marriers, who say they've already accumulated a lifetime supply of dishes and toasters.
But specifying outright which elements of the ceremony you want your guests to fund is another matter ... Peggy Post, who writes about etiquette, calls asking guests to pay for elements of the ceremony and party "inexcusably rude..."
For entrepreneurs, creating a registry where the bride and groom can solicit guests for specific items is a way of grabbing a slice of the growing $125 billion wedding industry. Aperfectweddinggift.com charges couples 7% of the money it collects and deposits in a couple's account on PayPal... RegistryPalace.com, which launched last year, operates on a similar model, but charges couples a flat $9 fee after a month, then allows the betrothed couple to make specific monetary requests: Current ones include a $1,200 wedding cake, $450 for favors and a $250 pastor.
One of the first sites to test out the guests' chipping-in concept was TheKnot.com, a wedding resource site, which launched a "create-a-gift" program in 1998. That service allowed couples to specify what they want to receive and to ask guests for American Express Gift Cheques in increments of $50 to pay for the items.
Not all guests comply with the requests, as Carrie Draghi found out last July. The 31-year-old was hoping to get friends and family to foot her approximately $4,000 photography bill. So she had her bridesmaids slip information into shower invitations asking guests to consult a registry with her photographer, Brian Ambrose. About six of 300 guests did so, for a total of about $600.
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